Category: Free London attractions (10)

The green glories of summer in the big city may be coming to an end, but fear not.  Enjoying some of London’s outstanding indoor delights found close to your short let London home is perfect this time of year, as the weather turns cooler. Here is just a handful of reasons why we can never get enough of the capital’s great museums and galleries and how they can still surprise and delight us, no matter how many times we have been before.

World famous Art & Culture – all completely free of charge

Many visitors who are staying in one of our short let London homes forget that some of the most famous and popular museums and galleries that they plan to visit, such as The National Gallery, The Natural History Museum and The British Museum, have no entrance fee.  London can be an expensive place, so it’s rather delightful to have such wonders and glories of art and culture laid out before you, without charge.  See The London’s Agent’s guide to London’s free attractions for more details.

Museums at Night

Museums at Night takes place twice a year in London and the October slot is coming up. Who can pass up the chance to view a favourite museum or gallery in a new and exciting way.  These nighttime workshops and guided tours give you the chance to view the treasures on show in a very different light – adding a spooky angle where possible, of course.  Prepare to be amazed and informed as usual, but this time it’s after dark. Any of our Kensington short let London homes have The Natural History, The Science and the Victoria & Albert Museums close by.

A museum or gallery for everyone

London boasts over 180 museums and 3 of the top ten museums of the world are to be found in the capital.  There are over 800 art galleries to explore, too. Favourites and popular choices such as the National Portrait Gallery or Tate Modern are well loved, both for their permanent collections and their special exhibitions. Investigate some of the smaller, more obscure collections on offer in London – from the quirky to the downright bizarre, such as The Museum of Brands and Packaging in Notting Hill.

The British Museum Underground Station

Never heard of this tube stop? That’s because it doesn’t exist anymore. The British Museum is the most visited museum in London, perhaps the world! It once had it’s very own underground station to accommodate the sheer number of visitors that flock to view it’s 8 million objects all year round, as they still do. Holborn Underground finally took over as one of the tube stops close to this great institution and the museum’s own station was demolished.  Each of our short let London homes has it’s own area and transport guide.

House Museums of London: How the famous lived and worked

Many famous and renowned Englishmen and foreigners who made London their home have had their houses turned into museums.  These homes are charming in their detail and are a fascinating blend of the domestic and the industrious. Learn things about such intellectual and artistic greats such as Keats, Freud and the fictional Sherlock Holmes that you never knew before, as you wander round their private homes. See The London Agent’s Guide to some of these house museums to find out which one is close to your short let London holiday let.

 

YOUR SHORT LET LONDON home IS BOOKED, NOW PLAN YOUR DAYS OUT

Some practical tips about staying in one of our short let London homes during the holiday season.  Visit London in the festive season and you will find that there are things you should look out for and be aware of. This is especially true for those of you who are staying with us between Christmas and New Year’s, when the holidays fall.

A REDUCED TRANSPORT SERVICE
London transport offers a reduced service, or no service at all, on the holiday days during the festive season.  It helps to know exactly what to expect if you are travelling or moving around town this time of year, in order to avoid spoiled plans. The sensible thing to do is to check with Transport for London to make sure you know how and if the buses, tubes and trains are running on each holiday day. TfL will also advise and inform if the weather is affecting the roads and railway lines in any way.  Be prepared and you won’t be disappointed.

WHICH DAYS ARE HOLIDAYS BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR 2016?
May we remind visitors staying in one of our short let London homes that shops, museums, galleries and attractions are closed on the holidays days between Christmas and New Year. The traditional holiday days are: Christmas Day – 25 December, Boxing Day – 26 December and New Year’s Day – 1 January.  This year, there are some additional holiday days to look out for: Tuesday 27 December is a holiday to compensate for the fact that Christmas Day falls on a Saturday and Monday 2 January is a holiday because New Years Day falls on a Sunday.

LONDON’S WINTER WEATHER.
The winter weather in London usually behaves well and getting around town is pretty straight forward, as usual.  We do not get severely icy conditions here like New York City, for example.  Sustained snowfall in central London is unusual so when it does snow, everyone loves it and marvels at how beautiful the hushed capital looks in it’s new white coat. Bring sensible, warm clothes when you visit London now, like a comfortable winter coat, some practical shoes or boots ideal for walking, plus a wooly winter hat, scarf and gloves, (which you may or may not need) and you’re all set!

