Land of the Free, Home of the Art

by Nicole Gieselman on February 27, 2018

There’s no way around it: Studying abroad in London is expensive. Every time I walk down the street, I see at least half a dozen new restaurants and cafes I’d like to try. Pub culture is incredibly welcoming, but just one pint sets you back about $7. Then there’s the lure of travel.  A weekend trip to Edinburgh, a spring-break vacation in Barcelona— even the subsidized Arcadia excursions add up. Despite the $4,000 or so I set aside for the semester, I’m quickly realizing I’ll have to pick and choose the things I see and do.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll have to spend that down time sitting in my flat. Luckily, London is home to such a wealth of free— that’s right, free— activities that there’s a little something for every taste. For history buffs and art snobs (myself included), the vast majority of London’s countless museums operate by free-will donation. Foodies can find cheap eats or simply explore lively street markets in Camden, Exmouth, Whitecross, and beyond. For a study abroad student trying to make every quid count, these budget-friendly activities are a godsend, as well as an excuse to explore new parts of the city.

One of my first experiences with the many free sightseeing opportunities in London brought me to Canary Wharf. It’s a modern, industrial section of the city boasting pricey restaurants, a beautiful view of the Thames and, on this visit, a (free!) outdoor sculpture exhibition. Called “Winter Lights,” the exhibit took me on a meandering journey around Canary Wharf. The path to a dazzling array of unique masterpieces was charmingly illuminated with fairy lights and bustling with Londoners and tourists alike. Not only did the “Winter Lights” exhibit give me a tour of the neighborhood, but it also combined two of my favorite hobbies (art and people watching) into one. Best of all, the price was just right.

London Lights by Nicole Gieselman