The summer in approaching and us city dwellers are beginning to crawl out of our layers, where we have been hiding all winter, and look for entertaining ways to spend the longer evenings. But sadly, London salaries often do not match the price tags on trendy entertainment venues.
But there is no need to despair and stay at home! London has much more cheap, or even free entertainment to offer than you might suspect. So invite some friends, or that special someone, and head out to enjoy the summer without worrying about your wallet.
Here are just a few options I out together to help out with some ideas. Please share your ideas with me by commenting on this article, I’d love to know what else is going on in this city!
The Camden Head pub in Angel runs free improvised comedy nights, and it just happens to have a Festival of Improv running from 11th-17th May, with free comedy every single night! Really worth checking out, as it will be hosting some critically acclaimed shows.
Usually it runs a range of comedy shows, ranging from free improvised shows to those for which you have to buy tickets, but they are usually pretty affordable, around the £10 mark.
Avoid paying for a view from the Shard
An adult ticket to the View from the Shard is £24.95, or £32.95 if you would like a glass of champagne while you enjoy the lights and dazzle of London. Frankly, I think this is a little ridiculous.
Luckily, you can get pretty much exactly the same view by going to one of the bars (albeit on a slightly lower floor) and sharing a bottle of wine, or indulging in a decadent cocktail. The cocktails are actually really nice, with prices ranging from £14.50 to £16. The price of a bottle of wine starts at £30, but the cheapest glass of wine is £7.50/£8. Here is the full menu.
Still pricey, but considering you get the view for free and can sit in the bar as long as you like with your drink, in my opinion it is much better value. The only thing you must consider is that often there is quite a long wait to get into the bar on busy nights, so be prepared!
Free TV audience tickets
If you enjoy TV shows, why not actually participate in one as an audience member? It is absolutely free and tickets can be acquired from this website.You have to be a little flexible with your availability as tickets often pop up last minute, but it is a great way to do something different one evening.
There is a huge range of different shows for which tickets become available, but you need to keep an eye out for them and act fast. Also, be aware that some of them are hosted out of London, so worth looking at the location before applying.
Many of us don’t get much chance to go to museums and exhibitions because the opening hours don’t suit the working lifestyle. But museums have twigged this and there are now an extensive range of late night openings, which are free to enter and usually only open to adults, so also offer alcoholic beverages while you explore.
A list of museum lates can be found here, courtesy of Timeout. I’ve tried the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, and they’re both really fun, but do expect it to be busy. You can make an evening out of it by going to one of the many restaurants in South Kensignton, but make sure you book in advance, as they are particularly busy on those nights.
One restaurant I discovered, and won’t shut up about, is an Italian steak place called Macellaio. It’s a little pricey, but for the quality of steak you get it is absolutely worth it! This a place for meat lovers, but there are plenty of other options nearby for different budgets.
Free festivals and concerts in Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square hosts some of the biggest celebrations in the city, from Russian New Year in January to Diwali in October/November, and everything in between. Check out a list of festivals here. They are often national celebrations and offer great insight into different cultures and traditions.
The Royal Opera House also transmits three live opera performances from the famous Covent Garden theatre onto a screen in Trafalgar Square, also for free! This year you will get a chance to see two operas – La bohème on 10 June and Don Giovanni on 3 July – and on ballet, Romeo and Juliet, on 22 September.
Free outdoor cinema…
Outdoor cinema screenings are a great way to spend an evening during the summer months and have become really popular in London, but the more hip (or the hipper?) the location, the more expensive the tickets.
But watch out for some free outdoor screenings in London’s parks as the summer months approach. Last year there were free screenings in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, free outdoor cinema in Brockwell Park in South East London and Floating Cinema in East London, and this year is bound to have a great selection too, so keep an eye out!
…and cheap cinema when it’s raining
I’ve always slightly resented paying £15 to go and watch a film at the cinema, but if you look beyond the mainstream venues there are lots of cheaper options around London.
For example, the newly refurbishes independent Genesis cinema near Stepney Green station (District line, East London) does £4 showing every Monday and Wednesday, but even the busiest days (Friday & Saturday) are just £8.50. It has a really nice feel and is far more relaxed than some of the mainstream venues.
The Rich Mix in trendy Shoreditch has a Film for a Fiver offer on Mondays and Tuesdays for residents of Tower Hamlets who have an Idea Store card (which can be obtained for free), and £6 tickets all day Monday.
For those of you from other parts of London, here are some other suggestions: The Barbican cinema is showing films for only £6 on Mondays, if you book online in advance, and the Coronet Cinema in Notting Hill Gate does showings for £3.50 every Tuesday. The PekhamPlex cinema also does £4.99 tickets during the week, another bargain!