Come on, grab yourself a tea to settle into the British mood and prepare to enjoy the following…
Things to do in London for free…
We will start with the, as we like to think, a perfect way to get an introduction to the city.
1. Join a Free Walking tour
Always a good way to get to know the city, a free walking tour!
With the walking tour, you will not only get some facts about the city, but you can also get an idea of what you would like to do or discover next.
There are many options in the city, just find the Walking tour you would like to join.
Bear in mind, the FREE walking tours are always tip-based.
This means you (can) pay a tip to the guide at the end of the tour in the amount of whatever you think the tour is worth it. Backpackers usually pay 5€, while others pay around 10€ to 15€ per person. This is just to give you an idea.
Good to know: You do not HAVE to pay, it’s on volunteer base. Yet, I took many free walking tours around Europe. I always gave a tip at the end. Not a single tour has ever been bad or useless. Since there was always a value, the tour guide made a great job, the tip was always well worked for.
How about I tell you the MAIN attractions in London are free? After a free walking tour, this is my #2 best recommendation!
Walk from Waterloo Bridge to the Tate Modern and see a huge part of the main London attractions, such as:
the famous London Eye
The War Memorial
Royal Festival Hall
Good to know: Along these streets, you will find lots of street artists. From Charley Chaplin to incredible street musicians with fantastic voices.
At the end of this article, I include a map with all those places.
This brings us to the next free activity…
3. Discover new Artists
During one of our visits to London, we were amazed by Charlotte Campbell, a sweet street musician, playing next to the London Eye. There are so many more street artists around with so much talent.
Yet, Charlotte stands out.
She even has a lot of songs on the Youtube channel and plays concerts.
Check out her Youtube Channel here. You can find her most of the time next to the London Eye. This is where she performs too.
One of our favorite songs? Streets of London, click below:
4. “Changing of the Guard”
Ok, ok, this could be a tourist thing to do… but many people are curious to see it. And in fact, it is really worth it and again, FREE!
The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is held every day at 11:30 am. Come over and take a few photos, it is really interesting.
Just so you know, do not provoke the guards. They are allowed to yell at you and even take more action if required. It is a myth that they only need to stand there and should not move. If you are about to harm then, they will harm you before. Just pay attention.
And most of all: be respectful! This is not a theatre, a show or a game!
Good to know: Arrive early because there are plenty of people!
5. Alternative “Changing of the Guard”
If you are curious about the “changing of the Guard” but do not like crowded places, then head over to Windsor.
There’s a changing of the guard as well, and not many people actually go there.
So, this is a more kind of hidden gem for London! Yet, keep in mind, this is still London. There are always people, but much less than at Buckingham Palace.
6. Walk through a National Nature Reserve
Richmond Park is the largest royal park and also a National Nature Reserve in London.
The Park is, you guessed it, free. On top of that, they do also offer free guided walks.
Good to know: This park is incredibly beautiful. Seriously, they have a wide range of animals to discover.
Personally, I did not expect that beforehand. You can see the following animals:
a wide range of birds
7. See the Diana Fountain
Another royal park.
Bushy Park is a royal park which as a formal Baroque water garden, and the beautiful Diana Fountain. The park is famed for its mix of waterways, gardens and grassland, and roaming herds of red and fallow deer.
See London’s waterways and cute boats where people do actually live.
Little Venice is placed on Canals of Maida Vale, near Camden Lock. This place to visit in London is recommended for second-time or third-time visitors.
Although it is really curious and beautiful, for the first-time visitor I recommend staying focused on the main sights. Unless you really have time on your hand.
18. Cross under the Water, the Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Cross one of the oldest tunnels under the Thames. This is really really unique.
It takes around 10 minutes to walk through the tunnel from Cutty Sark to the isle of dogs under the river Thames. There are a few tunnels actually, but the one we mention here is the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.
This is the exact address, located in East London.
Walking through the old tunnel is a very weird (and FREE) activity in London.
