10 Free And Cheap Things To Do This Week In London: 15-21 May 2023

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10 Free And Cheap Things To Do This Week In London: 15-21 May 2023

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

Free and cheap things to do:  a postcard depicting a fleet of ships, part of the Indo + Caribbean exhibition at Museum of London Docklands
Indo + Caribbean: The creation of a culture opens at Museum of London Docklands. Image: Shipping on the River Hughly Calcutta, circa 1900, Courtesy of JF Manicom

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. Visit the reopened Hunterian Museum

After closing its doors in 2019, the much-missed Hunterian Museum finally reopens to the public this week to show off its £4.6 million redesign.

The Lincoln's Inn Fields museum is an eye-opening collection of anatomical and surgical objects, gathered by 18th century surgeon and anatomist John Hunter — look out for dissected toads, sections of spinal cord and half of Charles Babbage's brain.

Free, from 16 May (open Tuesday-Saturday).

2. Head to the waterside for a free open-air film screening

Free and cheap things to do: people sitting outside in deckchairs watching an animated film on a large screen at Paddington Basin

London's outdoor cinema season is picking up pace, and happily, there are a few free screenings happening throughout the season. The first of those is a free open-air screening of Pixar film Inside Out at Merchant Square in Paddington this Thursday.

Head down there at 6pm for the Mental Health Awareness Week screening (Inside Out is an animated film about the conflicting emotions inside a young girl's mind). Get there in plenty of time if you want to bag yourself a free deckchair — otherwise, take your own picnic blanket along.

Free, 18 May.

3. Get a takeaway poem from a burger van

A cartoon of people receiving poems from a burger van

Poetry doesn't get any more accessible than this — a burger van is on Quebec Street in Marylebone every Thursday this month; except that instead of serving quarter pounders and chips, there are 'poet chefs' waiting to cook you up a personalised stanza or two. Sounds like the kind of thing that'll brighten up your day (or why not get a poem written for a friend).

Free, 18 May (also 25 May)

4. Explore London's Indo-Caribbean history

Museum of London Docklands opens a free new display, Indo + Caribbean: The creation of a culture, on Friday. It explores the underrepresented history of Indian indenture (people being contracted to work without salary for a specific period) in the British Caribbean, and is timed to mark the 75th anniversary of Empire Windrush arriving in London.

It draws on family histories to explore Indo-Caribbean culture in London today, and features contracts, shipping company records, postcards, and papers from the Parliamentary Archives.

Free, 19 May-19 November.

5. Dance a jig at Southbank Centre

Did you know about Southbank Centre's monthly Mix & Move dance sessions? They're free to attend, and open to everyone, specifically aimed at older adults and parents with young children.

This month it's a Celidih Jam with Folk Dance Remixed, blending traditional folk dancing with contemporary street dance. Head along on Friday to learn some of the moves and join in.

Free, 19 May.

6. Visit the Hampton Court Palace Gardens for free

A few times every year, you can visit the gardens of Hampton Court Palace for free. The Garden Open Days take place throughout the summer — the first one for 2023 fell on the coronation weekend. It's a chance to explore parts of the grounds including the Great Fountain Garden and the Privy Garden, and ogle the beautiful building from the outside.

Note, you still have to pay to enter the Maze, the Magic Garden, and the palace itself, on Garden Open Days.

Free, 20-21 May.

7. Do Dulwich Festival on the cheap

The majority of this year's Dulwich Festival events take place this week, and while they're not all free, many are. For a fiver or less you can attend a youth concert, view an exhibition of children's artworks, go on a woodland wildlife walk, attend the West Dulwich Spring Fair or the Goose Green Fair, and plenty more — see what you can find on the programme.

Until 21 May.

8. Get Down Down to the free Status Quo exhibition

This is the last full week to see Celebrating Seven Decades of Quo, a free exhibition at Barbican Library dedicated to the masters of the three-chord rock song. Whatever You Want, it's all on display, including photos, tour posters, handwritten lyrics, and other memorabilia — some of which has never been on public display before.

Free, until 22 May.

9. Seek out Mayfair's mind-bending mirror sculptures

Free and cheap things to do: a reflection in a distorted but shiny sculpture
Photo: Londonist

Berkeley Square is currently home to Triacontahedron by Anthony James, a geometric sculpture filled with mirrors to create an infinity effect. It's great fun for kids (and adults) and if you happen to be in the area, swing over to Hanover Square, where there's an equally trippy sculpture — Sister, by David Breuer-Weil. "Like a hall of mirrors getting sucked into a black hole" is how Londonist Editor-at-Large Matt Brown describes it.


10. Get in on the #WisteriaHysteria action

London's walls and trellises are still looking purple from wisteria season. The lilac plant is in bloom in parks and gardens and on streets all over town — take a look at our guide on where to find wisteria in London, and plan yourself a lavender-hued stroll.

Last Updated 15 May 2023

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