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A list of 35 free things to do in London, a city that is notorious for being expensive!
Important announcement for all budget travelers: London does not have to be expensive!!
There are so many amazing free things to do in London that you barely have to spend money at all to enjoy the city.
London is one of my favorite cities in the world. I lived and studied there for a year and have visited countless times in my life. No matter how many times I revisit this vibrant, historic yet modern city, my love for it never diminishes.
And in case you haven’t realized it yet, I also love BUDGET TRAVEL! If it were impossible to travel somewhere without spending a fortune, I wouldn’t go.
So for any other avid budget travelers who want to experience the wonders of the UK’s capital city, this is the article for you.
Here are 35 free things to do in London for those who want to see all the beauty and culture of this city without emptying their wallets.
35 Free Things To Do In London
These are all my favorite free things to do in London. Some of London attractions are famous and touristy, some are not.
Either way, I’ve done all of these things myself and can highly recommend them to other travelers in London!
1. Stroll Along the South Bank
The South Bank is a lively strip of pedestrian-only sidewalk that hugs the southern border of the River Thames.
Pretty much every night you can find sparkling lights, street musicians, artists, and open-air markets along the South Bank.
2. Admire the Colorful Houses of Notting Hill
Made famous in the romance movie Notting Hill, this adorable London neighborhood is filled with tightly-packed houses of rainbow colors.
3. Drink Free Tea Samples in a Tea Shop
Tea shops are all over London, with the most popular ones being Twinings, Whittard, and the East India Tea Company.
Most tea shops have a few free samples so you can taste all the delicious flavors. This is definitely one of my favorite free things to do in London!.
4. Stop By Leadenhall Market
This majestic market hall has tall ceilings, glass windows, and red and gold hues that create a warm, magical feel.
Speaking of magic, Leadenhall Market was actually used as the setting for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. So all my fellow Harry Potter fanatics should check it out!
5. Relax in a Park
London’s parks are perfect for escaping the city streets and enjoying some peace and quiet.
Hyde Park and Regent’s Park are two of the biggest parks and they’re super close to the city center. So you can easily walk to these parks from other London attractions without paying for the tube.
6. Tour A Museum
All of London’s museums are free to the public! How incredible is that??
London has so many museums that you can visit for free. My favorite ones are the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Other amazing London museums are the Tate Modern Art Museum, the National Gallery, and the British Museum.
7. Enjoy the View From the Top of the Tate Modern
After admiring all the modern art in the Tate Modern Art Museum, take the elevator to the top floor. Here, you’ll find an amazing lookout over the city.
Why pay for the London Eye when you can get this panoramic view of London for free?
8. Photograph Big Ben
Big Ben is arguably London’s most famous landmark. For those who don’t know, the clock tower is called the Elizabeth Tower. So Big Ben is just the same of the actual clock.
You can’t leave London without seeing this masterpiece with your own eyes, and it’s completely free to visit.
Next to Big Ben, you’ll find the golden walls of the Houses of Parliament. So you can admire them both at the same time.
9. Snag a Breathtaking View on the Waterloo Bridge at Night
One of my favorite viewpoints in all of London is from the Waterloo Bridge at night.
So many famous London attractions are visible from this spot. For example, you can see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the London Eye all at once.
In addition to seeing these landmarks, the Jubilee Bridges and the South Bank are always lit up in different colors.
The combination of colorful lights with the cool London sights is such a gorgeous view.
10. Marvel at Buckingham Palace
As the residence of the Royal Family and the Queen of England, Buckingham Palace is one of the most famous palaces in the world.
You can book a tour of the palace during certain months of the year, but to just admire the palace from the outside is completely free.
11. Witness the Changing of the Guard
One of the coolest free things to do in London is witnessing the Changing of the Guard.
Most people can picture the classic London guards, with their red uniforms and tall fuzzy black hats. But did you know that you can see them in action, and it doesn’t cost any money at all?
A few times a week, the guards perform a ceremony complete with drums and music to signal that the guards are switching. It’s like a shift change, but much more dramatic.
This ceremony occurs at very specific times, in specific places, on specific days that often change. Check the official Changing of the Guard website for all the details.
