Category Archives: Cultural and Heritage
Free London attractions
London is packed with world-famous attractions, from royal palaces and historic landmarks to museums, galleries and street markets. And the great news is loads of them are free. Let’s start with the iconic landmarks. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye – you can see all of these without spending a penny (but you will have to pay extra if you want to snoop around inside the Abbey, Buckingham Palace or the London Eye).
Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Turner Prize pieces, a dinosaur gallery and life-sized blue whale – they all live in London, and you can see them all for nothing. London is home to over 300 museums and galleries, and many of them offer free admission. Don’t miss the Tate Modern, Tate Britain and theV&A Museum. If you’re with the family, take the kids to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum for a day packed with giant artefacts and hands-on experiments.
In the mood for a romantic stroll, a run or a picnic in the sun? Head to one of London’s 8 Royal Parks. Beautifully landscaped and completely free, they’re the perfect place to unwind. You’ll probably stumble across some of the city’s best attractions too – Kensington Palace is tucked away in Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace is perched on the edge of Green Park and Greenwich Park is home to the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum.
West End on a shoestring
Travelling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on London’s world-famous West End theatre scene. If you’re after cheap theatre tickets, head to the official tkts booth in Leicester Square where you’ll find the best seats in theatre at half the normal price. And don’t worry about being palmed off with fakes – tkts is operated by the Society of London Theatre, the industry body that represents London theatres.
If half price theatre tickets are still stretching your budget, we’ll let you in on a little secret. Every night, The Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square offers standing tickets for 10p. But you have to be quick, these are first-come-first-served and there are only 8 of them available each night.
The secret to getting around London on the cheap is to do it like a Londoner. So make sure your first purchase is an Oyster card – it’s the fastest and cheapest way to travel around London by public transport.
If you’re travelling like a Londoner, you won’t need to shell out for an organised bus tour. Hop on the top deck of a London bus for a whistle-stop tour of the city’s sights at a fraction of the price. Here are some of our favourite sightseeing bus routes:
- Number 11 from Fulham to Liverpool Street, taking in the fancy King’s Road and Sloane Square, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and ending up at the trendy Shoreditch
- Number 24 from the leafy Hampstead Heath to Pimlico, via Camden Town, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square and Westminster
- Number 74 from Putney to Baker Street, calling at South Kensington, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park, Marble Arch and Baker Street.
As you wander around London, you’ll come across bike racks with bikes for hire. These are part of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, known as ‘Boris Bikes’ to Londoners (after the mayor, Boris Johnson). They’re easy to use and a great way to see the city without getting on a bus or tube. Simply use your debit or credit card to pay a small access fee for a bike, then take it out for a ride! You’re charged for the time your bike is checked out of the dock, but if you dock your bike at any Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme dock within 30 minutes of the last check out, you won’t be charged a usage fee. Find out more about the scheme and costs at the Barclays Cycle Hire website.
How to eat cheaply
Forget the Michelin starred restaurants – if you’re looking for the best food in London, head to the markets. Portobello Road, Camden, Greenwich, Spitalfields and Brick Lane markets offer a great range of cheap and delicious street food from every corner of the world. A treat for your tastebudsand your wallet.
If you’re looking for somewhere to eat cheaply at night, head to the nearest high street, where you’re sure to find chain restaurants like Pizza Express, Café Rouge, Wagamama, GBK and more, all serving tasty food at very reasonable prices. But don’t overlook the independent local restaurants, many of them run great value meal deals to compete with the bigger chains.
Believe it or not, there are several excellent campsites within striking distance of central London. You can save a huge amount by camping in the capital and it’s more convenient than you might think. Try Abbey Wood campsite in south London near Greenwich, only 35 minutes by train to the centre, or Crystal Palace Caravan Club that’s on a bus route to Oxford Street. Camping is also a great value option if you’re visiting for the London 2012 Olympics.
Relax and enjoy the romantic torchlit ambience of the Great Bath and avoid the crowds by visiting on a summer evening.
Many tourist race through Bath and have a very limited time to enjoy the splendours of this historic City. We highly recommend spending the night in Bath and maybe visit Stonehenge or Windsor en-route. The evening visits to the Romn Baths are truly awe inspiring. The site and shop are open until 10.00pm every evening in July and August (last admission 9.00pm). No need to book, just turn up.
As darkness falls, the ruins of this vast Roman building are an awesome sight. By the light of flickering torches, you can walk on 2000 year old pavements, providing a truly magical atmosphere. With its steaming waters and Roman artefacts this is an unforgettable and unique experience.
