Guest Author - Ann Carroll Burgess
Keeping travel costs down is always a challenge. However, just a little of pre-trip research can net you a treasure trove of experiences and attractions to take in during your stay that don’t cost a cent.
Pomp and Pageantry is top of the list for London free experiences. You can watch the “Changing of the Guard” daily at Buckingham Palace from May through July (after that on alternate days the rest of the year). The ceremony, which has been on view to the public since 1660, begins shortly after 11 am.
Plan to arrive early if you want the best view possible. Crowds can be large so go early to secure a good viewing spot.
Seeking a peek at Westminster Abbey? Attend a service on Sunday. Evensong at 3 pm is a special choral treat. You will not get a guided tour but you will be in the place where Queen Elizabeth II was crowned at the High Altar. Other parts of the Westminster Abbey that can be viewed without any admission fee include the Cloisters, College Garden and St Margaret’s Church.
Culture is priceless and so is the admission to most of the famous museums in London. The Tate Britain Museum. The museum is a collection of 500 years of the works of some of the greatest artists of Britain including Gainsborough, Hockney and Hogarth. Special temporary exhibits generally have a special admission fee.
Where else can you find the Rosetta Stone, a Greek Courtyard, and a mummified cat? The British Museum! The repository of over thousands of years of the history of man should not be missed, even if there was an admission fee. It will be crowded on weekends and rainy days, so sacrifice some midweek sunshine for a less crowded experience.
The National Gallery is also free. From its’ rather inauspicious beginning in 1824 with only 38 paintings, the Gallery has grown to a collection of more than 2,300 works of art. This is the place to see Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” Delaroche’s “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey and Seurat’s “Bathers at Asnieres to name just a few iconic works of art.
Need a walk in London’s “piazza?” Head to Covent Garden! The lively ambiance and street theatre are free but sampling from the shops and market stalls may run up a pound or two or ten. A good time to visit is on a Monday. The weekend crowds can be a little overwhelming. Special note: when the Opera is performing the Opera House stages free lunchtime rehearsals.
These suggestions are just a few of the fabulous experiences to be had in London. Take advantage of all you can – because food, drink and transport will gobble up more than a few of your precious tourist dollars. But your memories, of these truly special places will be priceless.