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One of the best pieces of news for those hoping to do London on a budget is that there are a ton of free things to do in London.
Truly, despite being an expensive city overall, London’s free activities and attractions are some of the best in the world.
In this list, I’ve provided some of my favorite things to do in London for free so you (and your crying wallet) can get some ideas.
Hey, sidenote! If you’re traveling to the UK or live in the UK, whether for a short period of time or as an expat, why don’t you join my Facebook group where you can ask questions, get advice or just look at pretty pictures of this part of the world! Just click here to request to join and I’ll add you!
London has plenty of free museums to see, all of which are world class.
In fact, most museums in London are free, providing centuries of artifacts and hours of London entertainment.
Home to Cleopatra and the Rosetta Stone, the British Museum is a massive collection of artifacts and clothing and exhibits that tell the story of the British Empire and Britain itself.
The building is absolutely gorgeous with an awesome lobby that is known for its glass ceiling that lets the sun stream in (or blanketed by grey clouds depending on the day).
The exhibits are so engaging and interactive, with a special downstairs area for small kids that’s just for them to explore the world around them, and you can’t beat the excitement of going up the escalator through the center of the Earth!
You could spend hours exploring all of the rooms that the Science Museum has to offer, which makes it a great value and great way to see London for free.
Natural History Museum
Right next to the Science Museum in Kensington is the Natural History Museum, home to plenty of dinosaur bones and exhibits on natural disasters, geology, animals, and more.
The architecture of the Natural History Museum is fantastic, providing for beautiful photos of both the interior and exterior.
Especially at night, it lights up in a way that makes it feel mysterious in all the right ways.
Victoria and Albert Museum
What would you get if you took the collection of the British Monarchy throughout the years and put it in a museum?
The Victoria and Albert Museum, more commonly known as the V & A!
Here, you can discover designs and antiques and exhibits from all over the world, ranging from Japanese kimonos to plates from Europe to post-war sculptures.
If you’re into art and design, this is a must-do.
There’s also a lovely pond and grassy area within the museum that is great for relaxing when the sun is shining.
Museum of London
You’ve come all the way to London and it would be a shame to miss learning more about it!
The Museum of London is a fantastic, engaging museum that takes you back to London’s founding and brings you through the ages to see how this city has transformed and grown.
A great one for kids as well due to the interesting exhibits and immersive experience.
When traveling in London with kids, finding free things to do in London is essential to keep the cost down and have a flexible schedule in case you need to change your activities to avoid a meltdown (theirs or yours, really).
Here are some of my top suggestions of free things to do in London with kids.
Hyde Park Pirate Playground
The Diana Memorial Playground at Hyde Park is hands down one of the best playgrounds for kids in all of London.
I never got to enjoy it as a child, but have done lots of babysitting around the area and always take them there for the ultimate good time (for them and me).
There’s a giant pirate ship they can play in, as well as other climbing apparatuses, sand, and soft surfaces so they can run around and expend all of their energy.
The rest of Hyde Park is beautiful and free as well, so you can take a stroll through Hyde Park before hitting up the playground or pack a picnic to enjoy in the park afterwards.
Walk along the Southbank
Head to the Southbank, the south of the River Thames in central London, where there always seems to be something to see.
You’ll get beautiful views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, as well as the London Eye, and there are lots of restaurants and market stalls along the river.
At Christmas in London, the place turns into a winter wonderland and you can soak up the festive atmosphere, and at other times of the year there are street performers and people skateboarding in the skatepark and general hustle and bustle that will keep everyone occupied.
Eat a packed lunch in Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is an awesome place to take your lunch stop while in London, as you can bring a packed lunch and sit near the fountains and soak in the atmosphere.
It’s fairly contained, so the kids can wander around a bit while you keep an eye on them and take a seat for a minute.
Hop on a regular London bus for some sightseeing
While it does cost a few pounds, this is free if you have a Travelcard or have already purchased your transportation in London, and I’ve included it because it’s so cheap that it’s worth it if you’re trying to save money but still entertain the kids, particularly older ones.
While there are the dedicated sightseeing buses, you can take a regular London bus for just £1.50 (and it actually is free for children under 11) and hop on one of the routes that take you past major London sights like the Number 11 from Victoria Station to St. Paul’s Cathedral which takes you past Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, 10 Downing Street, St. Paul’s Cathedral and more.
Some of London’s most popular attractions charge a fee to go inside, but there is still plenty to do for free that helps you soak in some of London’s iconic sites.
Stroll through Covent Garden
I absolutely adore the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden, and it’s one of the best things to do in London for couples.
With regular street performers, the smells of delicious food wafting through the air, and a nice atmosphere to just sit and take it all in, you can appreciate London as you stroll through Covent Garden before your West End show or as a way to take a break after experiencing the attractions of nearby Westminster.
Visit the National Gallery
Standing high above Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is London’s premier art museum and, guess what – it’s completely free!
This is a must-do for art lovers and anyone wanting to experience original works by famous artists like Van Gogh.
Watch the Changing of the Guards
You don’t need a ticket or any sort of entry fee to line up to see the Changing of the Guards that takes place in front of Buckingham Palace almost every day.
To see when and where it will take place during your stay, make sure to check the official schedule and get there about an hour in advance if you want prime viewing.
This is one of the most iconic things to do in London!
Walk the Mall
The “Mall” in London has nothing to do with shopping, but is actually the road between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square.
This is postcard-worthy London at its peak, and a great way to check things off your London bucketlist.
Afterwards, head to St. James Park which is adjacent to the Mall to watch the birds play in the lake and get fantastic pictures of both the palace and the London Eye.
Listen to Big Ben Chime
Big Ben is one of London’s most iconic sites, and it’s of course free to look at and appreciate.
I would recommend actually going later at night or first thing in the morning when the hoards of tourists aren’t out, standing underneath it and hearing it chime.
It’s a really special experience to know that you are one of just a few people in the world at that moment that are standing near Big Ben!
Do note that Big Ben is in scaffolding until the end of 2021. Sadly, restoration works have to take place!
In terms of free things to do, here are some great options whether you’re looking for a way to spend a couples getaway or a free London date idea.
Book Viewing at the Sky Garden
uIf you want a completely free view of London without paying a ton of money to go up in the Shard or the London Eye, book a spot at the Sky Garden, one of the most unique things to do in London.
This awesome lounge and viewing platform is free to visitors, though you need to book in advance to ensure you get a spot.
Walk along Regents Canal
Regent’s Canal is a lovely canal near Camden that you can kayak down, but it’s also got a walking path and is a nice area to walk hand in hand and enjoy London life.
Wander the gardens in Regent’s Park
One of the most romantic parks in London is Regent’s Park with its manicured gardens and gorgeous architecture.
Take a picnic here after walking around the gardens or plan to watch the sunset as you sit on a bench and take it all in.
Go window shopping in Harrods
Harrods is probably one of the most expensive places in London to shop, but not if you don’t buy anything!
Window shoppers are very common in Harrods, and you can experience this incredible department store without purchasing anything.
Take your loved one and do some browsing and pointing out what you would buy if you won the lottery!
Of course, it’s not all worth millions – they have a food hall and toy shop and various other areas that have more decently priced items (not cheap, but still).
Get ideas for each other’s next birthday or give hints on what you want for Christmas!
You can almost always find free events in London, ranging from a talk on outer space to an open air concert to seasonal festivities.
Here are some of my favorite free events in London and when and where to find them.
Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland
Every November and December, Hyde Park turns into a Winter Wonderland filled with Christmas markets, games, food stalls, and a cheerful atmosphere.
It’s free to get into, and while you would have to pay to obviously shop or eat or take part in the ice skating, it’s equally as nice to get to walk around and experience Hyde Park in a way you can’t any other time of year.
UCL Lunch Hour Talks
If you’re in London for any length of time and want to get to experience a lecture at one of the city’s best universities, UCL (University College London), you can take advantage of their “Lunch Hour Lectures” which cover a wide variety of topics for an hour during the lunch period.
They mostly run during the university term time, but you can check out the upcoming ones here and see if any interest you.
Trafalgar Square at Easter
On Good Friday, if you’re in London, you can watch a massive live-action recreation of the Jesus story in Trafalgar Square, put on by a cast of over 100.
There are two performances, and multiple big screens where you can watch if you don’t get a spot with a good view.
Oxford and Cambridge boat race
Every April, Oxford and Cambridge have their annual boat race where they row down a section of the Thames to see who can claim the prize that year.
Rowing is a popular sport in certain areas of the UK, particularly in more affluent areas like Oxford and Cambridge, and thousands of people come out to spectate.
There will also be pubs and areas to eat along the stretch of the race, but you can sit and watch for free.
During Wimbledon season for two weeks in July, areas across the city will provide free areas to watch it on big screens, especially if any Brits are in the matches.
This is a great way to take part in a classic London tradition without paying for entry, as you’ll get the atmosphere of the crowds (a bit more rowdy than regular tennis ones!) and also get to see the match.