21 Free Things To Do In London

Although London may be my favorite city, it’s rather expensive for someone who loved eating and shopping, but is living on a rather limited budget. However, if you’re like me, there are a numerous amount of free things to do in London. Yes, free. To help you get started planning your trip across the pond, here are 21 free things for you to do in London.

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1. Stare in awe at the bones of a T-Rex at the Natural History Museum.
2. See the Rosetta Stone for yourself at the British Museum.
3. See the Peter Pan statue at Kensington Gardens.
4. In the Winter, head to Hyde Park for the Winter Wonderland or walk through the gorgeous park on any given day.
5. Walk to the top of Primrose Hill in Regents Park.
6. Try to push the trolley through Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross.
7. Aimlessly wander around Southbank.

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8. Be entertained by the street performers in Covent Garden.
9. See the amazing exhibits at the Science Museum.
10. Watch the Changing the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace.
11. Strike a pose on the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing.
12. Meet the stone lions at Trafalgar Square.
13. Take an up-the-nostril selfie with Big Ben.
14. Go see the Shakespeare Globe. Trust me.
15. Take a walk through the 35,000 monuments of Brompton Cemetery.
16. Get up early on a Sunday and stroll through Columbia Flower Market.

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17. Visit God’s Own Junkyard to see vintage neon signs and movie props.
18. Walk through Shoreditch and look at all the street art–you might spot a Banksy.
19. Discover the original Beatles lyrics and the diary of Jane Austen at the British Library.
20. Try not to pee your pants when walking through the Tate Modern at pieces including Matisse, Picasso, Rothko, Pollock, Warhol and so many others.
21. Head to Angel Comedy Club for their free comedy every night of the week.

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5 Art Museums that I’ve Fallen in Love With

Saint Louis Art Museum

Featuring some of the best pieces by Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, Rothko, and (my main man) Gerard Richter, the East Building of the Saint Louis Art Museum is one you should not miss out on if you visit St. Louis. Recently remodeled in 2013, the East Building is my favorite place to go in St. Louis and that is saying something. The free museum (are you paying attention, MoMA?) sits inside Forest Park alongside Art Hill, and every time I park and walk along the grass, I’m struck by how very European Art Hill feels. Definitely one of my favorite art museums; I always know I am home when I am there. Saint Louis Art Museum is open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm; Friday 10am-9pm. slam.org

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Art Institute of Chicago

Voted the #1 Art Museum in the world by TripAdvisor, it would have been stupid of me not to include the Art Institute in my list. I was excited to visit again awhile ago when staying with my brother and his girlfriend. The building itself is just so immensely impressive with the beautiful architecture and the green lions staring down visitors as they enter. Besides being impressed with seeing Renoir, Richter (!), Van Gogh, Paris Street; Rainy Day, Hopper’s Nighthawks, and Picasso’s blue period, the interior design of the building always leaves me speechless. Unfortunately, the museum is only free to Illinois residents on Thursday nights, otherwise general admission is $17 with a student ID or $23 for an adult ticket. Open daily from 10:30am-5pm; Thursdays until 8pm. artic.edu

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Tate Modern

When I lived in London, nearly every weekend between going to The Breakfast Club and walking along Southbank, I would walk inside the Tate Modern and spend hours in there on a Saturday afternoon. The building has some of the best views of Southbank and St. Paul’s Cathedral and the art work inside is bloody ridiculous. (Did you like my British slang?) Everywhere you turned, there was Picasso, Warhol, Dali, Rothko, Richter, Duchamp, Hockney, and the always weird and wonderful Tracey Emin. Amongst well known artists, there were some seriously strange modern art that I liked to nod my head at and act like a pretentious snob about l’art. There is an Alexander McQueen exhibition at the moment, which I hear is fantastic. The museum is free and open Sun-Thur from 10am-6pm and Fri-Sun from 10am-10pm. I recommend walking along Southbank and taking the back entrance, however, the front is just as magnificent. tate.org.uk

