London is one of the most exciting cities in the world, though visitors generally worry that the city is an expensive destination to see. But don’t let people put you off with tales of how expensive London can be – should you choose your attractions wisely, there is an incredible amount to do throughout the city without spending any money.
For instance the city boasts spectacular parks and gardens, people watching opportunities which will make you stare, and travelers will find all of London’s major museums are free. Historic markets like Covent Garden don’t charge admission, and it is here where the city comes alive with street performers and musicians…for free!
Breathe in the fresh river air while walking along the Thames, wait to watch Tower Bridge open and close, enjoy galleries featuring some of history’s best art, and marvel in the architecture of palaces and parliament buildings from the outside. The reality is that there are plenty of ways to enjoy London for free. Here are just 7 fabulous ideas to start with.
Free Walking Tour
London aims to be one of the most walkable cities in the world, and it’s really easy to catch a free walking tour here. Students and freelance tour guides offer tours with no upfront cost, and this is a fabulous way to orientate yourself with the city while taking in popular tourist destinations like Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.
Though for those who don’t like group tours, or aren’t fond of feeling pressured to tip, it’s just as easy to download a free walking map of the city for a self guided tour.
London galleries feature some of the finest artworks in the world, and you will find free admission at the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, National Portrait Gellery, National Gallery and The Wallace Collection.
Tate Modern houses contemporary art, and even if you’re not a fan of this type of collection, the building is amazing in itself. The Tate Britain exhibits British Art dating back to the sixteenth century, and the National Portrait Gallery houses pictures of aristocracy through the ages.
Most major galleries stay open late. Galleries like the Tate Modern are located incredibly close to London’s most stylish and affordable hotels.
London’s major museums are all free, though do note that the majority of them offer special exhibitions which do run at a fee. The Natural History Museum is one of the world’s finest, and the Museum of London will educate you on the history of London from Roman times to today.
Also check out the British Library. Not just for researchers and scholars, this is a huge complex which includes the Treasures exhibition, a display with literature as diverse as Magna Carta and original Beatles lyrics.
Free Music & Entertainment
Street performers in London are some of the finest, and found throughout the energetic marketplaces like Covent Garden and Camden Town. Though there are also regular free concerts open to the public at the National Theatre, and you can’t say you’ve visited London without hearing Big Ben chime. Stand in Parliament Square at noon and listen as he makes his music!
Those interested more in the small screen can catch a TV show being recorded at the BBC – it’s free to be part of the studio audience as it’s being recorded. It’s also free to watch a trial at the Central Criminal Court if live legal proceedings are more your speed.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for free WiFi throughout the city, hit up any of London’s Apple Stores, Starbucks, Pret a Manger or McDonalds.
Granted, Changing of the Guard is a tourist trap, though it’s something everyone must see. It runs ever day in the summer at 11.30, and visitors are advised to arrive early.
Those who request permission in advance can also witness Ceremony of the Keys, the nightly lock-up of the Tower of London. Every night for the past 100 years, the Teoman Warders have performed the same gate-closing ritual. It has never been cancelled.
Parks & Markets
London is quote famous for a number of popular street markets. From Camden Market and Portobello Market, as well as Greenwich Market, there are a fabulous range of window shopping opportunities to keep you on your toes. The markets have a fabulous atmosphere if you’re not there to spend.
In terms of parks, Hyde Park is obviously a must, though other popular spots also include the Queen Mary Rose Gardens in Regent’s Park, feeding the ducks in St. James’s Park, and Kensington Gardens where you will find the memorial to Princess Diana. There is a zoo in Regent’s Park too.
Photo opps in London are plentiful, and the best part is, they’re all free! Visit 10 Downing Street, snap a photo in a red phone box, or take one of a famous red double-decker as the buses go bustling by.
Take a tour of the Monopoly Streets, visit Kings Cross Station for Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, or why not even try to catch the Queen! The streets of London are a magnet for celebrities, so have your camera at the ready to snap a selfie should the opportunity present.