07 Feb The Top 21 Free Things To Do In London
London is on most people’s bucket list and with so much to see and do it can sometimes pull at the purse strings. However, London doesn’t have to be expensive, in fact, it is one of the top cities in the world for having free attractions and things to do. To help you get started on exploring the best of what London has to offer, we have rounded up the best 21 free things to do in London.
1. Watch the Changing of the Guard
A trip to London isn’t complete without watching the famous Changing of the Guard. Dating back over 500 years the Changing of the Guard in London is a significant show that represents the changing of responsibility for the security of the palace.
This ceremony lasts about 45 minutes and begins on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. Listen to the powerful music played by a regimental band and watch as the guards in their immaculate uniforms and bearskin hats march and change over shifts in front of Buckingham Palace.
Top tips for the Changing of the Guard in London:
- Changing of the Guard starts at 11 am on the dot, to get the best spot to watch it from turn up no later than 10.15. Find a list of times and dates here.
- Changing of the Guard can be cancelled as late as 10.45 if it is wet weather. So always make sure to check the weather conditions before you head out to watch.
- Best places to watch: Buckingham Palace railings (gets very crowded so get there early), Victoria Memorial and Spur Road.
2. Wander the many parks in London
Did you know that roughly 47% of London is actually green space? With eight royal parks that cover almost 4,900 acres and many more green spaces, London’s parks and commons are abundant with wildlife, tranquil walks, and peaceful work-outs. More than 13,000 species inhabit the 3,000 parks in London and High Barnet is even home to a tree that is claimed to be over 2,000 years old. The parks in London are full of history, life, and are perfect to explore when you are staying in London.
Top tips for visiting the parks in London:
- Don’t miss out on the bathing ponds located on Hampstead Heath.
- Take a walk in Richmond Park and watch the deer who have inhabited the park from the 1600s.
- With so many performances, speakers, and events happening in Hyde Park make sure you stop by to discover what’s happening in this beautiful London park.
3. Visit the many free art galleries in London
London’s free art galleries are the perfect way to spend a day in this fabulous city. If you fancy modern artwork, large installations, and minimalism then the Tate Modern is the place for you. Set in the old Bankside Power Station, Tate Modern is home to a range of British art between the dates of 1900 to the present day. If you are more of an art connoisseur who loves the older artwork, then pay a visit to the most formidable building on Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery holds some of the most famous paintings in the world, and with painters such as Rembrandt and Botticelli calling this gallery home, you shouldn’t miss out on a visit. There are plenty more free art galleries in London to choose from with the Wallace Collection, Serpentine Gallery, and Whitechapel Gallery taking the top spots.
Top tips for visiting free art museums in London:
- It’s not unusual to find queues so get to the galleries early to make the most of your day in London.
- Bags are not allowed in some art galleries, so pack light.
4. See London’s iconic sites
London is a tourist’s paradise and getting those Insta-worthy snaps is easy. As the night creeps in why not stand by the London Eye or Tower Bridge and watch as they light up London. Take a walk down the River Thames and over the well-known Millennium Bridge to view St. Paul’s Cathedral. There is plenty to see in London and the capital can be a romantic place for late night walks or family strolls by the river.
Top tips for London’s iconic sites:
- The tube between Charing Cross to Covent Garden is just a 10-minute walk apart and on the way, you will spot the famous Savoy Hotel, Covent Garden Market, and the London Transport Museum, so save those pennies and see the sites instead!
- Wear your comfiest shoes, once you start walking you won’t want to stop.
- We prefer sightseeing at night when the lights are sparkling.
5. Watch a London theatre performance
Although Broadway makes the big bucks, you can find just as good performances at one of the open-air theatres in London. With new theatre’s popping up annually keep an eye on what’s available and head down early to make sure you get a seat. For some of the best performances watch a show at The Scoop or River Stage at the National Theatre. With fresh adaptations of some of the classics, these theatres are the perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening for free.
Top tips for open-air theatres in London:
- Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? The summer performances are always the best, less rain, good weather, and what’s better than sitting outside on a beautiful summer’s evening.
- Always check the timetables so you are guaranteed to watch your favourite shows.
6. Discover the weird and the wonderful
There are plenty of museums you can enter for free in London, however, our absolute favourite has to be the Horniman Museum. Not only can visitors discover the sundial trail around the gardens, but the inside of the museum is full of the weird and wonderful. Discover the Merman on show, the over-stuffed walrus, or explore the aquarium (for a small charge). There is so much to learn in this museum that you could spend hours looking at their exhibits and gardens.
Top tips for the Horniman Museum London:
- Take one of the Horniman Museum’s tours and talks that run for around 10-15 minutes. They take place on Wednesdays at 4pm, Saturdays at 4pm, and Sundays at 11.30am.
- The museum and gardens are both wheelchair and pushchair friendly.