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MoMA

I went here for the first time this past March, and I must say, it was love at first sight. Two things that I was most excited about seeing: Starry Night by Van Gogh and Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein. Starry Night was surrounded by tourists desperately wanting to take their photo by it, so it was difficult to see the beauty of the work, but it was something that I am so glad I got to see in real life. For some reason, no one was really around Drowning Girl which happens to be my favorite Lichtenstein piece. (Can you tell how much I love contemporary art?) The museum, similar to the Art Institute, is not free. If you have a student ID, the ticket is $14 or you will be paying $25 for an adult ticket. However, if you can get there between 4pm-8pm on Friday night, entrance is free! Open daily from 10:30am-5:30pm; Fridays from 10:30am-8pm. moma.org

Musée d’Orsay

I’m pretty sure I cried the first time I walked into the Musée d’Orsay at eighteen. What can I say? I am a sentimental bastard and it was my first time in Paris, sue me. Housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a train station built between 1898 and 1900, the Musée d’Orsay is one of the most interesting and beautiful museums that I have ever been to. As you walk over the bridge along the Seine, you can see the museum with the tip of the Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) in the distance, and smell the kabab stands along the entrance. Inside, you’ll see Starry Night Over the Rhône by Van Gogh (which I sneakily took a photo of!) and walls of Claude Monet’s waterlilies. Admission for students with a valid ID is €8.50 or €11 for adults. If you’re under 18, entrance is free. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 9:30am-6pm and Thursdays from 9:30am-9:45pm. musee-orsay.fr

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You’re not supposed to take photos inside, but oops!

Notable contenders:

Contemporary Art Museum STL: Beautiful, beautiful. CAM always has really cool events and exhibits going on. For more information, visit their website.

Louvre: Okay, so the reason I didn’t include the Louvre is because I think the only thing to really see at this museum is the architecture, not the artwork. (I can already hear a cry of outrage from art historians everywhere!) It is a wonderful museum that you can spend hours getting lost in. Trust me, I know from experience. I couldn’t find the entrance for two hours. For more information, visit their website.

The Courtauld GalleryLocated in the gorgeous Somerset House in London, Courtauld Gallery is an exceptional gallery. It is quite small, but has such an immense collection of well-known Impressionist work. If you’re ever in London, I could not recommend this more. For more information, visit their website.

 Tate Britain: Another gorgeous gallery along Southbank, but on the north side. Full of Hockney paintings and rather interesting installations. For more information, visit their website.

Summer Fun [Art Hill]

What’s better than watching one of your all time favorite films with a bunch of friends? Watching that same film in the middle of one of the largest parks in the United States with food trucks from all over St. Louis. My favorite event in St. Louis, Art Hill Film Series, is back this summer with one of my all time favorite films, Clueless! It was like they knew I just finished Emma by Jane Austen.

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Saint Louis Art Museum hosts one of the most popular summer events that is free and available to the public. Yes, you read that correctly: free.

The annual event starts on Friday, July 10 running until Friday, July 31. Whether you are in love with classic thrillers, science fiction, or “as-if!” types of movies, there will be something for everyone to watch this summer.

The event starts at 6pm with food trucks, a DJ on deck, and (of course) art-making activities. Picnic baskets and coolers are allowed on the hill, so if you don’t want to and/or don’t have the funds to shell out on food trucks and drinks, you’re more than welcome to bring your own!

The films typically start at 9pm, so make sure you get there early enough to get a nice spot on the soft grass. 

For more information and a full list of films, visit slam.org/filmseries

“What the hell is that?”

“A dress!”

“Says who?!”

“Calvin Klein.”

Doing New York (on a major budget)

If you’re like me, you probably don’t have tons of money to go travel, but still want to see as much of the world as possible. Now, I don’t have all the answers when it comes to traveling, so this is just what I did and how I saved money on going to a very expensive city.

