What to do in London for free

Despite London being one of the most expensive cities in the world, you don't need to sell your granny to have a good day out. There's plenty of places to visit in London for free – you might just need to spend a few quid on the bus or tube. Check out our guide to 9 of the best free things to do in London below.


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9 best free things to do in London

  1. Take in the sights: One of the best free things to do in London is simply to head over to the River Thames. You can walk along both sides for almost the entire length of its journey through the city, and you’ll get to see most of the major sights. These include Tower Bridge, Tower of London, The Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and the Millennium Bridge. There’re always plenty of things going on at the South Bank too.

    Away from the river, you’ve also got places in central London like Nelson’s Column, The Gherkin and the Monument. At Buckingham Palace and Horseguards Parade you can watch the changing of the guard once a day.

    And if you want something a little different, then the Barbican or St Pancras International make interesting places to wander. 
  2. Go film spotting: Film London reckon that there are about 30 crews filming in the capital on any given day. (Not all of them are Hollywood movies, mind.) The giveaways are big trucks and lots of people running around with headphones and clipboards; but to find them you need to look for the little temporary signs attached to lampposts, normally with mystery letters on them. 
  3. View from afar: For a capital city, much of London is very low-level. This means that views across the city can be stunning.

    Unless you’re prepared to pay, or know someone who works in one of the tall skyscrapers, the best free view of the city is a little trek out. Get the tube or bus north to Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath. Alternatively, go to Greenwich Park in the south. 
  4. Parks: London may be one of the busiest capitals in the world, but it’s also got plenty of green spaces. Hyde Park is high on the list of places to visit in London for free. It’s also the city’s largest open space –  so try not to get lost. Royal parks include St James’s Park, Regent’s Park and Green Park, which are great for both people and nature watching. 
  5. Street art: From Banksy to Rick Buckley, there’s loads of amazing street art and graffiti to see. 
  6. Museums & exhibitions: There’s bound to be a museum or exhibition in London to capture your imagination. Not only are the main museums free, like the British Museum and the Science Museum, but you can also take advantage of more obscure ones such as the Sir John Soane’s Museum, or the Bank of England Museum. The British Library is also free to visit and often has some great exhibitions. If art appeals to you, the Tate and Tate Modern are a must; all permanent galleries are free and you only have to cough up for the visiting exhibitions. 
  7. Open House London: This may only happen over one particular weekend in September, but it’s such a great event we felt we had to include it. Open House London is where loads of buildings, including private homes, government buildings and historic sites, in the capital open their doors to the public.

    Entry to each building is free, but buying the guide helps support the event. 
  8. Shopping: Now surely this one requires money? Well obviously it can, but the beauty of shopping in certain parts of London is that the shops themselves are a great source of entertainment.

    For the child in you, Hamleys on Regent Street can provide hours of fun. Watch toy presentations, try on fancy dress clothes (OK, they may be a little small), and reminisce over all the classics you loved as a child. Just remember to let the real kids get a look in. For a more sophisticated shopping experience, head to Harrods and Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge. They are great places to people watch and dream about what you’d spend your money on if you win the lottery.

    But perhaps the all-time favourite place for window shopping in London is Camden Market, packed with clothes and antiques to haggle over in a truly unique setting. Other markets worth exploring include Portobello Road, which has the world’s largest antique market, Spitalfields in East London for its East End charm and Covent Garden, which is a cool place to find free street entertainment, although you may feel obliged to donate a quid or two. 
  9. Television opportunities: Want to be part of a television or radio studio audience? You can also do this for free. However, it does mean forward planning because you may be added to a waiting list.

    Opportunities include game shows, news programmes, comedy shows and chat shows. Visit Lost in TV or BBC Shows to see what’s on offer.

Cheap things to do in London

If you can spare a few extra quid but still want to keep costs down, have a read of our top 5 cheap things to do in London, where you’ll find some fun, inexpensive ideas for days out.

That’s our list, have you got any tips of your own? Let us know on our discussion boards.

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Updated on 15-Mar-2023