11 Free And Cheap Things To Do This Week In London: 22-28 May 2023

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11 Free And Cheap Things To Do This Week In London: 22-28 May 2023

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

Chelsea in Bloom: two young boys and a dog pose in front of a giant corgi made from flowers
An installation from last year's festival, which had a Jubilee theme. Image: Chelsea in Bloom

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. Soak up science in a Tooting pub

Sip a pint while learning sciency stuff from researchers at St George's, University of London. Over three days this week (Mon, Tues, Weds), Pint of Science Tooting covers subjects ranging from infection of the human body, to sex, drugs & rock 'n' roll. Each night ends with a quiz, and the chance to win a cuddly microbe, plus a Pint of Science pint glass.

£5 per show, 22-24 May

2. Embrace flower power at Chelsea and Belgravia in Bloom

A woman waters a flower display
Image: Belgravia in Bloom

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place this week, though it's not exactly a budget-friendly event. What we do have, though, are Chelsea in Bloom and Belgravia in Bloom, two free flower festivals timed to coincide with the main event.

Both neighbourhoods host large-scale floral installations on a specific theme: in Chelsea it's 'Flowers on Film', while Belgravia goes with 'Into the Wild'. Local shops, restaurants and public gardens are fitted out with the flowery artworks and sculptures, which are free to visit and open to everyone.

Both free. Chelsea in Bloom takes place 22-27 May 2023. Belgravia in Bloom takes place 22-29 May 2023.

3. Look back on London life

What was it like to live in London in 1746? London Metropolitan Archives offers a look back at the lives of past Londoners in a new series of talks, using documents from its collection to explore the daily lives of Londoners. This is the first talk of the series, and focuses on 1746 because this was the year in which John Rocque published his Map of London.

It's a hybrid event, meaning you can watch in person at London Metropolitan Archives, or online.

Free, 23 May.

4. Explore the Polar Silk Road

Free and cheap things to do: a pastel pink dome erected in the Arctic, part of Gregor Sailer's Polar Silk Road exhibition at Natural History Museum
Image: Gregor Sailer/Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum's latest free display, The Polar Silk Road, opens on Friday, featuring photographs by Gregor Sailer. He's documenting the disappearance of the permanent sea ice in the Arctic, which will eventually lead to a new sea route through the ice, opening the region up to travel, research and exploitation.

These photographs show the early stages of this process, highlighting human marks on an otherwise pristine landscape, including research stations and military structures which have begun to appear in the area.

Free, from 26 May.

5. Learn more about the Northern Ireland Troubles

Free and cheap things to do: a photograph of a deserted residential road blocked off by a barbed wire fence
Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto via Getty Images.

Another new — and free — exhibition opening this week is Northern Ireland: Living with the Troubles at the Imperial War Museum. It looks at the conflict in Northern Ireland through the perspectives of multiple individuals affected, highlighting that there is no single story everyone involved can agree on. Photos, stories and objects are used, and the exhibition finishes with a look at the situation today and in the future.

Free, 26 May-January 2024.

6. Swot up at Soapbox Science

Free and cheap things to do:  Dr Bhavana Solanky wearing a white lab coat and giving a talk from behind a podium on South Bank at Soapbox Science
Dr Bhavana Solanky at a previous Soapbox Science event © ZSL

In what's become an annual event, leading women and non-binary scientists gather on South Bank for Soapbox Science, an afternoon of free talks where scientists take to their soapboxes to talk about their latest research. Topics this year include sharks, AI, tiny robots made from DNA, and the birth of giant planets in outer space.

Free, 27 May.

7. Admire Chila Kumari Singh Burman's neon artworks

You've probably seen artist Chila Kumari Singh Burman's work before, even if you didn't know it at the time. Her neon artworks covered the front of Tate Britain for Christmas 2020, followed up by a glowing installation in Covent Garden.

This time around, she's at Rich Mix in Shoreditch for a free exhibition on the ground floor, comprising bold, colourful installations combining Hindu mythology, British iconography, Bollywood glamour, colonial history and childhood memories.

Free, until 7 June.

8. Grab Shakespeare's Globe tickets for a fiver

As the weather warms up and spending time outside becomes more appealing, did you know about £5 Rush tickets at Shakespeare's Globe? Every Friday at 11am, a limited number of tickets are released for performances the following week, priced at £5 each and only available online. They're 'Groundling' tickets, which means standing in the theatre's famous Yard — a great way to get your dose of outdoor culture on the cheap.

9. See a new part of Sir John Soane's Museum

As we reported last week, Sir John Soane's Museum has just opened up a room that's never been open to the public before. The Drawing Office was where the architect's draftsmen and apprentices would work up their plans and elevations — and a time capsule was discovered in the room during restoration.

The museum is free entry (open Wednesday-Sunday), but for the best experience take a free Drawing Office tour. They take place on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2pm on a first come, first served basis — sign up on arrival at the museum.

Free, ongoing.

10. Book ahead for Luke Jerram's Gaia in Richmond

Free and cheap things to do: people silhouetted in front of a giant illuminated model of the Earth
Image: W5 Belfast

This one doesn't take place this week, but there's every chance it'll be sold out by the time it does happen, so we're giving you an early heads up. Luke Jerram's Gaia — a seven-metre-wide model of the Earth covered with NASA satellite imagery — has been on display at a few London locations previously, and now it's coming to Landmark Arts Centre in Richmond in mid-June. Tickets are free, but must be booked in advance — and several slots are already sold out, so get booking.

Gaia at Landmark Arts Centre. Free, 16 June-2 July.

11. Visit the spot where penicillin was discovered

It was never expensive to get into the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum (tickets were £4), but as IanVisits reports, the building in Paddington where Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin in 1928 — thus changing medical science forever — is now totally free to visit. It's open Monday-Thursday each week, but you'll need to book ahead by emailing the curator: kevin.brown5@nhs.net

Last Updated 16 May 2023

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