London - Where to see in the new year

Ten things to do in London for free

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By Andy Turner
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Visiting London, it’s hard to imagine Britain is gripped in a double-dip downturn. Lamborghinis continue to roar down Bond Street, new restaurants pop up each week and the East End appears to be entirely populated by espresso-sipping hipsters, with not a jellied eel in sight. However long you spend in the capital, follow these tips for free things to do in London to emerge wallet intact.

Hit the museums

Thanks to those philanthropic Victorians London has the world’s finest collection of free museums, most of which double as architectural marvels. The South Ken trio of the Natural History, V&A and Science Museum is the best place to start. Though don’t miss the British Museum or the quirky Sir John Soane collection.

Marvel at world-class art

Most of London’s wonderful permanent art collections are free to all (stick that in your pipe Musée du Louvre!). As well as the National Gallery and the two Tates, try the Whitechapel Gallery or the newly revamped Photographers’ Gallery.

Tourists visiting the National Gallery

Witness the capital’s enviable live music

Apart from buskers murdering Coldplay on the tube, you’ll find free music across the capital. Camden pubs such as the Lock Tavern regularly host free gigs while Rough Trade record stores put on in-store performances by suprisingly big names.

Enjoy some free concerts

For some free Bach or Beethoven try a student performance at the Royal Academy of Music or an evening concert at St Martin’s in the Fields. If you’re under 26 you can also enjoy a huge range of free events at the Barbican arts centre.

Get your sides split for nothing

A smile costs nothing so they say, especially on Tuesdays at the Camden Head Pub or Wednesdays at the Comedy Café. Each venue hosts free nights where comics try out new material (be gentle!).

Pedal for free

For one measly quid you can access the capital’s network of bulky-but-brilliant “Boris bikes” for 24hrs. Hiring the bikes is then free if you limit each ride to 30min (a range of apps help you find the docking points – try http://cyclehireapp.com/).

Boris Bikes, London

Seek out some real wildlife

With London Zoo costing a staggering £63 for a family of four, it’s worth knowing you can see wildlife for free in the capital. Richmond Park is famous for its herds of deer while the Lee Valley provides everything from butteflies to swooping peregrine falcons.

Behold London’s pomp and ceremony

Pageantry breaks out regularly across London from the Changing the Guard to the Lord Mayor’s Show, both free to view. For something less stuffy don’t miss the Notting Hill Carnival held each August bank holiday.

White and black dancers in colorful and revealing costumes perform during the Notting Hill Carnival. This is an annual event which has taken place on the streets of Notting Hill each August, over two days since 1965. It is led by members of the Caribbean population, many of whom have lived in the area since the 1950s. The carnival attracts up to 2 million people, making it the second largest street festival in the world.

Forage for the city’s best free food

It’s a wee bit cheeky but you can sample plenty of free titbits at London’s wonderful food markets – try Borough for the widest range or its smaller, cooler, rival Maltby Street. Even Harrod’s food hall hands out the odd morsel to the great unwashed.

Exploit the numerous 2for1 ticket offers

Both Visit London and National Rail’s Day’s Out Guide offer a range of 2for1 deals for those travelling by tube or train. If you simply must go to Madame Tussauds this is probably the cheapest way to do it.