Category Archives: Free stuff in London

London New Year’s Eve 2012 Fireworks

Celebrate the end of London’s year like no other and welcome 2013 with a bang, watching the Mayor’s spectacular, free New Year’s Eve fireworks
London New Year Fireworks

The night skies will be a blaze of light and colour on Monday 31 December 2012 with a display of stunning pyrotechnics by the London Eye on the famous South Bank.

“Our New Year’s Eve fireworks will cap a triumphant year for London. As we welcomed the world to the magnificent celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the glorious success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, London was at its very best. From the thrilling sporting action to the breathtaking cultural celebrations, it has been an unforgettable year and I am immensely proud of the contribution that our Ambassadors made to that success. As we go into 2013 with a spectacular fireworks display I hope we can build on that energy and enthusiasm to make ours the best big city in the world.” Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

Staying in London ?
We have a range of Sighteeing Tours and Attractions:
http://bestvaluetours.co.uk/tour-of-england/london-uk-christmas-tours

Travel Editor
Best Value Tours

Winter fun in Britain

There are plenty of opportunities to soak up the festive spirit for free around Britain, beginning with a stroll down almost any street from late afternoon, when the Christmas lights twinkle and shop windows are filled with fantastic displays. London’s most elaborate decorations attract big crowds to Regent Street, Oxford Street and Carnaby Street (mid-November to early January); while in Edinburgh, the city’s Norwegian Christmas Tree will light up on 26 November (see http://www.edinburghsparkles.com/christmas for the city’s full Christmas calendar). The world’s tallest Christmas tree to be made out of Lego was built out of 400,000 bricks at St Pancras International in London last year, and this year the station promises an equally stunning surprise showpiece.

There are lots of traditions the British look forward to every year, from switching on the Christmas lights to ice-skating in the open air. VisitBritain picks highlights from around the nation

There are lots of traditions the British look forward to every year, from switching on the Christmas lights to ice-skating in the open air. VisitBritain picks highlights from around the nation

Winter is a great time to bring the family to Britain, and many children have learnt to ice-skate against the picturesque background of Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum or Edinburgh’s dramatic skyline at East Princes Street Gardens. This year Kew Gardens will also be home to a Santa’s Grotto, with Winter Tree Tours, a vintage carousel and roasted chestnuts to conjure the festive atmosphere (www.kew.org). Nature-lovers should go to Longleat, the popular safari park in Wiltshire, where they’ll find a huge outdoor ice-rink as well as Britain’s biggest singing Christmas tree! It stands at 50 feet tall and is decked with almost a million multi-coloured lights. The park’s usual attractions remain open, including a Safari Drive Adventure that takes you up close to the animals in Jungle Kingdom (www.longleat.co.uk, 16 Nov – 9 Dec, then 14 Dec – 7 Jan 2013).

Highlights of this year’s Southbank Winter Festival include dark comic cabaret, candlelit classical concerts and baby opera. These will run alongside a programme of free events, which include choirs singing by the river and gigs in the Royal Festival Hall foyer. Visitors can join in the fun, dancing in The Clore Ballroom, making Christmas cards and presents, and eating plenty at the the Real Food Christmas Market and Chocolate Festival (www.southbankcentre.co.uk, 16 Nov – 7 Jan).

Wales is known for its food festivals, and this year a festive market will be taking place at the iconic Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff (www.wmc.org.uk), along with markets in Caerphilly Castle and Abergavenny, the food-festival capital of Wales. Cardiff Castle will play host to Victorian Christmas Tours, which promise ‘a real flavour of Christmas past’ (www.cardiffcastle.com).

The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future are united in Dickens’s famous A Christmas Carol, and their story told in Scrooge The Musical, which will play in London’s West End from the end of October. The same man behind the special effects in Harry Potter is behind special illusions for the show, so it’s guaranteed to wow (www.londonpalladium.org/scrooge). The holiday season in Britain wouldn’t be complete without The Nutcracker, and the English National Ballet’s new version is part of Tamara Rojo’s first season as Artistic Director. It shows in Southampton at the end of November before moving to London’s Coliseum (www.ballet.org.uk). While The Nutcracker is an old favourite, new play The House Where Winter Lives looks set to enthral children at the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, East London, which will be transformed into a magical frozen forest: children and their families will explore the wonder of winter in an immersive storytelling adventure (www.discover.org.uk).

