Fair dos, London has something of a reputation for being a pricey city, yet if you’re imaginative and original enough there are ways to spend very little at all to entertain yourself in the UK capital…
Browse away in the British Library
(96 Euston Road NW1 2DB)
This open, airy and very inviting 20th Century building is full of thousands of books, articles, and folios (so much so it’s a haven for academics checking historical records and the such like), yet it’s a venue that’s also for the nation and the world at large (hence its name), so it hosts many an excellent free exhibition – at which you can espy the diverse likes of Jane Austen and Dickens first editions, Magna Carta extracts and handwritten scores and lyrics penned by luminaries such as Mozart and The Beatles.
Stroll around the living history of glorious Greenwich
London possesses a handful UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but on a sunny spring/ summer’s day none of them can top the treats at Greenwich. Comprising the unrivalled Georgian elegance that’s the rolling greens of Greenwich Park, the revelatory Royal Observatory, the fascinating National Maritime Museum and the breath-taking majesty of the Old Naval College, it’s all truly terrific – moreover, as they’re restoring the latter building’s famed painted-portrait-ceiling right now, you can get up close and personal and check out all its extraordinary details.
Spot the deer at Hampton Court
If you don’t mind getting out of London itself – which does have the advantage of escaping the city hustle-bustle for a few hours – then how about heading Hampton Court-way? Now, it’s true that this magnificent and truly very interesting historic palace isn’t free to enter; however, Bushy Park –in which it stands – is and it offers a truly marvellous enticer: its parkland’s home to around 100 deer, just casually strolling here and there among its trees. A priceless sight, truly. And should you be staying at one of the Shaftesbury Hotels Collection’s properties near the major transport hub that’s Paddington station (i.e. the Park Grand Paddington Court hotel), you can just hop on a train to reach Bushy Park. Sorted!
Mooch about on the South Bank
The South Bank is undoubtedly one of this blogger’s favourite bits of London. Where else can you check out the world-class, hugely diverse attractions that are the London Eye, the National Theatre, the BFI (British Film Institute – and its cinemas), the London Dungeon and the Royal Festival Hall? Moreover, with its irresistibly appealing, family-friendly vibe (topped off by so many street performers) and places to sit outside for a bite to eat and a drink, it’s also fantastic to watch the sun go down, offering a perfect panorama of the Thames and Big Ben to the west. The best of all, though? The second-hand book fayre under Waterloo Bridge. Truly.
Finally, it may feel like the summer when London hosted the Olympics is now long behind us (it was 2012), but don’t doubt it; the legacy lives on in East London. That’s because the development that comprised the Olympic Stadium, the swimming, volleyball and hockey venues and everything else is now a big, strident public park fir for the 21st Century. Indeed, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s home to nature enclosures, restaurants, shops and a good number of family-focused activities. Well worthy of a cheap day out!