London for free? Sounds too good to be true. Yes, London can be expensive. We all know that, and London is repeatedly right up there as one of the most expensive cities to live in. But that does not mean you shouldn’t visit. With a bit of careful planning, London can be enjoyed without blowing your holiday budget for years to come. How about I tell you about all the fun things to do in London for free? Or how to do London for little money? Yes, these things do exist. They might not include a trip to Madame Tussauds or a private tour of Buckingham Palace. But that doesn’t mean they are less special.
Let’s dive right in. After all, you are here to find out how to save money on your next London trip.
Fun things to do in London for free
See the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace
You know how I said Buckingham Palace wasn’t on the list if you are trying to do London for free? Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Yes, going inside and having a look around the palace, will come at a price. But if you only want to see the exterior, that won’t cost you a penny. And neither does attending the Changing of the Guards.
Come rain or shine, the Changing of the Guards takes place Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays (daily in June and July) at 11am. I recommend being there a little early, to get a good viewing spot.
Walk under the Thames
Yes, you’ve read that right. You can walk below the Thames. Next time you are in Greenwich, don’t forget to check out the Greenwich foot tunnel, spanning 370m from Greenwich to Island Gardens.
London for free: Visit Tate Modern
Set in an old power station, Tate Modern offers some magnificent modern art pieces in a spectacular setting. And best of all, the main bulk of Tate Modern is free. Even if modern art isn’t quite your thing, I would recommend a trip. If only to look at the amazing building itself. Tate Modern is in the former Bankside Power Station, built in the first half of the 20th century by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (the same architect that built the recently refurbished Battersea Power Station and who designed the iconic red telephone boxes). Having been disused as a power station in the 1980s, it was refurbished by Herzog & de Meuron in the 1990s and opened as Tate Modern in the year 2000.
You will have to pay if you would like to see any of the limited exhibitions, but the main exhibition and entry into the building itself is free of charge (although they do much appreciate a donation).
Learn about the history of Battersea Power Station
Tate Modern isn’t the only disused power station in London. Head west along the Thames and you will get to Battersea Power Station. After years of disrepair, it has finally been restored to former glory and re-opened in 2022. It now houses a shopping centre, event space and some luxury apartments. Have a wander around. Spot the old structure and the control rooms that are still in place. Head to the lower ground to see the free exhibition about the power station. From its beginnings in the early 20th century to today.
Explore the City of London
The City of London is quite different from the rest of London. The Square Mile is London’s financial centre and home to most of those modern skyscrapers, that nowadays dominate London’s skyline.
But it is also the oldest part of London, with buildings like the Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Attend the Ceremony of the Keys
And whilst we are on the subject of the Tower of London. What if I told you, you could include the Tower of London on your list of things to do in London for free? You might not be able to explore the entire Tower without paying the hefty entrance fee. But you can attend the Ceremony of the Keys, which takes place every evening. Unfortunately, no photos allowed, but believe me that this is quite a special event, so before you head to London next time, get yourself some free tickets.
London for free: Street performers in Covent Garden and on Southbank
If you have a little time, go and watch some of the street performers in Covent Garden or on the Southbank. From living statues to musicians to magicians, there is plenty to see.
Window shopping at Harrods
A shopping spree at Harrods might not make it to the list of things in London for free. But window shopping doesn’t cost a penny. And even if you have no intentions of buying anything, Harrods is worth a look. Check out the Egyptian escalator and the food hall.
London for free: Go for a walk along the Thames
Walking London is one of the best ways to experience the city. One of my favourite walks is along the Thames between Westminster Bridge and the Tower of London. You can either walk it all (there is a nice path on the south side of the river) or you only do part of it, completely up to you.
Enjoy magnificent views of London
Nothing better than seeing London from above. You get lovely views from the London Eye or the top of the Shard. But these come with a hefty price tag. Instead, I would recommend visiting the Sky Garden (on top of the Fenchurch Building aka the Cheese Grater) or the Garden at 120 Fenchurch Street. Both are free of charge and offer great views. Just remember to reserve your free ticket for the Sky Garden a week before your visit. No tickets needed for the Garden at 120.
Explore London’s Secret Gardens
London has plenty of green spaces. Some are quite obvious; others are a little more hidden. How about a free walking tour exploring some of those hidden gems.
London for free: A trip to the British Museum
As one of the biggest and oldest public museums in the world, the British Museum should definitely be on your London itinerary. Entrance to the main collection is free. If you are in London for a weekend, you probably won’t be able to see everything the museum has to offer (after all, they have around 8 million artefacts), but I would urge you to spend an hour or two just having a nose around.
Get yourself tickets to BBC shows
Who would have thought that seeing TV shows could also be on your list of things in London for free? Next time you are heading to London, check the BBC website ahead of time and see if you can bank yourself some free tickets to TV or radio shows.
