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Things to do in London (preferably free!)


munchkin16
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I'm going to London next week for the day before seeing the Royal Ballet perform in the evening and was wondering if anyone had any ideas of things that I could go see or do. I will be alone so other than shopping (and dance shops!) is there anything else anyone could suggest visiting. I've been to most of the museums before but if there is one I might have missed or special exhibitions I would love to hear any ideas. Thank you for your help in advance.

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My favourite place for a wander continues to be the British Museum.  I always seem to find something I've not seen before.  My favourite sections are the Egyptian and Assyrian galleries.  There is a major exhibition on about the Vikings but you have to pay to get into that.

 

I also love the National Portrait Gallery.  I love reading about the subject of the paintings and photographs.  One of my favourite paintings is the self-portrait of Rembrandt aged 63.

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I was going to say The National Portrait Gallery as well!

Currently there is an exhibition of photographs of the stars of screen etc by David Bailey.....called Stardust I think. I'm not completely sure whether this is free though as there is often a charge for special exhibitions.

 

If you happen to be around St James Park about 4pm then you can see the Pelicans there being fed which is quite amusing.

 

Sometimes the Festival Hall has live events going on in the afternoon too.

Another nice thing is to get a bus to St.Pauls and then walk across the Millennium Bridge to the Tate. Not sure what's on there at mo apart from the Matisse exhibition......but unfortunately you have to pay to go into this one.

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Yes, just been watching Goldie on the Red Button talking about it.

 

I'm told that Sir John Soane's museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields is a great place to go - really quirky, I believe - but last time we tried to get in there was a 3/4 hour queue and we decided not to wait.

 

Parks (if the weather's fine), museums and galleries in general, of course, although I'd give the Natural History and probably the Science Museums a miss during school holidays (or will the schools be back by then?  Might be).

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Without knowing your tastes and interests it is very difficult to know where to recommend but London has something for everyone.

 

If you want to see modern London and the power of our financial services industry there is no better place than Docklands and Canary Wharf. You can easily combine it with a trip to Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park which is now open to the public.

 

If you want to celebrate our great maritime history there is Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum with its magnificent exhibition of Turners and the Sea. London is made up of villages and one of the prettiest is Blackheath a stone's throw from Greenwich. Other pretty villages are Richmond , Ham and Petersham in the South West which are near Richmond and Bushy Parks and Hampton Court Palace or Hampstead to the North with its massive Heath which is not far from Regent's Park the largest and most beautiful royal parks.

 

Some London villages show the diversity of our people - if you want to try plantains and sweet potatoes go to Brixton, if you want to sample the best Bengali cuisine go to the streets near Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets, if you like Punjabi food try Southall.

 

If you do not want to stray far from the House explore the Inns of Court - all different -  Lincoln's with its lovely walks or the Temple with its round church or Temple gardens where the Dukes of Lancaster and York selected their red and white roses.  Or you can see Old Hall with the opening words of Dickens's Bleak House resonating in your memory.   So much of our nation's history and literature are rooted there

 

If you want to glory in our sporting heritage visit the MCC Museum at Lords where the Ashes reside and if you are lucky you can catch a few hours of cricket.

 

Although I was born in Manchester and live in Yorkshire I love our capital and feel so much at home there. Ballet is just one of a whole heap of delights for you to enjoy.

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If I was going to potter around, and not move too far from Covent Garden itself, then I agree with other posters.  I would wander down to Trafalgar Square and go into the National and National Portrait Galleries.  The latter is one of my personal favourites, and I happily spend hours in there when I get the chance.  Plus it is not too big, and unlikely to get hoards of school children.

 

And there is the added bonus of being able to go to the Cafe in the Crypt in St Martin's church, and indulging in one of their hot puddings with custard.  The apple crumble is wonderful.  If you like that kind of thing.  :)

 

Oh, and I assume you have been in the Actors' Church in Covent Garden?  I like going in there and reading the various memorials on the walls. 

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I had a good afternoon on Wednesday walking around Kensington Gardens, both the Serpentine Galleries are free and it's a nice walk to Kensington Palace, the garden looks lovely and  you can see where Wills and Kate live! If you've never been inside it's very interesting.

 

If you like fashion exhibitions, there are 2 on at the moment, Italian Fashion at the V and A, and Jean Paul Gaultier at the Barbican, neither are free, the Theatre Galleries at the V and A have several ballet related objects and a small exhibition on Shakespeare at the moment.