LIGHTS AND DELIGHTS IN THE PARKS
There’s plenty to do and see when you leave the comfort and warmth of your short let London, even when the shops are closed! Enjoy the magical, transformed parks in central London. You will be amazed at the quiet and more gentle pace out there and there will be lovely lights and festive decorations to dazzle and cheer and compensate for the dark winter afternoons.  Should there be some snowfall, head off to Primrose Hill to watch the young and not so young on their sleds and toboggans. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is as fun and popular as ever, for the whole family.

A LESS CROWDED MUSEUM OR GALLERY
On the days the museums are open, you will soon discover that this is the perfect time to go! Take refuge in a gallery or museum out of the cold wind, and enjoy the fact that it may not be as crowded as usual! Many Londoners are away this time of year or huddled at home watching Home Alone on telly! Here is our handy guide to the free museums and galleries of the capital.  Don’t even try to resist the tempting traditional English fare on offer in the museum and gallery cafes and restaurants such as mulled wine, hot cider, mince pies, sticky buns, candied fruits and spicy hot chocolate.

 

Continuing with our free London attractions guide, this time we have the pleasure of talking about the wonderful and absolutely free London museums and galleries.  This is one of the most praise-worthy things about our capital city – that you can spend the day in The British Museum or The National Gallery without paying an entrance fee. Spend those saved pennies on a nice refreshing cup of tea in the museum cafe, or on some postcards in the gallery gift shop.

LONDON’S MARVELLOUS MUSEUMS – BIG, SMALL AND FREE

The British Museum, Bloomsbury

The British Museum looms large in Bloomsbury and you could spend months here without seeing a quarter of it! This great collection of wonders is dedicated to human history, art and culture from it’s very beginnings and it is one of the largest museums of its kind anywhere on the planet. The works on display number around the 8 million mark, so you can see that you will need time to enjoy your visit here and plan what you want to see carefully.  The permanent collection is free but you may have to pay to see some of the special exhibitions, which is the case in most of the museums and galleries we talk about here.

The Natural History Museum, South Kensington

The Natural History Museum in Kensington is another must, of course, and the building itself is a beautiful one.  Delight any dinosaur fans in your family with the enormous cast of a Diplodacus named Dippy, who reigns supreme in the main entrance hall. It’s a heck of introduction to this awe inspiring collection of plants, animals, fossils, insects and rock and mineral specimens. The youngest one’s will be desperate to see the ever popular T-Rex and the latest addition to the museum is a very interesting Human Evolution Gallery which will fascinate everybody.

Science Museum, South Kensington

Still in Kensington, we move onto the equally marvellous Science Museum. Budding scientists and others who thirst for knowledge will have a ball here learning of incredible scientific achievement as well as technological and medical exhibits. This is the place to learn all about space and the cosmos, to marvel at Einstein’s legacy, to perform your own aerial acrobatics and to celebrate over 200 years of communication and information technology.  There are countless thrilling and fun activities, simulators, interactive galleries and events for children of all ages going here every day.

The Victoria & Albert Museum, South Kensington

The ever fabulous Victoria and Albert Museum is, conveniently enough, also in Kensington. Simply known as the V&A, this is the world’s leading museum of art and design which spans 5 million years of human creativity, give or take!  Come and peruse the thousands of exhibits concerning fashion, ceramics, painting, architecture, textiles, sculpture, jewellery, photography, book art, glass & ceramics, furniture and theatre.

V & A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green

Always popular is the V&A’s Museum of Childhood which tells the history of toys, dolls, games and costumes.  This is the largest institute of it’s kind in the world and curates the material culture and experiences of childhood.  The collection ranges from the 1600’s to contemporary items.

The Museum of London, Barbican

The Museum of London informs and entertains us with London’s rather impressive history in style and with verve. What was London before it was London? Enjoy finding out with this fantastic museum’s many exhibits, reconstructed interiors and street scenes. Want to know what it was like during the Great Fire of London in 1666, which destroyed most of the city?  What about the bravery of normal Londoners during the Blitz of WW2?  Can you solve the mystery of the Burnt Bible?  From prehistory to punk and beyond – come and remind yourself how great a town this is and why we love it so.

The Museum of London, Docklands

Ths sister to the Museum of London, this Docklands museum explores London’s heritage as a port city: the home of sailors, globe-spanning import-export business, and all that salty jazz.

The Imperial War Museum, Lambeth

The Imperial War Museum, is fascinating. From Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Battle of Hastings, to the horrors of the Holocaust, come and learn about normal people’s experiences of war, as well as war from a soldiers point of view.

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is spectacular. Britain’s great naval and sea faring past and London’s maritime history is on display here in dozens of galleries that are free to visit.  See Admiral Nelson’s coat, complete with the bullet hole from the great sea battle of Trafalgar.  Learn about infamous pirates, The East India Trading Company, Maritime London and there are several special galleries and activities for the younger visitors. Take a riverboat from London and spend the day in Greenwich where you will also find The Royal Observatory, The Cutty Sark, The Queen’s House and Greenwich Market.

National Army Museum, Chelsea

The National Army Museum is the British Army’s central museum. It is located in the Chelsea district of central London, adjacent to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the home of the “Chelsea Pensioners”.  The National Army Museum has five state-of-the-art gallery spaces taking you on an interactive journey exploring the army’s character and impact from the British Civil War right up to the modern day. The galleries explore what is like to be a Soldier, the origins of the Army, how Battle tactics and technology has changed over time, how the Army influences Society and the impact the army has had around the world.

The Royal Hospital, Chelsea

The Royal Hospital, is a retirement and nursing home for up to 300 veterans of the British Army.  It was completed in 1692 and continues to this day as intended.  The extensive gardens are Grade II listed and host the annual Chelsea Flower Show amongst other events. Entry to the museum is free and the chapel, designed by Christopher Wren is also open to the public when services are held on Sunday mornings.

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, Bloomsbury

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology houses an estimated 80,000 objects, making it one of the greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology in the world. It illustrates life in the Nile Valley from prehistory through the time of the pharaohs, the Ptolemaic, Roman and Coptic periods to the Islamic period.

The Grant Museum of Zoology, Bloomsbury

The Grant Museum of Zoology is one of the oldest natural history collections in the UK, and is the last remaining university natural history museum in London. Home to 68,000 zoological specimens, the collection is a unique window on the entire animal kingdom.

The Royal Airforce Museum, Hendon

The Royal Airforce Museum is dedicated to 100 years of British aviation history.  From the Red Baron’s blue dog to Spitfires it offers a comprehensive display of life in the airforce.  The latest attraction is a 4D theatre which offers simulated rides in the famous Red Arrows.

Welcome Collection, Bloomsbury

The Welcome Collection explores the intersection between art, design, medicine and health.   Find changing large-scale exhibitions on topics as diverse as the health effects of architecture, the psychology of magic, teeth and much more.

Sir John Soanes Museum, Holborn

The Sir John Soanes Museum, is the personal and eclectic collection of this famous architect who built the Bank of England.  The townhouse is also an example of his work and you will be visiting not only his collection, but also his home and office.

The Bank of England Museum, The City

The Bank of England Museum is the place to go if you fancy holding a bar of gold!  Plus you can learn about money, banknotes, the economy, and for course, the Bank of England.

The British Library, Bloomsbury

The British Library is the worlds largest library.  If that is not enough it also offer events, exhibitions and tours.  Housed in it’s hallowed vaults are priceless manuscripts including the Magna Carta, Jane Austen’s notebook, Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketchbook and hand written lyrics by The Beatles.

The Horniman Museum and Gardens, Forest Hill

The Horniman Museum and Gardens is an intimate museum in spectacular gardens.  The collection covers anthropology, musical instruments and natural history including a Dodo. Regular festivals, events and workshops make this a family favourite free museum.

Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Ampitheatre, The City

Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Ampitheatre is a collection of treasures worthy of the capital city, see works dating from 1670 to the present, including 17th-century portraits, Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces and a range of paintings documenting London’s dramatic history. Then step into the ruins of London’s Roman Amphitheatre and discover the hidden history under your feet.

The Design Museum, Kensington

The Design Museum covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design.  The core exhibits are free to visit but temporary exhibitions require a ticket to be purchased.

Kenwood House, Hampstead

Kenwood House features stately architecture and interiors, acres of parkland and masterpieces from Rembrandt to Turner. Children’s activities are arranged together with a family zone.  The magnificent building is part of the English Heritage portfolio.

Fulham Palace, Fulham

Fulham Palace was the Bishop of London’s country home for over 12 centuries. Today it offers the museum, substantial gardens and a calendar of concerts, events and workshops.

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Covent Garden

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is not as secretive as urban myths would have us believe.  The interiors are impressive and a peaceful lounge is a great place to escape central London for a short respite.  The exhibition space offers masonic regalia, documents, artefacts and all sorts of bits and bobs.  There are daily tours and an extensive library, frequently used researching ancestors and family history.

 

WORLDCLASS LONDON GALLERIES, FOR FREE

Moving on to the captial’s wonderful galleries, big and small; all of these excellent candidates for our free London attractions guide. Sometimes a gallery is just the thing on a quiet afternoon in London Town.  Whether you’re in the mood for the shock of colour and energy of a modern piece or the darker, more formal dignity to be found in a portrait of a King, you will find what you are looking for below.

The National Gallery, Westminster

The original National Gallery was founded in 1824 on Pall Mall and had 40 paintings on display. Today, art lovers can enjoy a couple of thousand works of art here in one of the largest art collections on display in the world.  All this, plus the marvellous Trafalgar Square with it’s lions and fountains as a backdrop. Wander round at a relaxed pace and find your favourite Van Gogh, Cezanne, Vermeer or Turner. Enjoy the many free talks and lectures that you can join without charge and there are special activities and art workshops on Sundays for families and children.

The National Portrait Gallery, Westminster

Close to the National Gallery you will find the every popular National Portrait Gallery. It was founded in 1856 in order to gather portraits of famous British people and it was the first of its kind in the world. There are thousands of portraits to view here from the 16th century onwards, some easily recognisable; others less so.  The portraits appear in the form of drawings, prints, photographs, miniatures, paintings and sculptures. From the stuffy and serious, to the cheeky and cool, from royalty of old, to modern pop icons and media personalities – this is a fun and friendly gallery.

Tate Britain, Westminster

Tate Britain on Millbank by the river has been the home of British art from the 15th Century onwards and it is formidable. You get a real sense of anticipation and excitement just climbing the great stone steps to the gallery.  These buildings were expanded and refurbished in 2013 and both the exterior and interior are awe-inspiring. This is the place to come to see Turner, William Blake or Constable and iconic modern British artists such as Francis Bacon,Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst. Make one of your days a Tate Gallery day: there is the handy Tate Boat which sails down river from Millbank Millenium Pier to Tate Modern every half hour or so.

Tate Modern, Southwark

It’s hard to over state the sheer fabulousness of Tate Modern on Bankside, a little further down the river. This amazing transformed power station is a triumph of space and design and is now home to international modern and contemporary art. The wonderful Turbine Hall runs along the whole length of the building and this huge open space is perfect for displaying large artworks and sculptures. For colour and vibrancy teamed up with space and energy, this gallery is hard to beat. It certainly wins the prize for Coolest Gallery with the best views of the River, in this free London attractions guide.

The Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens

The small and delightful Serpentine Gallery and The Serpentine Sackler Gallery (the latter opened in 2013 in a former gun powder store) sit prettily on either side of the Serpentine Bridge in Kensington Gardens, a few minutes away from each other. What a magical location!  They are home to a collection of international and contemporary art, architecture and design.  Come and enjoy some art in this lovely outdoor spot, that offers the The Serpentine Pavillion, a shop, restaurant and social space.

The Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea

The Saatchi Gallery is housed in a beautiful building at the Duke of York’s headquarters by the King’s Road in Chelsea.  It aims to bring contemporary art to the masses and likes to be a springboard for artists seeking further recognition.  It works hard to promote and display unknown artists, or artists that have not been seen in Britain before. Come along and see something totally new and original and enjoy the pretty Duke of York’s Square with it’s cafes and shops.

The Wallace Collection, Marylebone

The Wallace Collection close to Oxford Street is often overlooked by those not in the know about this marvellous gallery which is also a museum.  This building was the former home of the Seymour family and it has some wonderful art on display in rooms that are styled as they would have been in the 19th century.  Two of the most famous and popular paintings here are The Laughing Cavalier by Hals and The Swing by Fragonard. There are also statues, furniture and miniatures on display, as well as a marvellous armoury. A little gem of a gallery to escape to right in the heart of the West End.

Whitechapel Art Gallery, Whitechapel

For more than a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world-class artists from modern masters such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo to contemporaries such as Sophie Calle, Lucian Freud, Gilbert & George and Mark Wallinger. The gallery is a touchstone for contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape, and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.

Newport Street Gallery, Vauxhall

Newport Street Gallery displays the personal collection of artist Damien Hirst.  The building was renovated by and Caruso St John and won the RIBA Stirling prize and is worth visiting for the building alone.  The exhibitions change between solos and group artists and in addition to contemporary art includes taxidermy and anatomical models.

The Photographers Gallery, Soho

The Photographers Gallery is Britains leading centre for contemporary photography.  Their mission is to champion photography for everyone.  Admission to the gallery is free before 12.00 so plan your visit in advance.

