The original Big Smoke may have cleaned up its environmental act, but it’s not unusual to witness London’s visitors choking on the prices charged for food, drink and entertainment within the city. However, London is one of the world’s greatest cities and if you avoid the traps, there’s plenty to see for free! Here are our big sights with a small price within London:


The British Film Institute’s Southbank den is full of big- and little-screen gold. There’s an exhibition space, cinema screens and bars, but don’t miss Mediatheque, where you can simply park yourself in front of a widespread computer and access thousands of documentaries, films and TV programmes. Book ahead on the website or just turn up, but be aware that the booths are limited.

Location: BFI Southbank, SE1. Fee: Free!

The Vault:

Squirrelled away in a secure room (a former Coutts Bank vault), London’s original Hard Rock Café keeps a hoard of musical memorabilia, including Kurt Cobain’s sunglasses, Jimi Hendrix’s guitar and a US Army shirt worn by John Lennon. Access is granted if you buy a burger and fries!

Location: Hard Rock Café, 150 Old Park Lane. Fee: a burger and fries of your choice!

Hampstead Heath’s Ponds:

This oasis in North London has been a wild-swimming spot for decades. There are three ponds in all: male (complete with diving board), female and mixed (which gets very busy during the summer). Facilities include changing and sunbathing areas. These are the only outdoor-swimming arenas in Britain open and life-guard-patrolled 365 days a year. The city views are stunning, and the nearby Golders Hill Park has a deer enclosure.

Location: Hampstead Heath, NW3. Fee: £2 per day!

Walk the Line:

Think outside the square and follow the Line instead. This self-guided contemporary and modern art walk – the first of its kind in the city – roughly traces the Greenwich Meridian line. From the O2 and the regenerated Greenwich Peninsula across to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park,  this walk showcases sculptures by artists including Damien Hirst, Martin Creed, Gary Hume and Eduardo. Interactive maps are on the website.

Location: Greenwich, SE10. Fee: Free!

London Wall on our doorstep:

Before paying a small fortune to break into the Tower of London, head across the road to check out the remains of a structure that pre-dates the Tower by a thousand years. This is the best- preserved section of the Roman wall that once encircled the city. Archaeologists believe the defensive pile was built circa AD 200.

Location: Tower hill, EC3N. Fee: Free!

For 884 sights and experiences across 60 cities worldwide see: “The best things in life are free” guide by the Lonely Planet.

Aldrich & Company