London is an amazing city full of culture, art, food from every corner of the world and lots of history. But it’s also a really expensive city… and not just for tourists but also for those of us who call London home. Luckily, there’s loads of free things to see and do in London to help keep your budget in check!
All museums in London are free to visit (although please do make a donation if you enjoyed your visit). There may be specific exhibitions where you need to pay but otherwise they are completely free. And we have some amazing museums! My favourites are the V&A and the Natural History museum, which are conveniently located right next to each other in South Kensington as well as the British museum in Holborn, which is an institution. There is pretty much a museum for everything… from fashion (V&A and Fashion & Textile museum), to design (Design museum), transport (Transport museum and the Royal Airforce museum) to science (Science museum) and Jewish history and culture (Jewish museum London).
Like the museums, London’s markets are vast and varied. There are food markets, such as Borough market as well as flower markets (Columbia Road), clothes and antiques markets (Brick lane, Portobello road, Camden market) and local Farmer’s markets. Two of my favourite markets are Spitalfields in east London and Greenwich market in maritime Greenwich. If you head to Greenwich market, make a day of it and visit the Royal Observatory where you can stand on Prime Meridian and have one leg in the Western hemisphere and one in the Eastern hemisphere! Visiting the Royal Observatory is not free but it’s a great experience.
If you are an art lover, London will delight your senses. And, like our museums, art galleries (apart from certain exhibitions) are free to visit. My favourites are the Tate Modern, on the Southbank, and the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. You could spend hours viewing the collections! Other galleries to visit are the Tate Britain, Royal Academy of Arts, Saatchi Gallery and the Wallace Collection.
There are many walking tours in London for all sorts of subjects – from street art tours, Jack the Ripper tours to street food tours. Most are not free, however Free London Walking Tours offers 6 tours for free ( you do need to tip your guide after the tour though), including a Harry Potter tour where you visit 9 movie locations. You could of course create your own walking tour for free – you would need to do a bit of research beforehand though! You could also get a bit of exercise and get to know London better by going on one of London Loop’s free walks which are made up of 24 sections, covering 152 miles.
Love music? London has many free concerts – you just have to know where to find them! Make sure you take a look at Time Out London’s website (or take one of their free magazines, which comes out every Tuesday) for the latest listings. There are also regular free concerts, such as the lunchtime classical music concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square and the Southbank Centre regularly has many free concerts.
If you love stand-up comedy, try Angel Comedy in Angel which has free shows every day of the week (although a donation is appreciated). Many of the shows have been at the famous Edinburgh Festival and there are also professional nights which feature award-winning comedians.
Be in a TV show audience
Ever wanted to be in the audience of a TV show? Well, you can! Take a look at SRO Audiences for free tickets to be in the audience of TV shows such as The Graham Norton Show, Loose Women and Alan Carr’s Chatty Man. All these shows usually have celebrity guests so you may just find yourself sharing a studio with Kylie Minogue (Chatty Man, April 2014) or Matthew Perry (Graham Norton Show, January 2016). Applause Store UK has tickets for shows such as Top Gear, Britain’s Got Talent and Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which is always a great laugh!
The changing of the Guard
If you want to experience true British culture and history, watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. This doesn’t happen every day so please do check the Changing-Guard website before planning your visit. If you do miss it, at the bottom of Pall Mall, the Changing of the Guard takes place every day at 11am Monday to Saturday and 10am on Sundays at the Horse Guards Parade.
So there you have it. Lots of free things to see and do whilst you’re in London!