Things to do this week for £5 or less.
1. Hear stories of All Hallows by the Tower
You've probably seen All Hallows by the Tower — it's the church just to the west of the Tower of London. Learn more about it on Tuesday, with a free talk hosted by Guildhall Library, and given by Pete Smith, a volunteer guide at the church. He has all sort of stories to share, on topics from headless bodies to Roman remains... and a phantom cat.
Free, 10 January.
2. Find out why language is Not Just Words
UCL Art Museum opens a new exhibition, Not Just Words, which offers a look at different approaches to language learning, and shows how language and culture are intertwined. Find out which languages are easiest to learn for native English speakers and why.
Free, 10 January-9 June.
3. Catch a free lunchtime concert
Fed up spending your lunch break scrolling through your phone? There are plenty of concerts to enjoy around the capital at lunchtime, and many of them are free. Just this week, for example, you can catch:
- James Gough, assistant organist at Southwark Cathedral, in a recital marking 200 years since the birth of French composer Cesar Franck. Free, Monday 9 January.
- Classical-contemporary pianist, singer, songwriter Carolina Cury takes to the stage at St James's Piccadilly. Free, Wednesday 11 January.
- Rachel Messiter and Yukiko Shinohara, students from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire, perform at St Alfege Church in Greenwich, on the oboe and piano respectively. Free, Thursday 12 January.
- The latest in the Royal Opera House's Live at Lunch series, in which performers from the Royal Opera House, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, and Royal Ballet perform a free show. The specific line-up for these events isn't announced in advance, but it's a pretty impressive place to spend your lunch break, whatever you're watching. Free, Friday 13 January
4. Attend the opera — for free
There are several unusual things about new opera The Prisoner. For a start, it's written in colloquial English, aiming it a younger and more socially diverse audience than traditional opera. Secondly, the debut performance is completely free to attend (though you will need to reserve a free ticket in advance). It's about a prisoner on death row who confuses the people trying to save him when he insists that he wants to die, and is performed at the Royal Academy of Music in Marylebone. The libretto is written by bestselling author and Londonist contributor Dr Matthew Green.
Free, 13 January.
5. Celebrate the Piccadilly line extension
This year marks 90 years since the Piccadilly line extension from Arnos Grove to Cockfosters opened. Though the actual anniversary isn't until July, the Southgate District Civil Voice is starting the celebrations early with a talk by TfL's heritage managers Gareth Leslie and Edmund Bird. They discuss the extended part of the line, with particular focus on Charles Holden's Southgate station building. Well, it is pretty special — it's one of only five on the whole network to have received Grade II* listed status.
£5 (or free to members and TfL staff), 14 January.
6. Discover Manet & Eva Gonzalès
It's the final week of the National Gallery's Discover Manet & Eva Gonzalès display, which uses a single painting as a starting point to tell the story of the two artists. The painting is a depiction of French artist Gonzalès, painted by Manet in 1869, and offers an insight into Manet's relationship with his only pupil. Plus, analysis using X-ray technology reveals more about Manet's painting technique, including which areas he struggled with and restarted repeatedly.
Free, until 15 January.
7. Gaze at some stunning landscape photography
If you find yourself near Southwark Cathedral this week (perhaps for the Lego exhibition — see below), make time to pop into the main entrance and view the free landscape photography exhibition by the Royal Photographic Society. 61 photos by the society's members are on display, depicting icy lakes, rugged coastlines and misty forests. It's not all wild countryside though — a couple of shots of London looking wonderful made the final cut too.
Free, until 31 January.
8. Look at long lost Lego
In 1997, five million pieces of Lego fell off the cargo ship Tokio Express, and into the ocean. Beachcomber Tracey Williams became fascinated by this story of modern day flotsam, and wrote a book about it — Adrift: The Curious Tale of the Lego Lost at Sea. This small exhibition by the same name at Southwark Cathedral complements the book, and displays some of those five million pieces of Lego, as well as exploring how other plastic and non-decomposable objects are seriously harming sea life.
Free, until early 2023
9. Take a seat at the Wild Table of Love
A reminder that the Wild Table of Love sculpture is still on display in Paternoster Square, next to St Paul's. The impressive installation — which is free to visit — depicts bronze animals seated around a table together, tucking into a feast. Lions, elephants, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, chimps, hippo, a dog and a rabbit are among the species represented, and sculptors Gillie and Marc had the foresight to leave a couple of stools unoccupied so that anyone passing by can join in.
Free, until May 2023 (although we'd love to see it stay permanently).
10. Grab a burger for a fiver
Unless you're going to a certain McChain, you may think five quid burgers are a thing of the past. Not so at Dirty Bones — at least this month — where you can get a Classic, Got No Beef, Buffalo Chicken or Spicy Chicken burger for five quid and not a penny over. The offer's available Monday to Wednesday (all day) during January — at Dirty Bones outlets in Soho and Shoreditch.
Until end of January
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.