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London - top free picks for Olympic visitors

In a little under four months, thousands of visitors will descend on London for the Olympic Games.

travel Updated: Apr 07, 2012 14:41 IST

In a little under four months, thousands of visitors will descend on London for the Olympic Games.

As the British capital is widely regarded as among the world's most expensive destinations, inflated prices for hotels and airline tickets will mean that making the journey could stretch the wallet -- but it doesn't have to, if you know where to go.

Relaxnews asked Lonely Planet's Clifton Wilkinson, the man behind a new series of eBooks focused on the best of Britain, for his thoughts on London's best free attractions -- here, his roundup of the top eight.

British Museum
Great Russell St; 10am-5.30pm Sat-Thu, to 8.30pm Fri; Russell Sq tube.

The daddy of all national museums (it was the first one anywhere in the world), the BM takes you on a trip through world history in one of the capital's most handsome buildings and does so without charging a penny (though donations are gratefully accepted). Don't try to see everything on one visit - as it's free you can come back as often as you like.

Natural History Museum

Cromwell Rd; 10am-5.50pm; South Kensington tube.

A sure-fire hit with kids of all ages, the Natural History Museum is crammed full of fascinating stuff. Start with the animatronic dinosaurs, move on to learn about evolution, and then watch scientists at work in the Darwin Centre laboratory.

Borough Market
11am-5pm Thu, noon-6pm Fri, 8am-5pm Sat; London Bridge tube.

Obviously you can spend a LOT of money at London's oldest market if the tasty goods are just too tempting to say no, but browsing is free and many stalls at this foodie-heaven offer samples so you can try before you (possibly) buy.

Geffrye Museum
136 Kingsland Rd; 10am-5pm Tue-Sat, noon-5pm Sun; Old St tube.

If you like nosing around other people's homes, the Geffrye Museum is for you. Devoted to domestic interiors through the ages, these former almshouses have been converted into a series of living rooms dating from 1630 to the current Ikea generation.

Waterloo Bridge
Waterloo tube

You can pay a small fortune to ride the London Eye, or you can stand on Waterloo Bridge and get an equally good view for free. Upstream the Houses of Parliament (and the London Eye) sit either side of the Thames, while downstream it's St Paul's Cathedral and the City's skyscrapers that dominate the view.

Museum of London
150 London Wall; 10am-6pm; Barbican tube.

The Museum of London helps make sense of the layers of history that make up the city with a series of wonderful exhibits, including a reconstructed Roman villa and a Victorian streetscape where you can peer into 19th-century shops.

Wellcome Collection
183 Euston Rd; 10am-6pm Tue, Wed, Fri & Sat, 10am-10pm Thu, 11am-6pm Sun; Euston Square tube.

Focusing on art, science and medicine, this excellent museum has interactive displays, wacky modern sculptures inspired by various medical conditions, and downright creepy things such as enlargements of human parasites (fleas, body lice) at terrifying proportions.

National Portrait Gallery
St Martin's Pl WC2; h10am-6pm Sat-Wed, to 9pm Thu & Fri; Charing Cross tube.

For putting a face to some very famous names you can't do better than visit this who's who of British history. Take the escalator to the top and the Tudors, then work your way down through the galleries chronologically.

Lonely Planet's new Best of Britain eBooks are available on Amazon, iBookstore, Kobo and from other e-book retailers, priced from £2.99/€3.49. These suggestions are based on Recession-busting Britain: Best Free Experiences, which is currently available to download for free.

First Published: Apr 07, 2012 14:41 IST