The White Cube, Bermondsey and Westminster

The White Cube is a commercial contemporary gallery and the largest in Europe. It represents high-profile, international artists.  It gained it’s reputation by being the first gallery to promote the works of the Young Brit Artists coming to the fore in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

 

We hope you agree that it’s an impressive collection of museums and galleries that make up this chapter of our free London attractions guide. It’s a lovely thought that there is so much art and culture out there just ready to impress, delight and inform without leaving you out of pocket. Come rain or come shine – a few hours spent in a free gallery or museum in London Town is a few hours well spent.

 

Free London attractions – wander by water

Continuing with our London guides of the many free London attractions, this time we are down by the riverside!

Ah, the River Thames – beloved by Londoners and visitors alike and such an iconic and important part of present day London and her past.  Nothing beats walking by a river in a big city – somehow you become part of the history and magic that it carries with it.  The many walks and rambles to be enjoyed along the Thames or by London’s charming canals are among the most interesting walks you can take in the capital. These free London attractions involve outdoor fun and activity at its best. Keep the kids and all the family absorbed and delighted by riverboats on the canals, opinionated swans and ducks on the river, busy barges and lock workers, fun bridges to cross, tow paths to explore and riverside cafes to rest and refuel in.

LONDON’S CANALS AND SURROUNDINGS.

The Regent’s Canal Walk has it all. There are many variations on this particular route, especially where you want to begin and end, but that’s all part of the charm.  You could start out in pretty Little Venice (as picturesque as it sounds) and walk along The Regent’s Canal to Regent’s Park (with London Zoo) into Primrose Hill (great cafes, shops and views of London) and ends up in Camden Lock. There are many delights along the way, including some excellent pubs, The Blue Footbridge, an aqueduct to cross, the aptly named Waterside Cafe and all the charm and energy of Camden lock and the market.  The energetic and enthusiastic can simply turn and go back the other way again and the lucky, slightly more weary ones can catch a riverboat back to Little Venice.  What a treat!

Another recommended version is from Paddington Basin to Primrose Hill. Paddington canal basin has recently been completely redeveloped under the Paddington Waterside scheme. There are some lovely cafes and restaurants by the water to enjoy here, as well as towering glass skyscrapers, incredible sculptures and shops.  The Rolling Bridge is a marvel of design and innovation and children love to watch as it curls up, caterpillar style, to allow a boat to pass through and then quietly uncurls again.

Or start in Islington (good restaurants, shops and the best theatre outside the West End) and end up in Little Venice.  One thing is for sure, whichever way you walk the Regent’s Canal, you will be charmed by the boats and barges, the locals on their houseboats (complete with flower boxes), the birds and wildlife, the bobbing rowboats and some pretty historic taverns and pubs.

RIVERWALKS, EMBANKMENTS AND BRIDGES.

The Thames Path is certainly a free London attraction that is seeped in history. The London section of this famous river path takes you through it’s very heart, with cultural landmarks and river scenes at every turn. The path splits up, taking you either along the North or the South bank of the river.  This must be one of the most beautiful urban walks by a river that exists.

The delightfully named Queen’s Walk takes you over Westminster Bridge, along the Southbank with The London Eye to Tate Modern, and then over the Millenium Footbridge to St Paul’s Cathedral. This pedestrianised walk is a popular one with visitors as it takes you past so many of London’s most interesting attractions, such as Tower Bridge and The Tower of London.

If you prefer a shorter route without any particular destination in mind, Chelsea Embankment is lovely in the early evening with the glittering lights on the water and on Chelsea Bridge and Albert Bridge. The famous Chelsea Psychic Garden is along here, and you may want to join other walkers or runners who are heading over the always lovely Chelsea Bridge into Battersea Park, just across the river.

The embankments in London and some of her most famous and historical bridges can certainly be included under free London attractions. Victoria Embankment runs from Westminster Palace to Blackfriars Bridge in The City. The famous statue of Queen Bodicea sits at the start of the embankment by Westminster Bridge.  This was the first street in London to be converted from gaslight to electricity in 1878. There are several riverboat services that sail along various points all along this embankment.

We hope we have given you an idea of how wondrous and interesting it is anywhere in London where the Thames runs close by. It’s hard to think of a free London attraction that is as invigorating and fun as this, and one that is so family friendly. Whether you take a proper, pre-planned river route, amble pleasantly along at your own pace by the canals or embankments, or walk briskly over the bridge of your choice, there will be plenty to entertain and interest you as you go.

Another post in our free London attractions guide is free and green London spaces.