Find more details of the tunnel under the Thames here.
19. Get your Red Telephone Box-Photo
Ok, that sounds touristy… but it is awesome. Don’t believe it? Try it and look at the result!
Every day it gets harder to get a picture in a red phone booth.
HINT: There is one next to Big Ben. The perfect location for your Instagram photo below is the exact location.
20. Sit between two world leaders
Located in Bond Street, there is the statue of Roosevelt and Churchill, two world leaders. The place is called “Churchill And Roosevelt Allies Sculpture”.
You can take a seat on the bench between them and picture yourself as the new future leader!
21. Triumphal Arch
Ok, ok… London is so full of Triumphal Archs, that it gets even boring: Wellington Arch is the most important, and the second one is Marble Arch.
But our favorite is Admiralty Arch, which links the Mall with Trafalgar Square.
Why? Become nosey and discover it!
The statue on top of the Wellington Arch reminds of the Brandenburger Gate in Berlin. Is it just me?!
22. Become nosey
We really like Admiralty Arch because the artist Rick Buckley placed a stone-carved human nose on the inner wall of the northernmost arch.
He did it in order to protest the increased use of CCTV cameras in London.
Rick Buckley felt that the government was becoming too “nosey” and he put noses around the city, being Admiralty Arch a perfect location to found one of the noses.
In their own words “Get up close to the objects that made history – from iconic maritime exhibits to great British art.”
Have a look at this fun video.
31. Find the Rosetta stone – The British Museum
From a Pantheon to mummies… and even the Rosetta stone!
The world-famous British Museum is home to some of the world’s finest and broadest collections.
Check them out.
The British Musem is FREE!
While other museums of that class cost lots of money in Paris, Madrid and New York City, the British Museum remains free.
There is some controversy about the British Musem. Some of the exhibition items were taken from other countries years and centuries ago and never were returned. While this controversy is a political issue, don’t let yourself be bothered by it.
Furthermore, their tea room was the first museum restaurant in the world and is almost a museum piece on its own!
So go, enjoy the museum and relax afterward with a warm cup of tea as you take in the gorgeous surroundings.
FYI: the photo was not taken at the Museum, but you get the picture…
53. Shoot the most colorful Street
We know, all the people head to Nothing Hill to take houses pictures. But, HEY! There are also very nice houses in other areas.
Just off King’s Road, in Chelsea. You’ll find one of London’s most colorful streets: Bywater Street.
This is another perfect spot to take Instagram photos in London!
For a long time, Camden has been the epicenter of all things alternative and its inhabitants continue to do it justice by being their lovable, unforgettable selves.
Aside from throngs of sock-and-sandal donning tourists, you will run into goths, hippies and anything in between.
We were lucky enough to spot some fun street artists, keep your eyes and mind open. This is Camden Town!
55. FREE food tasting
Borough Market is near to the South Bank area and it is a very trendy local market where locals do actually pick up lunch.
In Borough Market, you will find amazing food. Many stalls do also offer some free tasting. The visit turns to be totally worth it just before lunchtime.
Also, this is a great place to eat relatively cheap in London. Give it a go! You find anything from fresh vegetables and fruits to fish and meat. The range of street food covers anything between India and the UK and Chile to Canada.
56. Picnic with Thames views
It is always a great idea, and even better with nice views, don’t you think?
Just pack some food and get to Battersea Park. There you can enjoy a nice picnic, with views of the Thames or lake views.
Alright, this was already a HUGE list with parks and family things to do.
I also list for you the free things to do in London at night. Although a Pint can be pricey, there’s more than pubs and live concerts.
57. Listen to Big Ben Chime
Stand in Parliament Square at noon and wait for Big Ben to take its music! A great side-effect of being here: You are next to the London Eye. This site is illuminated by night, perfect for photos with bulb (long-term) exposure.
58. Meet at “The Meeting Place”
Admire the beautiful St Pancras International station, where you can watch Eurostars trains arrive and depart.
See the statue of the couple kissing? It was named “The meeting place”.
59. Nighttime Walk
Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminister bridge and see the main attractions lit up.
60. Snap the city
Take night shots of the main attractions and famous streets of London:
With the lights on, the city looks completely different.
61. Party with free admission
Hootananny Brixton club offers many free entry gigs.
If you like reggae, ska, and folk music that’s the place to go!
The museum’s cafe, The Habit, also remains open till late. It offers special deals on food!
Just turn up, entry is free, fun is included!
The South London Gallery could be also a great place for a first date. Keep that mind!
64. Neon Wonderland
If you wanna be amazed about how many things you can do with neon lights head to God’s Own Junkyard.
It is a neon art warehouse, one of those places which have to be seen to be believed.
They only open on weekends. Fridays and Saturday entry is free until 9 pm.
65. Explore your nerdy side
An excellent source of free events in London are Book shops:
and some other events
As you will have realized by now, the cultural scene and things to do are endless. Check out Foyles and Waterstones websites, two of the biggest Book shops in London. They keep their websites up to date with the newest events.
66. Panoramic city view
I kept this one until the very end of this list of free activities. So, Eureka, I can finally say: Last but not least, the Sky Garden!
Sky Garden is a unique space in London that offers visitors a chance to experience the city from a different viewpoint. The Sky!
It has a viewing area, terrace, café, bar, and even a restaurant. The restaurant itself is not cheap, but definitely something unique!
Good to know: Check the time for sunset and plane to be there a little bit before. The colors of the Sky are changing. You would be amazed by how London changes during the day and night lights exposure. I loved to see the difference!
Keep in mind: You can not just show up without a booking. You have to have a confirmed booking from the official website www.skygardentickets.com. Book your visit as soon as you can, it’s really popular. You don’t need any credit card or anything!
Extra 76. The British Library
This is the national library of the UK. They show you some of their beautiful collections and tell the stories of the people who use them.
As we are talking about FREE things to do in London and not the most luxurious and most expensive stuff, you might be also interested in some tricks for spending less while visiting London. Now, that makes only sense…
Here are our best tricks to London on a budget:
1. FREE Museums
Take advantage of all the free museums listed above.
Bear also in mind that on rainy days, Museums are also a good way to keep dry. Okay, here is again the list of free museums in London:
Natural History Museum
Museum of London
Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)
Imperial War Museum
Horniman Museum and Gardens
National Maritime Museum
V&A Museum of Childhood
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre
National Portrait Gallery
Royal Air Force Museum
Museum of London Docklands
National Army Museum
2. Walk it
Although you will want to use public transport for long journeys, central London is perfect for walking. Use your legs and walk around. You will see many more things.
Again, only in CENTRAL London. If you are planning to walk from North to South or West to East, get ready because that would take a long time!
Good to know: during rush hour, it is actually faster to walk between stations such as Covent Garden and Leicester Square.
3. Buy an Oyster Card
For long distances, use the metro, but do it the right way!
Buy the Oyster Travel Card and save money on each journey. You must buy the card first, but each trip will be 50% cheaper than buying one-day paper travel cards or single tickets.
Make sure you buy one when you do arrive.
The fastest way around is the Hop On Hop Off bus. This is a good investment if you are only here for 3 days!
4. Join a Free Walking tour
We covered this as #1 in this article.
Join a FREE walking tour and get an idea about the city size and history. Even though a Free walking tour is usually not totally free, (it is a tip-based tour), it will be the cheapest way to gather many, many information.
I am sure you will get more than you pay!
Normally guides are super nice and very approachable. Ask them any questions you might have, cheap restaurants recommendations included.
5. Avoid peak travel times
That would be rule number one for saving money while traveling: avoid peak travel times, which makes accommodation and flights prices higher, and save money even before getting one step in the country.
Peak time includes days like New Year’s eve, August, special holidays and celebrations as well as festivals.