Is it just me, or do January and February feel like the months you just have to get through before the year really begins? It’s quiet, when people don’t plan much because they were a bit too indulgent at Christmas, and the days are so short anyway. I know January and February are going to be tight on the wallet for me, but London offers up so much that you can take advantage of. I’ve added a few things to my to-do list that are sure to be easy on the wallet! I should probably mention that I’m not including transportation in this list… one of the facts of living in Zone 4 and commuting every day is that I invest in a Travelcard, which saves me a lot of money on getting around. Still all the cheap things I’ve been doing in London and included on this list are all under a tenner!
Prince Charles Cinema
Do yourself a favor and become a member at Prince Charles Cinema. For a mere £10 a year, you can see classic films that you’ve loved up on the silver screen, newer films and sing-a-longs. I myself will be booking tickets to see their special screenings of Hook and The Princess Bride later on this year, and I’ve been back time and time again. The draw? Tickets are cheap, even if you aren’t a member. Regular screenings will cost £8.50 for non-members and £4.50 for members. Not to mention the atmosphere is fun, and the snacks are pretty cheap too. With great programming like Mean Girls Bitch-a-longs, Harry Potter Marathons and a Christmas season that features mulled wine and mince pies, there is something for everyone to love at Prince Charles Cinema!
Pick Up Blooms at Columbia Road Flower Market
There are two types of Columbia Road experiences… one where it’s quiet and you can peruse as your leisure, and one where it’s totally rammed and you have to elbow people out of your personal space. I love having flowers in the house, and they’re never as nice as when I get them from Columbia Road. The trick is to go nice and early, and don’t let the rain dampen your spirits! I went just the other weekend at 10am and it was a ghost town. The rain had scared people away and I was able to really stop and look at everything on offer. I bought myself a pretty bunch of hyacinths (one of my faves and so fragrant!) for £4, and then carried on my way! There are some really sweet little shops to pop into as well!
View the Collection at Sir John Soane’s Museum
I’ve been to the John Soane Museum a number of times and I find it so incredibly fascinating! What is it exactly? Essentially, this quirky and weird museum is the lasting collection of John Soane, an architect who built this house from two buildings and then consequently filled it with art, sculptures, paintings and all manner of eclectic objects. Photography isn’t allowed inside, and I wouldn’t want to ruin the enigma for you anyway! Toddle along to the museum (entry is free, huzzah!), have a look at the wonders, then mozy on over to Fields, the Benugo cafe that sits in the adjacent park. The museum offers a voucher you can print from their website, which gets you 15% off! Talk about a bargain!
Travel Round the World at Daunt Books
I love a good bookshop. Maybe it’s because I love to read, and the idea of sitting in a bookshop with a cup of coffee and whiling away the hours feels a little but like heaven. Daunt Books has a number of locations in London, but I think perhaps the Marylebone location is my favorite. The architecture alone is enough to sway me, but their specialty is travel, so all books are arranged geographically. Why not spend a few minutes in France, before dozing away a few more minutes in Thailand? A girl can dream! I’ve definitely spent a few happy afternoons just looking through their amazing selection of readable treats! The real temptation is whether you can walk out empty-handed…
Visit the Dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum
I’ve never been much of a museum person but once I moved to London, it’s become something I enjoy. Maybe because most of them are free, maybe because there are so many different museums to visit… the Natural History Museum in New York was one of my favorites, and as such, the Natural History Museum here in London is also a favorite! I don’t always go with the mindset to see anything in particular; it’s more of a follow-my-feet kind of vibe. Sometimes it’s dinosaurs, sometimes it’s earthquakes, sometimes it’s something else, always sparing some time to marvel up at Dippy the Dinosaur that graced the atrium for many years (RIP). I’m curious to see what the new installation will look like, and suffice it to say, there will be visits to the Natural History Museum for years to come!
Catch the Light Show at Gods Own Junkyard
God’s Own Junkyard has been on my list of places to go for absolutely ages. It seems a bit far away, tucked in a little corner of an industrial estate in Walthamstow, but my interest was piqued after visiting a mini exhibit in Soho about this time two years ago. I finally made it out not to long ago and it’s brilliant! Not only is it filled with bright neon signs (that I spent at least 30 minutes oogling at) but they come fully equipped with a cafe, named rather appropriately, The Rolling Scones. Sitting there for an hour, admiring all the signs, only cost me a mere £2.50 (hot chocolate with whipped cream), and I would happily go back for another nice afternoon, particularly if it’s grey and rainy!
Spy Some Treasure at the British Library
The first time I came to London, about 9 years ago now, the British Library was one of the first places I went. I can’t really explain what drew me to it, but one of their permanent collections is filled with some fascinating artifacts from around the world as well as things important in British history. Original Folios of Shakespeare’s Work, letters John Lennon wrote, a copy of the Magna Carta, even some of Leonardo DaVinci’s notebooks. It’s all pretty fascinating stuff, and well worth a visit. Entry is free, and if you feel like taking in a bit of culture as well as being productive, it’s a great place to sit and work as well. I’ve spent some nice afternoons at the British Library, puttering around all their treasures before buckling down and doing some writing (and by that, I actually mean scrolling Facebook. Kidding! Maybe…).
Go for a Walk with a Bit of a Theme
Dress warmly and arm yourself with a thermos of hot tea and take a walk. London is so great for walking, and I’ve found myself even planning a few themed walks around the city. I’ve intentionally set out to Chelsea to see how many Blue Plaques I could find (so many!), googled locations for Ghost Signs, which I’m currently obsessed with, organized a Harry Potter-themed walk with some friends and so many more. You can actually just google themed walks in London and get some ideas that way. Get some friends involved for even more fun!
Eat Crepes in Hampstead & Stroll On The Heath
One of my favorite things about London is how green it is. There are so many incredible parks to explore and I don’t think they’re limited to just warm weather. In fact, I almost prefer to do a bit of exploring in the cold weather months. Hampstead Heath is a place that I’ve only been a handful of times, but it’s beautiful, and well worth a bit of exploring. Treat yourself to a delicious crepe on the Hampstead High Street and then walk over to the Heath and take in a view of London. I managed to get up there around dusk and it was absolutely stunning. Take a thermos to tea with you, or opt for a post-walk hot chocolate. It’s the little things that make these cold days enjoyable, and I think this one is a must.
This is by no means a conclusive list; in fact, I’m always on the hunt for inexpensive things to do in London. It can definitely be an expensive city, but if you look hard enough, there is plenty of fun to be had that is a little easier on the old purse strings!