by Harley Nott
How to holiday in London and save money
1. With a Pound costing just US$1.22 London has never been as cheap for overseas visitors.
Now is the time to come to get more bang for your bucks.
2. Stay in a vacation rental rather than a hotel because:
* With a vacation rental you get more space
* There’s no need to dress up or “put on a face” to go out of your room
* It’s cheaper – especially for a party of 3 or more people and for a group
* It’s more practical, preparing some of your own meals or getting take-aways is cheaper than always eating in restaurants, foodies can buy and sample the local specialities.
Rather than chance an Airbnb, at Coach House Rentals we’ve been looking after our guests since 2001. You’ll find us in several London guide books: Frommers, Rick Steves, National Geographic, Marco Polo, and you get our full concierge service.
3. Make full use of the FREE attractions.
Unlike the museums and art galleries of most capital cities, in London most are FREE! Here are the top ten:
Sitting grandly on the banks of the Thames is Tate Modern, Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art. Its unique shape is due to it previously being a power station. The gallery’s restaurants offer fabulous views across the city. Some exhibitions require tickets.
The world-famous British Museum exhibits the works of man from prehistoric to modern times, from around the world. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and the mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection. Some exhibitions require tickets.
The crowning glory of Trafalgar Square, London’s National Gallery is a vast space filled with western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Find works by masters such as Van Gogh, da Vinci, Botticelli, Constable, Renoir, Titian and Stubbs. Some exhibitions require tickets.
Natural History Museum
As well as the permanent (and permanently fascinating!) dinosaur exhibition, the Natural History Museum boasts a collection of the biggest, tallest and rarest animals in the world. See a life-sized blue whale, a 40-million-year-old spider, and the beautiful Central Hall. Some exhibitions require tickets.
Located by the river Thames, the centre offers sweeping views of the capital from the Coca-Cola London Eye to St Paul’s Cathedral. Southbank Centre is a unique metropolitan arts centre, with acres of creative space and an extraordinary history. Includes the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery. Some exhibitions require tickets.
Victoria and Albert Museum
The V&A celebrates art and design with 3,000 years’ worth of amazing artefacts from around the world. A real treasure trove of goodies, you never know what you’ll discover next: furniture, paintings, sculpture, metalwork and textiles; the list goes on. Some exhibitions require tickets.
From the future of space travel to asking that difficult question: “who am I?”, the Science Museum makes your brain perform Olympic-standard mental gymnastics. See, touch and experience the major scientific advances of the last 300 years; and don’t forget the awesome Imax cinema. Some exhibitions require tickets.
Somerset House is home to London’s Courtauld Gallery (closed for refurbishment till early 2021) with its collection of Old Masters, Impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings, and The Embankment Galleries with a rotating programme of exhibitions dedicated to art, design, fashion and photography.
Royal Museums Greenwich
Royal Museums Greenwich boasts a magnificent collection of four world-class attractions in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can enjoy free entry to the Queen’s House and its stunning displays of artwork, as well as the National Maritime Museum, where you’ll discover Britain’s fascinating seafaring history.
Royal Academy of Arts
Explore world-class displays of art and architecture at the Royal Academy of Arts. Founded in 1768, it’s the oldest fine arts institution in Britain. Free exhibitions celebrate the RA’s history as a leading arts school and contemplate what makes a great artist. Some exhibitions require tickets.
And there’s also:
The Bank of England Museum
It may not explain how the banking profession got into the mess it’s in now, but the museum dedicated to the profession is still worth a visit. Vintage bank notes, art work and antique furniture from the bank make for a small but dense collection. Current exhibitions include one on Gold – and the opportunity to lift up a solid gold bar!
The National Portrait Gallery
Nestling up against the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery has a peerless collections of historic and contemporary portraits. The Tudor collection is particularly notable, with vast likenesses of Henry VIII, his family and court. The ground floor is also popular and carries portraits of dozens of modern celebrities and notables. The cafe on the top floor (sadly, not free) offers impressive views of the West End.
