16 Fun And Free Things To Do In London That Won’t Cost A Penny

·10-min read

London is undoubtedly one of the most exciting cities in the world, and we can see why. With a ton of stunning attractions, history-filled streets, amazing food options, and a dizzying number of shopping opportunities, you’ll never be bored in the bustling metropolitan city. The place, however, can also be an expensive one to explore, and can burn a hole in your wallet if you don’t plan your journey well. There are, however, some of the most unique free things to do in London, that ensure you’ll enjoy a good day out, even if you’re on a tight budget.

London is the 15th most expensive country to live in, according to a recent report by Mercer (published in Forbes). The city is also expensive if you’re a tourist that’s looking to explore all the sights and sounds that London has to offer. While commuting in the city is fairly easy, thanks to London’s extensive Underground and Overground train system, the cost of hotels, ticket prices to attractions, and restaurant bills can add up to be quite staggering.

However, exploring the city on a budget is definitely possible since there are a number of places that you can visit for free. This list will come in handy whether you are a student, budget traveller, or simply someone who likes maintaining your finances. Besides, there’s no better way to connect with the city you’re in than by walking its cobbled streets.

So, ahead of your journey to the city, check out these best free things to do in London that will keep you busy for hours, and also allow you to unwind and soak in the London atmosphere.

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Free things to do in London

See the Changing of the Guard ceremony

 

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Buckingham Palace is an icon in its own right, but it is the Changing of the Guard that many near and far flock here for. Easily one of the many fun and free things you can do in London is watching this traditional ceremony take place, where the old guards hand over the responsibility and keys to a new group at 11am on selected days. The ceremony spans three locations across London – Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and Wellington Barracks –and is a visual treat with great pomp and show (including bands playing traditional and modern pop tunes).

The ceremony is conducted on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between January and May and from August till December, and daily from June to July. The best place to view it is the Buckingham Palace where you can grab the best spot at the gates if you reach early.

Check the details and timings here.

Spend some time at Borough Market in London

best free things to do in london
(Image credit: Bruno Martins/Unsplash)

London’s favourite foodie’s paradise, Borough Market, celebrated its 1,000th year in 2014, so it’s safe to stay that this is a place that has stood the test of time. Easily one of the best free places to visit in London, the market is chockfull of delicious food that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, all while allowing you to walk through the winding lanes that’s filled with everything from freshly-prepared food to organic produce, and more.

Here, you can sample free treats if you can’t decide on what to eat, although the paella, freshly-shucked oysters, roast chicken wrap, and Monmouth Coffee often draw long queues. With a plethora of world cuisine in one place, Borough Market is a great place to feast at without breaking the bank. The market is open from Monday to Saturday.

Find out more about Borough Market here.

Visit the London Mithraeum

 

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If you didn’t know there was a Roman temple in London, you’re not alone. Among the many fun free things to do in London is a visit to the London Mithraeum, which is dedicated to the mysterious figure of Mithras, whose cult-like followers met in secret at underground locations. The Roman temple has no entry fee, and you’ll find it hidden underneath the Bloomberg buildings in London. The archaeological attraction is one of Britain’s most important archaeological sites, and is one of only a 100 Mithraic temples found throughout the ancient Roman world, so be sure to spend some time at this lesser-known attraction. Though the entry is free, make sure to book your slot here for guaranteed entry.

View permanent exhibits at National Gallery

If you love art but do not have the budget for exploring new shows, you’ll be pleased to know that entry to the National Gallery is free. The gallery houses artworks by some of the most renowned artists to ever exist, such as Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, William Turner and Vincent van Gogh. These are part of the permanent exhibits, which means you don’t have to pay a single penny to view them.

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Picnic at the Greenwich Park

If you want to enjoy a fun picnic with your family, partner, or friends, pack a basket full of delicious goodies (here’s where the trip to Borough Market comes in handy!) and head to the hill in the middle of Greenwich Park. With expansive views of the city’s skyline and the most scenic surroundings, the park will surely make for a memorable afternoon, especially if the weather gods are in a great mood.

Enjoy one of the free London walking tours

 

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As we mentioned in the beginning, there’s no better way to explore a city than by foot. So, if you have the whole day to yourself (or even a couple of hours), spend it exploring the streets. The roads will take you to less touristy alleyways and corners, leading you to quaint cafes, restaurants, and boutiques only known to locals. If you don’t want to walk alone, join some of the free walking tours that are easily available online.

Visit the British Museum for a history lesson

Among the many free things that you can do in London is visit the city’s many stunning museums, and the British Museum is among those. One of the largest in the city, the museum offers a variety of artefacts, paintings, and more for you to see on your trip there. The only advice? Wear a pair of comfortable shoes and walk around till you can’t anymore!

Plan your visit to the museum here.

