Whether you’re a budget traveller or have deep pockets, here’s a list of things to do in London for free. Not only they won’t cost a penny, they’re fun and interesting places to visit. Don’t miss out on these activities in one of the most fascinating cities in the world (for me, at least).
Things to do in London for free
1. Sky Garden
The Sky Garden is at the top of the the Walkie Talkie building, so called because of its shape, at 20 Fenchurch St. The Sky Garden is a public garden with 360-degree views of London. Although admission is free, you must book a ticket as space is limited. You don’t need a ticket if you make a dinner reservation. Admission tickets are timed, do get there early to go through security first.
2. The British Library
If you love reading and literature, The British Library is the place to go. There’s always different temporary exhibitions, like the one on medieval illuminated manuscripts I enjoyed so much. The Treasures of the British Library permanent collection includes a copy of Carta Magna, a notebook belonging to Leonardo Da Vinci or Jane Austen’s writing desk.
3. Twinings Flagships store
This one is for tea lovers. At 300 years old, 216 Strand is the oldest tea shop in London. Come in, browse, and sample new flavours at their Loose Tea Bar at the back. The Twinings shop is very close to the Temple Church.
4. Tate Modern
Tate Modern is part of a network of four museums. It houses a collection of modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present. Even if you’re not into modern art, the building opened in 2000 is worth a visit. The museum is housed in the former Bankside Power Station on the River Thames. The views from the top are amazing too.
5. The Guildhall
The Guildhall is home to the City of London Corporation. The building is fascinating and it includes a Gothic great hall, a medieval crypt, a Victorian library, an art gallery and the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre.
6. Choral Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral
Tickets to see St. Paul’s can be pricey. However, if you attend choral evensong, you can see it for free. The only drawback is that you won’t be able to move freely as a sign of respect for those who are there to worship. Evensong is a daily evening service that usually starts at 6:45 pm.
7. Tate Britain
British art from the 16th century to the present day has a home at Tate Britain. Here, you’ll see works by Constable, Turner, Picasso, Sargent, Tracy Emin, or Henry Moore, to name a few. Keep an eye out for amazing temporary exhibitions as well. Tate Britain is in Millbank, Westminster.
8. National Maritime Museum
Head to Greenwich to see the National Maritime Museum. Its collection spans 2,000 years of maritime history. You can learn about Captain Cook’s expedition to the Arctic, Tudor and Stuart seafarers, polar expeditions, pirates, or Nelson’s Trafalgar uniform. And, of course, you can stand on the Prime Meridian Line.
9. Burlington Arcade
In posh Mayfair, you’ll find a covered shopping arcade built in 1818. It predates European shopping galleries and, of course, shopping malls. Window shop at high-end stores, take Instagram-worthy shots at 51 Piccadilly, London W1J 0QJ.
10. Southwark Cathedral
Southwark Cathedral is close to London Bridge on the south bank of the Thames, right next to Borough Market. It has medieval origins. It was built on some Roman ruins, which can be seen through a glass floor. In fine weather, you can sit in the patio at the back.
12. British Museum
You can spend as many hours as you want exploring the British Museum, and it probably won’t be enough! It holds so many treasures from around the world that it would take many pages to describe: the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, Roman art, and so on. Admission is free, although you’ll have to go through security, so go early to avoid long lines.
13. Somerset House
In Somerset House, you can enjoy the beautiful architecture, courtyard and terraces, and see art exhibitions (some are free, some carry a charge). The palace dates from 1547 and was built by the Duke of Somerset. You can also take the free Historical Highlights Tour.
11. Supreme Court
The Supreme Court’s building is right opposite the Houses of Parliament and with Westminster Abbey to one side. Visitors are welcome Monday to Friday from 9:30 to 4:30 pm. You can see the Justices in action too. Entrance is free, although guided tours are paid. It’s a fascinating insight into the workings of democracy in the UK.
14. Museums galore!
Among the things to do in London for free are most of the museums: the Victoria & Albert (I love the cafeteria), the Natural History Museum, the Museum of London tells the history of London from prehistoric times to the present, the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery (behind the National Gallery), the Royal Academy of Arts, the Wallace Collection, or the Watercolour Society in the South Bank.
15. Southbank Centre
The Southbank Centre comprises the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, Hayward Gallery & Cafe and the National Poetry Library. There are pop-up art exhibitions, concerts, cafes and restaurants. Check out the skatepark in the undercroft and the terrace on the 5th floor with great views of the Thames. Don’t miss out on the singing lift!
16. The roof garden at 120 Fenchurch Street
This lovely roof garden is located at 120 Fenchurch Street in the City of London. Admission is free, just go through security on the ground floor and take the lift to the 15th floor. Although it’s not the tallest rooftop, the 360-degree views are wonderful. You can see the river, the Tower, the Lloyd’s building is so close you can see it in detail, the Sky Garden, the City and beyond. And the flowers and plants are beautiful too. 120 Fenchurch closed on Bank holidays.
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