It can be quite an overwhelming experience to visit London for the first time, particularly if you are on a strict budget and you want to make the most of your trip. Although lots of attractions in London offer free entry, these are also the places which most tourists tend to head and so unless you are willing to battle the crowds, you might find it all a bit too much. However, one of the really great things about London is that there are so many world class attractions to see that finding some which are a little more ‘off the beaten track’ isn’t too difficult a task. Better yet, we’ve found some which are free to enter!
South London is a great place to start if you are looking for free and entertaining things to do in the city and we have put together this list to give you some idea of the things you can get up to without spending a lot:-
Crystal Palace Park
This unusual but well loved park takes its name from the Palace which stood in the west of the park until it burned down in the 1930’s. It is now home to a rather distinctive troop of giant dinosaurs and other extinct mammals which are now the oldest models of this type in the world. As well as the giant dinosaurs, the park also features woodland, open green space, athletics facilities, a fishing lake and even a children’s farm and playground, so plenty to keep people of all ages occupied and entertained. If you choose to stay at one of the many 5 star hotels in London you should have no difficulty in reaching the park, particularly if you plan to spend the day exploring the delights of South London.
The Royal Museums of Greenwich
On its own, Greenwich is a wonderful part of South London to visit and you could easily spend the entire day just discovering all that it has to offer. If you only have a short amount of time to dedicate to exploration then we would definitely recommend visiting at least one of the Royal Museums of Greenwich. Being primarily a maritime area, these museums are mostly focused on life at sea and include the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory, the Queen’s House Gallery and Cutty Sark. The Royal Observatory and Cutty Sark both charge for entry but the other two museums are entirely free to enter and offer a good and interesting way to spend a few hours. It is entirely possible to walk around the outside of the Cutty Sark as well so if you would like to see it without paying to go in then that is also possible. If you have more time to dedicate to Greenwich then we would also recommend the Old Naval College, Greenwich Market and Greenwich Park too.
The Horniman Museum is the perfect choice for anyone who wants to see a little bit of eclectic memorabilia which is situated way off the beaten track. Close to Greenwich, the Horniman Museum is actually located in Forest Hill and is a collection of interesting and sometimes grotesque objects from stuffed animals to unusual instruments and just about everything else you can think of in between. There is also a decently priced café if you find yourself in need of refreshment and if you head outside to the gardens you will not only find 16 acres of wonderful tranquillity but also stunning views across the city as well.
The Imperial War Museum
Located in Lambeth, the Imperial War Museum is housed in what was once a Bedlam asylum making the experience of visiting an even more moving one than it might otherwise have been. The museum itself covers the story of people’s experiences in war from modern wars to the World Wars. Perhaps not the most lighthearted way to spend your time but an interesting and thought-provoking one nonetheless.
If you are feeling brave (or the weather decides to be particularly pleasant) then you might want to factor in a visit to the lovely Brockwell Lido. The Lido itself is situated next to a Grade II Listed Art Deco building and is one of just a few remaining open air Lidos in the city. It costs from £3 for an adult and £2.40 for a child to swim in the Lido although there are often free trials running if you only plan to swim for a day so it is worth looking at the website directly ahead of time rather than just turning up on the day if you are trying to stick to a really strict budget.
Vauxhall City Farm
Remarkably, one thing London is not short on are city farms and plenty of them are free to enter. Vauxhall City Farm is one such farm which relies only on donations and is situated in South London. Although it isn’t one of the biggest farms there is a nice selection of animals so if you just want to try something different or you have small children to entertain then it is certainly a good option even if you only spend an hour or two wandering around.
For an injection of art, you can’t go wrong with the Tate Modern. There are occasionally charges for major exhibitions but you can generally see the majority of works for free. Aside from the pieces on display, just visiting this former riverside power station is an experience in itself; the building dominates the banks of the River Thames and is instantly recognisable. It is popular with tourists however so if you want to avoid the crowds then it is best to make use of the late opening hours which take place twice a week.