Other museums across the city that offer free entry for visitors to the permanent exhibitions include Museum of London, Royal Academy of Arts, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Imperial War Museum, National Maritime Museum and Tate Modern.

Visit the Barbican Conservatory

(Image credit: Russ Martin/Unsplash)
(Image credit: Russ Martin/Unsplash)

The Barbican Conservatory is one of London’s best cultural places. Essentially a giant greenhouse that’s filled with tropical plants, cacti, flowers and more, this conservatory is a curious marriage of Brutalist architecture and indoor rainforest paradise, and promises to be an unforgettable memory that’s – best of all – free! Admission is free, but we recommend you book online in advance and pick a timed entry slot to avoid disappointment. Bookings are released one week in advance, and you can make yours on the website.

Plan your visit here.

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Walk around Trafalgar Square (and spot a celebrity or two)

Head to Trafalgar Square and meet the stone lions, or simply enjoy the many cultural shows that are put up there. What’s more, this popular address in London is also often visited by celebrities, so who knows, you might just run into your favourite stars here. This page on the Mayor of London’s website will give you the importance of this landmark in the city’s history.

Another famous place to get a picture taken is Piccadilly Circus, a famous landmark which you would’ve spotted in shows like Sherlock.

Chill out at Hyde Park

(Image credit: Kevin Grieve/Unsplash)
(Image credit: Kevin Grieve/Unsplash)

Hyde Park is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots to be in London, especially in the morning. The best part? It’s completely free! Go there for a jog, or pick up your camera to capture some stunning shots of the lush greenery, swans, pets on a walk and more.

Find out more about the park here.

Explore the Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum was built in 1091 by Frederick Horniman, a tea trader who had a passion for collectibles. The museum offers free entry, and you can visit the place to witness his collection of stuffed birds and animals. Its main attraction, however, is a massive overstuffed walrus. The museum also has a music gallery with over 1,500 instruments and expansive gardens with a butterfly house, animal trails and a lot more.

Find out more about the museum here.

Visit the Kensington Gardens

(Image credit: Nicholas Musilli/Unsplash)
(Image credit: Nicholas Musilli/Unsplash)

Another great park to visit in London is Kensington Gardens. Take a stroll, spend some time with your partner or play around with the kids. You’ll find plenty to do here, including visiting the famous Peter Pan statue, visiting the Serpentine Galleries, and having the kids enjoy the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground.

You can also see the many water bodies here and several other structures that will make your time worth the while!

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Take a walk through Harrods

(Image credit: Igor Wang/Unsplash)
(Image credit: Igor Wang/Unsplash)

One of the most famous landmarks in London – and the world – is this luxury department store on Brompton Road, which is home to 1.1 million square feet of retail space. Sure, it’s one of the best places to be at if you’re in a spending mood, but you also don’t need to have a fat wallet to enjoy this historical building. Soak up the bustle and touching tributes in this building, which includes two memorials of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed that were commissioned by its previous owner and father of the latter, Al-Fayed. There’s also an Egyptian-themed escalator in the building.

Feeling peckish? Head to its world-famous Food hall, where you’ll find artisanal biscuits, jams, cakes, and even Middle Eastern desserts on offer.

You can explore the store and its options here before visiting.

See the London Eye and Tower Bridge

best free things to do in London
(Image credit: Çağlar Canbay/Unsplash)

A trip on the London Eye will give you a 360 view of the city, but if you don’t want spend around £33 and 30 minutes on this observation wheel, you can just visit the South Bank area and see the ferris wheel from the outside and take pictures.

While you are in the area, around a 12 minute-walk away is the Tower Bridge. It is also visible from the South Bank. One of the most fascinating things to see is the bridge lifting open to let vessels, including tourist boats, cross.

You can check the frequency and timings of bridge lifts here.

Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station

King's Cross Station
Image: Courtesy kingscross.co.uk

If you are a Potterhead, this is one of the few free things you must do in London. Head to King’s Cross Station where you will find a trolley stuck to a wall at the station concourse. You will find fellow fans lining up for this photo opportunity wearing their favourite Hogwarts house scarf. However, do remember to reach here as early as possible as the queue can be really, really long.

Find out more details here.

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Take a picture at the blue door from Notting Hill

If you are a rom-com fan, you would remember Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. In the 1999 movie, Grant’s character William Thacker lives in a house with a blue door. While the original door from the movie has already been auctioned, a similar replacement can be found at house no. 280 in London’s district of Notting Hill. The area also houses the world’s largest antiques market, Portobello Road Market, which is also seen in the movie. Ask anyone in the area and they will direct you to these famous landmarks where you can get pictures.

More about the market here.

(Main Image: Franz Wender/Unsplash; Featured Image: kingscross.co.uk)

This story first appeared on Travel + Leisure India & South Asia