Things to do this week for £5 or less.
1. Tuck into oysters for as little as a quid each
Just cos it's January, doesn't mean you can't indulge. It's oyster happy hour at Sam's Riverside in Hammersmith, Mondays to Thursdays from 5pm to 7pm, throughout this month. That means you can slurp Jersey Rocks at just £1 a pop, and Carlingford Lough oysters for £1.50. Whether you pair them with a spenny champagne is up to you.
From £1 per oyster, until 31 January.
2. Listen to a church speak
No, you are not having a nervous breakdown — the church in this case is St Mary le Strand, which tells its story via a light and sound installation in which the real-gold apse, and white-flowered, coffered ceiling are flooded with stunning light; Handel's Eternal Source of Light Divine plays; and the church becomes sentient, answering questions like "why were you built in the middle of a road?"
£3, until 24 February.
3. Bask in the glow of three free light festivals
London's Christmas lights are gone, but there's still plenty of illuminated joy to see, if you know where to look.
- ILLUMINOCITY: It's bold to call something which consists of just two installations a 'light festival' but that's the deal with IlluminoCity, which ends this week. Head to the CityPoint building near Moorgate and Principal Place at Liverpool Street to see glowing geometric artworks. Free, until 27 January.
- CANARY WHARF WINTER LIGHTS: 20+ illuminations are dotted around the Canary Wharf area, both indoors and outdoors, for Canary Wharf Winter Lights. And yes, that word waterfall is back again. Free, until 28 January.
- BATTERSEA LIGHT FESTIVAL: A further eight light installations can be seen at Battersea Power Station Light Festival, which returns for the first time since the Power Station itself reopened to the public. Free, until 5 March.
4. Visit one of London's fantastic free exhibitions
The capital's large museums and galleries are great for free exhibitions, but don't overlook smaller venues when it comes to searching for free ways to spend your time. Here are a few new, free exhibitions to see this week:
- Print Pound Notes! at St Bride Foundation marks 100 years of the Adana printing press with early drawings, photos, models and documents. Free, 26 January-4 April
- Laura Ashley celebrates its 70th anniversary with a pop-up exhibition of archive designs and prints, inside a specially decorated phone box. It's on Floral Street in Covent Garden, despite the geographically misleading promotional image (top of this page). Free, 27 January-5 February
- Leda in Soho at Foyles celebrates the launch of a newly-discovered, never-published-before queer novel set in Soho in the 1960s. The exhibition maps the locations featured in the book. Free, 27 January-9 March
- Music, Migration & Mobility at the Royal College of Music Museum tells the stories of musicians who fled the Nazi regime. Free, until 16 April
- Unfamiliar at the Royal College of Physicians Museum is a series of photographs which portray historical medical instruments in a new way. Free, until 28 July
5. Live music jam
Soak up the sounds of Balkan, Greek, Turkish and Arabic traditional music courtesy of a kanun player; as well as a folk trio of voice, clarinet and accordion, performing sounds from the Balkans, Israel and Brazil. This is The People's Sessions — SoundsandSpace's monthly evening of live music at Peckham Levels. And if you want to get in on the action, there's time for a jam at the end.
Free, 25 January.
6. Stay late at Science Museum
On the last Wednesday of every month, Science Museum stays open late for a special evening event on a certain theme. This time, it's Chinese New Year — with activities including Chinese calligraphy and dragon-making workshops, a trail to find animals of the Zodiac hidden throughout the museum, and a chance to hear from scientists about their predictions for 2023.
As always at Science Museum Lates, there's a silent disco, pub quiz, and chance to visit the museum's exhibitions and displays after hours.
Free, 25 January.
7. Liven up your lunch break with a free concert
Every Friday lunchtime, Paul Hamlyn Hall at the Royal Opera House hosts a short concert. You don't know what you're going to see ahead of time, but it's invariably good — and there's no need to book ahead.
Free, 27 January.
8. Check out portraits of the National Theatre's 'makers'
Hundreds of creatives work behind the scenes to bring National Theatre productions to life, and a new exhibition by artist Curtis Holder — The Makers: Portraits from Backstage — celebrates them. Head to the Theatre's Lyttelton Lounge during opening hours to check out this exhibition of sketches of wigs/hair/make-up assistants, prop and puppet makers, stage technicians and the like. There are various special tie-in events in the coming months, including a live-draw with Holder himself on 28 January (10.30am-12.30pm, free, just show up).
Free, from 27 January.
9. Get counting for the Big Garden Birdwatch
Help the RSPB keep an eye on the numbers of wild birds in London by taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. If you're lucky enough to have a garden or outside space, spend an hour counting and recording the numbers and types of birds that visit it, then report back to the RSPB. The charity then uses the data to spot any patterns, anomalies, or species that may be in danger.
Free, 27-29 January.
10. Take the kids to see Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
Families, if you don't know about Barbican's Family Film Club, you absolutely should. Most Saturday mornings throughout the year, Barbican Cinema screens a popular family-friendly film, and tickets are only £3.50 for adults, or £2.50 for kids. All kids must be accompanied by an adult, and all adults must be accompanied by a child.
It's not just old films, either — recent releases often make an appearance, including this week's film, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. It's the story of a young boy and a singing crocodile who become friends in New York. This week, there's also a free workshop before the screening.
Free, 28 January.
11. Indulge your wanderlust at a travel photography exhibition
Itching to get away to somewhere warmer? Make do with More Travels with My Camera, a free exhibition of travel photography, now in its final week. Head t0 Barbican Library to see street and portrait photography from Africa, Asia and Latin America by Adrian Whittle, who has also written the stories behind some of the photos, to accompany the exhibition.
Free, until 28 January.
12. Take a walk in search of snowdrops
Around this time of year, snowdrops start to emerge — the first sign that spring is on the way (though don't go putting away your big coat just yet!). Exact timings are hard to predict and depend on the weather, but have a look at our guide on where to see snowdrops in London, so you're ready and poised when they do start to make an appearance.
Looking for more free things to do in London? Here are 102 of em!
We've also compiled this epic map of free stuff in London.