London is a fabulous, cosmopolitan city with a plethora of things to do. Luckily for the budget-savvy traveler, quite a few of those awesome things are also free! Here are a list of some of my favorite free London attractions.
1. British Museum
The British Museum is full of art, archaeological specimens, and historical artifacts. There’s so much to see there–the game-changing Rosetta Stone, the colossal head of Ramses II (above), mummies, the Grecian Nereid monument, a moai from Rapa Nui, and art from numerous cultures–that it’s hard to believe a visit there is totally free! Make time for this world-renowned museum while you’re in London and you won’t be disappointed!
2. National Gallery & Trafalgar Square
The National Gallery is another excellent museum in London, and it’s also totally free to enter! My favorite part was getting to see works by a lot of my favorite Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters–Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Matisse, etc.–but we also checked out some Da Vinci sketches and other paintings too. The National Gallery is located on one side of Trafalgar Square, so you can check that off your list when you visit as well! I really liked Trafalgar Square, with its numerous sculptures (including the famous lions!), fountains, and people lounging about, and I found it a much more fun place than Piccadilly Circus, which is supposed to have a similar feel.
3. Westminster Abbey service
Psssst–want to hear a secret? You can visit Westminster Abbey for free if you attend a service there! Otherwise, if you go on a regular visit, the entrance fee is £20 (over $30)/person! Considering you can’t take pictures when inside either way, and that experiencing a service there is really fun, why not just go for free? Additionally, on Sundays the Westminster Abbey is closed to tourists andonly open for worship so it may work best with your schedule (as it did ours) to visit on a Sunday for worship anyway. I highly recommend the Evensong service, which happens daily, as the choir sounds really beautiful in this historic church.
4. Leicester Square & Chinatown
Leicester Square is a really fun area of London, where you can go to a movie (we enjoyed seeing Great Gatsby at the Vue Cinema), see a West End show (we saw Wicked at the Apollo Victoria!), or gamble at a casino. Of course, all of these things cost money, but it’s a fun area to wander around for free as well. When we were there we even saw a Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana Stand set up for the premiere of Arrested Development on Netflix! Really close to Leicester Square is Chinatown, which is also a really fun area with cheap food and great photographic opportunities.
5. Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
This is probably one of London’s most well-known events, and it’s free to watch! The crowds outside of Buckingham Palace gather quickly to watch this, so go early if you want a good view. We were lucky, getting there a little later but still getting a spot where the Royal Horse Guard went right by us. I will warn you, we stayed 45 minutes in the crowds watching the Changing of the Guard, and when we left it still wasn’t finished! It’s a pretty long ceremony, so don’t feel obligated to stay the whole time. It was free, after all!
Perhaps even more than most cities, London has a surplus of sights that you may want to photograph (or take a selfie with!). A short list of these sites would include Tower Bridge (above), Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the Wellington Arch, the Millennium Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, and maybe even Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. All of these are impressive places to go sight-see, and it doesn’t cost a cent to ogle!
7. A London Park
The parks in London are very popular, and it pays to visit at least one while you’re there (after all, they’re free!). We went through Green Park (above) after watching the Changing of the Guard, but other popular ones include Hyde Park, St. James’s Park, Regent’s Park, Greenwich Park, or Richmond Park.
8. Camden Lock Market
Camden Lock Market is a great place for finding funky clothes, souvenirs, and cheap food! Of course, it’s only free if you don’t spend any money, but even if you do there are great deals to be found here–tasty, low-budget food from around the world, cheap souvenirs, and flea market treasures. I bought some really cute scarves here, and I know Mickey and I found a lot of cute clothing and jewelry there too.
9. Abbey Road
Abbey Road is, of course, where the Beatles took the epic photo for their album cover of the same name. You can go and try to get your own Beatles-esque picture there, and considering basically all you’re doing is crossing the road, it’s obviously free! You can even watch a live feed of people crossing Abbey Road. We were really surprised at how fun this actually was–you see, the road is actually a fairly busy road, so trying to get across is a bit like playing frogger. Some drivers are nice and will stop/slow down so you can snap your picture, but others are not so happy about this tourist attraction and might shout expletives at you from their car windows. However, we had fun, and the walk from the nearest Tube station to Abbey Road was through a really pretty, quiet neighborhood in London, which was definitely a nice change of pace!
Harrods is one of the world’s largest, oldest, and most famous department stores. We visited just for fun on our last day in London. We got there a little too early (not realizing they opened at 10am), so we walked around the building (which is huge!) and checked out their awesome window displays, like this Great Gatsby-inspired one (above). Once inside we checked out the food halls (and bought delicious cupcakes), rode the Egyptian Escalator, unwound in their super-nice restrooms, and found the famous green Harrods bags that a lot of Londoners seemed to have. All in all, it was a fun, free way to spend time in London that was also a little decadent. 😉
Totally Worth-it Splurge
If you’d like to splurge on one thing while in London, might I recommend one of the castles? We visited Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London, which are both managed by Historic Royal Palaces, but of course there’s Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and others too. A good idea might be to check out Historic Royal Palaces and read a little about each one before deciding which one (or more) you’d like to visit. Personally, I think I liked Hampton Court Palace a little better than the Tower of London, because it was prettier and had awesome gardens with a maze. I also really liked Warwick Castle though, which is about an hour and a half train ride from London. Whichever you choose, it seems like visiting one of the castles will run you about £20/person. Enjoy!
Been to one of these attractions? Any awesome London free stuff I missed? Leave a comment below!