There are so many free things to do in London and with the expensive hotels and restaurants around the city, it is worth taking advantage of those free gems. Here are some of our favorite picks that don’t cost a thing!
THINGS TO DO IN LONDON THAT ARE FREE
1. VISIT TRAFALGAR SQUARE
Take a selfie with Nelson’s Column, the iconic stone lions, and the Fourth Plinth along with some pretty fountains – perfect for those London photography shots. Trafalgar Square should be on your free London bucket list!
Getting to Trafalgar Square: Catch the tube to Charing Cross (using the Bakerloo or Northern lines) and take the Trafalgar Square exit to find yourself on the square itself.
2. WATCH STREET ENTERTAINMENT AT COVENT GARDENS
Full of street performers and quirky shops, Covent Garden is a great place to spend some time having a wander around and some window browsing. It is also home to plenty of restaurants and food stalls, the Royal Opera House, and the Transport of London Museum which offers free tickets for children.
Covent Garden is a district in London between St. Martin’s Lane and Drury Lane. It is located in the West End so makes for the perfect place for dinner before a West End Show.
Explore the independent stores, browse the craft markets and enjoy a pint at one of the quirky pubs in the area.
3. EXPLORE THE FREE MUSEUMS
The great museums of London are all free; explore dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum, learn about British and world history at the British Museum and wander around the beautiful exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Science Museum is also a great choice for those with children.
Some may prefer to explore the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich or the Imperial War Museum to admire the 400 exhibits of World War artifacts. Art lovers head to Tate Modern – an incredible building full of art displays and sculptures from around the world. On a 5-day trip in London, we recommend trying to visit at least one of these each day!
Natural History Museum – Located on Crowell Road, the gorgeous Hintze Hall houses a massive T.rex dinosaur fossil along with 36 galleries sharing the history of living things through exhibitions and artifacts. This museum is open from 10 am to 5.30 pm and you either arrive early or visit after 3 pm to avoid the crowds and school trips.
Victoria and Albert Museum – This is arguably the most unique museum in London, with a changing exhibition standing alongside a treasure trove of decorated art and design history spanning thousands of years. This museum is also located on Crowell Road and is open from 10 a.m. to 5.45 p.m. but stays open until 10 p.m. on Fridays.
Museum of London – There are lots of museums in London to choose from and most are free. The Museum of London shares the history of the capital city through galleries, exhibitions, and displays. The museum can be reached by stairs, escalators, or lift from Aldersgate Street, London Wall, or St Martin’s-le-Grand; just a 5-minute walk from Barbican or St Paul’s underground stop or a short walk from Liverpool Street train station. The museum is open from 10 am to 6 pm.
Imperial War Museum – Capturing the war stories from the First and Second World Wars, the Imperial War Museum is an impressive free thing to do in London. It is located on Lambeth Road (catch the train or underground to Elephant and Castle or Lambeth North) and is open from 10 am to 6 pm.
The British Museum – This is the world’s oldest national public museum, displaying art, literature, and artifacts showcasing the story of human history. The museum is open from 10am to 5pm and is located in Great Russell Street, a short walk from Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square, and Goodge Street underground stations.
National Gallery – A world-class art museum with some of the best paintings in the world on display from a range of famous painters. Located in Trafalgar Square and is open from 10am to 6pm.
Science museum – There are lots of scientific discoveries to be had in this Science museum, with many attractions for both children and adults. The museum can be found on Exhibition Road and is open from 10am to 6pm.
Tate Britain – Located at Millbank, Tate Britain is open from 10am to 6pm, offering sculptors from Henry Moore and diverse paintings.
National Portrait Gallery – Open from 10am to 6pm but staying open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays, this gallery is a great free thing to do in London at night. The museum displays portraits of important figures in history with over 11,000 original works. The gallery is in St. Martin’s Place so get the underground to Charing Cross or Leicester Square for a short walk.
Wallace Collection – Located in Hertford House and open from 10am – 5pm, this museum offers a collection of fine and decorate art pieces dating backing to 18th century.
