London on a budget

Hello all! Over the next two blogs we’ll be discussing London on a budget. I think we all know how expensive city breaks can be, but with this guide to free and inexpensive days out, hopefully you’ll find some fun and interesting things to do around London without having to call the bank manager.

Some of the major museums and art galleries in London are free, and some charge a small entrance fee. Others attractions however can be very expensive indeed. Now I don’t want to discourage people from enjoying all this vibrant city has to offer, but in this two part blog we will focus on the former two. We will discuss some of these attractions in more detail in our later blogs, this is just a general overview. In part one we’ll highlight the major attractions, and in part two some, of the ones you may not have heard of.

The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, located in Trafalgar Square (closest tube Charing Cross or Leicester Square). The entrance to the National Gallery is on the north terrace of Trafalgar Square, and the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery is round the corner on Charring Cross Road. Both the are free, but there is a charge for any special exhibitions. You can see some of the greatest paintings in the world, by masters such as Da Vinci, Monet and Van Gouge. late opening on Friday nights.

Staying with art there is also the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern (both free). All of the Tate galleries in Britain are part of the Tate network. The Tate Britain (closest tube Pimlico, Vauxhall or Westminster) is situated on millbank near the Houses Of Parliament, it was built on the site of a former prison. Funded by Sir Henry Tate (a sugar merchant) it has a large collection of paintings by J M W Turner. My favourite painting in this gallery is The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke by Richard Dadd (the rock band Queen even wrote a song about it). And the Tate Modern (closest tube blackfriars or southwark), has been on bankside since 2000. It was built in the old bankside power station, and has a truly incredible interior. Spacious and grand, it has shown some unusual and controversial pieces, but continues to showcase the very best in modern art. The cafe, with its breathtaking view of London’s skyline, is not to be missed.

The last art gallery on our list is the Saatchi Gallery on the King’s road, Chelsea (closest tube Sloane Square). Moving to the Duke Of York’s HQ in 2008, this gallery showcases the very best in contemporary art.

Moving on to Museums, and let’s start with the the most visited attraction in London, the British museum (closest tube Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square or Goodge Street). One of the greatest collections in the world, with around 8 million artefacts from across the globe, The British Museum is not to be missed. Established in 1753 when Dr Hans Slone bequeathed his collection of oddities and antiquities, numbering over 70,000 pieces, to King George II, the museum was founded shortly after. The museum is famous today for pieces such as the Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone. The first collection of its kind, it has been open to everyone, free of charge, for over two and a half centuries. The Egyptology department is not to be missed. No trip to London is complete without a visit to this spectacular collection.

There are three museums in the area of London known as Albertopolis. The name stems from its close association with Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria. In 1851 there was the Great Exhibition in London’s Hyde Park, and the proceeds from this exhibition, which had been the brainchild of Prince Albert, went into buying the land on which these three famous museums stand. They are the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria And Albert Museum. And they are all (you guessed it) free of charge.

Let’s start with the Natural History Museum, my favourite! With some 70 million items (including dinosaurs) this collection always goes down well with children of all ages (I mentioned there was dinosaurs right). With exhibits on show from the collections of Charles Darwin, the museum is famous for its research in all manor of things to do with the natural world. The building itself is quite something to behold, with its grand entrance hall and ornate features. But the star of the show is called Dippy, a replica Diplodocus located in the central hall that is 105 ft (32m) long! A big hit with children aged 6 to 106!

The Science Museum is another great collection if you are traveling with little ones, because there is plenty of interaction for children. A great way to educate but at the same time, make learning fun. With everything from a Steam Engine built by James Watt, to a 3D cinema, this attraction is a great day out for all the family.

The Victoria And Albert Museum (know simply as the V&A), is the worlds largest decorative arts museum. It houses costumes, jewellery, textiles and the like with a collection spanning 5000 years. All three of these great museums are located in South Kensington (closest tube South Kensington).

The last museum on this list is the Museum Of London (closest tube St Paul’s or Barbican). This collection documents the history, growth and expansion of London over the last 2000. Located a short walk from St Paul’s Cathedral, this museum was built after the devastation of the local area during the second world war. The highlight of this impressive collection is Lord Mayor of London’s coach used during the annual Lord Mayor’s Show.

On the next part to this blog we’ll visit some of the lesser known attractions London has to offer.