In my last post, I introduced you all to some of London’s famous attractions that you have to pay to get into and whether or not I consider them worth it. Now I want to talk about attractions in London that are completely free. London is on the more expensive side in terms of travel costs, but it does have a great collection of free attractions to fill the itineraries of budget conscious travelers. From wandering through parks and museums to colorful markets, there are free options that will appeal to every kind of traveler. I hope these things will help you fill your London itinerary without emptying your bank account!
1. The Great Museums
London is home to some of the most amazing museums in the world and the vast majority of them are completely free! I could spend weeks on end wandering the British Museum with its unparalleled collection of antiquities. My other favorites are the Science Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the Victoria and Albert Museum, but there are many more that are worth your time. Tate Modern and the National Gallery are must-sees for the art lovers. For the medical nerds like me, the Wellcome Collection and the Hunterian Museum are the perfect stop.
I talk more about some of the specific museums in my Nerd’s Guide to London if you want more details. For the sake of this post, all you need to know is that the museums and their collections are unparalleled and the free entry makes them accessible for all visitors to the city. Even better, the wide variety of subjects covered by all the museums means there is something for everyone!
2. Camden Market
When thinking about London markets, Camden market is the first one that comes to mind. You can find EVERYTHING here from gourmet foods to hand-made jewelry. Camden Market is the kind of place I can walk around for hours just taking in all the booths selling an endless variety of products. Even better: it is in a beautiful location right on the river, making it irresistible on days with nice weather.
3. Visit Harrod’s
Now Harrod’s is definitely the kind of place where you can spend an exorbitant amount of money if you really want to, but it’s also kind of like shopping heaven and is fun to just wander around. I really enjoyed visiting Harrod’s for the first time to celebrate my birthday with a fancy afternoon tea, but I really loved wandering around the store before and after.
Every level is like a maze full of luxury clothing, shoes, toys, and even foods. The gourmet food section would normally top my list for the best part of the store, but Shoe Heaven takes the cake. Wandering the displays of shoes I can only hope to one day afford was an almost religious experience for me. You can easily spend hours wandering the store without spending a dime, but keep in mind it is an upscale place so you will want to dress a bit nicer. Check out my packing list for the trip to see what I wore to tea that day and enjoy your time amongst the luxurious items sold by Harrod’s.
4. Hyde Park
Everyone loves a good day at the park right? On nice days, there is no better place to spend the day than wandering around Hyde Park. The park is huge and has lots of cool areas to explore and its completely free to enter. Lucky enough to get some sunshine on your London trip? Don’t waste it! Spend your day lounging in the grassy areas of the park or strolling through the winding walkways. Now, keep in mind that London’s weather can change quickly so come prepared with an umbrella if there is a chance of rain and an extra layer of clothing in case the temperature drops. Overall, this is a great way to enjoy a day of good weather and avoid spending unnecessary money.
5. Borough Market
If you love to eat then Borough Market is for you. This marketplace is full of everything from Thai street food and fresh bread to fancy cheese and an entire stall of different olive oils. Fancy some fish and chips? There’s a booth for that! Fudge? They have that too(and its amazing, especially the salted caramel one!). Borough Market is the perfect place to head right around lunch time to explore the stalls and grab a bite to eat. Sure the food isn’t technically “free” but Borough Market is fun to explore even if you aren’t going to buy anything. You can wander the stalls and partake in free samples, or just people watch. Either way, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
6. Buckingham Palace
I love Buckingham Palace and the surrounding area. To visit the Palace, I always get off the tube at Green Park and walk through the park towards the palace. This stroll in beautiful during the day or even at dusk because the park is a large green expanse in the middle of a city. Seeing the Palace itself is really cool no matter how many times I visit. I love the massive gates with their gold detail and the view down the mall to Trafalgar Square. And I really love the Victoria memorial in front of the Palace.
7. Covent Garden
I promise this is the last market I am going to talk about, but Covent Garden is my favorite one of the three on this list. The area and the shops are beautiful and are home to such a wide variety of items. Window-shopping the boutiques is a great way to kill a couple of hours, especially if you and your friends love to joke around like my friends and I do. Going into a shop and finding the most ridiculous/overpriced/outlandish items is one of the favorite things to do and Covent Garden is a great place for that. It is also near the West End Theater District so you can always come here to spend time before a matinée show.
8. Greenwich and the Prime Meridian
Greenwich May be a bit far from central London, but it’s well worth the trek to see the area! This is the point where the Prime meridian passes through and the home of Greenwich Mean Time. Now to enter the Royal observatory you will have to pay, but there are plenty of great things in Greenwich that are free! You can visit the National Maritime Museum or the Queen’s House for free and you can wander the campus of the Old Royal Naval College. Bonus: take the Thames Clipper to get there so you’re journey there is scenic(note: this isn’t free).
9. Visit the Sky Garden
I had actually never heard of the Sky Garden until shortly before my most recent trip. I actually discovered it scrolling through Pinterest on a post like this one about free things to do in London. I’m really glad I read about it though because it’s this amazing (and FREE!!!) indoor garden on the top floor of a building Londoners call the Walkie talkie. Sky Garden provides amazing panoramic views of London at no cost. You just have to book a time slot in advance! This was one of the coolest things I did on my trip and I highly recommend it!
10. Take a stroll across Millennium Bridge and along the Thames River
This one may seem a bit silly, but Millennium Bridge with its views of the Shard and Tower Bridge is a must-see and the area around it is one of my favorites. A stroll across the bridge and along the Thames is best done in the late afternoon. Its cooler out and the area will be starting to get busier as people leave work. Start at Millennium Bridge and the Globe and I suggest walking away from the Shard, in the direction of the London Eye. Now, I don’t suggest walking the whole distance between those places, but even part of the distance is a good way to spend some time. Bonus: this can count as “exercise” if you walk far enough!
I hope all these tips can help you plan your trip to London! Comment below with which place you would most want to visit!
From one Misguided Millennial to the world,