The Great Museum Giveaway
Some of the best things in London really are free. Many of the city's 300-plus museums have recently adopted a no-charge admission policy (except for special exhibitions). That means you can ogle the Warhols and Hockneys at the Tate Modern; the Turners and Gainsboroughs at the reborn Tate Britain; and 400 years of British design in the recently unveiled British Galleries at the Victoria and Albert—all without spending a quid.
Travelcard: Don't Leave Your Hotel Without it
Passes available from Transport for London give visitors unlimited trips on the city's extensive public transportation system (underground, light rail, and buses). Travelcards are sold at most underground stations—$6.25 for a day, $9.30 for a weekend, and $29 for seven days of commuting within Zones 1 and 2 (where most of London's main attractions are located). For even less money, pick up an all-zone bus pass at any newsagent or bus station ($3 for one day, $13 for one week). The views from London's fleet of bright-red, spanking-new double-deckers are some of the best this side of the London Eye.
Cheap Seats at the Theater
In a city renowned for its theater, one expects to pay premium prices to see a show. Not so: A top-tier ticket to a West End musical is $60 (a third less than in New York). Non-musical plays are also reasonable—around $55 for the stalls (orchestra), $30 for a decent seat in the mezzanine. London even has its own version of Manhattan's half-price TKTS booth, on the edge of Leicester Square.
For more-experimental performances, the Fringe, London's take on off-off-Broadway, has innovative productions and ticket prices as low as $10. At the New End Set (27 New End; 44-207/794-0022), in Hampstead, Jerry Hall is starring in the new play Benchmark (through October 20). In West London's Chiswick neighborhood, the 49-seat Tabard (2 Bath Rd.; 44-208/995-6035) is staging seven short pieces by American playwright Arlene Hutton (through October 12). Just off Fleet Street, the Fringe's main stage for musicals, the Bridewell (Bride Ln.; 44-207/936-3456; www.bridewelltheatre.co.uk), continues its popular series of original Stephen Sondheim revues. Called The Road You Didn't Take, the latest show focuses on how the composer deals with men in his work. If you'd rather feed your mind than your body, skip lunch and catch actors and comedians performing their sketches during the Bridewell's midday shows.