Arts and Culture in London for Less

Thanks to its 2,000-year history, London is home to some of the best music, art, literature and theatre in the world. Here’s how to enjoy it, without breaking the bank.

Underground Culture

Located in five tunnels under the Waterloo Station, House of Vans London offers tons of free entertainment in its 30,000-square-foot venue. This month, check out screenings of Pretty Woman and Donnie Darko in the 100-seat cinema and live bands like Crystal Castles in the music hall. The funky space also hosts an art gallery, a skateboard and BMX park, and two bars.

Museum History

Head to the Museum of London to explore its nine free galleries on the city’s history. Stroll through a recreated 18th-century pleasure garden complete with a Georgian fashion display, then admire original pub, barber and grocer storefronts on the Victorian Walk.

Theatre Life

Catch a show at The Old Vic Theatre in the Waterloo district, which has featured acting legends like Laurence Olivier and Judi Dench. The theatre offers £10 tickets for the first five previews of all its productions including the upcoming dance-infused Jekyll & Hyde (May 20 to 28) and a musical rendition of Groundhog Day (July 11 to Sept. 17).

Street Art

Alternative London offers pay-what-you-want walking tours of East London that highlight the area’s history and culture, including the street art that covers everything from the sidewalks to the rooftops. Led by local street artists, the two-hour tour focuses on the stunning visuals around Brick Lane, including hyper-realistic portraits by C215, tiny sculptures that sit on street signs and Belgium muralist ROA’s giant “Crane” piece.

Written Works

In addition to its main collection of more than 150 million works, British Library in the St. Pancras area is also home to the free Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery. It hosts 200 gems, like handwritten lyrics to The Beatles’ “Help,” sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and an 11th century manuscript of Beowulf. From May 13 to Oct. 2, don’t miss the library’s free exhibit on 40 years of London punk featuring fanzines, audio recordings and more.

Art Stop

Check out the City of London’s impressive art collection for free at the Guildhall Art Gallery. Located near the Bank Underground Station, the gallery displays 250 works including Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces by painters like Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Downstairs, wander through the ruins of a second-century Roman Amphitheatre that once held gladiator and wild animal fights.

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