We did this a few times over the years, especially when we first moved to London and money was a little tight. We attended a recording of Red Nose Day and saw the BBC orchestra perform a concert for Radio 3.
Visit Covent Garden + Seven Dials
This is one of my favourite areas in London. Especially in summer, when the weather is decent, I just love to wander around Covent Garden market hall and the surrounding streets. There is so much to see, and you will find some lovely cafes to rest and people watch.
Covent Garden originally started life as a convent garden (belonging to the monastery of Westminster Abbey). By the 17th century Covent Garden became a fruit and veg market for London. But come the 1960s, it was no longer viable for delivery trucks to come this far into central London. Therefore, the fruit and veg market moved out to Nine Elms and the Covent Garden market hall was transformed to shops and restaurants in the 1980s.
There is a crafts market (Apple Market) within the old market hall and the Jubilee Market in the adjacent building, where you buy all kinds of art & crafts and souvenirs.
London for free: See Street Art in Shoreditch
If you love street art, you might want to wander around the streets of Shoreditch.
The area around Brick Lane, Shoreditch High Street, Rivington Street, Fashion Street and Great Eastern Street offers a variety of murals. From Banksy and Stix to Nathan Bowen to lesser-known street artists, go and see which gems you might find.
Visit the Houses of Parliament
Yes, even the Houses of Parliament can be added to our London for free list. Unfortunately, that only applies for UK residents. Write to your local MP and ask them for an invite to the ‘Inside UK Parliament’ guided tour.
The tour takes place Monday to Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon. The tour lasts around 75 minutes, and you will get to see the House of Commons and the House of Lords, Westminster Hall, St. Stephen’s Hall, and the Central Lobby.
If you aren’t a UK resident, you can still get a tour of the Houses of Parliament, but unfortunately not for free.
Explore some of London’s stunning architecture for free
If you are visiting London mid-September, you might have a chance to peek inside some of London’s most stunning buildings completely for free. During the Open City Festival (formerly known as Open House weekend), lots of buildings are open for the public and you will get to see spaces that are usually not accessible for the public. Over the years, I’ve been inside the Bank of England, the Royal Court of Justice, the Lloyds Building, City Hall, the Midland Grand Hotel (nowadays known as the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel) and the disused Aldwych Station.
Check the Open City festival website well in time before your visit, as some buildings require registration upfront.
Do a Notting Hill movie location walking tour
Walk in the footsteps of Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts with a Notting Hill walking tour. See Portobello Market, the house with the blue door, the little travel bookshop… to name just a few. And even if you are not into the Notting Hill movie, the area is well worth a visit and walk around.
See the Thames Barrier
Head east into the Docklands and you can see the flood gates across the Thames. Opened in the early 1980s, the Thames Barrier protects London from potential flooding during high tide and storm surges.
Most of the times the Thames Barrier is open, so when you go and visit, all you will see is the large metal pollards sticking out of the Thames.
To get to the Thames Barrier, take the DLR to Pontoon Dock, then it is just a short walk through the Thames Barrier Park (nice spot for a lunch picnic, if you fancy).
London for free: Visit Barbican Conservatory
Right in the heart of the City, Barbican is a 1980s housing estate and a prime example of brutalist architecture. The estate is Grade II listed and you can join an architectural walk if you are interested in its history and architectural details. Whilst you are there, check out the Barbican Conservatory. It is the 2nd largest conservatory in London (after Kew Gardens) and houses around 1500 different trees and plants from diverse areas.
The Barbican Conservatory is open on selected days each week and is free to enter, however you will need to book tickets.
Tickets are released one week in advance on the Barbican website (usually on Thursdays).
See London’s Christmas lights
This one only applies certain times of the year. But if you visit London in November or December, checking out the Christmas lights on Oxford Street, Carnaby Street, Regent Street and Bond Street should definitely be on your itinerary.
London for free: See Tower Bridge open
Before heading down to the Thames, check the Tower Bridge website to see what times the draw bridge opens. Generally, the bridge is shut, and traffic is running across it, but every now and then it will open to let ships pass. The whole procedure takes around 10 minutes, so if you happen to walk past at just the right moment, I urge you to stop and watch.
See the best of London in just 3 hours
There’s plenty to see in London. But if you are short on time and want to see the highlights of London for free, how about a self-guided 3-hour walking tour. The tour includes some of London’s most famous sights, like the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar’s Square and Buckingham Palace.
Visit the Bank of England Museum
One of London’s hidden gems is the Bank of England Museum. As you explore the City of London, it is hard to miss the massive building that is the Bank of England. Most of the bank is closed to the public. But if you head down Bartholomew Lane, you will find the entrance to the museum. Free of charge, it gives you an overview on the history of the Bank of England and the banking system in England in general. The museum is open Monday to Friday 10am – 5pm and you don’t need to book your ticket upfront. Just show up.
