Are you looking for free things to do in London? We crafted this guide which will help you to choose the best free activities. London is a big city and there is a lot of (free) things to do! If you are short on budget, use this list to plan your free list of activities of what to do in London on a small budget.
It’s no secret that London is one of the most expensive places in the world to visit. Between the currency exchange, the high prices of food, and costly hotel stays the budget for your trip can really add up.
Being budget-conscious in London doesn’t mean that you need to miss out on some of the amazing things the city has to offer. In fact, London has quite a number of free things to do that can keep you busy for your whole trip and will leave you enough room in your budget to enjoy a few pints at a local pub or a traditional Sunday roast.
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8. Changing of the Guard
No visit to London is complete without seeing the Changing of the Guard, which is also known referred to as Guard Mounting. The Changing of the Guard is exactly as the name suggests, it’s a formal ceremony that takes place when one set of guards protecting Buckingham Palace is replaced by a new set of guards.
This ceremony takes place on most days at 11 am but officially kicks off at 10:45 in the morning. The days of the ceremony will change depending on what’s happening at Buckingham Palace so be sure to check the Household Division website for the most up to date schedule.
Because this is one of the most popular things to do for tourists in London, make sure to get there well before the start time for a great spot. The best place to catch the action is right in front of the main entrance at Buckingham Palace. Depending on how large the crowds are you may miss some of the actual parades but you will have front row seats to the main event, the actual changing of the guard.
7. Visit an iconic museum
As England’s cultural center, there are many different museums to choose from when visiting London. What many tourists forget is that many of them are actually free to enter! The British Museum is of course one of the more well-known and famous museums in London as it has quite a large collection of various artifacts paying homage to human history, art, and cultural history. In fact, the museum houses one of the largest and extensive collections in the world which sits at roughly 8 million works.
For tourists more interested in the history of nature, the Natural History Museum is a great free attraction to visit. This museum is a particular favorite for families because there are always fun exhibits and events happening for children. A new exhibit coming up is the Fantastic Beasts: The Wonders of Nature that bridges the gap between the wizarding world and the natural world with amazing animals throughout history that almost seem too out-of-this-world to be real!
Some other free museums tourists can visit in London include the Museum of London for the amazing history of London, Museum of London Docklands for the interesting history of the River Thames, Faraday Museum for science lovers and the Queen’s House to view a formal royal residence.
6. Have a picnic and enjoy a park
The green spaces dotted around London, are one of the things that make the city so unique. On a sunny day, it’s not hard to find the parks filled with Londoners and tourists basking in the (pretty rare) sunshine. Look ahead for the weather and try to enjoy at least one day out in the sun. Pack a picnic and get some beers, a bottle of wine, or whatever drink you choose to sit and enjoy the nice weather.
Having trouble choosing which park to rest in? Hyde Park is the largest of the royal parks and is located near Kensington Palace. Hyde Park is most famous for ‘speakers’ corner’ which is a paved area near Marble Arch that is traditionally used for debates and speeches. If you’re lucky you may even catch a speech happening in real-time during your visit! Also located right near Hyde Park you’ll find Kensington Gardens which were actually once the private gardens of Kensington Palace.
One of the loveliest parks to wander around is St. James’s Park. It’s located near Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, and Westminster so it’s quite accessible and easy to see on a day touring around the city. Take a stroll along the Diana Princess of Wales memorial walk or bird watch in this beautiful space, you will not be disappointed.
While it may be a small space, one of the coolest green spaces to visit in London is Parliament Square. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a day that it’s not roped off, take a seat on the grass and watch the world go by in front of you. On one side you’ll find the iconic Westminster Abbey, on another the House of Parliament, Whitehall to the north, and the Supreme Court to the west. Quite a lot of activity for a small square.
5. Hunt for the wizarding world
Harry Potter fans will love wandering around London as there are a number of different locations that were used to film the movies. A great spot to see is Leadenhall Market which was used as the setting for Diagon Alley. This covered market is open for pedestrians only and quite a unique space to wander through. The streets are cobblestone and on a Friday night, you can catch pub goers spilling out into the streets.
Kings Cross used to just be a busy train station but now it’s a must-see destination for Harry Potter fans looking to catch a glimpse of Platform 9 ¾. It’s best to visit this spot either early in the morning or later into the evening to avoid the rush hour crowds or the hoards of other tourists looking to get their own picture with the shopping cart that sits halfway into the wall.
The Australian High Commissioner or better known as Australia House is not just a place for Australians to apply for visas, it doubles as Gringotts bank! If you find yourself in London during the week you can take a quick peek inside to really transport yourself into the Harry Potter scenes. Just remember, this is a functioning building so be quick with your visit.
4. Window shop to your heart’s desire
There’s no shortage of amazing shopping spots in London. Even if you don’t have the budget to purchase anything, looking is free! One of the best places to do this is Piccadilly circus. The road junction is really busy and almost feels like a miniature Times Square with its large bright billboards and busy traffic. Piccadilly Circus is particularly lovely at Christmastime with its light displays hanging between buildings. Walking through Piccadilly circus you can also discover the world-famous Harrods toy store, a place worth walking into and visiting if you have kids, although you may be forced to spend a little money on toys!
One of the most underrated spots in London is Covent Garden. The area is a hotspot for shopping and entertainment. It’s located on the West side of London and features a large pedestrian-only piazza. Inside there are lots of different shops and vendors to look at, everything from fashion stalls to craft stalls. For only a few pounds, make your way up to Punch & Judy for a pint and a really good view of Covent Garden below.
3. Take a walk along the river Thames
One of the most famous rivers in the world has to be the river Thames which runs right through London dividing the city. As you walk along the banks of the river you will pass so many wonderful sights it could easily keep you entertained (for free) for days.
South Bank is located, as you may have guessed, along the Southern part of river Thames. There are lots of things to do as you wander along and so many great food vendors to stop at for a quick bite to eat. Along the South Bank you will also find the London Eye. Even though it’s not free to ride it is free to look at and it’s quite a sight!
Tourists of all ages love to visit the South Bank because there is truly something for everyone. There is a large skate park, Leake street tunnel filled with Instagram-worthy shots, the Southbank Centre Book Market, and lots of different festivals throughout the year.
As you walk along the river Thames you will also surely come across the Millennium Bridge. This steel suspension bridge was constructed for (as you may have guessed) the turn of the century in the year 2000. It had originally collapsed due in large part to the lateral movement of pedestrians walking along it but reopened in 2002 and has been a popular attraction ever since. It’s one of the best ways to get from the south side of the Thames to the north and definitely has the best view of St. Paul’s cathedral as you walk along it.
2. Find some epic views of London
If you’re not willing to pay for the expensive ticket to the Shard, there are still a number of options for great views of London. You just need to know where to look.
Primrose Hill is located in Regent’s Park and is made up of six protected viewpoints of London. You won’t have to climb too high to reach the top but the short trek is definitely worth it. The trees around Primrose Hill are purposely kept short so that the views are protected. This spot was once home to some pretty deadly duels and prize-fights, now it’s a quiet and peaceful place to wander around.
London’s highest garden (and definitely one of the most beautiful) is the Sky Garden. While the facility is free to enter, you will need to purchase tickets in advance if you want to secure a spot to get inside (there is no guarantee for walk-in guests). The tickets go on sale for 3 weeks in advance to make sure to secure your spot once available. A fun fact if you plan on visiting, the building the Sky Garden is located inside is known as the Walkie Talkie because of its unique shape and design.
1. Explore the neighborhoods
Part of what makes London unique is the diverse neighborhoods that exist around the city. Outside of the square mile of the city of London, every pocket has something unique to offer, you only have to walk around a few of them to see it.
One of the more well-known and popular neighborhoods in London (thanks to a particular movie) is Notting Hill. Colorful, trendy, and bohemian-esque, locals and tourists alike love this spot. Take a walk down Portobello road and window shop at the various little storefronts along the way. On Saturdays, there are vendors lined up and down the streets bringing the area to life.
If you are looking for more of a hipster-vibe than Shoreditch is where you want to explore. Walking around this area you will get to see so many different artsy shops, restaurants, and cafes. There are tons of graffiti spots to look at to make your walk even more exciting. Definitely take a gander through Spitalfields market while you’re in the area.
Slightly farther afield you’ll find Greenwich, one of the loveliest neighborhoods in London to wander around. In fact, you likely won’t even feel like you’re in the city as you saunter through the leafy streets. If you’re willing to shell out a little bit of money you can even straddle two hemispheres at the Prime Meridian but if you look hard enough you can see it for free from the gates!
London is a city with so many things to see and do it really is hard to spend only a few days or even a week here. If you are short on time or are using London as a stopover, make sure to plan your trip in advance so that you are ready to hit the pavement once you get to the city. With so many free things to do in London, you’ll be hard-pressed to fill up your time with activities you actually have to pay for!