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Free Things to Do in London

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This post covers free things to do, including a top 10 list, as well as free things to do at night, with kids, and even cheap and almost free things to do.



BEST FREE EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO

Below is our top 10 free things to do in London. We link to more in-depth pages to help you learn more and to plan you time (and watch your budget). 


Watch the Changing of the Guard 

No trip to London would be complete without taking in all the pomp and glory of the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. 

Be sure to read our post on planning your visit, including an explanation of the ceremony, where to stand (you can't see the whole thing), and when to get there. 

Either join us on one of our Westminster Tours or take in the ceremony yourself and enjoy one of the most fabulous displays of pageantry you will ever see!

We also provide you tips on planning out your day before or after the ceremony, including taking a tour of Buckingham Palace.

There is another guard change that takes place at Horse Guards Parade. This is the Queen's Life Guard Change, conducted by the mounted Household Cavalry. 

This ceremony takes place every day at 11:00 am (10:00 am on Sundays). We have a post detailing the ceremony and how to best witness it.


Walk in the Footsteps of the Beatles at Abbey Road  

Recreate the famous album cover by the Fab Four who recorded their material at the Abbey Road studios, located right beside the most famous traffic crossing in the world! 

Located in St. John's Wood, it's very easy to get there by bus or the Underground. 

Be sure to read our post on planning a visit to the world's most famous pedestrian crosswalk. 


Visit the House of Commons and the House of Lords  

The Houses of Parliament, located inside the Palace of Westminster, is the legislative body for the United Kingdom. 

Although you may assume that such an important building would be closed to visitors, this is not the case!

Any time the House of Lords or the House of Commons is at work inside the Palace, it is free for the public to enter the building and sit in the public galleries to watch the political debates as they take place! Learn how.

Here's a virtual tour video of the House of Commons

Read our post on how to visit the Houses of Parliament, which contains information on when you can go, security and prohibited items, and much more. 


Visit Platform 9 3/4 

What’s a trip to London without a visit to the most famous train platform in the world?

Delighting Potter-heads for years now, Platform 9 3/4 is tucked away in the back of King’s Cross Station. 

Visitors can take a photo as they push their trolley through the magical barrier into the other side!

We detail how to visit this iconic Potter location as well as many other Harry Potter film and book locations in London.

But why not take a guided tour of London Harry Potter film sights with us? 


Go to a Park 

London has a plethora of beautiful landscapes for you to explore.

Vibrant and buzzing Hyde Park, host to events throughout the year; Royal Kensington Gardens; picturesque Regent’s Park; St. James (home of the swans belonging to Her Majesty) or Henry VIII’s hunting grounds - Richmond Park!

And all our free, run by the Crown Estate, for you to enjoy!


Experience the Street Art of London

London is one of the world’s premier cities to view street art and there is no better place to see it than in London’s East End.

Renowned artists as well as the anonymous hit the London streets to put up some of the most impressive pieces of artwork.

Jam-packed full of eclectic, interesting, shocking, and beautiful street art, this area of London is practically blanketed in some of the most famous street art in existence.

You can roam East London on your own or you could join us on one of our free London Street Art and Graffiti Tours


Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey 

We know that both St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey have a hefty price tag for those wishing to buy tickets to go inside.

Entry to both is free with the purchase of several tourist discount passes.

But for those who are traveling on a budget, it is worth noting that both churches hold services on weekday evenings and throughout the day on Sundays that are free for the public to attend.

Guests at the services are not allowed to wander throughout the building.

However, they are invited to come inside and sit in the main body of the buildings and partake in a church service being held in some of the most breathtaking religious sites in the country.

At St. Paul's, the 17:00 (5 pm) weekday services and the 15:15 (3:15) Sunday service contain the Choral Evensong.

These services are sung by boys and gentlemen’s choirs that feature some of the most enchanting, haunting and impressive church performances in the world! 


Take a Self-Guided London Bus Tour  

London buses are cheap and easy to use, and once you know where you’re going you’ll find that you can do some sightseeing whilst riding the bus – at no extra cost!

Take a peek at routes 11, 9, and 15 which pass some of the most popular sites in town: Kensington Palace, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, and Somerset House just to name a few.

Most of these buses are double-decker buses, so you will get a view from up high.

If you already have a travelcard or an Oyster card, then you can easily get on and off at any stop you like.

We detail a few of these recommended routes on our London bus tour comparison page.

We even have a GPS-enabled audio tour of Route 11.


Visit a Free London Museum

Which museum? Well, here in London you are spoiled for choice!