12. Find Street Art in Brick Lane
Wandering through Brick Lane is definitely one of the best free things to do in London in my opinion.
Although this iconic street in east London is famous for its curry houses and beigel shops, there is also an astonishing array of street art.
Just wander around the streets and you’re sure to find some beautiful art displays!
13. Visit Trafalgar Square
This massive public square in central London is home to many landmarks and points of interest.
From the National Gallery, to the large fountain flanked by impressive lion statues, to all the street artists and performers, there is always something to see.
14. Get Lost in Abney Park Cemetery
Up in Stoke Newington, you can find this huge cemetery that is full of winding woodland paths and elaborate graves. It sounds creepy, but it’s actually a very peaceful place to go for a walk.
Fun fact, Amy Winehouse filmed part of her music video for “Back To Black” in this cemetery!
15. Walk Across the Tower Bridge
London’s most famous bridge is quite an amazing sight to see, and it is free to access. (You can pay money to climb it and walk across the top level if you want)
Keep in mind that the Tower Bridge and London Bridge are not the same. London Bridge is nothing special to look at.
16. Explore Covent Garden
Covent Garden is an area in central London that is packed with cafes, shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
Although it’s easy to spend lots of money here, it’s also fascinating to just wander through the area and window-shop.
Covent Garden often has lots of festive decorations and lights, as well as street performers.
17. Catch A Free Concert in the Covent Garden Piazza
Covent Garden Piazza is the main hub of the area. This spacious market hall is full of chocolate shops, gift shops, tea shops (get some free samples!), souvenir shops, and more.
The courtyard on the bottom floor of the piazza’s center almost always hosts a performance. You can watch for free from the balconies of the market hall, though I recommend you leave a small tip if you really enjoy the show.
I’ve seen opera singers, acapella groups, pianists, violinists, and more performing here and it’s always a treat.
18. Admire the Bright Colors of Neal’s Yard
Located down a hidden alleyway in Covent Garden is an eccentric, colorful courtyard known as Neal’s Yard.
This charming little square is home to a few health food cafes and lots of plants and flowers.
To find Neal’s Yard, head to Shorts Gardens and follow Neals Street, a little alleyway that branches off from the main road.
19. Skim Through Books at the South Bank Book Market
While walking along the South Bank, stop at the Southbank Book Market to browse through some historic maps, newspapers, comics, and books of all genres.
The market is just a few tables set up under the Waterloo Bridge, and it’s open every day from 10 am to 7 pm.
20. Browse A Food Market
It’s going to be super hard to browse a London food market without spending any money at all, but it can be done.
London has so many amazing food markets. Borough Market is my favorite, but check out my article 9 Food Markets To Try In London for more options.
Walking around and trying some free samples is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Or, you can treat yourself to a delicious meal that will still be much cheaper than eating in a restaurant.
21. Have a Photoshoot in a Red Phone Booth
In addition to the red-coated royal guards and the double-decker red buses, London is famous for its old-school red phone booths.
You can find these all over the city in random places. Snapping a classic tourist photo in one of these phone booths is definitely a must-do in London.
22. Feast Your Eyes on St. Paul’s Cathedral
Admiring this gorgeous landmark is one of the best free things to do in London. The entry fee is a steep 18 pounds, so I’ve never even gone inside the famous cathedral.
But seeing this massive building from the outside and relaxing in the grassy courtyards around it has always been satisfying enough for me.
23. Walk Across the Millennium Bridge
Connecting St. Pauls’ Cathedral on the north bank to the Tate Modern Art Museum on the south bank, this pedestrian-only bridge is one of the most modern-looking London landmarks.
This steel suspension bridge is a great place to meander across the river and take photos since there are no cars. The bridge was shown in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as well!
24. Find the Center of the Earth in Greenwich Park
Greenwich Park is one of my favorite green spaces in London, and it’s also one of the best free London attractions.
The coolest thing to see in Greenwich Park is the Prime Meridian. This is the line that marks the center of the Earth’s longitude.
Right next to the Prime Meridian is the clock that marks GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), also known as the center point for time zones.