For more grown-up fun, the Winter Cinema at The Berkeley Hotel in London is one of the season’s most exclusive and cosy events. Classic winter films will be shown on the hotel’s rooftop high above Knightsbridge, while guests snuggle up under Moncler blankets and sip home-made hot chocolate and mince pies (www.the-berkeley.co.uk, 26 Nov – 31 Jan). The cinema is open to anyone during the week, but reserved to guests over the weekend. Another sumptuous place to stay – and visit – is Waddesdon Manor, in Buckinghamshire. The National Trust property is stunning at any time of year, with turrets worthy of Harry Potter and sumptuous interiors, but in winter is particularly beautiful. Each year the Christmas decorations have a different theme and for 2012, as in previous years, they will reflect the five European countries where the founding sons of the Rothschild dynasty (who bought the Estate) made their fortunes, with England as the focus this year. London’s great sights – Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s column are outlined in the Oval Hall, great English writers Dickens and Shakespeare are celebrated and a Christmas feast fit for Victoria and Albert will be laid out in the White Drawing Room (www.waddesdon.org.uk).

Link source: http://media.visitbritain.com/Story-Ideas/Winter-fun-in-Britain-aef0.aspx

London and UK Chrsitmas Tours: http://www.bestvaluetours.co.uk/tour-of-england/london-uk-christmas-tours

Travel Editor – Best Value Tours

Cheap and free London

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.

V&A Cafe

V&A Cafe

Park life
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.

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

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.

Getting around
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.

London bus travel

London bus travel

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.

Camping
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.

UK Olympians share their tips for tourists visiting London

There are only four days to go before the start of the Olympics so Team GB don’t have time for sightseeing but they have revealed their tips for tourists visiting London during the Games.Image via ecofoodrecycling.co.uk

Olympics sponsor British Airways asked the London 2012 hopefuls what they would get up to in a day off from their intensive training.

The London Eye was the most popular tourist attraction, with a quarter of athletes recommending it as their ‘essential London’ tourist visit, closely followed by Buckingham Palace (17 per cent) and the River Thames (5 per cent).

Rower Zac Purchase said he loves to take afternoon tea: ‘It’s such a fantastic British tradition, and what better place than the nation’s capital city to give it a try? Choose a good hotel or restaurant and dress up. Make an occasion of it and you won’t need any more food for days!’

Gymnast Louis Smith said she’s most likely to be found enjoying a concert at the North Greenwich Arena, which is handy as that’s where she will be competing for a medal when it hosts the London 2012 Gymnastics during the Games.

Heptathlete Jessica Ennis meanwhile admits to being a shopaholic and likes to hit the shops on Oxford Street.

Unsurprisingly, triathlete Helen Jenkins recommends walking everywhere and picks St Paul’s Cathedral as a must-see along with Hyde Park, which will host the London 2012 triathlon course.

Rower Mark Hunter suggests a trip down the River Thames, while sailor Ben Ainslie’s continues the nautical theme by picking Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square as his favourite landmark.

Wheelchair racer Shelly Woods’ favourite place – The Mall and Buckingham Palace – also has a clear sporting link; it’s here that Shelly will be competing in the marathon later this summer. With years of training and preparation for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it’s no surprise that our athletes’ top advice for visitors is to ‘plan your visit’ and ‘walk everywhere’.

And their advice for avoiding tube chaos? Make like Bradley Wiggins and get on your (Boris) bike.
Full aricle: http://www.eturbonews.com/26595/insider-top-tips-visiting-london

BestValueTours = www.SightseeingTours.co.uk

50 free things to do in London: part two – east and south

A clutch of great museums, plus a farm and dinosaurs in a park – there’s plenty to do that’s free in east and south London

Period front room at the Geffrye Museum

Period front room at the Geffrye Museum

EAST

Geffrye Museum, Hoxton

What would your living room have looked like 100 years ago? 200 years ago? This Hoxton museum explores how tastes in English home furnishing have changed over the centuries, from 1600 to the present day. A series of mock interiors are chronologically arranged along the length of a row of early 18th-century almshouses. An outdoor herb garden completes the picture, while a modern wing offers temporary exhibitions.
• 136 Kingsland Road, E2,             020-7739 9893      , geffrye-museum.org.uk, open Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun and holidays noon-5pm