Check out some Harry Potter filming locations
20 years since the first Harry Potter movie and it hasn’t lost its magic just yet. Even though most of the Hogwarts scenes were filmed in the studios, there are quite a few London filming locations dotted across town. So, how about a Harry Potter filming location tour, completely for free? And you won’t even need to bring your Nimbus2000, it can all easily be walked.
Walk through Little Venice, Maida Vale
You might have worked out by now, that walking everywhere is probably the best way to explore London for free. But it is not just the money saving aspect. It also enables you to see some corners of London that you would otherwise miss.
Like Little Venice. Head to Paddington Station and go for a little walk along the canal. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Mooch around Camden
If you love street markets and quirky souvenirs, Camden might just be the place for you. Take your time to explore Camden Market, as it is spread over various yards and buildings. And check out the very colourful and unique shop facades up and down Camden High Street.
Camden Market is busiest on weekends, when all traders are open. But nowadays a lot of stalls are open throughout the week as well, so if you want to beat the crowds, I recommend visiting somewhere mid-week.
Visit Postman’s Park and see the Wall of Everyday Heroes
One of London’s hidden gems is Postman’s Park. Tucked away between King Edward Street and Aldersgate Street, just a short walk from St. Paul’s, the park is a popular lunch spot with office workers around.
What makes it so special is its ‘Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice’.
Unveiled in 1900, it commemorates 62 people that lost their life attempting to save others.
Postman’s Park is open daily from 8am to 7pm and is free of charge.
Fun things to do in London for a fiver or less
After plenty of recommendations for things to do in London for free, how about a few more? Although not completely free, there are also fun things to do in London for little money.
Ride in front on the DLR
If you are heading towards the Docklands, take the DLR (Docklands Light Railway). Why? The DLR is a driverless train. Which means you can sit in the front seat and pretend to be the driver (particular fun if you visit London with kids).
The DLR is part of the Transport for London network, so if you already have a travel card for the day, you won’t have to pay extra for it. Or you can just tap in and out with your Oyster Card or contactless credit card, like you would do at any other tube station.
Go on a bus sightseeing tour
Taking the open top sightseeing busses will set you back a lot more than a fiver. This is not what I am suggesting here. Instead, do London for little money and create your own bus sightseeing tour on public transport instead. After all, the iconic red busses really are what you want to ride on, not those ugly Hop on busses. Unfortunately, there is not one bus route that takes you past all of London’s top sights, but most busses run every few minutes, making changing super easy. A single bus ride costs 1.75GBP with the daily cap being 5.25GBP (just over a fiver). If you already have a travel card for your London trip, the bus rides are included.
Have a picnic in Hyde Park
How about picking up some sandwiches, fruit and crisps in a nearby supermarket and having a picnic in Hyde Park? Hyde Park is free of charge, so you will only have to pay for your food and drinks. Having a picnic on the lawn in Hyde Park is one of my earliest memories of trips to London.
See a play at Shakespeare Globe
If you always wanted to see a play at Shakespeare Globe, you’ll be delighted to know that you can get tickets from as little as five pounds.
As the Globe is an open-air theatre, performances only run over the summer, roughly from April to October. Check their website to see what is on.
Obviously, for more money, you can be seated in the ranks. But honestly, we went for standing tickets, and we ended up directly in front of the stage. I would say it doesn’t get much better view wise.
Wear comfortable shoes, bring water and a snack (there is an interval and everyone around us sat down and had a picnic) and prepare for all weather… it is open air after all.
Fun things to do in London for five to ten pounds
Lastly, I have a few recommendations for you that are slightly more expensive. But at 10GBP tops, they still won’t completely blow your budget (I hope).
London for little money: Tower Bridge experience
OK, I have a confession to make. For years I’ve avoided the Tower Bridge experience. To be honest, I assumed it would be somewhere around the twenty-pound mark, as so many London attractions are. And I didn’t quite see the point. But then I finally went. And it wasn’t half bad. Firstly, tickets are less than 10GBP (serves me right for assuming rather than checking). And secondly, you get a great view over the Thames and London from up there.
The Tower Bridge experience includes two parts: one is the upper deck of the bridge itself, including the glass floors. The second part is the engine room. So, if you always wondered how the bridge works, this is your chance to find out.
Take the Thames Clipper to Greenwich
If you fancy a boat trip on the Thames, I suggest you try the Thames Clipper. The boats run daily between Battersea and Greenwich (depending on day and time, they might even extend further). If you are using an Oyster card, a trip from Central to East costs 9.40GBP.
Visit the Royal Opera House
Surprised to see the Royal Opera House on a list of things to do in London for little money? You have a point. But only in parts.
Obviously, you can spend a lot of money on tickets to see the ballet, but if you check the website during Friday Rush you can find some cheap tickets. Every Friday at 1pm the Royal Opera release last minute tickets for the upcoming week. And tickets start at as little as 9GBP.
Ok, there you have it. 30+ things to do in London for free or for very little money.
Anything else, I should add to this list? Which is your favourite?