Things to Do in London
This post is our guide to things to do in London, with tips on free things to do, suggested nighttime activities, things to do with kids, top attractions and other points of interest. We also provide ideas for exploring London’s vast and dynamic food scene. This post also provides subsections so that you could explore things to do my month or season, by neighbourhood or district as well as sample itineraries. You may also want to check out our pay-what-you-wish walking tours. If you plan on experiencing many attractions and tours during your stay in the city, then we suggest that you read our post that compares and reviews tourist discount passes available to you in London, which could be of great value for certain travelers.
There really is so much to do in London that doesn’t cost anything that you could spend an entire visit visiting free attractions, museums, and events. Several can be visited by day, some by night, and even a few can be visited at both times. Below is our list of what we feel are the top 10 free things to do in London. For even more ideas, check out our post on 100+ Free (an almost free) Things to Do in London as well as our guide to London on a Budget. Many attractions have buy 1 – get 1 free offerings.
1. Witness the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
OK. This one is on everyone’s bucket list, so it’s a no-brainer. This world-renowned spectacle takes place daily in the summer and 4 days a week the rest of the year (weather permitting). Our definitive post explains how and when the ceremony takes place, who make up the guards, and shows you where to get the best spots to watch. We also include a video for easy consumption. Or, you could have us take you along on our free Westminster Tour.
2. Visit the Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament (located inside the Palace of Westminster) is the legislative body for the United Kingdom. Any time the House of Lords or the House of Commons is at work inside the Palace, the public to enter the building and sit in the public galleries to watch the political debates as they take place! (please note: as a working building, Parliament may close doors to the public without notice at any time and visitor access may be reduced at exceptionally busy times). Read our guide on how to visit Parliament, where you will also find a video tour of the buildings.
3. Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London
For 700 years the gates to the world famous Tower of London have been locked every night in a process known as the Ceremony of the Keys. Visitors can apply in advance – FOR FREE – to attend the ceremony and see for yourself one of the oldest continued traditions in the United Kingdom. This may not be a particularly good family option for those with small children, as the ceremony doesn’t begin until 9:45 pm and ends at just after 10 pm.
For more information on how to get tickets and to watch a sample video of the ceremony, visit our Ceremony of the Keys post.
4. Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral for Free
St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey have a hefty price-tag for entry, but for those who are traveling on a budget, it is worth noting that both churches hold services on weekday evenings and throughout the day on Sundays that are FREE for the public to attend. Guests at the services are not allowed to wander throughout the building (meaning no audio tours, or taking in the museums and memorials throughout both churches) but they are invited to come inside and sit in the main body of the buildings and partake in a church service being held in some of the most breathtaking religious sites in the country.
5. Walk Across Abbey Road
Recreate the famous album cover by the Fab Four who recorded their material at the Abbey Road studios, located right beside the most famous traffic crossing in the world! They didn’t go far to reach the crosswalk and neither will you. It’s located just a short walk from the St. John’s Wood Underground station. We detail how to get to Abbey Road in a blog post. You might also be interested in our self-guided tour of Beatles sights in London, which includes this stop.
For London music lovers, you may be interested in taking our (pay-what-you-wish) London Rock N Roll Tour, which includes many Beatles’ sites. Mondays and Thursdays at 14:00 (2 pm). We also offer free, self-guided tours of London sights connected to David Bowie as well as Jimi Hendrix.
6. Sky Garden – London’s Free Observation Deck
At the top of London’s new “Walkie Talkie” building sits a restaurant, bistro, bar…and free public garden! The views from this building are almost unbeatable in London, and even though the outdoor viewing balcony closes around 5, the atrium stays open until the late hours of the night. Watch the sunset from the garden and enjoy the sights of London as it lights up the night. Guests MUST pre-book but there is no cost to do so. Public ticketed hours are from 10 am till 6 pm (Mon-Fri) and 11 am till 9 pm (Sat-Sun), though the restaurants and bars remain open until 1 am on most nights.