The majority of all our national museums are free for the public to visit.

Although exhibitions may cost additional money, entrance to the museums and into the primary gallery spaces come at absolutely no extra cost.

You could easily spend days exploring all the museums and galleries London has to offer and it will not cost you a single penny!

Be sure to read our list of free London museums


Free Observation Deck

At the top of London’s new “Walkie Talkie” building sits a restaurant, bistro, bar…and free public garden (called the Skygarden)!

The views from this building are almost unrivaled in London and even though the outdoor viewing balcony closes around 5, the atrium stays open until the late hours of the night.

London Skygarden Free London Observation Deck

Watch the sunset from the garden and enjoy the sights of London as it lights up the night. Guests must pre-book but there is no cost to do so. 

We will help you plan your visit

London Travel Tips and Hacks

HONORABLE MENTIONS


Take in a Free Concert  

Held in the historic church of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, weekly classical concerts are performed here which are totally free to attend!

Each concert lasts around 45 minutes and one need only arrive around 10 minutes in advance to snap up an excellent seat.


Guide Yourself Through Greenwich  

Greenwich is fast becoming one of the most well-known boroughs of London.

Encompassing over 4 centuries of royal influence, naval regalia, and enough museums to keep you busy for weeks, Greenwich is also home to one of the best London markets!

Get the most out of your Greenwich visit with our free self-guided walk.


Visit Little Venice

At the confluence of Regents and Paddington Canals lies an often overlooked area of London.

Take an hour and visit Little Venice and then walk Regents Canal through Regents Park on to Camden Town.


Take In A London Lecture 

Gresham College in the centre of London has been putting on public lectures for around 400 years! 

From topics like history and philosophy to art and modern life, the lectures here are aimed to entertain and educate members of the public.

Not only are the lectures here completely free to attend, but some of them also take place in Barnards Inn Hall, one of the oldest surviving parts of the College that has been in existence since the 16th century.

For a list of upcoming topics, check out their website.


Take in a show at Wilton’s

Wilton’s is the world’s oldest surviving Grand Music Hall!

Shows have been taking place here since the 1850’s and today this historic venue hosts musical, burlesque and comedy acts.

Today, Wilton’s plays host to the occasional FREE performance for the public to attend! Snap up a ticket soon as they go quite fast!


FREE THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT 

Below are our favorite things to do at night.

Several items such as a late night at a free museum, viewing London from above, or taking a public, double-decker bus to tour the sights at night, are all mentioned in the top 10 section. 

Check out our master things to do in London at night post for even more ideas of nighttime activities. The video for the 


Enjoy the Lights at Piccadilly Circus 

Famous the world over, Piccadilly Circus is a large traffic junction in the middle of London, linking Haymarket, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly, and Regent’s Street.

And it was here just over 100 years ago that the first electric lights in the capital were put on display.

The bright lights here still draw visitors from all over the world who have come to enjoy some of the most famous lights on earth.

Check out our guide to things to do in Piccadilly Circus


Stargaze in Hampstead

The Hampstead Scientific Society opens its observatory to the public from September to April each year.

Guests are given information on the various telescopes here, the vast range of celestial objects they will get to view, and also special events that coincide with eclipses and meteor showers, etc.

And best of all – it’s all for free! See when their next star-gazing event is on their website


Visit a Museum

London’s museums are always worth visiting and the majority of them are free (read our guide to free London Museums).

However, what is not as well-known is the fact that some museums operate late nights, where doors are opened to the public long after the sun has set!

Think of places like the National Gallery or the Tate Modern (open until 10 pm!) for a chance to explore the museums for free, once the larger crowds of daytime guests have departed. 


Head to the Southbank Centre

All throughout the year, the Southbank Centre showcases exhibitions, art installations, films, and events. They are almost always all free and they stay open well into the evening hours.

Check out interesting installations like an interactive LED lightroom, or watch films detailing life on the front lines of conflict throughout the world – the exhibitions are ever-changing and always engaging.

Find out what’s coming up on their website


Take in a Talk

Birkbeck University in London’s Bloomsbury area operates a constantly changing calendar of interesting lectures and talks.

The events normally take place in the evening, making this a great way to spend your time after many of the bigger tourist attractions have closed.

Talks here take in a wide variety of subjects and topics, usually based around science, history, and current events.

See what talks are on during your London visit on their website


Walk on the Wild Side 

University College London’s Grant Museums Zoology is not only free to visit but throughout the year the college stages free film screenings of movies centered around animals.

