10 More Free and Quirky Things to do in London
By Kelly Henderson (follow Kelly on Twitter @kellythekiwi)
If you are planning on visiting London, or you live there now, and you want to do/see things other than the usual tourist spots then you may want to have a read of this post. I’ve come up with a list of free and quirky things to do in London – if you missed part one you can read it here. This list should help you avoid getting hit by a selfie stick and you’ll also have enough money in your pocket for other things… like souvenir fridge magnets!
#1 AVOID RUSH HOUR BY ATTENDING A FREE CLASSICAL MUSIC CONCERT
Musicians from the Royal College of Music perform free concerts throughout the week in various locations around London. If you have time during your lunch break you may want to head to one of these venues – St Mary Abbots (Kensington High Street), St Martin-in-the-fields (Trafalgar Square), Charlton House (Charlton Road), Lincoln’s Inn Chapel, Regent Hall (Oxford Street) or St James’s Piccadilly. Those of you looking to avoid rush hour and relax after a hard day at work could head along to the Victoria & Albert Museum, St Stephen’s Church (Gloucester Road) or Steinway Hall (Marylebone Lane). For classical music buffs, or those that haven’t quite learnt how to appreciate it yet, these concerts are a great opportunity to hear some excellent musicians at play.
When: Lunchtime concerts: 1:05pm; after work concerts: 6pm & 6:30pm.
#2 HAVE YOUR SAY AT SPEAKERS’ CORNER
If you have an opinion and you want it to be heard then grab your soapbox and go to Speakers’ Corner. Traditionally, a Speakers’ Corner was a place where public speaking and debates could be heard. You will still find one in existence on the northeast corner of Hyde Park. If you would like to say your piece, you will be in good company – Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell have all stood there before you.
Where: The northeast corner of Hyde Park, near Marble Arch and Oxford Street.
When: Sunday mornings are the best time to visit.
#3 TAKE IN THE SIGHTS OF LONDON FROM THE SKY GARDEN
The Sky Garden is one of my favourite places to take visitors to London when I’m looking to impress. Spanning 3 floors (35th, 36th and 37th) of the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ building on Fenchurch Street, there are observation decks, a viewing platform and 360° views of the city. London’s highest public garden is free to enter but it does pay to reserve your ticket online first.
Where: 1 Sky Garden Walk, London, EC3M 8AF.
#4 HAVE A TRULY UNIQUE EXPERIENCE WITH FUNZING
Funzing is a really great website to know about if you want to meet new people or have a completely different experience. Hosts create days out, workshops, group meals and other activities based on something they have a particular interest or skill in. When you find the activity that interests you, book your place and get ready to have a fun time. Registering for Funzing is free but most of the activities do cost something. The good news is, I have had a look and there are definitely a few free (and very cheap) options. And hey, if you have a skill you are particularly good at, or a topic that you are interested in, why not host your own Funzing event?!
#5 ATTEND THE CEREMONY OF THE KEYS AT THE TOWER OF LONDON
Okay, so this one takes a bit of advanced preparation (dates are currently fully booked until September 2016) but the Ceremony of the Keys is one of the oldest ceremonies of its kind. The traditional locking up of the Tower of London takes place every night and has done for at least the last 700 years. It is still relevant today because even though the monarchy no longer live there, the Crown Jewels still do!
Where: Tower of London.
When: Ticket-holders will be escorted into the Tower at 9:30pm, and out again at 10:05pm.
#6 SNIFF OUT THE SEVEN NOSES OF SOHO
In 1997 artist Rick Buckley came up with an unusual way of protesting against CCTV cameras on the streets of London. Armed with plaster of Paris models of his own nose and some very strong glue, Rick went about sticking his noses on around 35 London landmarks. Most of them were taken down pretty quickly but there is still 7 in existence today. Apparently, if you find all of the Seven Noses of Soho then great fortune will come your way. Here’s a hint – at least one of them is not actually in Soho.
#7 GET A GLIMPSE OF FUTURE LONDON AT NEW LONDON ARCHITECTURE
Inside the New London Architecture building is a 12.5m long model of London. Built at a scale of 1:2000, the model covers the area from King’s Cross in the north to Peckham in the south and from the Royal Docks in the east to Old Oak Common in the west. The model is interactive – touchscreens allow you to see all the major projects and building works planned for the city, as well as the areas where the biggest changes will take place. For those of you who want to know more, there are also films played every hour documenting the history and development of London and the impact of the London Plan.
Where: New London Architecture, The Building Centre, 21 Store Street, London, WC1E 7BT.
When: Monday-Friday: 9am-6pm; Saturday: 10am-5pm.
#8 GET ON BOARD AT THE HOUSE OF VANS
The House of Vans is a community space located in what used to be The Old Vic Tunnels. It was created for those who want to truly embrace the Vans’ ‘Off the Wall’ spirit – artists, musicians, BMXers, skateboarders, fashionistas, etc. There is a concrete bowl, mini ramp, street course, art gallery, cinema and live music venue. Most of the events are free including skate and BMX sessions and cinema screenings – you may also get the chance to see a cool band (think Foo Fighters) play without spending a penny!
Where: Arches 228, 232 Station Approach Road, London.
When: Thursday-Friday: 4pm-10pm; Saturday: 10am-8pm; Sunday: 12pm-6pm.
#9 LET YOU CURIOSITY GET THE BETTER OF YOU AT THE WELLCOME COLLECTION
The Wellcome Collection is ‘the free destination for the incurably curious’. Exploring the connection between medicine, art and life in the past, present and future, this is a must-visit for those of you interested in odd facts and trivia. There are always really interesting exhibitions on – the current one is a study of mind, body and meditation in Tantric Buddhism – and the library is a great resource if you want to understand more about medicine and its role in society, past and present.
Where: 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE.
When: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 10am-6pm; Thursday: 10am-10pm; Sunday: 11am-6pm.
#10 TAKE SOME TIME OUT AND REMEMBER SOME OF LONDON’S HEROES AT POSTMAN’S PARK
If you’ve completed the 19 other free and quirky things to do in London on my list (you’ll find part one here), you may want to take some time out and head to Postman’s Park to visit the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice. The Memorial contains 54 tablets commemorating 62 individuals (men, women and children) who lost their lives trying to save somebody else. The park itself is hidden away near St Paul’s and provides some peace and quiet in an otherwise busy city.
Where: St Martin’s Le-Grand, London, EC1A.
When: All year round from 8am-7pm or dusk (whichever is earlier).