- Most visitors arrive mid-morning, so turn up early or head over a bit later to avoid the queue.
7. Who nose the way around London?
Soho in London like much of central London can be expensive, but there is a tour you can do of the area for free and well worth the time. In 1997 the artist Rick Buckley created the “Seven Noses of Soho” to stage a protest about the many CCTV cameras that were appearing on London’s streets. Sticking out of the buildings around Soho and the surrounding areas there can be found noses protruding from the walls of the building. The myth goes that is you are able to locate all seven of the noses great wealth and luck will fall upon you. You can find clues to the locations here.
Top tips for finding the seven noses of Soho:
- As a starting point choose Covent Garden or Holborn Underground Stations.
- Keep an eye out for the ears that are also built into some of the walls.
8. Listen to great music at The Southbank Centre
London’s Southbank Centre is well known for its events, but lesser known for its incredible variety of free music performances. Whether you fancy some indie pop or smooth jazz, The Southbank Centre is the place to be. Here in this event space, you can also experience the food markets and some of the exhibitions for free as well. Check out a full list of events here.
Top tips for The Southbank Centre:
- The Waterloo tube station is the closest to The Southbank Centre at just 200 metres away.
- There is always something on, so there are many events perfect for families, groups, going solo, or for couples.
- Arrive early as events can get very busy.
9. Take a tour around Japan
Kyoto Gardens was originally opened in 1991 as a gift from Kyoto to symbolise the friendship between Japan and the United Kingdom. Since its opening, it has drawn in visitors from across the world, and a few minutes in these beautiful gardens is guaranteed to lift your spirits and rejuvenate your soul. Why not take a picnic and set up on one of the lawns whilst taking in your surroundings?
Top tips for visiting the Kyoto Gardens in London:
- The gardens are home to free-roaming peacocks, so be respectful of their space in the gardens.
- During the summer, Holland Park, where Kyoto Gardens are located hosts opera performances. If you have some budget to listen to these shows, they are well worth it.
- Don’t miss out on the Koi Carp that live in the ornamental ponds.
10. Visit a Hindu temple
You might not find Neasden in London swarming with tourists, but this temple is worth the visit. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir was built in 1995 after His Holiness Yogiji Maharaj who, on his visit to London in 1970, expressed his vision to have a traditional Mandir built in London. After his passing, Pramukh Swami Maharaj made his guru’s vision a reality. The Mandir was the first traditional Hindu temple in Europe. Enjoy the peaceful surroundings and the tranquillity of the temple with its detailed marble and wooden carvings.
Top tips for visiting BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London:
- The Mandir is open Monday to Sunday between 9 am and 6 pm. Allow around 2 hours for a complete tour of this incredible building.
- Wheelchair access and lifts are available.
- Don’t miss out on the exhibition “Understanding Hinduism” – a permanent exhibition located on the lower floor of the Mandir.
11. View London from above with the Sky Garden
20 Fenchurch Street is home to three storeys of landscaped gardens with 360 degrees of panoramic views of London. Sit in these beautiful gardens as you watch the sun rise over the skyline, or head on to Francis Golding Terrace, located on level 35 of the building. These public gardens are the highest in London and are the perfect place to experience London at its absolute finest.
Top tips for visiting the Sky Garden:
- There are only a limited number of tickets available each day, so make sure you book in advance. Check here for more information.
- Make sure you plan your trip in advance and travel with enough time as tickets have specific times attached to them.
- Remember to take your camera!
12. Explore London’s farms
When you think of London the first thought you have is probably not one of farms. However, London is home to numerous city farms including Hackney City Farm, Mudchute Park and Farm, and Spitalfields City Farm. All of them offer an educational experience for both children and adults and have an array of animals for you to visit and hold whilst you are there. These farms are the perfect day out for families staying in London.
Top tips for visiting London’s farms:
- It might go without saying, but if the weather has been wet don’t forget your wellies.
- Don’t miss out on the gift shops as they often sell produce from the animals including freshly laid eggs.
13. Try and get through to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross
If you are a Harry Potter fan then you will already know that King’s Cross is a famous tourist hotspot. Known for its photo opportunities and Insta-perfect poses, visitors can hold on to their luggage trolley and pose at the entrance of platform 9 3/4. If you fancy spending some money on turning yourself into a proper wizard, then try out The Elixir of love at the Booking Office Bar or head to the Harry Potter gift shop.
Top tips for entering the wizarding world of Harry Potter:
- Why not get the perfect shot by wearing your house colours or drawing on Harry Potter’s scar? What house are you?
- Taking your own photos are free, however, you can get your photo professionally done whilst wearing your house scarf for a fee.
- Queues to take photos can get busy, so if you are visiting during a weekend or school holiday make sure you get in early to avoid the crowds.
