Last Updated on 16th June 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
As one of the most expensive cities in Europe, it’s no surprise that most complaints both residents and locals alike make is just how extortionate the Big Smoke can be. However, luckily, if you plan it right, London doesn’t have to break the bank and can totally be done on a budget. After all, there are still plenty of free things to do in London!
From hanging out in the grounds of a former church turned garden to enjoying one of the many free museums the city has to offer, here’s your best of free London attractions, as told by a local! However, if you’re looking for a quick overview, then I recommend enjoying the secret garden of St Dunstan in the East and seeking out wisteria throughout the city during the late spring.
Top 75 Free Things to do in London:
#1 Sky Garden
Ah, if there’s one thing that you make sure to do on your visit to London, make it the Sky Garden! Nestled in the very heart of ‘the city’, (London’s financial district), the ‘Sky Garden’ at 20 Fenchurch Street is a welcome from the hustle and bustle of daily London life.
The Sky Garden is a true respite from the busy city and a pretty one at that! However, if you’re heading to the roof terrace and bar, hoping to get some extra oxygen, then it’s important to note that there isn’t actually much of a garden to see…
#2 Enjoy the view from the Garden at 120
The coolest new (and very free) view of London can be found in the form of the Garden at 120. Located close to the Sky Garden, this rooftop terrace opened in early 2019 and offers 360-degree breathtaking views across the city, and most notably includes the chance to spy Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral.
#3 Explore the hidden gems of Greenwich
Greenwich (confusingly pronounced without the ‘w’) is situated in South-East London, about a 35-minute tube ride from the centre. Here, you can find the Greenwich Mean Time Line (where the exact hour is measured from), a quaint town and the Royal Naval College. Also of note is the sheer volume of secret spots and unusual attractions, including an under-the-Thames foot tunnel and the church where Henry VIII was baptised.
#4 Visit the Museum of London
Of all the free things to do in London, visiting a museum may be the activity I partake in the most, and not just because spending time in a cultural hub is one of the best things to do in London on a rainy day! While there are certainly dozens of free museums to enjoy in the UK capital, one of the most beautifully told is that of the Museum of London. Located in the City of London, the Museum tells the story of the city, from prehistory to when it was known as Londinium to the modern day.
#5 Stroll along the Thames
The London Eye, Tower Bridge, the Shard; all these places can be seen during a simple stroll along the Thames. Plus, the views are even better if you head there at sunset! The photo below was a puddlegram taken at More London place a couple of weeks ago.
One of the best things about London is trying to figure out how to capture all of the amazing and quirky architecture that has popped up in the city since the Industrial Revolution. From the simple to the downright bizarre, heading out for a stroll along the Thames definitely won’t disappoint!
#6 Check out some art in East London!
Never mind all of the free museums, if you’re into art, then you’ve come to the right place! London is packed with galleries, art events and the like. Plus most of the best art museums in London are completely free (apart from special exhibitions). Personal favourites of mine include the National Portrait Gallery (getting to see paintings of the Tudors up close was pretty special) and the Tate Modern.
#7 Marvel at some history
Considering that London can trace its roots back over 2000 years, there’s plenty of history to discover in the city. Known to the Romans as ‘Londinium’, today you can witness the impact each new generation has had on the city first hand. From Millenium Bridge (featured in Harry Potter) to St Paul’s Cathedral to the Houses of Parliament (built at a time when the Gothic style of architecture was just coming into fashion), the city is an architecture lover’s dream.
#8 Attend a Free festival
Whether you’re into film, art, music or something else, there’s always something new to discover and explore. From Notting Hill Carnival (the biggest street party of the year) to the New Year’s Day festival, there’s a free festival for everyone to enjoy.
#9 Listen to some live music
There are always plenty of live music events going on in the Big Smoke. Get your groove on and dance at the Forge for free every Friday night. Alternatively, there are free concerts at the Royal College of Music during certain lunchtimes and free concerts at the church Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields on various days of the week.
#10 Seek out cherry blossoms
Pops of pink can be spied all across London during springtime. Some of the best cherry blossoms in London is to be found in Chelsea and South Kensington, where the houses are huge and enclosed within equally pretty squares, which in turn are home to the likes of magnolia trees and other blossom varieties.
#11 Watch the Changing of the Guard
If you’re looking for a quintessentially British experience, then you simply need to look no further than the daily ceremony of the Changing of the Guard.
#12 Hunt for wisteria
In late April to mid-May each year, should you visit London you can expect to enjoy trailing purple, white, and pink whisps dotted all around London. Here’s a complete guide to the best wisteria in London.
#13 Enjoy the show at the Mithraeum
Old meets new at the ever-so-new exhibition which displays the Temple of Mithras below the Bloomberg building.
#14 Cross the Beatles Crossing on Abbey Road
If you’re looking to replicate that iconic shot, then you’ll want to head to the famous zerba crosswalk at Abbey Road.
#15 Stroll through Leadenhall Market
All Victorian grandeur and beautiful architecture, strolling through Leadenhall Market is akin to stepping back in time. A marketplace since the Middle Ages, now the covered walkway is filled with pubs, bars, and boutiques. Unlike many of the other London markets the city has to offer, Leadenhall is actually busier during the week than during the weekend thanks to its position
#16 Take a free and self-guided London walking tour
Here’s my free and self-guided walking tour of London.
#17 Peruse the wares of Portobello Road Market
Located in the chic Notting Hill district, this is the largest
#18 Peruse the wares of Old Spitalfields Market
Perfect to visit on a rainy day, Old Spitalfields Market can be found close to the River Thames.
#19 Peruse the wares of Camden Lock Market
Best-known for its foodie scene, as the market’s name would suggest, it’s held alongside Camden Lock.
#20 Walk across Millennium Bridge
Famed for the Harry Potter films, Millennium Bridge was installed at the turn of the century.
#21 Check out Platform 9 & 3/4
There’s even a plaque on the wall announcing the exact location of Platform 9 & 3/4.
#22 See the Ceremony of the Keys
One of those must-see events!
#23 Visit the National Gallery
Located on Trafalgar Square, some of the greatest paintings owned by the Nation are to be found within the National Gallery.
#24 Visit the National Portrait Gallery
Located next to the National Portrait Gallery, this is where many of the Nation’s greatest portraits are housed.
#25 Admire the Sir John Soane’s Museum
I’ll say no more- I don’t want to ruin the surprise!
#26 Relax at St Dunstan’s in the East
During WWII, the Christopher Wren designed St Dunstan’s in the East was bombed, leaving behind ruins which have since been transformed into a tranquil garden.
#27 Spy Roman history at the Guildhall
Free to visit, the Guildhall is filled with a breathtaking art collection.
#28 Enjoy modern artwork at the Tate Modern
Truth be told, one of the best free things to do in London is to head up to the top floor of the Tate Modern Gallery and enjoy the incredible view.
#29 Visit the Petrie Museum
One of the most important collections of Egyptian artefacts in the UK can be found on UCL university campus.
#30 Visit the British Museum
Here’s my guide to the best of the British Museum highlights.
#31 Wander around Borough Market
For the foodies out there, Borough Market is an absolute must!
#32 Relax in Kensington Gardens
All glittering fountains and a relaxed vibe, head to Kensington Gardens for a spot of peace and quiet.
#33 See dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum
Located along Museum Row, the Natural History Museum is fascinating for all age groups.
#34 Enjoy art and design at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Established following the death of Prince Albert, the v&A is dedicated to all things design related.
#35 See flowers at Colombia Road Flower Market
Located to the North of London, Columbia Road Flower Market is held every Sunday and is free to visit.
#36 Learn stuff at the Science Museum
Fun for all ages, one of the best free things to do in London is to head to the Science Museum.
#37 Marvel at the Wallace Collection
Free to visit, the sumptuous soft furnishings and stunning paintings of the Wallace Collection can be found not far from Oxford Street.
#38 Imperial War Museum
Free to visit, the Imperial War Museum has five locations, three of which can be found in London.
#39 Picnic on Hampstead Heath
In the summer months, there is perhaps no activity more quintessentially British than enjoying a picnic during one of the rare moments of sunshine.
#40 Hide from the rain at Covent Garden
Also worth noting is that there are regular music events held in Covent Garden.
#41 Seek out the prettiest London mews streets
Throughout London, there are plenty of pretty streets known collectively as the ‘London Mews Streets’. Free to visit and wander along, these roads are formerly where the horses that once powered London would have lived. Today, the streets are characterised by their two storey buildings and cobbled lanes.
#42 Relax in Hyde Park
No more needs to be said!
#43 Snap photos at God’s Own Junkyard
A little way out of the city centre, this neon sign filled shop truly is a sight to behold.
#44 Find some Harry Potter inspirational locations
All around London, there are filming locations and inspiration destinations to be spied.
#45 Seek out Notting Hill filming locations
For fans of the iconic Rom-Com, you can go spying Notting Hill filming locations all around the city.
#46 Go searching for street art in East London
If you love street art, then you’re sure to love East London.
#47 See Trafalgar Square in real life
Trafalgar Square also happens to be home to the smallest police box in the UK, so be sure to look out for that while in the area!
#48 See the Old Curiosity Shop in Holborn
Alleged to have once been frequented by Charles Dickens himself, the Old Curiosity Shop can be found close to Holborn Tube station.
#49 Seek out London’s hidden gems
From a park located in the ruins of a former church to a place where you can see the tombstone that inspired the iconic red telephone box, there’s no shortage of secrets when it comes to the UK capital.
#50 Explore Daunt Bookshop
A pretty venue specialising in travel books, Daunt Bookshop is easily one of the prettiest bookstores in the UK capital.
#51 Step inside Westminster Abbey
Though, of course, the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral is paid entry (though the ecclesiastical building is always free for worshippers), you can still go inside Westminster Abbey for free.
#52 Smell the roses in Queen Mary’s Rose Garden
The garden has thousands of varieties of roses and is free to visit.
#53 Step inside Persephone Books
One of the most unique bookstores in London is that of Persephone Books.
#54 Visit London’s only floating ‘bookbarge’
Word on the Water is unique in that it’s London’s ‘only floating book barge’.
#55 Discover Neal’s Yard
Though much less of a secret spot than just a few years ago, Neal’s Yard remains one of London’s most beautiful hidden gems.
#56 Go window shopping at Hamley’s
One of the most iconic toy shops in the world is that of Hamley’s, a store founded several centuries ago.
#57 Stroll down the Burlington Arcade
For the ultimate luxurious window shopping experience, you simply need to make your way to Burlington Arcade, which can be found not far from the glittering lights of Piccadilly.
#58 Enjoy London’s Christmas Lights
In the wintertime, London’s streets sparkle at night with millions of twinkling lights.
#59 Enjoy a lunch time concert at St Martin’s in the Fields
Situated on the fringes of the historic heart of the city, lunchtime concerts are a regular occurrence at this church.
#60 Snap a photo of a red telephone box
If only to say you’ve done it!
#61 Stargaze in Hampstead
From September to April each year, the observatory at Hampstead is open to the public for free!
#62 Check out the Grant Museum of Zoology
The Grant Museum of Zoology is quite near to the final resting place of Jeremy Bentham and is part of the UCL collection of university museums.
#63 Museum of Childhood
Part of the Victoria & Albert collection of museums, the Museum of Childhood documents everything to do with being a young person.
#64 Visit the King’s Cross Light Tunnel
Located in the King’s Cross district of the city, the Light Tunnel can be found beneath the city.
#65 Explore the church of St Mary Woolnoth
Located in the heart of historic London, St Mary Woolnoth dates back to
#66 Relax in Paddington Street Gardens
Learn about the UK’s first female landscape gardener at Paddington Street Gardens, a teeny tiny green space not far from Daunt Books.
#67 Visit the Queen’s House & Tulip Stairs
Free things to do in the area include visiting the Queen’s House (home to the infamous spiral Tulip Stairs) and checking out the National Maritime Museum.
#68 Snap photos of Little Venice
Want to experience Italy but don’t fancy hopping on a plane? Well, you need only head to Little Venice, an often forgotten corner of Regent’s Park in central London.
#69 See an eclectic mix of objects at the Wellcome Collection
Situated just across the street from Euston station, a wander inside the Wellcome Collection is easily one of the more unusual free things to do in London.
#70 Visit a fake Roman London bathhouse
Situated close to London’s embankment, the London Roman Bathhouse is actually a Victorian fake! During the late 1800s, many people visited the spot, believing it to be a former Roman bathing spot. However, further archaeological evidence has since proved to be false! Nevertheless, you can still spy the old bathhouse through a grimy window close to the Strand.
#71 Escape the crowds in Richmond Park
Spy deer, and enjoy the green space on this easy day trip from London.
#72 See a piece of the London Wall
Once upon a time, London was surrounded by thick defense walls.
#73 Visit Highgate Cemetery
One of the oldest graveyards in the city is that of Highgate cemetery.
#74 See the Magna Carta in the British Library
Free to visit, the British Library can be found close to King’s Cross. Home to one of the last remaining copies of the Magna Carta (literally translated as ‘Great Charter’),
#75 Over to you!
Got any ‘insider tips’ for free things to do in London? Let me know in the comments below!
Budget and cheap things to do in London
Though, of course, there are plenty of free things to do in London, if you have a little more London budget to spare, then there are also plenty of fun things to do that won’t break the bank (and are, for the most part, less than £10.) And between seeing the view from the top of a historic monument to visiting one of the quirkier museums the city has to offer, here’s your guide to the best of budget London.
#76 Go up the Monument to the Great Fire of London
Situated in the historic City of London district of the UK capital, the Monument to the Great Fire of London stands just a few hundred feet from where the first allegedly first broke out.
#77 Enjoy a performance at the Globe Theatre
While some of the more expensive seats can end up being pretty pricey, if you’re visiting the Big Smoke on a budget then it’s worth noting that you can often find tickets for performance for as little as £5. This especially goes for lesser-known performances and last-minute tickets.
#78 Enjoy a glass of wine at Gordon’s Wine Bar
As the name might suggest, there is little else on offer at Gordon’s than wine! Located along Embankment and the perfect bar to head to for a late night drink with friends in the summertime, be sure to note that Gordon’s Wine Bar can get pretty busy, especially so during holidays and weekend evenings!
#79 Explore Dr Johnson’s House
Even if you’ve never heard of Samuel Johnson before, you’ll no doubt have used his most famous creation at some point or another. After all, Dr Johnson actually composed one of the most famous versions of the English language dictionary.
#80 Marvel at the Painted Gallery in the Old Naval College
Recently reopened following several years of renovation works, the Old Naval College can be found in the very heart of