Showing cult classics and quirky movies, the screenings are free for members of the public to attend – and they often provide a free glass of wine for visitors to enjoy when the film has finished! 


See a Comedy Show  0

The Angel Comedy club takes place upstairs in a pub near Angel Underground Station.

Tickets for each Saturday night performance are free on a first-come-first-served basis.

Featuring known performers and up-and-coming acts, it’s a guaranteed great night out that won’t break the bank!


FREE THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS

Below are our picks for family-friendly activities in London. Of course, this depends on the ages of your children.

Many of the items in our other sections are also great for families, for example, Harry Potter sightseeing, the Changing of the Guard, and too many others to list here, so be sure to browse those sections.

Be sure to also read our master post on things to do with kids in London.


Go on a Bat Walk

London Zoo isn’t the only place in London where you can see animals!

The London Bat Group is a charity that works toward the well-being and preservation of bat species living in London.

As part of their work, they organize free ‘Bat Walks’ at random days throughout the years.

Guests are taken to various different locations, taught about bats and their place in London, as well as a great chance to see these fascinating little creatures!

Find out when the next walk is on their website


Diana Memorial Playground

The Diana Memorial Fountain itself is good fun for children, it’s free to take off your shoes and tread through the water (a great treat, especially in summer!).

But next to the Fountain is the Memorial Playground, full of activities and displaying a large climb-able pirate ship right in the center, it’s one of the best outdoor activities for youngsters here in the capital. 


The Science Museum 

The Science Museum is worth visiting even for those traveling without children – but for those with little ones, the Science Museum is full of hands-on educational activities.

Here children can create science-based art, construct their own crafts, and take in a fun film in the Science Museum IMAX theatre. 


Museum of Childhood

Run by the brilliant heads of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of Childhood is aimed at visitors of all ages, with special events and programs for children even as young as under 5.

With multimedia interaction and various displays and installations, this museum highlights childhood experiences from all over the world and is a great day out for the entire family. 


City Farms 

London is one of the biggest and most sprawling metropolises in the world – but we also have our fair share of green spaces and wild animals!

City farms are popping up all over the place and offer a great way for children to get hands-on experience with farm animals as well as speaking to their caretakers and learning about running a classic British farm.

Hackney Farm,  Vauxhall City Farm,  / Spitalfields City Farm, Kentish Town Farm


The Barbican Big Adventure

This is a family-oriented do-it-yourself adventure trail!

By solving clues, playing games, and even using artistic talents, families will be led through the vast architecture of the Barbican Centre, learning about the building – and London – whilst making their way.

Totally free and with a possible prize at the end – this is one of the most unique family experiences in London.


Crystal Palace Dinosaurs

Located entirely inside Crystal Palace Park, the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are a collection of over 30 statues, all designed by artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.

Although the statues are Victorian, they are still a brilliant treat for modern families.

Listed by English Heritage as a Grade 1 Monument, the dinosaurs are life-like and fantastical and definitely worth a visit.


The Natural History Museum

Another dinosaur-related mention on our list! The Natural History Museum currently has on display fossils, bones, and re-created statues of dinosaurs on display…including a moving, ‘breathing’ T-Rex!

Also at the Natural History Museum is the wonderful section on bugs and insects, giving children a chance to get up close and personal with creepy crawlies!


Feeding the Ducks

Both Regent’s Park and St. James’s Park play host to hundreds of birds and waterfowl.

Bring along a loaf of bread and get feeding! The birds in both parks are tame and will even take food right from your hands.

Although it’s important to keep an eye on your children (especially with the shockingly big pelicans and swans) it’s a fun experience for members of the entire family.


Street Performers

London is full of people making a living by performance art!

Head to places like the Covent Garden Piazza, the north side of Trafalgar Square, or the Southbank near the London Eye to espy human statues, break-dancers, musicians, magicians, and even some of your children's’ favorite cartoon characters come to life!


FREE THINGS TO DO AT CHRISTMAS

If you're in London during the holiday season, you will find plenty of festive and free things to do! Read below for our top picks. Also make sure to check out our posts on the best London Christmas Markets and where to see London's Christmas Lights!


See London's Christmas Trees

During the Christmas season, the streets of London are beautifully dressed and you will find many Christmas trees among all the decorations, but there are two trees that you just can't miss: the one in Covent Garden and the one in Trafalgar Square!

Right in front of the iconic covered market is the Covent Garden Christmas tree, one of London’s tallest, topping out around 55ft high! The tree will be trimmed by a team of around 60 workers who will adorn the branches with 30,000 lights and ornaments.

The tree is actually brought in from the same place where the Royal Family get their Christmas trees, which makes it that much more special. To keep things sustainable, three trees are planted for every tree cut down from the farm where it is harvested and at the end of the holiday season, the Covent Garden tree will be recycled into woodchips!

Trafalgar Square is home to London's official Christmas tree. The tree is always a Norwegian spruce a yearly gift from tNorway as a token of gratitude for British support during the Second World War. The tree is usually 50-60 years old and almost always over 20 meters tall. The tree forms the focal point of London's Christmas celebrations and a meeting point for carolers during the holiday season. Decorated with 500 lights, it stands in the square until Twelfth Night when it is taken down and recycled.


Attend Service in an Iconic Church

Both Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral host Christmas church services that are open to the public. St. Paul's has a whole host of events taking place throughout Advent and Christmas, including carol services, which are all free for the public to attend. You can find out what's on when you visit HERE. Westminster Abbey is much the same, although many of their services are ticketed - so plan early! You can find out what's on when you visit HERE.


See London's Famous Christmas Light Displays

No matter where you are in London during the Christmas season, you're bound to see some pretty impressive lights and decorations. But the lights in the center of town are truly something to behold! All along Oxford Street, Regent Street, Old Bond Street and Piccadilly you will see some of the best lights the city has to offer. But there are many other places to explore so check out our post on the best of London's Christmas lights HERE.

Of course, we are always happy to show you the lights ourselves! Consider booking onto London's only FREE Christmas Lights Walking Tour! Book HERE.


Walk Through a Winter Wonderland in Greenwich

Sparkle in the Park is a new tradition in Greenwich, but one that is quickly becoming popular! It's an immersive light trail featuring performers, art installations, and thousands of fabulous lights. This is a good one for families and entry is totally free. For 2021 Sparkle in the Park takes place from the 1st to the 5th of December so plan your visit now!


Explore a Christmas Market

There's no shortage of Christmas markets to choose from in London! From those in the center of town like Leicester Square and Covent Garden, to those down on the Thames like the Southbank Market and Christmas on the River - there is something for every one. Think gorgeous little chalets, filled with hand made crafts and tasty treats to purchase, hot mulled wine and cider, cheery Christmas music, and fabulous decorations! Read our list of London's best Christmas markets HERE.

Or let us take you there! You can experience the fun of the Southbank Christmas Market virtually with Sinead or on a guided tour with one of our fabulous London guides. Book your Taste Christmas On The Southbank Tour, running on Wednesday evenings, HERE.


Enjoy the Snow in Covent Garden

Covent Garden goes all out for Christmas with different themed events each holiday season. The covers market and surrounding piazza are decked out with over 300,000 lights, huge holiday garlands, mistletoe, wreaths and baubles. But what makes Christmas in Covent Garden truly exciting is the completely accurate weather forecast for snow! For 2021, from the 9th of November until the 27th of December, every hour, on the hour, from 12:00 - 7:00pm it is going to snow in Covent Garden. This is an excellent opportunity for some fabulously festive photographs and fun for adults and children alike.


Hear a Christmas Carol Concert

If you love a Christmas carol as much as we do, London has some great opportunities for you to attend a carol concert for free. From small local churches, to iconic Cathedrals, to stately homes and concert halls, there are dozens of venues and performances for you to choose from. Our friends at Eventbrite have a comprehensive list of all the free carol concerts happening this holiday season so check out the listing HERE.


Go on a Christmas Walking Tour

Here at Free Tours By Foot, we LOVE Christmas and we love sharing it with you! We have two different Christmas themed walking tours for you this holiday season. See the descriptions below and book online HERE.

London Christmas Lights Tour - Every day but Tuesdays at 18:00

Beginning at Covent Garden, your guide will lead you underneath sparkling lights, hanging wreaths, past stunning Christmas trees and romantic mistletoe. You’ll learn some of Britains’ holiday traditions, as well as how and why they became so popular. Find out what a Pantomime is, why the Puritans hated Christmas, and why we have Prince Albert to thank for our obsession with holiday lights!

Join us as we walk through Bavarian Christmas markets, traverse the cobbled streets of beautifully decorated Covent Garden and stop for a mulled wine and (at your own expense!) Then a trip to Carnaby Street, which never fails to stun with its imaginative take on illuminations followed by a journey across the dazzling Regent Street and on to a little secret corner of fabulous...