Getting there:

When buying plane tickets, I tend to go into “incognito” mode and check Skyscanner, Google Flights, and Kayak. The reason for going incognito is that the websites use cookies to track what flights you are looking at, so when you go back to check prices at another time, they tend to bump up prices based on your past searches. When you go incognito, they tend to not be able to track your activity.

I bought my tickets to New York at the start of the year when ticket prices tend to drop (about a week after New Years), and I bought a roundtrip ticket to New York for $200.

Where to Stay:

If you have friends in New York, I highly recommend staying with them, obviously. If you don’t, a great option is Airbnb or Couchsurfing. You meet great people who tend to know the city well and can give you great ideas of where to go, eat, and walk. The best advice I can give for both is to research, research, research. Make sure they have photos, lots of recommendations, and email them to make sure you don’t get a bad vibe from them! Trust your gut and be safe. Remember, if you do agree to do Airbnb or Couchsurf, meet in a public place. You always have the option to say no.

However, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of staying with a stranger, here is a list of fairly cheap places to rest your head for the night. . .or day:

Hostels

The Bowery House // Average nightly stay is around $55 with free wifi (which is definitely the most important thing to have in your hostel). A bar is located downstairs and a nice rooftop terrace that has incredible views of the city.

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The Local NYC // Average nightly stay is around $45 with free wifi, book exchange, laundry room, and board games. This hostel is very “Brooklyn” with great wood tables, exposed brick, and plaid everywhere.

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Hotels

City Rooms // Average nightly stay is around $120 (much higher than the hostels, but you get your own room!) Centrally located with unique doodles painted on the walls of each room, City Hotels is a nice place to stay if you’re on a budget.

The Jane Hotel // Average nightly stay is around $90. If Wes Anderson’s film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was real, The Jane would be it. The interior is what I picture hotels used to look like before they became “hip” and modernized. The hotel is located right next to the Hudson and close to subway stops to get you anywhere you need in New York.

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MetroCard

If you’re going to be staying for close to a week, I recommend getting the 7 day MetroCard for $30. The card has unlimited rides for those 7 days on any subway and bus in New York.

Places to Eat

Chelsea Market // Not only does Chelsea Market have great clothing and book stores, but they have an array of foods for you to try (and a lot of the places have samples that you can scour!). I recommend Fat Witch Bakery for their brownies.

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Shake Shack // Oh, how I love me some Shake Shack. You can get a nice double burger and fries for around $10. However, shell out that extra $5 for a shake. You need one.

Murray’s Cheese Bar // My body hated me after eating the largest grilled cheese sandwich at Murray’s, but it’s worth it. I recommend the Murray Melt with a side of tomato soup for $12.

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Convenient Stores

When I was staying with a friend in Red Hook, we were starving and ran down to her local convenient store at the corner of her street. With boxes of cereal and kale chips in hand, we ordered an Everything Bagel with ham, cheese, turkey, lettuce, tomato, onions, and mustard toasted. It was $3! Look out for those kind of deals. They’re usually the best ones.

Free Things

A lot of people don’t talk about the free things that you can do while you’re in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

The High Line // The High Line used to be an old subway track that New York revamped with gardens, flowers, and restaurants. The views along the Line are incredible and worth climbing the steep steps to the top!

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Central Park// This is an obvious one. You can be like me and pretend you’re in “Friends” and do the handclap by the water fountains.

Brooklyn Brewery // Free tours on Saturday and Sunday at Brooklyn Brewery. It’s in such a hip part of Brooklyn that you’ll never want to leave.

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Bronx Zoo // On Wednesdays, entry is “pay what you want” and if you like zoos, it’s supposed to be a good one.

Museum of Modern Art // On Fridays, from 4-8pm, entrance to the museum is free. I highly recommend going early as it is bound to get packed!

Walking Tours // There are also a lot of free walking tours you can take to see the city. I love taking walking tours as they usually have interesting information on the city and I’ve always had a blast meeting people on the tours!

I hope this has been somewhat, if at all, helpful if you’re looking to travel to New York, but don’t have tons of money! I went for four days, and including airfare, food, and transport, spent $600.