Saatchi Gallery – This lesser-town art gallery shares contemporary works from international artists. The gallery is at the Duke of York’s Head Quarter near Sloane Square underground station and is open from 10am – 6pm.
TIP: If you’re interested in becoming part of the cultural scene, you might also want to keep an eye out for part-time museum jobs in London.
4. VISIT THE HARRY POTTER FILM LOCATIONS
As a fan of Harry Potter, this is high up on my list. You can visit various film locations around London including platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station, Leadenhall Market; the film location for Diagon Alley, and Australia House – where the interior shots of Gringotts were filmed.
Have plenty of time? Take the free Harry Potter Tour of London by Strawberry Tours. This is an informative journey that takes you around locations such as Picadilly Circus and Trafalgar Avenue whilst the tour guide explains the filmmaking techniques and location areas from the movies.
5. THE ICONIC BRIDGES OF LONDON
Perfect for photographers, London is home to a host of fascinating bridges that can be photographed and admired across the city. The Millennium Bridge and the Tower of London Bridge are popular choices for tourists visiting London.
The landmarks around the city make for the perfect Instagram spots in London so make sure you take full advantage of the free landmarks, sites, and museums!
6. RECREATE THE ABBEY ROAD BEATLES PHOTO
Fans of The Beatles may wish to head to Abbey Road and take a photo of themselves crossing the iconic Beatles Album walking on a Zebra crossing.
Getting to Abbey Road: The nearest station to Abbey Road is St John’s Wood tube station (northern line). Exit the station and head along Grove End Road and then turn right around 500 m to find yourself on Abbey Road. The recording studios and crossing are just after the junction.
7. WATCH THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE
A must whilst in London, head to the famous Buckingham Palace
and watch the daily changing of the guard. This is a traditional ceremony of the guards, in their elaborate attire with feathered long hats and bright red jackets, changing over shifts. The ceremony lasts for 45 minutes and the stern, unison movement of the guards is fantastic to watch.
After being suspended through 2020, the Changing of the Guard will return at 11am every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
8. VISIT PICCADILLY CIRCUS
Piccadilly Circus is a road junction in the West End of London, where Regent Street meets Piccadilly but expect lots of traffic. Visit here by foot rather than drive.
As one of London’s busiest Squares, it is easy to rush straight through Piccadilly Circus. Take some time to admire the neon signs and the Statue of Eros. Grab a coffee in one of the many cafes nearby and watch the world pass by through the window.
9. TAKE A STROLL AROUND A FLOWER MARKET
For those who love some color in their life, head to one of London’s many flower markets. Columbia Road Flower Market in Shoreditch can be found between Bethnal Green and Old Street, offering beautiful exotic flowers. This historic and busy rose is also worth wandering around with its independent boutique shops and homes lined with hanging plants and pots.
Alternatively, head to the New Covent Flower Market; ideal for florists or flower arrangers. It is the place to go for wholesalers and there its a variety of flowers to choose from in this market.
You can find flowers at Borough Market too or the Flower Warehouse is a lesser-known warehouse in Bethnal Green.
10. TAKE A WALK IN A PARK
Although busy and cramped, there are some beautiful parks to be found in London. A favorite of mine is visiting Kensington Gardens which holds the popular Peter Pan statue or Richmond Park which is home to free-roaming deer. Hyde Park is a famous choice for many; particularly over the Christmas holidays when it is transformed into Winter Wonderland, a free attraction with various gift and food markets along with fairground rides, ice skating rinks, a Christmas Circus, and the Ice Kingdom.
Greenwich Park offers some stunning views across the River Thames. Regent’s Park provides a beautiful rose garden, open-air theatre, sporting areas, and the London Zoo. There are some beautiful gardens to visit in the UK – take a picnic in the summer months and enjoy.
11. BROWSE STREET MARKETS
Enjoy wandering around and trying some delicious food at Borough Market, bring cash if you want more than just a taster sample. Head to Brick Lane Market on Sunday mornings which sells a bit of everything, whilst Camden market is a good choice when you’re looking for some unique fashion. Camden is also home to some of the best hostels in London so check this neighborhood out if you are on a budget.
Portobello Road and Market are home to antique stalls with a variety of galleries and arcades scattered amongst them.
12. READ A BOOK AT THE BRITISH LIBRARY
Those who enjoy a bit of history can head to the Library and view the Magna Carta and original Beatles lyrics.
Open from 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursday then closing at 6pm on Fridays and 5pm on the weekends, the British Library is one of the unique free things to do in London in the evening.
The main entrance is on Euston Road, just a very short walk from Kings Cross and St Pancras International and Euston train stations as well as Euston Square underground. However, there is no onsite parking so stick to public transport or catch an Uber.
13. A RED PHONE BOX
Although not used as much nowadays, I still can’t resist a photo inside a red phone booth. These are dotted around London whilst a blue Police Phone Box can be found outside Earl’s Court Tube Station – used in the famous BBC series, Doctor Who.
14. VISIT LEICESTER SQUARE
A bustling square that always reminds me of a British Times Square. Here you can explore the expansive M&M store and various souvenir stores. It also hosts many movie premieres and an array of eateries.
15. CATCH A PERFORMANCE AT THE SCOOP
Enjoy free music and performances at The Scoop; the outdoor amphitheater near city hall.
This is a large outdoor amphitheater, fitting up to 1000 people for their entertainment shows. Arrive early as seating is limited, especially for the film showings.
16. GET A GREAT VIEW OF LONDON AT THE SKY GARDEN
The garden is located from floors 34 to 37 of the Walkie Talkie building and gives you unobstructed views across London. With clear skies, you can expect to see the London Eye, the Share, St Paul’s, Tower Bridge, and Canary Wharf.
Get some shots from the outdoor observatory deck, take in a glass of wine from the bar or stroll around the leveled greenery that gives this place its name Sky Garden.
17. VISIT SOMERSET HOUSE
Famous for its courtyard and expansive Georgian architecture, Somerset House is a great way to spend a hot summer day in London. Enjoy the dancing courtyard fountains during the summer which then turn into an ice rink during the winter.
18. VISIT WESTMINSTER ABBEY
Everyone is welcome to attend the services for free so visit the Abbey on a Sunday.
Head to the church for an Evensong service of beautiful choir singing – this is held on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 5pm and at 3pm on both weekend days.
Expect to see stunning interiors in this historic church which has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of 17 monarchs.
19. WINDOW SHOP AT OXFORD STREET
Browse the stores of famous Oxford Street; which is particularly magical during the winter months when the Christmas lights make the street sparkle.
20. BIG BEN AND THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
A favorite London landmark, Big Ben and its surrounding areas is a top choice for tourists in London. Across the river from Big Ben is the famous London Eye and the surrounding streets offer some great London pubs where you may even bump into an MP on their lunch break.
FREE THINGS TO DO IN LONDON AT NIGHT
- Landmarks at night – Tour the city’s famous landmarks to capture some great shots at night. Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, and Harrods are some great places that light up at night.
- The Museums – Many of the museums offer a late-night opening at least one day a week. Visit the British Museum, Tate Modern, National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum in the evening to get a quieter experience.
- Hampstead Observatory – From Hampstead Heath, you can enjoy great views of the London skyline. Head here on a Friday or Saturday evening when the Observatory opens its telescopes for public use from 8 – 10pm.
- Angel Comedy Club – Open 7 nights a week, the Angel Comedy Club is a free comedy venue at the Camden Head in Islington. However, you will be expected to buy a drink during your visit.
- Free Harry Potter Tour – On Mondays, there’s a free tour of Harry Potter London film locations including St. Paul’s, Horseguards Avenue used as the Ministry of Magic entrance and Godwin’s Court; used for Knockturn Alley.
- Hootannay Brixton – This bar is home to some great reggae, folk and ska gigs that run throughout the year for free.
- Hamley’s Toy Store – The store stays open until 9pm and is a great place to visit in London with children, even in the evening.
- Winter Wonderland – If you are visiting London at Christmas time, head to Hyde Park in the evenings for a free, festive event. Take in the many lights and decorations, browse the shops.