14. Explore Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath
Kenwood House was originally built in the early 1600s and transformed into a neoclassical villa during the 18th century. The house is now home to a collection of paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer. Visitors can explore the grand Music Room, the old kitchen, and the magnificent library. Experience the incredible architecture, artwork, and perfectly manicured gardens. Kenwood House is a great day out for those staying in London.
Top tips for visiting Kenwood House:
- Kenwood House is free admission but if you want a tour of this amazing house you will have to pay a small fee.
- The house also has a shop, restaurant, and cafe for guests to enjoy.
- Car parking is available for a charge and there are limited spaces available, so get there early if you are driving.
15. Be part of a 700-year-old ceremony at the Tower of London
The ancient ceremony of locking up the Tower of London dates back over 700 years. At exactly 21.30 the Chief Yeoman Warder locks the gate and passes the keys to the Resident Governor of the Tower. only a small group of people are allowed to watch this event each night meaning that only the privileged few have witnessed this historic event. This enactment is still an important part of the Tower of London as the Crown Jewels and invaluable objects are housed in the tower.
Top tips for locking up the Tower of London:
- Tickets to this are free but need to be booked up to a year in advance, you can find more details here.
- The tickets become sold out very quickly due to the ceremony being highly sought after, so when a release date is announced make sure you are first on the website.
- Due to the exclusivity of the ceremony photography is not permitted at any time during the event.
16. Attend an exhibit
Many of London’s museums are free to enter with exhibits available at an additional price, but, many exhibitions can be entered for free as well. With so much going on at the museums across London there is bound to be an exhibition that will spark your interests. Whether you enjoy the sciences, suffragette history, or animals, you can find a list of free exhibitions here.
Top tips for attending exhibits in London:
- Exhibits come and go so always check the web link above for what exhibitions are on during your stay.
- Check in advance if you need a ticket to enter your exhibition and whether you have been given a time slot to enter.
17. Explore a variety of free museums
We have already mentioned the Horniman Museum but London is home to a great many free museums, more than we could ever possibly list here. Our absolute favourites to visit have to be: The National History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, and the Science Museum. A list of the best free entry museums can be found here. There is a museum for everybody in London, from military museums to design museums.
Top tips for museums in London:
- Check the “what’s on” page on the museum’s sites, there is often a lot going on which you won’t want to miss out on.
- If you are going with children the V&A Museum of Childhood and the Science Museum are great places to visit.
- Half terms and weekends can get very busy during the mid-morning, so try getting there earlier or later on in the day.
18. Wellcome to London
If there is one place perfect for everyone, the Wellcome Collection is it. Housing the weird, the wonderful, and the downright strange, the Wellcome Collection offers exhibits for the “incurably curious”. Whether you are fascinated about the human body or buildings through the ages, the Wellcome Collection has it all. Established in 1936 Wellcome is a global charity which is set on improving health with ideas on how to thrive in our environments.
Top tips for visiting the Wellcome Collection, London:
- The nearest stations are Euston Square, Euston, and Warren Street.
- Don’t miss out on the Wellcome Collection library where you can explore the rich history of medicine.
- The Wellcome Collection also features a cafe, restaurant, and shop on-site.
19. Watch some comedy
The Top Secret Comedy Club is becoming increasingly popular each year with more and more comedians taking to the stage to entertain the crowd. The stage here has previously been graced by the likes of Andy Parsons, Rich Hall, Amy Schumer, and Russell Howard. The club often has secret celebrity guests dropping by to practice new sets or TV scenes. Most of the comedians you can see for a small price, but there are free entry performances most weeks, check here for those performances.
Top tips for the best free comedy in London:
- There are many free performances but if you can’t make those then splash out a whopping £1 to watch a night of comedy on an alternative night.
- Celebrity guests are often kept secret until the night of the performance and often cost around £12 to watch, well worth the money spent.
20. Explore the street art of London
You don’t have to visit an art gallery to see stunning artwork in London. The capital is home to numerous street art which decorates the city. The East End of London is renowned for its graffiti and street art and many free walking tours will introduce you to these pieces. This area of London is packed with creative, innovative, and provocative art. A tour of the area is the perfect way to spend your day looking for the perfect shots.
Top tips for finding street art in London:
- Tours from the Free Tours By Foot company often take a couple of hours exploring the street art locations, so wear comfy shoes.
- The street art tour starts at Exmouth Coffee Shop and you can book your tickets here.
21. Discover the sights, smells, and sounds of London’s markets
Any trip to the markets of London is unlikely to be completely free due to the enormous amounts of wonderful things on offer. But if you fancy a wander around some of the most famous markets in the UK just to take in the smells and discover a new experience then the markets are the perfect place. There are plenty of markets to choose from, with our favourites being Borough Market, Camden Market, and Portobello Road Market.
Top tips for exploring the markets in London:
- Take a camera for the brightly coloured houses of Portobello Road and the vivid colours of the markets.
- There’s a market for everyone so explore each market, it’s well worth it.