At first glance, London can appear to be an expensive city to explore. But you don’t have to pay top-dollar to experience the best of what’s on offer. In fact, many of the top sites and experiences are completely free to enjoy. In between visiting the capital’s magnificent historical landmarks, delve further into this cultural landscape, without burning a hole in your pocket. Take a look at our guide to seeing London for free.
In England’s invigorating capital we’re lucky to have some of the world’s most revered museums, and what’s more, many of them are free to enter. The British Museum is perhaps the best known, famous for its staggering collection of artefacts from every corner of the globe. But there’s a museum in London to suit every interest, from interactive exhibits at The Science Museum and dinosaur skeletons at The Natural History Museum, to the whimsical history of toys at the V&A Museum of Childhood. Not to forget the Victoria and Albert Museum itself, which is a must-visit for design and history enthusiasts.
Inspiring Art Galleries
If you’re excited by the arts, you’ve come to the right place. Like London’s museums, many of the city’s best art galleries are also free to enter. From cutting-edge modern art at the Tate Modern, to retrospectives on famous and enigmatic personalities at the National Portrait Gallery, there’s plenty for art lovers to enjoy without spending a penny. See intriguing contemporary installations on display at the Saatchi Gallery, and for more historic artworks visit The National Gallery, which is ideally situated on Trafalgar Square.
Invigorating Parks and Gardens
For a break from the bustling city streets, there’s no shortage of picturesque parks and gardens to choose from. One of London’s Royal Parks, Regent’s Park is spread across 395 acres and features a wildlife garden, the Victorian-style Avenue Gardens, and notably, Queen Mary’s Gardens, which flourish with more than 12,000 roses. Another of the Royal Parks is Kensington Gardens, where you can explore 242 acres of fountains, memorials and Italian gardens, as well as pay a visit to the Serpentine Galleries. For sprawling cityscape views, head to the highest point of Hampstead Heath, where a number of trails wind through the pocket of gardens, meadows and fields. A more recent addition to London’s green spaces is Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which was built in 2012 for the Olympics, and has become an oasis of greenery, woodland and sports.
Hours can easily be spent wandering through the London’s eclectic markets. If food is your thing, you’ll love Borough Market, where artisans and producers showcase fine British and international cuisine. Check the market’s online calendar for events such as cooking demonstrations. Another feast for the senses is Columbia Road Flower Market. Each Sunday the street overflows with flowers and foliage, from English roses to banana trees. Each Friday, the Bermondsey Antiques Market draws in the crowds for its intriguing array of antique wares, while more collectibles can be found over at one of the city’s most famous spots, Portobello Road Market.
Free Music and Comedy
When it comes to entertainment, there’s plenty to enjoy in London for free. Catch a “Comic Mondays” show at Theatre Royal Stratford East, or see one of the nightly shows at the Angel Comedy Club in Islington, each of which is free to enter. Music fans, meanwhile, should take advantage of the free lunchtime and evening concerts at the National Theatre on South Bank, or visit outdoor amphitheatre The Scoop (situated near Tower Bridge on the south bank of the River Thames), for free theatre and music performances, as well as movie screenings. The Royal College of Music also host free lunchtime concerts at venues across the city.
With so much to do during your stay, you’ll undoubtedly want to fit in as much as you can. See all of London’s major sites in one day by joining the whistle-stop London in One Day Evan Evans Tour.
Cover image: Wander through Columbia Road Flower Market © Alija / iStock