Taste Christmas on the Southbank - Wednesdays at 18:00

Your guide will lead you for a stroll along Southbank, taking in the sights and smells while having the opportunity to taste from some of the best festive markets in London this year. London’s spectacular Thames Path is regularly ranked as one of the world’s finest walks and there is no better time than to make the walk in the Christmas season! From our vantage point on the river, we will take in sweeping vistas of London’s most famous attractions – the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, The Savoy Hotel, the Tate Modern and many other sites with a Sprinkle of Londons Christmas and so, so much more. You’ll hear fascinating stories handpicked from over 2000 years of history, and get up close to architecture, street performers, art and get to taste local delicacies.

We will look at the history of the area and hear stories of the Southbank from days gone by. We will visit the Charles Dickens heartland around London Bridge viewing a number of the historic landmarks along the way. We will wind our way through towards London Bridge checking out the famous Borough Market and the Christmas by the River markets at City Hall.

NOTE: There will be options to buy festive food and tipples during the tour. The cost of these optional market purchases not included in the tour.


CHEAP THINGS TO DO IN LONDON

Climb the Monument

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren to commemorate the Great Fire of 1666, this 202ft tall structure is the tallest free-standing stone column in the WORLD!

For visitors wanting to experience one of London’s oldest tourist attractions, it’s possible to climb all 311 steps to the top and get some great views, too!

Tickets are under £5.00 for adults and under £3.00 for children which makes this an affordable London experience. 


Watch A Film 

Home to the London Classic “Sing-Along Sound of Music,” the Prince of Wales Theatre is centrally located in Leicester Square.

It features a classic cinema, art-house films, cult classics, relatively new releases, or long-forgotten films for an extremely affordable price.

Shows run daily and tickets start as low as £4.00.

Check out their website for details of upcoming shows.


The Old Operating Theatre 

The last surviving Victorian operating theatre in London is located on the Southbank near London Bridge Station.

Visitors can come inside to learn the history of modern surgery, see the theatres where early surgeries were carried out (complete with seats for observers!), and take in the curiosities of the old herb garret.

It’s a fascinating, macabre, and CHEAP thing t do with tickets for adults coming in at £6.50.


See A Play At the Globe

During the summer, the historically accurate Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre puts on daily performances of some of the Bards best-known and occasionally little-known works.

Here at the Globe ticket prices are a far cry from the expensive seats up for sale in the West End.

Visitors to the Globe actually have the option to enjoy a performance for as little as £5.00!

Holders of these cheap tickets are known as ‘groundlings’ because these tickets entitle you to stand on the ground in front of the stage, instead of sitting up in the benches.


Cruise the Thames 

KPMG Thames Clippers offer an affordable and interesting way to see the city.

Prices for adults start at just £4.50 (and additional discounts for Oyster or Travelcard holders!) and boats depart every 20 minutes throughout the day.

Visitors can travel from pier to pier between Westminster and all the way along the Thames to Greenwich – an excellent way to beat London’s rush hour or traffic gridlock!


Visit Westminster Cathedral 

If the price to visit Westminster Abbey is a bit out of your price range, Westminster Cathedral offers an affordable and reasonable alternative.

Located down the road from the much more well-known Abbey, Westminster Cathedral is the mother church for practicing Catholics in England and Wales.

Consecrated in 1910, the Cathedral is free for the public to visit and showcases beautiful neo-Byzantine architecture.

The burial place of multiple Archbishops of Canterbury, the Cathedral was also featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Foreign Correspondent.

For a real treat, visitors can purchase tickets (£5 for adults and £2.50 concessions) to climb the Campanile Bell Tower.

273 feet up, the viewing gallery provides guests with stunning 360-degree views over London and there is even a lift to make the trip up easy!

For those who cannot afford a visit to The London Eye or The Shard, or want to avoid the crowds that they attract, a visit to little-known and quiet Westminster Cathedral is your next best bet!


Free Tours By Foot

And of course, you should join us on one of our tours!

All of our tours operate on a pay-what-you-like basis which means they are tours for every budget.

Come with us to explore royal Westminster or Kensington and the Old City of London. 


See some of the best street art in the world and follow in Harry Potter’s footsteps!

Or solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper and visit Rock n’ Roll royalty!

Whatever you’re into - we have tours for your interests AND your budget!

About The Author

Margaret

An American simply by accident of birth, Margaret moved to London over 16 years ago and hasn’t looked back since! With a keen interest in History – and a BA degree to match – Margaret prides herself on her knowledge of the amazing city she calls home and she's been guiding here now for nearly a decade. Social history is her real expertise, with sound understanding of the day-to-day lives of Londoners over the past centuries.
Updated: April 25th, 2022
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