11 Free And Cheap Things To Do This Week In London: 1-7 May 2023

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Last Updated 02 May 2023

11 Free And Cheap Things To Do This Week In London: 1-7 May 2023

Budget-friendly things to do in London this week for £5 or less.

Free and cheap events this week: people in costume, including someone dressed as a tree, for the Deptford Jack procession
Join the Deptford Jack procession on Monday. Photo: Doyle of London via creative commons

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.

1. Join the Deptford Jack procession

It wouldn't be a bank holiday in London without a bizarre tradition taking place somewhere. Enter the Deptford Jack in the Green, a traditional procession around the Deptford area on the early May bank holiday Monday, which was revived by the Blackheath Morris Men in the 1980s.

The central character is the Jack in the Green, a man covered in a frame of greenery, who leads the procession. Just turn up on the day to watch or join in with the procession, which starts and finishes at the excellent Dog & Bell pub.

Free, 1 May.

2. Catch the last day of the Canalway Cavalcade

Monday is the final day of the three-day IWA Canalway Cavalcade in Little Venice. Dozens of canal boats moor up for the vibrant festival, with live music and children's activities on dry land, and boat-based fun on the water. It's free entry, and everyone's welcome.

Free, until 1 May.

3. Swot up on coronation history

Ahead of the coronation on Saturday (more on which below), Gresham College offers a free lecture about the history of British coronations.

Dr Alice Hunt, author of The Drama of Coronation: Medieval Ceremony in Early Modern England, gives an insight into where the idea of crowning kings and queens originates from, how the ceremony has changed through the years, and whether the pomp and pageantry of the occasion still serves a purpose today.

You can watch in person at Barnard's Inn Hall in Holborn, or online.

Free, 2 May.

4. Stay late at Science Museum

Free and cheap events this week: a woman dancing at a silent disco at Science Museum Lates
It's a sci-fi special at Science Museum © Science Museum Group

This month's Science Museum Late celebrates all things science fiction, celebrating the extension of the current science fiction exhibition — and, happily falling on Star Wars Day (May the fourth...).

Head to the museum after the daytime crowds have left for an evening of sci-fi themed talks and workshops, plus a silent disco, a pub quiz, and chance to explore the usual displays after hours. It's an adults-only event, with food and drink available to buy throughout the evening.

Free, 4 May.

5. Get the lowdown on police history

Ever wanted to know more about the earliest police force in London? Vicki Pipe, Museum Manager at the Bow Street Police Museum in Covent Garden, gives a free talk at Shoe Lane Library in the City — or you can watch online instead if you prefer.

Find out how brothers Henry and John Fielding, a playwright and a former naval officer, created the Bow Street Runners, London's first official law enforcement officers, established to deal with disorder in 18th- and 19th- century Covent Garden. She also reveals the connection between these early operations and the establishment of the Metropolitan Police in 1829.

Free, 5 May.

6. Bob along to a boat festival

Head down to St Katharine Docks over the coronation weekend to see what is thought to be 'the largest UK gathering of Dunkirk Little Ships in years'.

35 of the vessels — which were involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 — moor up at the marina for the weekend, some of them opening their doors/decks to the public.

Free, 5-8 May

7. Watch the coronation

Free and cheap events this week: the exterior of Westminster Abbey - venue for King Charles III's coronation - against a blue sky
Fingers crossed for weather this good on 6 May. Photo: Londonist

The biggest event happening in London this week is, of course, the coronation of King Charles III — and you can watch it for free. One option is to line the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey — that's free, but you'll need to get there super-early to get a good view, wear comfy shoes, cross your fingers for good weather... in short, it's not the easiest option.

Alternatively, plenty of places around London are screening the coronation ceremony for free on large screens, from Hampton Court Palace to Battersea Power Station. Take a look at our guide to coronation screenings, parties and other events for the lowdown — in addition to the screenings, we've got a section on free coronation events in there.

The third option is, of course, to watch the coronation on TV at home. It's free (provided you've got your TV licence already), there's no queue for the toilets, and you don't have to worry about the weather. Ideal.

Oh, and if you're REALLY not into all this regal business? We've also put together a guide to where to escape the coronation. You're welcome.

Free, 6 May.

8. Visit the Charles Dickens Museum for free

Free and cheap events this week: Charles Dickens' writing desk on display at the Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury.
Get free entry to the Charles Dickens Museum - for one day only. Photo: Matt Brown

To celebrate the King's coronation (/offer up alternative entertainment for anyone who doesn't want to watch it), the Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury is doing free entry for one day only on Saturday 6 May. Visit the author's London home, where he lived in the 1830s, laid out as if he still lived there today, including, furniture, portraits and other objects which belonged to Dickens himself. Usually it's £12.50 for an adult.

Free, 6 May.

9. Get the kids inspired by stories and spoken word at SPINE

Libraries in 16 London boroughs (Brent, Harrow, Bromley, Lewisham, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Merton, Sutton, Newham, Greenwich, Southwark, Wandsworth, Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea) are taking part in SPINE, a festival of free activities for kids, including music, poetry, rapping, storytelling and more. Check out the SPINE website to see what's happening near you when.

Free, until 10 May

10. Discover the designer lost in the shadow of William Morris

A Pre-Raphaelite tapestry showing a man holding a banner in front of a fruit tree
Discover the genius of John Henry Dearle. Image: public domain

You may not have heard of John Henry Dearle, but you may well recognise his Arts and Crafts designs, which include Golden Lily. Dearle was an apprentice of the great William Morris, so it's no wonder his legacy is somewhat overcast by his mentor. An exhibition at The William Morris Society in Hammersmith — Morris's Successor: John Henry Dearle (1859-1932) — gives Dearle his rightful moment in the spotlight, and shows off the (sometime literal) fruit of his labours, including woven tapestries, embroideries, printed fabrics and wallpaper.

Free, until 17 December (Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday only)

11. Have a budget-friendly bank holiday

This week is the juicy filling sandwiched between two bank holidays (Mondays 1 and 8 May), which makes this an excellent time to peruse our guide to spending a bank holiday weekend in London. Plenty of things in there coast nada, including walking and cycle routes, and parks and gardens to explore.