London: 5 free things to do on a winter's day

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Prices in London have dropped in the last six months because businesses are running many sales and because the U.S. dollar has gained in buying power against the British pound.

Yet London is still expensive.

What many visitors don't realize, though, is how much there is to do for free in the city—much of it in cosy, well-heated interiors. Here is an eclectic pick of our favorites from the tip of the winter iceberg.

Live music at The Bedford (77 Bedford Hill, Balham, SW12 9HD, 011-44/208-682-8940,, subway: Balham)

This giant pub in south London has made the reputations of leading new names in British music. KT Tunstall, James Morrison, and Paolo Nutini all built their following here. There are free shows four nights a week, 50 weeks of the year, most of them from new and upcoming musicians. And once a month on Sundays there's an afternoon event called 'More Tea Vicar,' where worn-out Saturday night party-goers can listen to acoustic music whilst getting a massage or shopping for vintage fashion.

Rembrandt and Rubens at the Wallace Collection (Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, W1U 3BN, 011-44/207-563-9500,

The Tate Modern, which is also free, may grab the limelight, but London is replete with free fine art galleries. And the Wallace Collection—a sumptuous collection of paintings, porcelain, and furniture housed in a grand mansion just off London's shopping central—is one of the best. Stellar European names include Hals, Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin, and Titian. And it is far less crowded than the aggressively marketed Tate Modern.

Tutankhamun and two million years of human history at the British Museum (Great Russell St., 011-44/207-323-8181,, subway Tottenham Court Road). The British Museum has a collection of antiquities and art to rival Paris's Louvre or New York's Metropolitan museum, but without their hefty entrance fees. Visitors pay only for the special shows at the British Museum. Tutankhamun, the sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens, Egypt's Rosetta Stone and a trove of treasures from Mesopotamia, Persia, Ancient Europe and Asia all come for free with admission.

A BBC show or concert in central London (

Many of the BBC's TV and radio shows are recorded live. They include everything from classical concerts to comedy or celebrity chat shows and live jazz and rock to political discussion programmes. All tickets are free and can be booked through the website.

Al Gore or Kofi Annan at the Royal Society of the Arts (8 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6EZ, 011-44/207 930 5115,

This stately 28th century house offers one of the biggest free events programs in the capital, offering 150 free lectures, talks, screenings, and debates a year, many of them conducted by leading thinkers and intellectuals from the world over. Past speakers have included Kofi Annan, Al Gore, Vikram Seth, Tod Machover, and James Lovelock.

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