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From the South Bank to Portobello Road: London's best freebies

Check out our top pick of London's cultural attractions, green spaces, walks and markets. 

Whether you're in town for the Games or fancy an afternoon strolling the capital, this list of favourites is sure to keep you entertained.

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Free museums and galleries are dotted all over the city, ready and waiting to enrich your mind:

  British Museum, WC1 – one of the world's oldest museums boasts a collection spanning over two million years of human and cultural history.

•  National Portrait Gallery, WC2 – explore over 175,000 portraits of famous Britons. The range of artists, sitters and genres is unrivalled: descend the floors and you'll pass from 16th century to present day portraiture.

•  The Photographers' Gallery, W1 – the largest public photographic gallery in London. The collection includes established artists, historical archives as well as showcasing emerging young talent.

•  Victoria and Albert Museum, SW7 – houses one of the world's largest collections of decorative arts. The British Galleries 1500-1900 is a highlight – it traces the evolution of design with displays of furniture, texture and fashion from the reign of Henry VIII to Queen Victoria's.

London is blessed with an abundance of open, green spaces. Here's our pick:

•  Hampstead Heath, NW3 – covers 791 acres of woodland, meadows, playing fields and ponds across North London from Highgate to Hampstead. Unlike central London's manicured parks with neat flowerbeds, the heath is rugged and natural.

•  Hyde Park, SW1 – this green inner city haven is home to the Serpentine Lake and gallery as well as providing opportunities for boating and tennis, should the weather permit.

•  Richmond Park, TW9 – the biggest of the royal parks. It spans over 2,500 acres, is home to 6,500 magnificent red deer and has endless green spots perfect for a picnic. 

•  Regents Park, NW1 – if you don't fancy an afternoon confined to a deckchair, this is the park for you. There's plenty to see and do here with a summer-long programme of open air concerts, the London Zoo, cafes and bird watching opportunities.

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 Stretch your legs whilst soaking up the sights with London's best strolls:

•  South Bank, SE – subject to much renovation following its 20th century decline, the South Bank is now a thriving tourist area. Stroll along the traffic-free path from the iconic Tower Bridge towards Waterloo and you’ll encounter iconic landmarks such as the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the London Eye along the way.

•  Primrose Hill, NW1 – escape the hustle and bustle and head to Primrose Hill. On the north side of Regents Park, this hilltop offers one of London's best vantage points with near 360˚ views across the capital.

London's many markets provide the opportunity to track down a bargain and mingle with locals.

•  Borough Market, SE1 – London's oldest market has become very fashionable in recent years with its gourmet offerings. Fancy imported products are for sale alongside heaps of produce from the nearby countryside. Smells wafting from the surrounding cafes, stalls and restaurants will quickly draw you in.

•  Portobello Road, W10 – renowned for its antiques, vintage fashion and collectable memorabilia, prepare yourself for a scramble. Bargain hunters, hordes of tourists, casual browsers and 2,000 specialist antique dealers all cram into the maze of Notting Hill streets that make up the market.

•  Columbia Road flower market, E2 – one of London's prettiest and more fragrant markets, it's definitely worth the early start. On Sundays you'll find buckets of fresh blooms, aromatic herbs, shrubs and plants. It's all over by lunchtime and nearby you'll find a host of independent eateries for a cracking traditional Sunday roast.

•  Spitalfields, E1 – Sunday is Spitalfields' busiest day and perfect for those seeking local artists' creations, vintage fashion, crafts, jewellery and books. Your nose will quickly lead you to the stalls around the edge of the market where vendors sell intriguing cuisine from all over the world.

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