The Best Things in Life/London are Free

Well, it is officially spring break for the Foundation for International Education in London, which also means that the semester is now half over. To say that the semester is flying by would be a vast understatement, not to mention a highly overused cliché—but that is the only way to describe it. Starting next week I begin the internship portion of my study abroad program that I am very excited about. I will be working in the constituency office for a member of the British Parliament. Stay tuned for my experiences with that.

London is the one of the most expensive cities in all of Europe, very similar to New York City. It is the media, nightlife, cultural, and financial capital of the entire United Kingdom. Housing is extremely expensive, as are many restaurants, clubs, and pubs. If you ever come, don’t plan on eating out every night or you’ll be shaking an empty Starbucks cup outside the Tube Station before long. While London can be financially unfriendly, especially to students, I want to give a list of things to do in London that are free (or at least very close to free).

Parks: London is home to eight royal parks as well as a number of other smaller parks and public green spaces. On a nice day it won’t cost a dime (or ten pence piece) to stroll around the enormous royal parks. You can even ride a public bicycle for half an hour totally free. You can read a book in the sun, feed the hundreds of beautiful birds, or kick a football around with some mates.

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Museums: While there are some exceptions, the majority of museums in London are 100 percent free of charge. You could spend an entire day in any of their world famous museums and you might find yourself going back for seconds. The Tate Modern is among the largest contemporary art museums with the most unique and recognizable masterpieces in the world. If history is more your thing, go to London’s British Museum and you can see ancient Egyptian artifacts and Roman sculptures, or go to the London Museum and see the real torches that were used in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

Changing of the Guard: One of London’s oldest, most iconic traditions, this is an event every visitor must see. The guards of Buckingham Palace change at 11:30 a.m. every other day and it is quite the royal production.

Sightseeing: Most local Londoners would not be caught dead walking around ogling at landmarks, but if you are in the city you shouldn’t miss out. The tallest building in Europe (“The Shard”), the huge Ferris Wheel known as the London Eye, Parliament, and St. Paul’s Cathedral are mostly all in walking distance and you don’t have to pay anything just to look around and appreciate these historic landmarks.

Markets: Borough Market and Camden Market are my two favorites, but there are many other outdoor or semi-outdoor markets in different London neighborhoods. Some sell anything from quirky ethnic food to hot apple cider, and others sell cheap gag gifts and knockoff sneakers. Even if you don’t buy anything, it is fun to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere of the melting pot of people and culture (note: it’s often jam packed on a Sunday afternoon!).

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About the author

Derek Smith

My name is Derek Smith and I am a sophomore here at JCC. I am a communication major and an aspiring broadcast journalist. I will be studying media and communications in completing an internship in London for the spring 2016 semester. Following my stay in London I will attend SUNY Oswego for broadcast journalism to finish my 4 year degree. I grew up in nearby Frewsburg but now Jamestown is where I call home. I am an avid fan of all sports and consider myself a political junkie. I am very passionate about the role young people play in activism, especially climate change. I enjoy reading the newspaper and writing when I’m not watching cable news or ESPN. I am looking forward to London but I will miss JCC and all its great students and faculty.