The Arts for Free in London

Classical Music and Jazz

The Barbican, the Royal National Theatre, and the Royal Opera House often have free music in their public foyers or in dedicated spaces. On the South Bank, free festivals and take place alongside the river.

Many of London's music colleges give free concerts several times a week. The Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music have free recitals. St. Martin-in-the-Fields has free lunchtime concerts, as does St. James's Piccadilly. Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's in Covent Garden also have frequent free music. For the BBC Proms, hundreds of same-day standing-room tickets are available at £5.

Contemporary Music

Brixton's three-floor Dogstar pub has a great selection of DJs, often playing for free on weekday evenings. Blues bar Ain't Nothing But . . . in Soho has live music most nights, often without a cover charge, and pubs such as the Monarch and the Hawley Arms near Camden Market offer the chance to see tomorrow's indie stars today. East London establishment Stories hosts free acoustic acts, while Cecil Sharp House in Camden, the home of folk, has tickets for as little as £3. There's no cover charge at Piãno Kensington, where talented pianists delight often raucous crowds.

Drama, Dance, and Performance Arts

Look out for occasional festivals where innovative performances take place on the South Bank. Check the newspapers and Time Out for upcoming performances.

Book ahead or turn up at the box office on a performance day for £5–£12.50 tickets to see ballet rehearsals and full performances of shows like Romeo and Juliet by The Royal Ballet at The Royal Opera House. The cheapest English National Ballet tickets for gigs like the Nutcracker at the London Coliseum are £14, and there's always at least 100 £12 tickets for every dance show and performance at the contemporary powerhouse Sadler's Wells dance theater program (including shows at the Peacock Theatre, Roundhouse, and Lilian Baylis Studio.)

Museums and Galleries

Most of the city's museums and galleries do not charge admission. The monthly Galleries magazine, available at galleries themselves or online at www.galleries.co.uk, has listings for all private galleries in the capital.

Park Life

London's royal parks come to life in the spring and summer with a wide-ranging program (www.royalparks.org.uk for details, or call 020/3061–2000). There are several summer festivals in London parks, some with major pop stars, like British Summer Time in Hyde Park (www.bst-hydepark.com; day tickets around £90) and the more indie Field Day in Victoria Park (www.fielddayfestivals.com; day tickets around £40, weekend tickets around £85). Notable contemporary art fairs are October's Frieze London in Regent's Park (www.friezelondon.com; around £40) and the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park and Hampstead Heath in spring (www.affordableartfair.com; weekdays £12, weekends £15).

Radio and Television

With so much broadcast material recorded in front of live London audiences, there are often great opportunities to watch a free quiz show, current affairs debate, comedy, drama, or live BBC symphony (www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows).

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