Uh oh, your parents are coming to London and you want to show them the sights. Of course, you want to impress them, but you also want to keep the costs down. So where should you take them? There are many free things to do in London with your parents that should offer some inspiration for good value and good times.
The National Gallery
The National Gallery is on Trafalgar Square and is full of world famous paintings from big names everyone's heard of such as Canaletto, Michelangelo, and Rubens. That's hitting them with a 'wow factor' from the start. You can use the ArtStart terminals to find paintings by a particular artist, period, or theme to devise a personal tour based on everyone's tastes. Plus, it's free to print a map of your tour.
If you want a cup of tea and the gallery cafe is busy, head over to St. Martin-in-the-Fields Crypt Cafe just across the road.
A Church Service
Show your folks how wholesome you are and take them to visit St Paul's Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. Of course, visitors usually pay a high price to visit these cultural attractions, but if you attend a church service you can go into these stunning buildings for free. Check the timings online (look under 'Worship') when planning your day out.
Savoy Hotel Museum
This British institution is sure to impress. If your budget won't allow stopping at The Savoy Hotel for afternoon tea in the Palm Court, or dining in The Savoy Grill, then take them to the hotel museum.
Enter from The Strand main entrance and turn left towards The American Bar, and the museum is on your left before the bar. You'll see photos, receipts, letters and small artifacts from the hotel's archives that provide insight into the hotel's history.
You could also return to the Entrance Hall and head down towards the Palm Court and see the chocolatiers in action beside Savoy Tea, the bijou tea store. Maybe you could persuade your folks to buy you something for bringing them here?
The Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection is a real gem of a gallery in central London (and it's a 5-minute walk from Oxford Street, so you may be able to persuade the parents to take you shopping afterward).
The Wallace Collection displays French 18th-century paintings and furniture, plus an incredible collection of armor. They also have "The Laughing Cavalier" by Hals, as well as artworks by Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, and more big names.
To show you know your way around, you can lead them straight to "The Laughing Cavalier" by going up the main staircase, turning right and right again, and going to the Great Gallery at the end. There are many wonderful paintings in here, but the one you're looking for is about halfway down on the right.
Auction House Viewing
Before an auction, the lots go on display and it's free to visit and see everything. An auction house such as Sotheby's often has world famous artworks on display so just give them a call and check what's coming up.
If you do choose to go to Sotheby's, then make sure to visit Smythson of Bond Street which is a few doors away and has a small stationery museum at the back of the store that includes fine stationery specially produced for the Maharajas of India in the 1920s.
Also nearby is the Franklin D. Roosevelt & Winston Churchill Allies Statue. It's actually a bench with the two chaps "talking" to each other with room for you to squeeze in between them for a photo opportunity.
Abbey Road Crossing
Everyone loves The Beatles, so why not take your visitors to the famous Abbey Road pedestrian crossing and recreate the Abbey Road album cover? The nearest tube station is St John's Wood where you'll find the Beatles Coffee Shop; you could even go on a Beatles in London Walk or go to the London Beatles Store.
The Abbey Road crossing is Grade II listed which means it has to be preserved. If you cross over the road (and don't just hang out in the road annoying the traffic), you can see the Abbey Road Studios. There's also an Abbey Road webcam so you can wave to the adoring fans across the world.
Hampstead Heath and Kenwood House
Show them London is not just an urban sprawl by taking them to Hampstead Heath, London's largest ancient parkland. Enjoy a wonderful wind-swept walk with fantastic views from Parliament Hill.
And to prove we have world-class artworks and stunning buildings everywhere, take them to Kenwood House, a beautiful neoclassical white villa. Impress your parents by telling them it's the Guinness brewery magnate we should be grateful to for displaying their artworks here to be seen by the public. Obviously, the best way to say thank you would be to go to an Irish pub later in the day and have a pint of Guinness.
Kensington Roof Gardens
Who would have thought you could find flamingos on the roof of a London department store? But you can at the Kensington Roof Gardens which are free to visit (but do call ahead as it's often used for private events).
While in the area, head over to Kensington Gardens and see Kensington Palace (free to see from outside, of course) and wander over to the Diana Memorial Fountain for some time to reflect on the "People's Princess".
For more quirkiness in the area, go to see the fake houses at 23/24 Leinster Gardens.
A day out in Greenwich is a great way to show them another side of London. Start at the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre and find out more about the area. Maybe you can convince the folks to stop at the Old Brewery run by the Meantime Brewing Company as it's in the same building.
Do take them over to The Painted Hall which has a real 'wow factor', before visiting The Queen's House and the Royal Maritime Museum.
You could head up the hill to the Royal Observatory to see the Flamsteed House red ball drop at 1 p.m. or to stand on the Prime Meridian Line.
And don't forget to wander around Greenwich Market and admire the arts and crafts, and unique gifts.
Regent's Canal from Little Venice to Camden
Walking from Little Venice to Camden, beside the Regent's Canal, is not too taxing a walk (a couple of miles) and is a beautiful part of town to explore. From the narrowboats at Little Venice, you'll see palatial Regency houses, London Zoo, famous street art, and finish up at Camden Market.
Take a tea break at Cafe Laville as it is literally over the canal and has a great view back the way you've just walked.
Keep on walking to Camden, and head into the Lock Market to try some liquid nitrogen ice-cream.
Maybe you can persuade the folks to take you to Shaka Zulu, an enormous underground South African restaurant.