Museum of London Docklands, Canary Wharf

Docklands MuseumThe MoL’s eastern outpost covers the history of London’s docks. It’s one hell of a story. Somehow, the museum manages to pack in the rise and fall of the British Empire, the formation of the Royal Navy, the horror of the slave trade, the fire storms of the second world war, the death of the docks in the 1960s, and the massive redevelopment of Canary Wharf and the wider riverside since.
• West India Quay, E14,             020-7001 9844      ,museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands, open daily 10am-6pm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Photograph: AlamyLondon has more than a dozen city farms dotted around the inner boroughs. All of them offer a family-friendly taste of rus in urbe and a chance to meet domesticated animals. The Spitalfields farm is one of the more central options. It also distinguishes itself with the annual Oxford-Cambridge Goat Race, which takes place annually on the same day as the more famous boat race.
• Buxton St, E1,             020-7247 8762      , spitalfieldscityfarm.org, open 10am-4.30pm

Valence House, Dagenham

Valence House, DagenhamLondon is replete with small, local museums. One of the best area-specific examples can be found in the borough of Barking and Dagenham. These parts of London are often overlooked by visitors, but are steeped in social and cultural history. Valence House tells their story with aplomb, inside a largely medieval building that retains part of its moat.
• Becontree Avenue, RM8,             020-8227 5293      lbbd.gov.uk, open Mon-Sat 10am-4pm


SOUTH

Crystal Palace Park

Dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park

Photograph: Stephen EmmsThis much-loved space takes its name from the giant Crystal Palace, which stood to the west of the park until it burned down in 1936. It was originally constructed in Hyde Park, to house the 1851 Great Exhibition, but was shifted to Sydenham the following year. The building’s footprint can still be seen. Nearby, a landscaped lake is noted for its population of sculptures depicting dinosaurs and extinct mammals. These date back to 1852 and are the oldest such models in the world. The rest of the park offers a pleasant mix of open space, an athletics stadium, woodland and family facilities.
• Sydenham, SE20,             020-8778 7148      , visitlondon.com

Royal Museums, Greenwich

Greenwich museums

The National Maritime Museum buildings and Observatory on the hill in Greenwich. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the GuardianWith its hilltop views, riverside setting and world heritage status, Greenwich makes a great free day out in itself. But this corner of south-east London is also packed to the gunwales with cultural attractions. The Royal Museums comprises the National Maritime Museum (free), the Royal Observatory (partly free), the Queen’s House gallery (free) and the restored Cutty Sark (quite pricey to go in, but you can gaze from outside). All are worth a visit.
             020-8858 4422      , rmg.co.uk, open daily 10am-5pm

Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Photograph: Martin Argles for the GuardianThe elegant college complex has been a landmark of the Greenwich riverfront since it was initiated by Sir Christopher Wren in the early 18th century. Originally built as a hospital for injured sailors, it later served as a naval training academy. Today, most of the buildings are used for educational purposes, but two blocks are open to the public. The Painted Hall is lavishly decorated with paintings by Sir James Thornhill, while the nearby Chapel is resplendent in gold. The college is built on the site of the Palace of Placentia, birthplace of both Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I.
•             020-8269 4799      , ornc.org, open daily 10am-5pm

Horniman Museum, Forest Hill

Horniman Museum, Forest Hill

Photograph: Sean Smith for the GuardianForest Hill is about as far off the standard tourist trail as you get. But nestled on the verdant hillside in a set of newly spruced gardens you’ll find one of London’s best museums. The Horniman has a bit of everything. A natural history collection – including the famous badly stuffed walrus – forms the core of the museum. You’ll also find a small aquarium, rooms full of unusual instruments and textiles, a display of anthropology and a damn fine cafe. Outside, the unusual architecture and views towards central London match the indoor wonders.
• 100 London Road, SE23,             020-8699 1872      horniman.ac.uk, open daily 10.30am-5.30pm

Imperial War Museum, Lambeth

Imperial War Museum

Learn about camouflage at the Imperial War MuseumAt times deeply moving, even harrowing, at others inspiring, the IWM never fails to impress. The grand premises originally served as the Bedlam asylum, but now house dozens of military vehicles, historic documents and often overlooked but spectacular art galleries on the top floor. Be sure to wander the grounds, too, where you’ll find a section of the Berlin Wall, a pair of giant naval guns and a Tibetan Peace Garden.
• Lambeth Road, SE1,             020-7416 5000      , iwm.org.uk, open daily 10am-6pm