Free Wi-Fi Hotspots in London

Posted Feb 14th 2011 05:30 PMUpdated Feb 15th 2011 02:46 AM

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In London, finding free Wi-Fi is about as rare as seeing a local wear a baseball cap. So if you're a traveler wandering around town, how can you surf online without facing exorbitant overseas data charges on your phone or laptop?

Complimentary surfing is standard at more than 200 chain restaurant locations around town: McDonald's, Burger King, and Pret a Manger restaurants. Most of the 400-odd Starbucks coffee shops around town also provide two hours of free Wi-Fi to any customer who loads up some British pounds on one of the company's stored-value cards (meaning, the U.K. version of the Starbucks Card, not the U.S. version you might bring from the States).

Insider tip: Smartphone users looking for free Wi-Fi at more scenic, locally representative settings may want to download the app Free Wi-Fi London, which can point you to some of the nearest hotspots to your GPS-determined location. Obviously, you'll need Internet access somewhere to activate the app. (Perhaps in your hotel's lobby?) While this app has far from complete listings, it's still quite helpful (iTunes App Store). An app of comparable quality is, Free Wi-Fi Finder, available in the Android Market.

Here are five major sights that offer free Wi-Fi access.

Tate Modern
Stylishly set in the former Bankside Power Station, this museum of modern art (think: Rodin, Matisse, and Kapoor) is acclaimed for forging new paths with its shows, and admission to its permanent collection is free. Take in a sweeping view of the Thames from family-friendly Café 2. The attractions of the hot new neighborhood of Bermondsey are nearby.

St. Pancras Station
Home to the Eurostar terminal connecting the city with Paris and beyond, this station in the King's Cross neighborhood delivers free access throughout its gleaming, four-year old corridors--even if you're not a ticketed passenger.

BFI Southbank
This high-tech temple to cinema might not top your list of must-see London sites, but it has free Wi-Fi through, including in its Film Café. It's conveniently located near the London Eye (a.k.a., the giant Ferris wheel).

Barbican Centre
In hipper-than-hip East London, Europe's largest performing arts center has several cafés and restaurants as well as a many theaters where you can catch a cutting-edge performance at an affordable price. The whole complex is a free Wi-Fi hotspot.

The Wellcome Collection Café
In North London near the Euston Tube station, The Wellcome Collection is a showcase for medical ephemera, from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to Napoleon's toothbrush. Its surprisingly mod cafe provides free Wi-Fi.

Filed Under: Tips & Tricks

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