Imperial War Museum
At times deeply moving, even harrowing, at others inspiring, the IWM never fails to impress. The grand premises originally served as the Bedlam asylum, but now house dozens of military vehicles, historic documents and often overlooked but spectacular art galleries on the top floor. Be sure to wander the grounds, too, where you’ll find a section of the Berlin Wall, a pair of giant naval guns and a Tibetan Peace Garden.
National Army Museum
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 it’s like to be a Soldier, the origins of the Army, how Battle Tactics and technology have changed over time, how the Army influences Society and the impact the army has had around the world.
London Bus Sightseeing
Whilst it is possible to use special sightseeing hop-on/hop-off open top buses operated by private companies to explore the major tourist attractions in London, the tickets are quite expensive although one has the benefit of a tour guide pointing out the places of interest. However, many people do not realise that they can use regular London buses to see and to visit all London attractions. Such journeys are free even with multiply use for those visitors who have travel cards or oyster cards.
Ceremony of the Keys
Every night, for something like 700 years, the Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London have performed a gate-closing ritual known as the Ceremony of the Keys. Members of the public can view the ceremony for free by applying on line. But you’ll need to plan a long way ahead, it’s currently fully booked till April 2020.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Sir John, the architect of the Bank of England, had a magpie’s eye for unusual and exquisite bric-a-brac. His former home has long served as a museum space to show off the collection, which includes period furniture, paintings by the likes of Hogarth and, most memorably, the sarcophagus of Seti I.
The V&A Museum of Childhood
This is the UK’s National Museum of Childhood. It is the largest institution of its kind in the world. Its mission is to hold in trust the nation’s childhood collections and to be an international leader in engaging audiences in the material culture and experiences of childhood. The Museum explores childhood in breadth and depth, animating the richness and diversity of children’s lives and placing the child’s voice and agency at its core.
The Geffrye (closed for redevelopment until Spring 2020) explores the home from 1600 to the present day. Evocative displays of London living rooms and gardens illustrate homes and home life through the centuries, reflecting changes in society, behaviour, style and taste. Set in beautiful 18th-century almshouse buildings, the museum is surrounded by gardens – a much-loved oasis in the heart of inner-city London.
Visit the restored almshouse for a rare glimpse into the lives of London’s poor and elderly in the 1780s and 1880s. Explore Panoramas of the museum and gardens and take a Virtual Tour. And if the weather’s good, don’t forget to bring a picnic to enjoy in the gloriously green gardens.
RAF Museum London
If you’re searching for something different, why not take off to the Royal Air Force Museum in Colindale and navigate your way through the history of aviation from the earliest balloon flight to the latest Eurofighter? This world-class collection of more than 100 aircraft, aviation and wartime memorabilia offers a fun day out for all the family. Don’t forget to visit the 3D cinema in Milestones of Flight, an awe-inspiring sound and light show that takes you back in time to the Battle of Britain; or the interactive gallery for children, Aeronauts, which contains a variety of games that teach them about flight.
The Wallace Collection
Just north of the exhausting crowds of Oxford Street stands Hertford House, home to the Wallace Collection. The sizeable galleries are noted for the fine paintings, displays of weapons and armour, and elegantly furnished rooms. Painters represented include Rembrandt, Titian and Van Dyck, and the Wallace is also home to the famous Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals. The restaurant in the central atrium must rank among London’s most exquisite gallery dining spaces.
The Wellcome Collection
Sir Henry Wellcome, a pioneering 19th century pharmacist, amassed a vast and idiosyncratic collection of implements and curios relating to the medical trade, now displayed here. In addition to these fascinating and often grisly items – ivory carvings of pregnant women, used guillotine blades, Napoleon’s toothbrush – there are several serious works of modern art, most on display in a smaller room to one side of the main chamber of curiosities. The temporary exhibitions are often brilliant and come with all manner of associated events, from talks to walks. The Wellcome has recently undergone a £17.5 million development project, which has opened up even more areas of the building to the public including two new galleries and the beautiful Reading Room, which is a combination of library, gallery and event space.
All Hallows By The Tower
While millions of tourists flock to the Tower of London, another historic building lurks just yards away. The church of All Hallows dates back to Saxon times. Although the current building is largely a post-war reconstruction, you can still see remains, including an arch, from more than 1,000 years ago. The crypt contains a small museum, including a model of Roman London and the baptism record of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States was married here in 1797.