One of the best things about London is its sheer volume of museums and galleries that are free to visit — a lifeline for those who are struggling to make ends meet and want to experience some culture, or keep the kids entertained on the cheap.
But what to do once you've exhausted all of those options? Well, if you're unwaged or on a low income, your budget might be able to include more attractions than you think — thanks to a number of discounts available for those who are unemployed and/or in receipt of state benefits like Universal Credit.
Take the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, for example, which introduced a £1 entry fee for recipients of Universal Credit or Pension Credit (standard tickets typically cost £11-£16.50, so it's a big saving!) in early 2022.
Kew is a place for everyone.— Kew Gardens (@kewgardens) January 10, 2022
We're working hard to:
🔬 Improve access to Kew’s Science globally
🌿 Make our gardens accessible for everyone
📜 Broaden the stories we tell
🌱 Acknowledge our history
Find out more in our director Richard Deverell’s blog: https://t.co/4FOokFMEzX pic.twitter.com/eyT3dRSFNo
Not all of the discounts we've dug up are as generous as Kew's, of course. It's also important to acknowledge that a day out in the city will be out of the question for many facing financial hardship, who are all too often struggling to afford life's basic necessities.
That said, for others, the savings up for grabs might be just substantial enough to make their desired day trip doable — whether that's a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, a birthday trip to the theatre, or a low-key wild swimming session. Read on for your options.
The unwaged can save on both art events and film screenings at the Brutalist behemoth that is the Barbican. Based on our research, you can expect to save £1 on cinema tickets and around a fiver on exhibition entry.
See what's on at the Barbican.
It's already free to visit the British Library's Treasures Gallery, and there are usually a few free exhibitions running, too. However, for ticketed exhibitions, those registered as unemployed can save £2 — that's based on prices for the three paid exhibitions taking bookings at the time of writing.
See what's on at the British Library.
Like the British Library, the British Museum is free entry but it also runs a number of charged exhibitions each year. It looks like jobseekers — defined as an adult who holds a valid ES40 — can save £2-£3 on certain exhibitions and out-of-hours tours.
See what's on at the British Museum.
The Brunel Museum
Open at weekends only, the Brunel Museum tells the fascinating tale of the Thames Tunnel and the great engineers who built it. General admission is £6, but unemployed people are entitled to concession tickets, which cost just £4. That includes access to the museum's Engine House displays and a guided tour of the Thames Tunnel Shaft — 16m below ground.
Book tickets for The Brunel Museum.
Jobseekers are one of the groups entitled to concession exhibition tickets at the Design Museum. Only one exhibition was taking bookings at the time of writing — based on that you can expect to save £4. The museum also houses several free displays, which are well worth a visit.
See what's on at the Design Museum.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Unemployed people are entitled to £8 concession tickets at Dulwich Picture Gallery, the world's first purpose-built public art gallery, home to several Baroque masterpieces. To redeem this saving of over 50%, you'll need to present an ES40 card at the admissions desk in order to qualify.
Book tickets for Dulwich Picture Gallery.
If you're unemployed, you can save £2 on admission to the north London house where Sigmund Freud spent the final year of his life, which was converted into a museum in the 1980s. Note that proof of eligibility may be requested.
Book tickets for the Freud Museum.
It costs unemployed people £6.40 to visit the Garden Museum — compared to the £12.50 standard adult rate. The museum celebrates the art, history, and design of British gardens and is housed in one of Lambeth's oldest churches. Your ticket includes access to the church's stone tower, which boasts views across London.
Book tickets for the Garden Museum.
Hampstead Swimming Ponds
Swimming sessions at Kenwood Ladies' Pond, Highgate Men's Pond, Hampstead Mixed Pond, and Parliament Hill Lido cost £4.05 as standard. Meanwhile, concession tickets cost just £2.43 per session — these apply to those in receipt of state benefits, including Universal Credit, Jobseeker's Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and Housing Benefit.
Plan your trip to the swimming ponds or Parliament Hill Lido here.
As mentioned above, The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew do an incredible discount for those on Universal Credit (and Pension Credit). Pay just £1 for entry to both Kew Gardens and its sister site in Wakefield, Sussex.
Book tickets to Kew Gardens.
King's Head Theatre
Standard ticket prices at this fantastic fringe theatre, housed in the back room of the King's Head pub range from £10-£50 for all performances. The unwaged — defined as those not in employment and currently receiving Universal Credit or equivalent benefits — are entitled to a discount. The discount value seems to vary show-to-show, so do check what's available before you start planning your theatre trip.
See what's on at the King's Head Theatre.
Kilburn's Kiln Theatre website states that "free tickets may be offered if you are homeless, out of work or receive Housing Benefits, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance". Email FreeTickets@KilnTheatre.com to find out more, and note that proof of eligibility will be required on collection.
See what's on at Kiln Theatre.
London Fields Lido
This heated outdoor pool is run by social enterprise Better, which offers a concessionary membership option for anyone in receipt of benefits that gives you discounted off-peak access to a selection of its facilities in your local area. If you're an east Londoner, that could include visits to London Fields Lido, at £1.40 per swim. The Pay and Play membership itself costs £20 a year.
Find out more about concessionary membership at Better.
London Transport Museum
Concession tickets at London Transport Museum cost £17 — a saving of £1.50 — and, among other groups, are available for those in receipt of state benefit assistance. A modest discount, sure — but know that this gets you unlimited visits to the museum for a year. That's 12 whole months to explore temporary exhibitions and incredible permanent collection dedicated to the history of public transport in London.
Book tickets for London Transport Museum.
Entry to the National Gallery is free, as is access to its main collection and select exhibitions. Jobseeker discounts are available for other exhibitions and events — concessionary tickets for the one exhibition taking bookings at the time of writing were £2 cheaper than general admission.
See what's on at the National Gallery.
Entry to the Science Museum itself is free, though inside there are several temporary exhibitions and interactive experiences that require payment. These include Wonderlab, the museum's hands-on kid-friendly gallery which offers concessionary day passes to unemployed people (among other groups) and children for £9. Concession tickets are also available for exhibitions and other events, though the savings seem to vary.
See what's on at the Science Museum.
A limited number of concession tickets are available at Southbank Centre for recipients of Universal or Pension Credit. These get you 25% off events and exhibitions at this labyrinthine riverside complex of artistic venues.
See what's on at the Southbank Centre.
Tate Britain and Tate Modern
Entry to both the Tate Modern and Tate Britain is free to everyone but exhibition tickets range from £10–£22 for concessions, compared to £13–£25 for general admission. Jobseekers with proof of eligibility are entitled to a concession ticket.
Not an attraction per se (though trainspotters may disagree), but worth mentioning that Transport for London offers a Jobcentre Plus travel discount, which entitles many on Jobseeker's Allowance or Universal Credit to half-price tube, bus, tram, DLR, London Overground, and TfL Rail travel.
Find out more about TfL's Jobcentre Plus travel discount.
It's free to visit the V&A and — like many of London's museums — you could easily spend a full day exploring its collections. If you would like to visit one of its exhibitions, however, note that you enjoy a concessionary rate if you are a jobseeker with a valid ES40 card. Based on the three exhibitions we checked, you can expect to pay between £10 and £15.
See what's on at the V&A.
The Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection's permanent galleries are free to visit, and the art museum also hosts a number of free talks and virtual events. However, certain events are ticketed, with discounts for jobseekers available. Just one exhibition was taking bookings at the time of writing, based on that you can expect to save about £4.
See what's on at The Wallace Collection.
Have we missed any good discounts? Get in touch to let us know!