From free beer tasting to free bottles of bubbly for your birthday, London has it all
Guest post by Lisa Vander
Going out at night in London can get pretty expensive. Between cover charges, tickets, food and drink, and transportation, it’s no wonder that broke people choose to stay home and watch reruns on television instead. However, it’s midsummer in one of the most amazing cities in the world, and there are plenty of ways to get out into the nightlife scene and have some fun for little or no expense.
The best way to start is early! Hit the most happening bars during happy hour and find some great deals. Try Adam & Eve in the middle of Hackney’s High Street with £3 beer, ale and wine specials every day of the week. While this concrete slab doesn’t scream “Garden of Eden,” the relaxing atmosphere and colorful stained-glass windows make it a perfect place for a pint. Hit Dirty Bones in the West End for £5 cocktails daily from 5-7 PM; this dog-themed basement bar can also feed you hot dogs all night for next to nothing.
If you want to head out later, there are numerous clubs that offer free entry, which makes a huge difference if you decide to hit more than one. The Grand in Clapham not only offers free entry, but also a free bottle of bubbly for your birthday. Picadilly Institute has six great parties under one roof. The best part is that if you get all of your broke friends together and call in a VIP guest list, entry is free (and you get a cool table). Music is usually free of charge, and you can stock up on your drinks at happy hour and switch to water later in the night. Stay hydrated while dancing the night away; you also won’t have a hangover that way!
Another great way to amp up your evening is to visit one of London’s premier casinos. Entry is free of charge, even at the Hippodrome, and so is watching the high rollers tables. The Hippodrome often hosts tournaments, so if you know your poker celebs, you’re bound to spot them here – free of charge. You may even pick up some new strategies for your next at-home “poker night” by watching for a bit.
If you want to get a little of the action yourself, slots are the best, easiest and cheapest way to go. England was home for some of the first of these popular coin machines early in the 19th century. These days the old mechanical one-armed relics have all been replaced with high-tech digital machines with the familiarity of a home computer. The best part is that there are machines that will accept your smallest change and give you the opportunity to come out on top for the whole evening!
If you’re intent on being outdoors, head to Covent Gardens for the array of street performers. Jugglers, acrobats, street comedians and musicians perform all summer live in the Piazza. If it gets too crowded, head up to Punch and Judy’s pub and watch from above with a happy hour special in your hand. The Pavilion Café in Greenwich Park offers evenings of free live jazz all summer long. BYOB and hang in the garden under the stars. Spend just £5.95 and see Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre or watch the outdoor opera in Holland Park.
For just a few bills, you can get a Flight Pass to August’s Forest City Beer Festival, an all day, free event. The Flight Pass incudes a souvenir glass and a few drink tickets, but tasting is free, and food is pretty cheap with a plethora of food trucks available with some eclectic treats.
Since it is summertime, London is rife with festivals that start during the day and go well into the night. August sees the 51st State Festival, a one-day dance festival featuring classic house music from the United States. You can BYOB and tailgate to avoid overpriced beers and the lines. South West 4 is another great dance and music festival that takes place in Clapham Commons in August. If getting near the stage gets pricey, stick to the outskirts. It’s not like the music won’t carry for miles! Bring your own party with you.
If that’s not enough, August also hosts the return of the Notting Hill Carnival, London’s biggest free street festival. The event has been going on for 53 years, and the Caribbean theme brings bright colors, flavorful food and fun, chill music. More than 60 bands take part in the entertainment, and thousands of dancers rock the Grand Finale parade on Monday.
There are unlimited events all summer throughout London, and you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to participate. Being broke does not equate with being homebound. Get out and enjoy living in one of the most amazing cities in the world.