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I love the British Museum, might try and go to that, especially the Egyptian, or the Greek sections. I've just been to Amsterdam to see the Rembrants at the Rijksmuseum so I will have to hunt for the self portrait now at the National Portrait Gallery. St. James Park sounds lik a nice idea, if it's sunny... I love the sounds of the Theatre Galleries at the V and A, is it easy to walk there or would I need to get a tube?

 

Fonty, where is the Actors Church, I've never heard of it before? The Cafe in the Crypt sounds really nice, I might stop for a cake or something.

 

Thank you so much for all the ideas, just a thought, anyone have any particular nice places to eat where I won't look lonely being on my own? Especially if the weather isn't nice I can't just sit in a park.

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I really must get to the Maritime museum in Greenwich.....especially if there is a Turner exhibition on I love his paintings.

 

I am ashamed to say that Ive never been there and not in all those years I lived in London. :(

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There is definitely a Rembrandt self-portrait in the National Gallery, Isaw it myself two days ago, but I doubt the NPG has any, its collection being British and historic - however the NPG does usually have a few 20thC ballet personages on view.

 

The V&A is too long a walk from Covent Garden, take the tube or, preferably, walk up Exhibition Road (5-10 mins) and get the number 9 bus from near the Albert Memorial: either way, leave by 6pm latest for a 7.30 curtain-up, the tube is not fast in the rush-hour.

 

The portico of St Paul's Church (the Actors' Church) faces into Covent Garden but the main entrance is round the block in Bedford Street and there is a narrow easily-missed passageway in from King Street.

 

If you try the (free!) Soane Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, be warned they only allow small bags.

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There is definitely a Rembrandt self-portrait in the National Gallery, Isaw it myself two days ago, but I doubt the NPG has any, its collection being British and historic - however the NPG does usually have a few 20thC ballet personages on view.

 

The V&A is too long a walk from Covent Garden, take the tube or, preferably, walk up Exhibition Road (5-10 mins) and get the number 9 bus from near the Albert Memorial: either way, leave by 6pm latest for a 7.30 curtain-up, the tube is not fast in the rush-hour.

 

The portico of St Paul's Church (the Actors' Church) faces into Covent Garden but the main entrance is round the block in Bedford Street and there is a narrow easily-missed passageway in from King Street.

.

 

 

I always go into the Actors' Church from the portico, which faces on to Covent Garden market and just walk around to the front entrance.   It is the bit the other side of the market from the ROH.

 

V & A is a wonderful museum generally, and is possibly my favourite of all, but it is over in Kensington, and my suggestions were based on places within reasonable walking distance of Covent Garden itself.  I always find the British Museum exhausts me after an hour, and then I want to go somewhere else. 

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Didn't know you can enter from the Market side, I've only been in it a few times and looked unsuccessfully for a public exit to the Piazza, thinking there must be one for Health & Safety reasons!

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Thank you so much for all the ideas, just a thought, anyone have any particular nice places to eat where I won't look lonely being on my own? Especially if the weather isn't nice I can't just sit in a park.

 

The only one I know personally is the one I have already mentioned, the Cafe in the Crypt. 

 

Another safe bet would be any of the museum cafes, as they are generally in nice surroundings and do a reasonable selection.  And you certainly won't look out of place on your own. In fact, you will probably end up having to share a table, as they tend to be packed. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

If you are in London on a Sunday morning a visit to Columbia Road flower market is not to be missed. I love the vibe, the awesome flower stalls (of course) and the small independent shops, cafés and deli not to mention an excellent fabric/sewing shop. On Saturday mornings a visit to Borough market is a delight for foodies, culinary inspiration from around the world. Come to think of it, I do rather like markets and you aren't forced to spend anything

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Thank you so much for all the ideas, just a thought, anyone have any particular nice places to eat where I won't look lonely being on my own? Especially if the weather isn't nice I can't just sit in a park.

 

How did I miss this?  Some of the cathedrals have nice eateries: we tried Southwark (just o/s London Bridge station) some years ago.  The V&A has a *very* nice eatery, although it's not on the cheap side.  Benugo's are generally quite nice, if there happens to be one near where you're going.

 

The above all tending to assume you're not going for a fully-fledged dinner, BTW.

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