Places To Visit in London For Free
Visiting London on a low budget? This guide shows you all the free places in London you can visit.
London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, but it’s amazing how many touristy things you can do for free. Now keep in mind that transportation is not free in London but Central London is a small area with a lot of touristy sights, so it’s easy to be able to walk around. If you do feel the need to take public transportation, check out my first timer London travel guide that tells you everything you need to know on how to get around London, where to stay in London, and the best things to see in London.
Top Free Things to See in London
Free London Museums & Galleries
London is the home of some of the best museums and galleries in the world. World renowned museums such as The British Museum and National Gallery are all located in Central London and within walking distance (~15 min) of each other. Although the museums and galleries are free, they still recommend donating to the museum to help with the up and maintenance of the exhibitions. If you really do like the museums I would highly recommend donating some money for a good cause.
The list of free (popular) museums in London include:
- The British Museum
- National Gallery
- Natural History Museum
- V&A Museum
- Science Museum
- Imperial War Museum
- Tate Modern
- National Portrait Gallery
- ….and the list goes on
Besides visiting the museums themselves, the surrounding areas are also very nice. For example, National Gallery is in Trafalgar Square, which is famous for its architecture and lions.
My favorite museum would have to be the Natural History Museum, not only because it’s pretty inside and outside, but also because I had my graduation dance in the museum. In the winter there is an outdoor ice skating rink outside of the Museum of Natural History that’s amazingly festive.
Big Ben & London Eye
The symbol of London is the famous bell tower, or Big Ben. Now it’s not possible to tour the inside of Big Ben if you are not a resident of the city, but it’s free to look from the outside! The view is beautiful day or night but I always find it more mesmerizing at night.
Once you get out of the Westerminster Tube Station, you should walk along the Westminster Bridge to the other side for the best view of London Eye. If you want the photo below, you have to go under the bridge to look for this tunnel (it may smell like piss but it’s totally worth it for the shot)
Across the river from Big Ben is the London Eye. It’s not free to go up but you can get better views of London from other free places 🙂 But it’s always beautiful to look at the London eye.
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
The queen lives in the Buckingham Palace some months of the year, but don’t worry, even if you cannot go inside the palace, you can still see the changing of guard three to four times a week year round! See schedule of changing of the guards here.
Word of advice: Regardless of the season, people line up early for this event. So definitely go at least 40 minutes early to claim a good spot with the best view.
Sky Garden is a hidden gem that most people often overlook. It’s a really nice garden on top of a building in the city of London with awesome views of the whole city. It has plants and a bar inside, so you can drink while enjoying the awesome view. The best thing is, it’s FREE! You just have to book tickets online way in advance to avoid disappoints. You can book the tickets here.
Why spend money going up the London Eye when you can get a even better view for free? Best time to go to Sky Garden is during sunset/ golden hour.
Walk Along River Thames
London is a very walkable city, especially along the Thames. A lot of the famous sights such as Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, etc are all along the river. On a nice day this is the best way to see London for free in my opinion. You absolutely do not need to pay for a bus tour to see these famous structures in London, you just need a map (Google maps for example) and walk along the Thames to see these. There are also Thames cruise tours that pretty much show you the same thing.
I normally would start on the east side with Tower Bridge, then walk westward toward Big Ben. Along the way you can see the Shard, Borough Market/London Bridge, Shakespeare Globe, Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye, Big Ben, and Parliament.
Walking from east to west, you will also come across the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral, one of the most famous religious sites in London. The Cathedral is a working church but tourists have to pay £20 to go in and visit.
Every year there is a Christmas Carol service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in December and that’s free to attend. Read more about it here. But word of advice, get there 2-3 hours before to wait in line as everyone wants to join the Christmas Carol service at St. Paul’s.
Tour the Markets in London
Ah markets, where do I even begin? When I was living in London I tried to visit a different market every weekend. Somehow I still never got to see everything and try all the food.
Some of the public markets in London focus on food whereas other focus on antiques, crafts, souvenirs, produces, and other things.
Having lived in London, New York, Hong Kong, and many other places, I have to say that London has the best weekend markets hands down. Locals and tourists flock to these markets on the weekend to try different food, do their grocery shopping or simply walk around and look at antiques and trinkets.
Some of my favorite food markets in London include the following:
- Borough Market (Food, Produce)
- Greenwich Market (Food, Shopping)
- Camden Market (Food, Shopping, Bars, Dancing)
- Portobello Market (Antique, Clothing, Food)
- Brick Lane Market (Food, Shopping, Street Art)
- Columbia Road Flower Market (Flowerssssss!)
- Southbank Centre Food Market (Food)
Spend Some Time in London’s Public Parks
Parks are everywhere in London, and the most worthy ones are definitely worth visiting, especially in the spring/summer. I was lucky enough to live right next to Regent’s Park and it was easy to get to the famous Hyde Park too. Tip: take a stroll (or a jog) in the beautiful parks on a sunny day. You can even grab brunch at a cafe in these parks.
If you happen to visit London during the Holiday Season, you MUST MUST MUST visit Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park! It’s the biggest Christmas market in London and it’s completely free! Get ready to enjoy great food, cute shops, and fun rides (rides cost extra).
Abbey Road is the home of Beatles. This road is famous because Beatles used it as their recording studio in the 1960s. Their final album in 1969 was a photo of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road, which made this road so famous and popular.
Since I lived a block away from this exact crossing, it was pretty entertaining to see all these tourists day at night try to cross the street having their pictures taken and not caring that buses and cars are coming and honking at them.
London Street Art
If you are into street art like me, then London is the place to be. East London is the home of many street artist, including Banksy. There are tours for street arts but you can just walk around this area yourself and explore the different murals.
One of the places to see street art in London is in Shoreditch in East London, you can already see a lot of them when you get off the tube or the overground in Shoreditch. Some of the most noteworthy streets for street arts in East London include Hanbury Street, Brick Lane, Rivington Street and Fashion Street.
Other places to see street art in London include the Leake Street Tunnel near Waterloo Station, Camden, Queens’ Gardens, Surrey Street area, etc.
If you are interested in all the street art locations in London, check out this post by visit London.
Shopping on Oxford & Regent St
Your tour of London is not complete unless you visit the famous Oxford Street and Regent Street. You can find almost all the brands around that area in London. The streets are especially pretty during the holiday season. [no_toc]
Even though London is an expensive city, the city is really good about providing these attractions for free. Budget at least 3 days to explore central London, plan out your days based on your location so you don’t have to pay for public transportation, and bring your camera! Out of all the cities I have lived in and visited, London is my absolutely no.1 city in the entire world! Not only because it’s royally pretty, but it’s also very safe and elegant.