27 of the best free things to do in London


London isn’t the world’s cheapest destination, but there are still plenty of inexpensive ways to experience the U.K. capital.

From enjoying green spaces and natural wonders to stocking up on knowledge at free museums and art galleries, you can easily create a jam-packed London itinerary without shelling out hard cash. This will help keep your travel costs low or allow you to save money for a specific paid excursion.

Let’s take a look at some of London’s best freebies.

Related: The complete guide to flying to London on points and miles

Watch the iconic ‘changing of the guard’

It’s free to watch the changing of the guard. LIFESTOCK/TWENTY20

Peeking at Buckingham Palace through its gates is completely free (alas, touring inside is not). The changing of the guard ceremony takes place on the palace forecourt outside each day.

Weather permitting, you’ll get to witness a bit of the pomp and circumstance the British royal family is known for. There’s a musical accompaniment to The King’s Guard coming off duty as the new soldiers take their place. Obviously, it’s a popular activity for London visitors, so arrive early to secure a good viewing spot.

Opening times: Usually Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 10:45 a.m. See schedule.
Nearest Tube station: St. James’s Park, Green Park or Knightsbridge.
Learn more: The Household Division website.

Reach new heights at the Sky Garden 


It’s totally free to take in the 360-degree views of the capital from its highest public garden. It sits inside the “Walkie-Talkie” building on 20 Fenchurch Street.

To enjoy the viewing terrace and the gardens themselves (which feature an array of Mediterranean and South African plants), book tickets in advance. If you want to keep the activity completely free, you’ll have to swerve Sky Garden’s restaurant and bar offerings.

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After, there are a few more free attractions within walking distance: Monument to the Great Fire of London, St. Dunstan-in-the-East Church Garden designed by Christopher Wren, Leadenhall Market and the iconic Gherkin building.

Opening times: Weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekends from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Nearest Tube station: Monument.
Learn more:
Sky Garden’s official website.

Walk along the Tower Bridge

A walk along the bridge is free. SHOMOS UDDIN/GETTY IMAGES

When you picture London, surely Tower Bridge comes to mind. Built in the late 1800s, the famous suspension bridge is truly an icon of the capital. If you want to go inside said towers or stroll along its glass walkways, you’ll have to pay to enter. However, it’s free to marvel at the bridge’s height and beauty just by walking across it.

You’ll see plenty of landmarks en route, including the Tower of London and the (slightly murky) River Thames that the bridge crosses. The Tower Bridge also makes an excellent backdrop for any wish-you-were-here photos you might post on Instagram.

Opening times: Always open.
Nearest Tube station: Tower Hill or London Bridge.
Learn more:
Tower Bridge’s official website.

Find a gem at Portobello Road market

The market is known for its antiques. SCOTT E BARBOUR/GETTY IMAGES

There is almost always something exciting happening at Portobello Road market. Busy Saturdays are easily the best time to visit the stalls specializing in antiques, vintage and secondhand finds, as well as a few edible treats. To keep things free of charge, you’ll have to stick to browsing, not buying.

If you can’t make it on a Saturday but want to shop for clothes, there are plenty of stores dotting Notting Hill’s standout street. They include antique treasure troves, retro clothing spots and gems such as The Portobello Print and Map Shop. Since the 1940s, this area has been known as a hub for antiquing.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday. Times vary from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Thursday) and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Friday and Saturday).
Nearest Tube station: Ladbroke Grove.
Learn more:
Portobello Road’s official website.

Admire art in The National Gallery

Want to see masterpieces from the likes of Vermeer, Cezanne, Da Vinci, Monet and Van Gogh for free? Head to London’s iconic Trafalgar Square and step inside The National Gallery to admire a sensational collection of European art spanning multiple centuries.

Expand your knowledge by perusing a range of free temporary exhibitions, too. Examples of past exhibitions include Turner on Tour, Discover Manet and Eva Gonzales, and Gainsborough’s Blue Boy. Note a select few temporary exhibitions do charge.

Opening times: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Extended hours until 9 p.m. on Fridays.
Nearest Tube station: Charing Cross or Leicester Square.
Learn more:
The National Gallery’s official website.

See street art in Shoreditch 

There’s plenty of street art in Shoreditch. LORENZO VIOLA/GETTY IMAGES

Shoreditch, a trendy neighborhood in East London, offers a different kind of art: street art. Look around, and you’ll find colorful murals on the sides of buildings, crazy collages on billboards and unexpected designs along the walls. It’s completely free to admire this art, though some companies also offer walking tours around the area.

Once in Shoreditch, you won’t be far from Brick Lane — a narrow street stretching through Bethnal Green and Spitalfields, famous for its curry houses and vintage shops. Brick Lane offers plenty of things to do, such as sampling street food truck offerings, playing junkyard golf and visiting the record shop Rough Trade East. Of course, those activities will cost you, but it’s still worth looking around.

Opening times: Always open.
Nearest Tube station: Liverpool Street or Shoreditch High Street Overground.

Related: The best hotels in London

Visit the Natural History Museum

Inside the Natural History Museum. MIKE KEMP/GETTY IMAGES

Admission is free to the Natural History Museum, one of London’s most fascinating museums. Booking a time slot in advance is essential during busy periods. Once inside, you can explore its vast collection of skeletons and rare artifacts that chart the course of the Earth’s history, from prehistoric dinosaurs and giant sloths to modern mammals and marine life.

The building itself, in South Kensington, is also a point of interest. If you’ve never been before, expect to spend up to several hours here poring over the different displays.

Opening times: Daily from 10 a.m. to 5:50 p.m.
Nearest Tube station: South Kensington.
Learn more:
Natural History Museum’s official website.

Get out in nature at Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands. RAY WISE/GETTY IMAGES

Think there’s no way you could visit a nature reserve in the middle of London? Think again. OK, it’s not quite in the middle of London, but it’s on the edge of Walthamstow in East London, not far from Tottenham.

Free to walk through, the wetlands comprise several walking (or running) trails overlooking the water. It provides a gorgeously green escape from the hustle and bustle of the busy city, especially during the warmer months. It’s a year-round haven for birds, with species including grey herons, kingfishers, peregrine falcons and tufted ducks. The on-site Victorian Engine House is now a visitor center and cafe.

Opening times: Daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Nearest Tube station: Blackhorse Road or Tottenham Hale.
Learn more:
London Wildlife Trust’s official website.

Go landmark and statue-spotting


Jaunt around central London long enough, and you’ll see plenty of statues and landmarks. However, if you’re looking for ways to keep yourself entertained without pulling out the credit card, challenge yourself to a scavenger hunt of the city’s most iconic landmarks and its more unusual or whimsical figures.

Just a few examples you could go looking for include:

  • Big Ben.
  • Marble Arch.
  • Wellington Arch.
  • Boadicea and Her Daughters statue on Victoria Embankment.
  • Queen Alexandra Memorial on Marlborough Road.
  • Sherlock Holmes statue on Marylebone (near the supposed site of Baker Street).
  • Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens.
  • Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.
  • Amy Winehouse statue on Chalk Farm Road.

Opening times: Varies (some always open).
Nearest Tube station: Varies, depending on which you’d like to see.

Feel stylish at the V&A Museum

Inside the silver gallery at the V&A. MIKE KEMP/GETTY IMAGES

Expect to find exhibitions and displays devoted to art, design, fashion, textiles and all things creative at the beloved Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington (commonly known as the V&A).

Its offerings vary from The Raphael Cartoons tapestry designs on display to a photography exhibit of Julia Margaret Cameron’s work. There’s also an ongoing metalwork exhibition containing gold, silver and Bronze Age items. To see what’s on display during your visit, take a look at the official website. Or, poke your head in and check it out — it is free, after all.

Opening times: Daily from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., with a late close at 10 p.m. on Fridays.
Nearest Tube station: South Kensington.
Learn more:
V&A Museum’s official website.

Try the Tate Modern or Tate Britain


Two Tate galleries, two very different types of art. Luckily, admission is free for both. As its name suggests, Tate Modern focuses on modern art and unusual materials as well as film, video and performance.

Tate Britain has several collections, including a walkthrough of British works by artist J.M.W. Turner and others ordered by date and an exhibition.

Opening times: Daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Nearest Tube station: Southwark (Tate Modern) and Pimlico or Vauxhall (Tate Britain).
Learn more: Websites for
Tate Modern and Tate Britain.

Check out the Barbican

The Barbican Estate is an example of Brutalist architecture. JCHAMBERS/GETTY IMAGES

The Barbican complex is a must-visit if you’re interested in the residential Barbican Estate’s world-famous Brutalist architecture. Luckily, you can admire it for free. Or, you can enjoy the Barbican Centre, which houses a library, cinema, cafe, restaurant, shop and various art and design exhibitions or installations — some of which are free.

There’s even a free Squish Space where children five years and under can play. It’s ideal for families looking for ways to keep busy. You may need to book a time slot in advance, though.

Opening times: Daily from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., though the estate itself is always open.
Nearest Tube station: Barbican.
Learn more:
Barbican’s official website.

Mosey along the Parkland Walk

The Spriggan along Parkland Walk. SAM MELLISH/GETTY IMAGES

You can find the Parkland Walk, one of London’s longest nature reserves, along what was once a railway track. As you stroll the 4.5-mile trail (which is broken into sections), you’ll pass Muswell Hill and Crouch End through to Stroud Green and Finsbury Park — areas you may not usually get to visit.

There are plenty of trees and wildflowers on this stroll, as well as local art, the Spriggan sculpture peering down at you from an archway and picturesque views over North London neighborhoods. It is especially lovely in the sunshine.

Opening times: Always open.
Nearest Tube station: Highgate or Finsbury Park.
Learn more:
Friends of Parkland Walk’s website (for useful maps and directions).

Climb to the top of Primrose Hill


Once you climb the short (but steep) grassy route up to the top of Primrose Hill in Regent’s Park, you can enjoy great views over the city. Again, you’ll likely get the best views on a clear or sunny day, but it’s even worth the tiny trek when the skies are gray.

The neighboring residential area of Primrose Hill is very pleasant and peaceful — think candy-colored townhouses, with a high street of on-trend cafes, boutiques and upscale grocery shops. Over the decades, Primrose Hill has been home to plenty of British stars and A-list actors, so it’s no surprise that it’s a pretty nice place.

Opening times: Daily from 5 a.m. until dusk.
Nearest Tube station: Chalk Farm.

Learn at the Science Museum

Interested in space? The history of aviation? Medicine? Math? Mechanics? Look no further than the Science Museum. Spending a day here will entertain and, hopefully, teach you a thing or two about how all of that works.

Near the Natural History Museum and V&A, the Science Museum is also free to explore. Check out numerous galleries (Exploring Space, about humanity’s journeys beyond Earth, is a must-see), some temporary galleries (recent examples include a COVID-19 vaccine exhibition, a tour related to clockmaking, and an area devoted to science fiction), as well as some of the interactive galleries (alas, not the Wonder Lab).

Opening times: Daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Nearest Tube station: South Kensington.
Learn more:
Science Museum’s official website.

Chill out in Hyde Park

Hyde Park is one of London’s many green spaces. JORG GREUEL/GETTY IMAGES

Parks are plentiful in the city, so you won’t struggle to find some green space. Hyde Park, however, is ideally located between Buckingham Palace and Kensington Gardens. It’s a convenient place to stop, sit and enjoy some people-watching before ticking more attractions off your London bucket list.

There are some points of interest in the park, too, including several statues, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain — a trickling, meandering tribute to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, first unveiled in 2004 — and the Rose Garden, which is best seen blooming in early summer. There’s also an adventure playground if you’re traveling with children.

Opening times: Daily from 5 a.m. until midnight.
Nearest Tube station: Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Marble Arch and Lancaster Gate all surround the park.
Learn more:
Hyde Park’s official website.

Step back in time at the British Museum

Inside the British Museum. JUSTIN PUMFREY/GETTY IMAGES

The British Museum takes visitors on a journey through two million years of human history, art and culture — not just in Britain but all around the globe. Galleries showcase histories and artifacts from Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, South Asia, Africa and Europe across the centuries.

The museum is free, though you must book a ticket to secure a slot. As with the Natural History Museum, you’ll want to set aside a good chunk of time to fully take in the exhibits on display.

Opening times: Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Extended hours until 8:30 p.m. on Fridays.
Nearest Tube station: Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Goodge Street or Russell Square.
Learn more:
British Museum’s official website.

Follow the footpaths along Regent’s Canal 

Regent’s Canal, seen by Victoria Park. EDUARDO FONSECA ARRAES/GETTY IMAGES

Step aside, Amsterdam — London has a canal, too. The nearly-9-mile-long Regent’s Canal stretches through a huge swathe of the city. It’s ideal for travelers who want to save money by exploring the city on foot.

A stroll along the canal will take you from Paddington’s “Little Venice” area past Regent’s Park, Camden Market, Islington and the King’s Cross area. There’s even a London Canal Museum in the King’s Cross area. Admission is 6 British pounds (about $7.50). The path will take you all the way to Hackney and Victoria Park, then finally down to the Limehouse Basin and River Thames.

Opening times: Always open.
Nearest Tube station: Paddington is a possible starting point for the route, as is Camden Town, King’s Cross St. Pancras, or Limehouse DLR stop.
Learn more: Canal & River Trust’s website.

Wander around Hampstead Heath 

Parliament Hill viewpoint at Hampstead Heath. OLIVIERGUIBERTEAU/GETTY IMAGES

Head to North London to visit one of the city’s most idyllic green spaces and one of its highest points. Check out the cityscape from Parliament Hill viewpoint, or enjoy a leisurely walk past nature ponds and through woods. There are also dedicated walking trails.

Visit the free Golders Hill Park Zoo or enjoy playgrounds and sports facilities. There are also natural swimming pools for both men and women (though they charge a fee for entry, and there are specific opening times).

Opening times: Always open.
Nearest Tube station: Hampstead, Golders Green, Hampstead Heath Overground or Gospel Oak Overground.
Learn more:
Hampstead Heath’s website.

Browse Covent Garden

Inside the market at Covent Garden. SYLVAIN SONNET/GETTY IMAGES

If you can resist the urge to splurge on clothes, jewelry, technology, books and other treats, then roaming around the famous Covent Garden is free of charge.

Expect Covent Garden to be buzzing with both locals and visitors, as it’s one of London’s best-known shopping destinations. Keep an eye out for the beautiful Royal Opera House and the colorful alleyway Neal’s Yard. If you do want to spend on something to eat, stop at the street food hotspot Seven Dials Market.

Opening times: Always open (but shop/market opening times will vary).
Nearest Tube station: Covent Garden.
Learn more:
Covent Garden’s website.

Smell the flowers at Columbia Road Market

Columbia Road is famous for its flower market each Sunday. ALEX WALKER/GETTY IMAGES

Market fans will find plenty of stalls to peruse in all corners of London, but for one of the city’s prettiest and most fragrant markets, head to Columbia Road in East London.

Within walking distance from Hackney and Shoreditch, Columbia Road is a narrow street lined with independent shops (selling records, vintage ware, quirky gifts and even outfits for dogs), cafes and pubs. The area blossoms on Sundays as florists gather to sell bouquets, unusual succulents, houseplants and herbs. Arrive early, though, as it is pretty much guaranteed to be packed.

Opening times: Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Nearest Tube station: Hoxton Overground or Bethnal Green.
Learn more:
Columbia Road’s website.

Explore the Horniman Museum and Gardens

South London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens is an excellent free activity if you’ve already hit up London’s major free museums. You’ll need to take a train to reach it, but it’s a nice escape from the well-trodden tourist areas.

Known for its anthropological and natural history exhibits and a vast collection of musical instruments, the museum is certainly eclectic. The gardens are gorgeous, spanning 16 acres, complete with a picturesque Victorian conservatory and a dedicated nature trail. The Horniman is also home to the Butterfly House and an aquarium, though both require a small entry fee.

Opening times: Daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (museum) and 7:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (gardens).
Nearest Tube station: Forest Hill Overground.
Learn more:
Horniman Museum’s official website.

Go neon in God’s Own Junkyard


In Walthamstow, East London, is an art gallery and shop called God’s Own Junkyard. Practically every inch of it is completely covered by huge, glowing neon signs emanating a vibrant pink hue throughout the room. A museum of sorts for all things neon, it’s an Instagrammer’s dream and just as eye-catching as it looks on social media. Signs are for sale, too, and there’s a cafe/bar.

If you fancy more art, take a short bus trip or a 20-minute walk down the road to the free-to-browse William Morris Gallery. It’s devoted to 1800s textile designer William Morris and his dainty floral designs. Also, look out for the lengthy outdoor market along Walthamstow High Street.

Opening times: Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., though opening times may vary.
Nearest Tube station: Walthamstow Central.
Learn more:
God’s Own Junkyard official website.

Admire the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park


Holland Park in West London is full of serene areas, and the Kyoto Garden is one of the best. It’s a perfect spot for when you want a moment away from London’s hustle and bustle.

Expect green space, colorful Japanese maple trees, a tranquil waterfall and a koi pond in this peaceful part of the park, which was gifted to London by the Japanese city in the early 1990s. Visit during springtime, ideally April, to see cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Opening times: Daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Nearest Tube station: Holland Park.

See the Crystal Palace dinosaurs

Two of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs. RICHARD BAKER/GETTY IMAGES

South London’s Crystal Palace Park is a must for dinosaur-mad youngsters or anyone with a penchant for historic curiosities. It’s home to some very special sculptures of dinosaurs and extinct animals, which are on display on mini islands around the park.

According to the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, these statues date back to the mid-1800s and were the first attempt at recreating full-scale models of the prehistoric creatures. Naturally, they were seen as pioneering at the time. They don’t look like dinosaurs as we know them today, but that is ultimately part of their charm.

Opening times: Open daily from 7:30 a.m. (9 a.m. on weekends) to 8:30 p.m.
Nearest Tube station: Penge West Overground or Crystal Palace Overground.
Learn more: Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs.

Ascend to Alexandra Palace


For an excellent panoramic view over London — with The Shard and Gherkin jutting into the distant skyline — walk up to the stunning Alexandra Palace in North London. “Ally Pally” itself is an entertainment venue, with a newly renovated East Court installation space free to enjoy. It also boasts a surrounding park, a garden center and an ice rink (not free, sadly) and plenty of places to eat or drink.

Although it was named for Queen Alexandra (then Princess of Wales) when it was first built in the 1870s, Alexandra Palace was originally intended to be an entertainment space rather than a royal residence. It’s served other uses over the years, including in 1936, when the BBC broadcast the world’s first regular high-definition TV service from the site.

Opening times: Park is always open. East Court is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nearest Tube station: Wood Green.
Learn more: Alexandra Palace’s official website.

Spot London’s best blue plaques

The blue plaque at the former flat of Diana before she became Princess of Wales. THOMAS KRYCH/GETTY IMAGES

If you plan to keep costs low by exploring on foot, look out for blue plaques as you walk. You’ll spot them on buildings and houses all over Greater London. They highlight the birthplaces and former residences of historically significant people.

There are almost 1,000 plaques across the entire city. Search for any figures that might interest you on English Heritage’s website. A handful of notable plaques include:

  • Charlie Chaplin at 15 Glenshaw Mansions, Brixton Road.
  • Jimi Hendrix at 23 Brook Street, Mayfair.
  • Diana, Princess of Wales, at Flat 60, Coleherne Court, Old Brompton Road.
  • Mary Seacole at 14 Soho Square, Soho.
  • Agatha Christie at 58 Sheffield Terrace, Holland Park.
  • Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst at 50 Clarendon Road, Notting Hill.
  • Oscar Wilde at 34 Tite Street, Chelsea.
  • Bob Marley at 42 Oakley Street, Chelsea.

Opening times: Always open.
Nearest Tube station: Varies.
Learn more: English Heritage’s website.

Bonus: Try street food at Borough Market, Camden Market or Broadway Market


London’s many glorious street food markets sometimes pop up on lists of “free things” to do. Indeed, it’s free to browse the stalls at Borough Market, take in the aromas at tourist hotspot Camden Market or enjoy the Saturday bustle at Broadway Market in London Fields.

You can take in the atmosphere and see what’s on offer. You may even find a free sample or two. However, if you’re a foodie (or it’s just lunchtime and you’re hungry), opening your wallet may be hard to resist. Expect an array of cuisines, junk food creations and even homemade sweet treats.

Opening times: Varies. See individual market opening times.
Nearest Tube stations: London Bridge (Borough Market), Camden Town (Camden Market), Bethnal Green or London Fields Overground (Broadway Market).
Learn more: Websites for
Borough Market, Camden Market and Broadway Market.

Bonus: Play games at Novelty Automation

Novelty Automation is known for its unusual arcade games. LEON NEAL/GETTY IMAGES

This hidden-away gem in Holborn is technically free. However, it might be difficult to walk inside the arcade, take a mere look at its undeniably unique and satirical gaming machines — all designed by engineer Tim Hunkin — and leave without buying a single token to pop into one of the slots. After all, a token only costs 1 British pound (about $1.25).

Opening times: Varies from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday), 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Thursday), 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Sunday).
Nearest Tube station: Holborn or Chancery Lane.
Learn more:
Novelty Automation’s official website.


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