“A rare treat to enjoy the unique delights of the Roman Baths in the late summer evenings, as the sun goes down and creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere.”
Visitors may round off their evening with a meal in the Roman Baths Kitchen in Abbey Church Yard where last orders are taken at 9.30pm.
For more details about the Roman Baths and its late night opening log on to the website at http://www.romanbaths.co.uk/ or call 01225 477785.
The Roman Baths shop will also remain open and the restaurant at the Pump Room will be open for evening meals – last orders need to be in by 9pm. For reservations call 01225 444477.
Best Value Tours – www.SghtseeingTours.co.uk
Buckingham Palace, London, England
Buckingham Palace is not only a London landmark but the official London residence of the British monarch. Nineteen state rooms in the palace are open for public viewing each summer, from late July through early October, with complimentary audio tours. Visitors to the palace should be sure to keep their eyes peeled; Her Majesty has been spotted strolling through the gardens with her Corgi dogs and is known to enjoy a sneaky peek at visitors admiring her home.
Windsor Castle, Windsor, England
Just a quick jaunt by train from London, Windsor Castle is one of the Queen’s official residences and where she spends most weekends. Open year-round, visitors have been known to spot the Queen through the windows overlooking her garden. Locals have also said they often see Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh departing down the long driveway in Windsor Great Park. Your chances go up if you visit around Easter, when she takes up residence for a month.
The chances of spotting the Queen in Wales are on the rise with Prince William, her grandson, living in Anglesey to work as a search and rescue helicopter pilot. Prince William is said to be enjoying his time there, taking in the beautiful Welsh scenery as he flies over Snowdonia National Park. He’s also been sampling the local cuisine – including an Anglesey burger van, ‘The Flaming Grill,’ that he loved so much he gave them the Royal Seal of Approval.
Balmoral Estate, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
One of the Royals’ favourite summertime retreats is Balmoral, set amongst the magnificent scenery of Royal Deeside. Here you might spot the Queen as your neighbour – as you can take up residence on the same property where the Queen stays by renting a lovely cottage on the Balmoral estate. The grounds, gardens and exhibitions are open to the public from April 1 through July 31.
Queen’s Birthday Celebrations, London, England
Trooping the Colour is an annual event to mark the Queen’s official birthday. Held every June in central London, Trooping the Colour is the biggest royal event of the year with Her Majesty the Queen always in attendance. Tickets for the parade are in short supply but if you don’t manage to snag one for yourself, just stand along The Mall, which runs from Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch for a great chance of spotting the Queen.
Royal Ascot, Ascot, Berkshire, England
Attend the horse races at Royal Ascot and there is always a good chance of spotting the Queen and Prince Phillip in a horse drawn carriage during the Royal procession. Dating back to 1711, these prestigious races are held annually in the third week of June. Her Majesty is known to take a keen interest in the historic Royal Ascot races and she has owned 20 winners over the years.
Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland
Positioned at the end of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace is used by the Queen for one week at the beginning of each summer when she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. Steeped in history and perhaps best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, Holyrood Palace adds to the historic atmosphere of the Royal Mile. Her Majesty has often been spotted leaving Holyrood in her car – chauffeur driven, of course.
Chelsea Flower Show, London, England
As Patron of the Royal Horticultural Society, the Queen regularly attends the opening of the Chelsea Flower Show. This event is a regular fixture in the Royal calendar and Her Majesty is often accompanied by other Royals. If you are in Britain in late May, this is a great opportunity to possibly catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II. And a top opportunity to see some of the world’s most innovative gardens.
Braemar Highland Gathering, Scotland
The patron of Scotland’s best-known Highland Games is none other than Queen Elizabeth II herself and this celebration of traditional Scottish sport and culture is almost always attended by members of the Royal Family. The Gathering is always held on the first Saturday in September and is the place to see tossing the caber, Scottish country dancing, pipe bands and more.
Madame Tussauds, London, England
If all else fails there is always one place you are guaranteed to meet the Queen – and even shake her hand! Madame Tussauds is a top London visitor attraction and just a stone’s throw away from Regent’s Park and the bright lights of the West End. Her Majesty can be spotted there, or at least a waxwork version of her, along with the likes of Prince Charles and his two sons William and Harry. It might not be the real deal but it could be the closest you’ll get so don’t forget your camera!
Best Value Tours – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk