Londoners already know what many tourists coming to London will quickly find out: there are more free things to see and do in this city than you could ever dream of! London has a reputation for being an expensive area, but if you know your way around you’ll be able to experience free culture, landmarks & more! In this article we’ll list our top 10 free things to see and do in the beautiful city of London. We hope you’ll make good use of them on your next visit to the capital of England!
1. Explore London’s Free Museums
One of the best things about London is that most of its museums are completely free to visit. Even a world-class museum such as the British Museum charges no entrance fee. Home to gems such as the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon sculptures, the British Museum is one of the top attractions in London!
Other great free-of-charge museums include the National Gallery, the Museum of London, and the Tate Modern. You can easily spend an entire day in any of these museums, especially during a rainy day! Visiting London with kids? Here are some museums suitable for the entire family: the National History Museum, the Science Museum London, and the V&A Museum of Childhood.
For more tips on how to save money on a trip to London with the kids, see Money Saving Tips for a Family Trip to London.
2. Marvel at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
No first visit to London is complete without a trip to Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the British Queen Elizabeth II. The Changing of the Guard is a traditional ceremony that you can watch without cost. In the summer months, the Changing of the Guard takes place outside the gates of Buckingham Palace daily around 11 am. Be sure to arrive at least an hour prior to the event to get a decent view! Offseason the Guard Change takes place on alternate days, so be sure to check the schedule in advance.
3. Discover Westminster Abbey
Just a short walk east from Buckingham Palace lays Westminster Abbey, a beautiful building that has had ties to the Royal Family for centuries. Most recently, it was the site of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Furthermore, the beautiful church houses the Coronation Chair, and you’ll also find the Poet’s Corner and Tomb of the Unknown Warrior inside the Abbey. Westminster Abbey relies on visitor admission fees to cover daily costs. However, as the Abbey is a working church, it never charges people who come to worship. The Abbey hosts several services that are open to the public every day, and the Evensong is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful services to attend.
4. Attend a BBC TV show taping
Attending a free TV show taping in London makes for a great night out. There are different companies that offer free tickets to attend TV show tapings all over London, and a favorite among these is the BBC. To apply for a free ticket, select a BBC show on the BBC website and apply for a taping well in advance. If you’re coming to London on a short holiday, it’s best to have a look at the tapings online well before your vacation starts, in order to choose one with the right date. If you’re selected to be in the audience, be sure to arrive at the studio early to ensure you get a seat!
5. Visit the British Library
The British Library is the UK’s national library, and one of the biggest libraries in the world. The British Library is completely free to visit, and is certainly something to behold. The massive building on Euston Road houses about 150 million items, including all books produced in the UK and Ireland. There are several historic manuscripts and documents on display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, which is part of the library and also free to visit. Among other things, the gallery displays manuscripts of Beowulf, the Canterbury Tales, a Gutenberg Bible, and the Magna Carta.
In keeping with the theme of books, after you’ve explored the library pay a visit to the neighboring King’s Cross Station, which plays a major part in the Harry Potter books.
6. Stroll through London’s Famous Markets
Join many Londoners in one of their favorite activities and head to one of the city’s many famous free markets on a sunny day! On Saturdays, head to Portobello Market in Notting Hill for some amazing antiques. For fresh produce, Borough Market (open Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays) south of the River Thames is the place to go. Camden Market in Camden Town consists of many stalls selling crafts, food, clothes and more. Sunday remains the most popular day to visit Camden, but the market is also open on other days of the week.
If you want to visit all of these markets you’ll probably want to vacation in London for at least a week. Consider staying in a vacation rental apartment in London to save money on accommodation. You can rent an apartment with enough rooms for your friends and family to stay in, rather than having to pay per room. Furthermore, by staying in an apartment you’ll have access to your own fully equipped kitchen, which means you won’t have to spend money on dining out. Instead, you can enjoy cooking fresh produce from the Borough Market!
7. Soak up some Sun in London’s Royal Parks
In summertime there’s nothing lovelier than soaking up the sun’s rays in one of London’s beautiful parks. Hyde Park is one of London’s biggest parks, and certainly also one of the most famous. In summertime you can enjoy a picnic at one of the park’s sprawling lawns. During wintertime Hyde Park plays host to Winter Wonderland, which includes a holiday market and fair. Hyde Park also contains the original Speaker’s Corner, located near the Marble Arch, where anyone can come to speak, debate or discuss. Kensington Gardens right beside Hyde Park is another magnificent park, and home to Kensington Palace. Lastly, St. James’s Park between Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster is home to numerous water birds, including pelicans!
8. Experience Art & Culture at Somerset House
Somerset House in central London is a huge arts and cultural center offering many free displays and exhibitions. It’s worth paying a visit to the Somerset House just for the building alone. The beautiful neo-classical structure features a large courtyard where, in the summer, you can enjoy dancing fountains. During the winter the courtyard houses a big ice-skating rink. You can enjoy a free guided tour to explore the interior of Somerset House, which includes majestic staircases and gorgeous views of the River Thames.
9. Enjoy Free Entertainment at The Scoop
Right beside City Hall you’ll find an amazing modern outdoor amphitheater called The Scoop. Here you can catch free entertainment from plays and live music to outdoor movie screenings! In the summer months there’s something to see here almost every evening. As the amphitheater fits 800 people, it’s usually fairly easy to get a seat. After your visit to The Scoop, walk east along the Thames towards the famous Tower Bridge. Across the water you’ll get an amazing view of the Tower of London. Be sure to bring a camera!
10. Visit the Houses of Parliament
We’ll end our list with what is perhaps the most famous landmark in London: the Houses of Parliament. Also called the Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament includes the Elizabeth Tower, which is better known as the Big Ben. Both houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom meet in the Palace of Westminster, and as such it’s perceived as one of the most important political locations in England. The Gothic building itself is also a great example of a true architectural feat, and has been part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The Houses of Parliament offers several paid guided tours, but there’s also a way to get into the Palace for free. When the House of Commons is in session, you can request to go up into the public viewing gallery to watch the debate. This will also allow you to see much of the beautiful interior of the Palace of Westminster. For more information, see Visiting Parliament in London.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of free things to see and do in London! Do you have any tips to visit things in London for free?
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