25. Take a Photo at Platform 9 and 3/4
Good news for Harry Potter fans! You can visit Kings Cross Station and take a photo with the luggage trolley at Platform 9 3/4 for free!
Platform 9 3/4 doesn’t actually exist, and the famous luggage trolly is just part of a random brick wall in the station.
But you can wait in line, wear a Hogwarts scarf of your choosing, and take a photo for free. So it’s a super fun thing to do if you love Harry Potter and you’re near Kings Cross.
26. Check out the Shard
This 95-story glass skyscraper is the tallest building in the United Kingdom, and it’s quite a sight to see.
Named because it resembles a shard of glass cutting into the sky, this building is the epitome of modernity in London.
It costs 25 pounds to go up to the top, which is a bit steep. But just checking out the skyscraper from the ground is pretty cool too!
27. Book a Visit to Sky Garden
There is, however, another skyscraper in London where you can head to the top for free!
Sky Garden consists of a flourishing indoor public garden, and a fancy bar and restaurant. It is located on the top floor of the Walkie Talkie skyscraper (20 Fenchurch Street).
There is no entrance fee, though you have to register your spot online in advance because they only allow a limited number of visitors.
28. Experience Old Spitalfields Market
This entertaining market hall near Liverpool Street Station is one of my favorite London attractions.
Full of handmade clothes, paintings and art, crafts and souvenirs, and lots of food and desserts, Old Spitalfields Market is always a feast for the senses.
29. Climb Primrose Hill
Located directly north of Regent’s Park is a large grassy hill where you can enjoy a nice view of the London skyline.
It’s only a short walk, and it’s also a great picnic or sunbathing spot.
30. Waltz Across Abbey Road
Beatles fans should definitely fit this free London attraction into their itinerary.
Head to northwest London, find the famous Abbey Road crosswalk, then walk across the road and recreate the Abbey Road album cover.
31. See the Christmas Lights
If you’re visiting London during Christmas time, you’re in luck.
Despite the cold temperatures, you can warm your spirits by seeing the dazzling Christmas lights that illuminate the city every December.
All you have to do is walk around Downtown London and witness the magical effect of all the decorations. Regent Street and Covent Garden are two particularly festive locations.
32. Observe the Architecture on Fleet Street
Walking down the busy but beautiful Fleet Street is one of my favorite free things to do in London.
Fleet Street was the first center for printing and publishing in London during the 16th Century. Because of this history, the buildings are quite rustic and beautiful.
33. Visit the Southwark Cathedral
This lesser-known religious building is gorgeous from the outside and the inside.
Nestled in between Borough Market and London Bridge, this Anglican Cathedral is free to enter and is quite incredible to look at.
34. Explore Chinatown
Most major cities have a Chinatown, and London is no exception.
This small area of central London is full of Asian supermarkets and authentic Chinese restaurants. There’s also an amazing Chinese-style gate, and there’s a parade every year for the Chinese New Year in February.
35. Window-Shop in Liberty
Harrods is probably the most famous department store in London, but I think Liberty is much cooler.
This designer department store is full of expensive luxury items that I could never afford, so I treat this store like it’s a museum.
The displays of clothes and homewares are so aesthetically pleasing that I just love looking at everything. Even the outside of the building is photogenic, with its traditional Tudor architecture.
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So those are the best 35 free things to do in London!
It’s amazing how many free London attractions and sights there are. So you should only really have to spend money on food, accommodation, and occasional public transport.
Check out my Ultimate Budget Travel Guide to London for more tips about exploring London on a budget.
I get really in-depth about public transport, viewpoints, and where to eat, so definitely check it out if you want to save money in London!
A few other recommendations before traveling to London…
- Check iVisa.com to see if you need a visa to visit the UK.
- Read my article How To Find The Cheapest Flights Abroad so you can find a super affordable flight to London!
- Consider buying travel insurance for your trip. I recommend Squaremouth Insurance, but you can also read my detailed article A Budget Traveler’s Guide To Travel Insurance, for more advice.
For more budget travel tips in Europe, check out these articles: