London: A Cheapo’s guide to free live music and comedy clubs


London Spice of Life bar
Catch open-mic night and a free blues jam at the Spice of Life. Photo: Istvan

By Nina Derham in London—

Saving your pennies can feel like an impossible task in a city like London when just using public transport can burn a massive hole in your pocket. Thankfully, all the main museums are free, meaning that large chunks of your day can be spent admiring everything from the wonders of the universe at the Science Museum, to the world-famous artwork at the National Gallery without parting with a penny.

Beyond the museums, you need to be crafty to get the best value out of central London – so get your Oyster Card ready (see my previous post on saving on public transport) and follow these tips to have fun on a budget in London.

Cheapo-friendly live music

Ronnie Scott’s aside, many of London’s lesser known blues and jazz bars offer free entry and excellent live music. Plus, the venues are quirky and the atmosphere friendly and relaxed.

Try Ain’t Nothin’ But blues bar in Soho for a fun night of live entertainment without the hefty entry fees. There is live music every night of the week and free entry Sunday-Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays it’s free to get in before 8.30 p.m.

The Spice of Life in Cambridge Circus, Soho, also hosts an eclectic open-mic night on Mondays and a blues jam on Tuesdays, both of which are free to get in.

London Islington Camden Head

Free laughs at Islington’s Camden Head. Photo: Dom Stocqueler

Alternatively, head to the Road Trip Bar in Old Street on a Wednesday night for the jazz-fusion Hoxton Jam.

For something more relaxed, factor in a trip to ‘Round Midnight in Angel, Islington for the Monday night acoustic session which kicks off at 8 p.m.

Free laughs

London is also home to an impressively large number of free comedy nights, so if you’re up for a bit of good old British humor, this is an ideal Cheapo way to spend an evening.

The beautiful Queen’s Head pub in Denman Street (Piccadilly Circus) runs The Absolutely Free Comedy Night every Wednesday and Sunday from 8.30 p.m.

The Camden Head, just off Islington’s buzzing Upper Street, plays host to Angel Comedy on Saturday nights, plus Free and Funny every Thursday and each second and third Sunday of the month, all of which start at 8 p.m.

If you’re in the mood for a New York sense of humor, don’t miss Lewis Schaffer is Free Until Famous at The Source Below, just behind Regent Street. The Brooklyn-born comedian’s twice weekly show has become pretty legendary on the London comedy scene and is now in its 18th year. Catch Lewis on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8 p.m. and be sure to register your name on the guestlist in advance to guarantee entry.

Eat, drink and be pampered

If you’re looking to frequent some of London’s more exclusive establishments on a Cheapo’s budget, be sure to check out Travelzoo’s Local Deals. I can’t guarantee what you’ll find as the deals change all the time, but I have been wowed by huge savings at some of London’s finest restaurants, as well as some pretty nifty deals to swanky spas and bars. The deals last for several months so even if you see something ahead of your trip you can snap it up and then use it when you arrive in London.

For discounts on all sorts of different restaurants across the city, from the cheap and cheerful to the downright expensive, make sure you check out TopTable before booking. This is especially good for lunch and pre-theatre menus.

Also in our guide: All laughing aside, we also have recommendations for great inexpensive hotels in our London guide. Our editors have inspected, photographed and reviewed hotels throughout central London looking for the best deals.

About the author

Nina Derham

About the author: Nina is a freelance travel writer who will leave no stone unturned in her quest to discover the very best on offer in a destination. She recently relocated to London after spending over four years in Madrid and is currently enjoying rediscovering her home town.

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