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A guide to affordable days out in London

Published 7 August 2016 by

It’s that time of year again; school holidays are here, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to plan some time together with the family and get away from video games and the TV. It can be tough finding things to do together on a budget, so to take away some of the strain, we’re looking at days out for free.

London is one of the most vibrant and exciting places to visit on the planet. Though it can be an expensive city, many of London’s amazing museums, parks, public squares, street sculpture, galleries and architecture are there for you to enjoy entirely free.

To make it easy for you to plan a great day out, we’ve created three separate ideas, each giving a very different experience of the Capital.

1 - Trafalgar square.

If you and your kids love galleries, music, drawing and statues, then plan a day around Trafalgar square. Within a five-minute walk of each other, you’ll find the following attractions:

The National Portrait Gallery, has paintings, drawings and photographs of some of the most important and interesting people from history to modern times. You’ll find almost everyone from pop stars to royalty and they’ll certainly be something for all of you to discuss here. The gallery is open every day and is free to enter.

The National Gallery, just around the corner from the portrait gallery, is open daily and has free art workshops for children aged 5 – 11, every Sunday at 11am and 2pm.

Across the road from the gallery is the beautiful church of St Martin-in-the-fields. They have free live music concerts daily. You can visit their free museum, and create your own brass rubbings as souvenirs of their Victorian monuments from £4.50 each.

For lunch, why not pack a picnic and enjoy the vibrant Trafalgar square with Nelson’s column, its fountains, amazing statues and sculptures?

2 - Walk the South Bank and see the Thames

The Southbank, is the pedestrian route that stretches along the south side of the river Thames, and connects the river with amazing bridges, including Tower Bridge and the Millennium Bridge. You can easily fill a day enjoying a walk along the Southbank and popping in and out of its’ many free attractions.

There are lots of free performance artists, bands and activities taking place. Have a break on the many seating areas and take in the views of the London Eye. For older kids there are skateboard parks to burn off some energy (don’t forget your skateboard).

Tate Modern - modern and contemporary art

The Tate Modern gallery is the most popular in the country, with over 5 million visitors a year. Most of the exhibitions and galleries are free. The newly opened extension has lots of free activities going on, with weird and wonderful interactive rooms. Be sure to visit the roof and take in the breath-taking views of the city, the river and all the fantastic skyscrapers popping up across London.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

This is a true reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and shows plays all year round. You don’t have to buy a ticket to see the theatre from the outside. It’s a few minutes’ walk away from Tate Modern and worth a visit.

St Paul’s Cathedral

If you walk across Millennium Bridge, which is just outside Tate Modern Gallery, you can stroll towards St Paul’s Cathedral. You’ll get fantastic views along the river and see the famous “Walkie Talkie”, “Cheese Grater”, and Gherkin skyscrapers. When you get to St Paul’s you can enjoy the splendid architecture, cathedral services and catch a choir concert (entry fees apply for this one).

3 - A day in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

With the Rio Olympics about to start, why not revisit the memories of London 2012 with a trip to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which offers a great day of activity. Four years on, the trees, flowers and plants have blossomed, to create a vibrant and exciting place for all. You can spend a whole day outdoors, picnicking, visiting Olympic buildings and enjoying the many free events.

The Olympic buildings

Look at where Tom Daley bounced off his diving board, or the stadium where the Great Britain team won many gold medals. You could also see the National Cycling Velodrome, and might even catch some cyclists in action.

The park

The park has an abundance of free poetry to read. It’s engraved on benches, kiosks and walls, so try and spot them all. There are sculptures, climbing frames, water features and play areas for the children to enjoy. The park hosts many events through the whole year, and is constantly changing with new activities and attractions, so you won’t be short of things to do.

Although entry fees do apply for this one, why not round off your day in style with a visit to London’s newest attraction the ArcelorMittal Orbit slide. It’s the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide!

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