How to entertain yourself for free (or very cheaply) in London

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Moving to a new city can be an intimidating experience for anyone, especially if your new city is one as big and notoriously unfriendly as London (a myth, bythe way). It’s easy to opt to stay indoors, or limit yourself to tourist spots, or even rely on your friends for entertainment. But what if you are stuck with no plans one day and you really don’t fancy staying in and watching the telly? You live in the city, for goodness’ sake! Surely there must be something to do, somewhere to go!

I’ve come up with a list of things (which I am constantly adding to) to do when I’m bored and looking for some excitement in London. The great thing about these activities is that you can do them with friends or completely alone, and you’ll probably make a friend or two out of them too.

Markets

If you wake up a little early at the weekend, why not dig out your camera and head out to one of London’s many markets? Browse antiques in Portobello Market, bric-a-brac in Brick Lane, quirky colours at Camden Market or clothing on Petticoat Lane. If you’re into vintage, Old Spitalfields is where you want to be;  and if you want to sample some of the freshest produce, make your way to Islington Farmers’ Market. Markets are always great for bargains, photo opportunities, and people watching, and visiting them enourages fair trade and small businesses.

Parks

If it’s a sunny day (not as rare as you would imagine), you could do a lot worse than to grab a book (a friend will also do), a notebook, a camera (always) and a small packed lunch and head out to one of London’s amazing parks. There are ever so many to choose from, with my personal favourites being Holland Park, Primrose Hill, Hyde Park (obviously), Kensington Gardens, Russell Square and Hampstead Heath. Spend the day being idle and people-watching. It’s good for the soul. Or something.

Museums

It doesn’t matter what you’re into – whether it’s art, history, science, medicine, photography, sports… there’s a museum in London to cater to your tastes. And the good news is that most of the permanent exhibitions are free, meaning you get a fun, educational day out for absolutely no money at all. Take a friend if you want to discuss the exhibits, and don’t shy away from seeing things you wouldn’t normally go for  – you’re bound to learn a thing or two.

Pub quizzes

If, like me, you’re a little obsessed with trivia, then you’ll have tons of fun at a pub quiz. Find some friends and form a team, then pick a pub quiz. Most pubs charge a very small participation fee (usually around £1) and offer prizes: from money off your bar tab, to cash, wine and food. If you’re new to the city and don’t know any people who might be interested in joining you, don’t fret. You can always find a pub quiz to attend on Meetup, and make friends in the meantime.

Book clubs

Here’s something I have been intending to do since I arrived in London and haven’t got round to it yet: join a book club. When I lived in Dublin, book club was one of the highlights of the month, and the place where I met some really interesting people. Book Club gives you a reason to do more reading, and hooks you up with people who share  your interests. Whether you’re into chick lit or sci-fi, non-fic or thrillers, or anything in between, you’ll find a book club to suit you if you look hard enough. Meetup is always a great place to start your search, as is Google. There are hundreds of book clubs around the city so you’re sure to find one close to home.

Free music

One of the great things about living in London is all the free music by up-and-coming bands and artists. Discover new acts and have a great night out with friends on a very small budget. Check out these websites to find out about free music venues.

Talks and lectures

There are always big speakers, philosophers, authors, artists, entrepreneurs and more who come to London to give talks to the public, and it’s definitely worth checking out a few of them.For a full schedule of talks in the city, click here, here, here and here.

1 Comment
  • Denise
    March 7, 2013

    Another great post Davina! Well done!! I def need to follow some of your ideas as I’m in the same boat :-) x

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