Free things to do in London for the Bank Holiday Weekend

It’s the last weekend of the month. You’re skint. We’re skint – even more than usual – but it’s a bank holiday, and no one wants to lose out on the unbridled joy of that extra glorious day off. So it’s pretty lucky that we’ve put together a comprehensive list of free (or at least very, very cheap) things to do in London this very weekend, isn’t it? Don’t say we’re not good to you. So tuck that ‘emergency’ credit card back into your sock drawer and head down to one of these excellent events over the next four days.


Live music @ The Lock Tavern £Free
Camden’s alternative ethos has fallen by the wayside in recent decades (it has a Whole Foods for crying out loud), but it’s still a mecca for music in London. The Lock Tavern is a pretty sizeable boozer that sits on the corner opposite the neighbourhood’s famous market, and is dedicated to showcasing live bands every weekend. FOR FREE. You’re probably required to buy at least one beer – but still, a fiver for a whole evening of live music? Sounds pretty good to us. This week sees experimental songwriter Jerskin Fendrix followed by a DJ blasting the likes of Toots & the Maytals ’til 1am. We’re into it.

Closest station: Chalk Farm – Northern line; Camden Town – Northern line; Camden Road – Overground

Live comedy @ The Bill Murray £Free 
The fact that this little pub shares a name with one of the most eccentric, lovable personalities of our time should already be enough to convince you of its entertainment value, right? If not, then how about if we mention it offers free, live comedy every weekend? Yeah, we thought so. Shows take place at 7.30pm both Friday and Saturday nights, but it gets pretty packed pretty quickly, so the proprietors recommend getting into the queue at least half an hour early – though we’d suggest arriving around 6pm if you want to be really sure you’ll get a space.

Closest station: Angel – Northern line; Highbury & Islington – Victoria line, Overground

Live music @ Campfire Club £9-13
Crowding around a crackling fire, surrounded by foliage, listening to the dulcet tones of bluegrass, Congolese jazz and the hurdy-gurdy (yup) performed mere metres away – doesn’t sound like your average night in London, does it? The Nest Collective, an acoustic folk society set up almost a decade ago, has been running Campfire Club every Friday throughout summer for the last four years, and as the good weather comes to an end, there’s only a handful of weekends left to take advantage of its unique events. Taking place in an ‘enchanted’ garden in Peckham, tonight’s acts encompass an alternative choir performing renditions of Bon Iver, a Nordic duo performing traditional Scandinavian folk songs and a singer-songwriter from London inspired by Elliott Smith. We can’t really think of anything more perfect, really.

Closest station: South Bermondsey – Southern Rail; Queens Road Peckham – Overground, Southern Rail


East London Talent Market £Free

If there’s one thing London does well, it’s a market; and there’s no shortage of them populating the city’s weekends. Between 11-4 Stratford’s East Village will be showcasing emerging clothing labels, jewellery from local artists as well as the obligatory slew of food stalls – including alcoholic ice cream. Mmm. If you feel like splashing out, the Nomad Cinema will be showing an outdoor screening of Paddington 2 (who doesn’t love an animated bear, eh?) in the nearby Victoria Park, too. Tickets sans blanket are only £8 – just remember to pack a jumper.

Closest stations: Stratford International – Southeastern; Stratford – Central line, Jubilee line, Overground, TFL Rail and Greater Anglia

Cinema @ Peckhamplex £4.99

Ok, ok, so the cinema isn’t exactly the most inspiring option we could give you. But considering the average ticket price for a showing in London does its best to break the £20 mark (we’ll go without the 7 quid popcorn, thanks), we’re throwing the Peckhamplex out there for sheer affordability. Should the forecast let you down on Saturday (more than likely), this retro-style movie theatre is screening everything from The Meg to Mamma Mia – all for under a fiver. Looks like you can afford that Sweet & Salty after all.

Closest station: Peckham Rye – Overground, Southern Rail, Thameslink, Southeastern

Opera @ Arcola Theatre £12-15 
Yes, this may be the priciest event on our list, but it is the opera, after all *snootily glances over spectacles*. Cast the images of fur scarves and minuscule binoculars from your mind though (that’s what the opera is, right?), because the performances taking place in this makeshift theatre are contemporary renditions of the classics. This weekend sees Ensemble OrQuesta combine eleven singers, baroque violins, the cello, lute and harpsichord (extra points if you know what that last instrument is) to recreate Francesco Cavalli’s dramatic comedy Xerse: a tale of Italian jealousy and unfulfilled love. Naturally. The cheapest seats come with a restricted view, but you can grab a value ticket for a very reasonable 15 quid.

Closest station: Dalston Kingsland – Overground; Dalston Junction – Overground


Yoga @ Our Parks £Free
Feeling a little worse for wear? Well, don’t recoil in horror at the prospect of partaking in a little exercise (how dare we suggest it, right?) on Sunday morning. We don’t need to tell you the benefits of practising yoga or, unfortunately, the expense of participating in regular classes in London. Which is where Our Parks comes in; the initiative was launched to offer free group workouts, outdoors, in parks across the capital. Each class is run by fully qualified and experienced instructors, so use it as an excuse to appreciate the last of the summer’s decent weather. Oh, and your health, obviously.

Search for classes in your closest park here:

Live jazz @ The Haggerston £Free  
Perched at the end of Kingsland Road, the Sunday night jazz sessions – otherwise known as Jazz at the Hagg – in this tiny boozer are a Hackney institution. Running for more than 20 years (shout out to those that remember when the pub went by the name Uncle Sam’s) by the legendary Alan Weekes, the vibe is less pretentious than the neighbouring Shoreditch, with plenty of room to down a couple of beers on the long tables outside – weather permitting. The music kicks off around 11.30pm, but what do you care? You’re off tomorrow!

Closest station: Dalston Junction – Overground; Haggerston – Overground


Karaoke @ The Alibi £Free (plus a free shot for singers)
This dingy little basement bar has been an icon (for better or worse) of Dalston’s clubbing scene for almost a decade, but the owners have recently resigned to closing its doors indefinitely. Commiserating with one last hurrah – before it’s inevitably turned into a Pret A Manger, we guess – this weekend, spend your evening commemorating the multitude of hangover-inducing nights that have taken place on its hallowed/sticky dancefloor. Monday night will see the last ever instalment of the weekly karaoke – it’s still free, and anyone willing to sing is rewarded with a shot before midnight, too. Who calls dibs on Mariah?

Closest station: Dalston Kingsland – Overground; Dalston Junction – Overground

Notting Hill Carnival £Free 
Yep, you knew we couldn’t complete this round-up without a nod to Europe’s biggest street festival. Around 2 million people flock to W10 (yep, that’s around 1/5th London’s population) across both days, taking part in London’s annual celebration of the city’s Caribbean communities. This year marks its 69th birthday – but don’t plan on it calming down in its old age. If you’re venturing there with kids (or are not entirely up for the notoriously wild atmosphere), it’s best to visit on Sunday, the carnival’s designated ‘Family Day’, though be warned, it’ll be just as packed; queues for the porta-loos get so out of control that local residents charge revellers to use the toilets in their own homes. Yikes. The main parade takes place on Monday, boasting more than 60 bands, 37 sound systems and a shit load of Red Stripe spread across Notting Hill’s streets. Things start from 9.30am, and we’d recommend getting there nice and early – and if you’re feeling brave, try the infamous Guinness punch. Offt.

Closest station: Notting Hill – Central, District and Circle lines; Ladbroke Grove – Hammersmith & City, and Circle lines; Westbourne Park – Hammersmith & City, and Circle lines


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