7. The British Museum
Founded in 1753, the collections held at the British Museum span over two million years of history! World famous objects kept here include the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon sculptures which are displayed alongside classic sights such as Egyptian mummies and ancient works of art from across the globe. And the best part is, there is no cost to visit. And why not join us on one of our free tours of the British Museum? You may also be interested in our guide to visiting the museum on your own.
The British Museum isn’t the only free museum in London. Other notables include the Tate Modern, the National Gallery and the Imperial War Museum. Read our post on other free museums in London.
8. Get Your Harry Potter On
Fans of Harry Potter are at the epicenter for settings in both the books and film franchises when they visit London. It seems that just about everywhere in this city has been used as a backdrop or main setting. There is no cost to visit these locations and to take your own photos. We have created several posts on finding Harry Potter sights, including how to find Diagon Alley, the Ministry of Magic, Platform 9 3/4, or check out our free, self-guided tour of Harry Potter London locations.
Want to meet other Muggles? Then join us for our free, guided Harry Potter London Film Location Tour.
9. Experience the Street Art of London
London is one of the world’s premier cities to view street art and there is no better place to see it than in London’s East End. World-renowned artists as well as the anonymous hit the London streets to put up some of the most impressive pieces of artwork. Jam packed full of eclectic, interesting, shocking, and beautiful street art, this area of London is practically blanketed in some of the most famous street art in existence.
You could join us on one of our free London Street Art and Graffiti Tours. While you are in the neighborhood, you might want to check out our free, self-guided East London Food Tour and it’s surrounding areas.
10. Piccadilly Circus
OK. It’s not as crazy as Times Square, but it’s close. There’s no need to spend a dime here. You will be entertained just by the cacophony of buses, cars, people and just about every other sound imaginable. Learn about what’s to see in this most central of areas. Piccadilly Circus is surrounded by other areas that you will likely enjoy a free stroll through, including Soho, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and Chinatown.
Or you could join us on our Piccadilly Circus, Soho, and Chinatown Tour, which runs several times a week.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Westminster Abbey
- Buckingham Palace
- The Changing of the Guard
- The Palace of Westminster and Parliament
- 10 Downing Place
- St. James’s Palace
- Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- The Tate Modern
- The British Museum
As a mega-city, London has no shortage of night activities. For our full list of recommendations, visit our full post on things to Do in London at Night, where we break down by free, family-friendly, restaurants, and entertainment. We also have a post where we list and review all of the night sightseeing tours available to you, including our pay-what-you-like evening tours. We have several dozen ideas as well as links to other resources.
Below, we recommend just a few of our favorite ideas.
- Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London
- Stroll through Piccadilly Circus
- Museums with Late Night Openings
- Sky Garden Observation Deck.
- Watch a West End Musical
- Dinner Cruise on the Thames
- Pub and Club Crawls
- Watch Street Performers
- Take a Jack the Ripper Tour
- Or Join a Pub Crawl
Another effective way to plan your trip is to discover London by neighborhood. This has the advantage of cutting down on time spent traveling from one area to the next. London contains many distinct neighbourhoods and districts. You can explore on your own and we’ve created over a dozen self-guided tours, many of which also provide tips on things to do, restaurants and places to stay, as well as growing list of self-guided GPS-enabled audio tours. Of course, you can join us for one of our many pay-what-you-wish walking tours for deeper insight into the neighborhoods shared by one of our knowledgeable and personable guides. Below is a list of 13 top areas.
- Old City of London
- St. James and Piccadilly
- Hyde Park and Kensington
- Covent Garden (+ Covent Garden Food Tour)
- Trafalgar Square
- Leicester Square
- Camden Town
- Borough Market
We have also created guides based on the time of year. Click on the links below for the corresponding time that you plan on being in London. These also include monthly weather expectations to help you plan how to dress.
- January (weather)
- March – (weather)
- April – (weather)
- August – (weather)
- October – (weather)
- November – (weather)
- December – (weather)