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London: How to score free and cheap classical music tickets

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St. Martin in the Fields
Head to St. Martin in the Fields for a free afternoon concert on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Photo: Thom Watson

There are more opportunities to get cultured on the cheap in London than you’d expect, and classical music is no exception. Whether you’re up for bagging a last-minute standing ticket or booking in at a special concert, London’s classical music scene has something for all pockets.

Our “Cheapo Culture” series is exploring ways for budget travelers to experience the best of high-culture at low prices. We’ve also covered cheap theatre tickets in London, and free museums. Now, let’s talk about where to find free and cheap classic music concerts.

Free lunchtime and evening concerts and venues

You can get your share of classical music at a number of completely free concerts in London. Here’s a quick overview:

• Monday: St. Martin in the Fields (1 pm); Royal Opera House (1 pm); St. James Church (1:10 pm)
• Tuesday: St. Martin in the Fields (1 pm)
• Wednesday: St. James Church (1:10 pm)
• Thursday: Southbank Sinfonia (St. John’s Waterloo Church – 6 pm)
• Friday: St. Martin in the Fields (1 pm); St. James Church (1:10 pm)

Here’s some information about each of these concerts:

St. Martin in the Fields by Trafalgar Square runs lunchtime recitals on Monday, Tuesday and Fridays, and encourages classical music fans to drop by and enjoy them. The concerts run from 1 pm-2 pm and the program, announced online, can range from vocal recitals and student performances, to organ music and classical quartets.

Similarly, beautiful St. James’s Church in Piccadilly Circus offers free lunchtime recitals every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1:10 pm. Donations of £3.50 are encouraged at both St. James’s and St. Martin in the Fields.

Alternatively, you can head to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden on a Monday at 1 pm for an exclusive free concert showcasing the young rising stars of the classical music world. You will need a ticket to attend one of these concerts, some of which are available online nine days beforehand, while the remaining tickets are available from the Royal Opera House box office from 10 am on the day of the concert.

If music in the evening is more to your liking then drop in on the Southbank Sinfonia’s Rush Hour concerts. Held every Thursday from 6 pm-7:15 pm at St. John’s Waterloo Church, it’s a lovely, relaxed way to start the weekend and you even get a glass of wine on arrival!

Affordable classical music in London

Excellent value tickets are on offer at a number of London’s most popular venues, so if you’re willing to spend between £9 and £20, you can be guaranteed a great night out. Here are some ways to score a cheapo classical ticket:

Home of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, Conway Hall in Holborn runs a fantastic program of chamber music concerts on Sunday evenings and you can get yourself a ticket for just £9. Most concerts start at 6:30 pm and you can buy a ticket from the box office from 5:45pm.

It’s also well worth checking out the programs of the British Youth Opera and Opera Holland Park, as there are usually a smattering of £12 tickets on offer at each of their concerts.

If your heart is set on seeing a performance at the English National Opera (ENO), then opt for one of their “Secret Seats”. For £20 you’ll be guaranteed a seat worth at least £25, possibly a lot more, and you’ll only find out where you’re actually going to sit three days before the show.

For a last minute bargain, keep an eye on Intermezzo, where amazing offers and last minute classical music deals are listed.

London’s summer of music

Finally, classical music fans should not make a summer visit to London without attending the BBC Proms. This musical extravaganza takes place over two months each summer and always promises an impressive line up of concerts at the spectacular Royal Albert Hall. Restricted view tickets are available to some concerts for as little as £7.50, but true Cheapos will love the £5 “Promming” tickets. These give access to a standing place in the Gallery or Arena areas and are released on the day so you don’t even need to book in advance.

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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