This post is part of Viator’s coverage of the London Olympics. Leading up to the Games and every day during the Games, we’ll be posting tips from our London-based blogger, Philippa. Be sure to check back often for the latest updates on happenings around London, news on special events and tips for what to see and do in London and the surrounding area while you’re visiting!
So you’re in London, it’s the Olympics and you don’t have tickets. Or you have tickets but only for one or two events. Don’t despair – there are plenty of ways to be in on the action and all for free.
1. Live Sites
These are big screens located in London and all the major regional cities around the UK – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In London you’ll find Live Sites in Hyde Park and Victoria Park which have multiple screens and daily live music performances. These are part of BT LondonLive and you need to book tickets even though admission is free. For the Paralympics, this Live Site action moves to Trafalgar Square. Potters Fields Park in Southwark also has big screens and a great view of Tower Bridge (London Bridge station), or head to the Last Mile Festival at London’s Pleasure Gardens (Pontoon Dock station on the DLR), or Peninsula Festival London at Greenwich Peninsula (North Greenwich tube).
2. BBC Big Screens
Live Sites are all over the UK. In London they’re at Woolwich near Greenwich (Woolwich Arsenal DLR station) and Waltham Forest in east London. Outside of London they’re in Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Derry, Dover, Edinburgh, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Middlesborough, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Swansea and Swindon.
Only the start and finish of the Marathon, which is in The Mall, are ticketed, the rest of the route is free to all to watch the runners pass by. The route passes Trafalgar Square, Houses of Parliament, along the river on Victoria Embankment, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London, so if you’re having a day out sightseeing, it’s likely you’ll see these long distance endurers go past. The women’s marathon is on August 5th and the men’s marathon is on August 12th.
4. Race Walk
Again this begins and ends in The Mall which is a ticketed area but the remainder of the 2-km route is not ticketed and runs past the front of Buckingham Palace around the Victoria Monument, down Constitution Hill and back. The Men’s 20-km route (August 4th) is 10 laps of this circuit, the Women’s 20-km race is 10 laps on August 11th, and the Men’s 50-km route is 25 laps of this circuit also on August 11th. It will be very crowded, so get there early if you want to see this strangely difficult sport which involves always having one foot in contact with the ground and the leg of the foot touching the ground being straight. Not as easy as it sounds.
5. Road Cycling
These long routes give many opportunities for free viewing. The Road Race on July 28th and 29th begins and ends in The Mall and follows a route including Richmond Park, Kingston and Box Hill. The Time Trial on August 1st begins at Hampton Court Palace and also passes through Richmond Park and Kingston. One of the big drawcards for this will be Bradley Wiggins competing for Britain in the Time Trial after just winning the Tour de France.
In Hyde Park large sections of the run, the swim and the bike ride will not require tickets, but it will be crowded. The women’s event is on August 4th, the men’s on August 7th.
The sailing down in Weymouth can be viewed from the beach or from the sea itself if you have a boat. The Weymouth clifftop at Nothe Gardens has been fenced off and ticketed much to local people’s chagrin though.
8. Open water swimming
In the waters of Serpentine Lake in the middle of Hyde Park, this marathon swim is a test of endurance and takes nearly two hours. The women’s event will be swum on August 9th, the men’s on August 10th and if you get there early enough the southern parts of the Serpentine don’t require tickets and are free to watch.
Read more about the Olympics.