Free Things to Do in London
Who doesn’t love the word ‘FREE’? Here at Free Tours By Foot, we believe that you don’t need to pay a lot of money to have a great time! To help you make the most of your visit to London, here is a list of all the things you can do in town – without having to pay a penny.
Walk in the footsteps of the Beatles at Abbey Road – Recreate the famous album cover bythe Fab Four who recorded their material at the Abbey Road studios, located right beside the most famous traffic crossing in the world!
Watch Big Ben Strike 12 – 12:00pm or 12:00am, it’s up to you! But make sure to head to Westminster Underground Station and get yourself to Parliament Square to make the most of hearing Big Ben chime in the top of the hour. The most famous clock in the world has been letting Londoner’s know the time for well over a century so don’t you dare leave London without hearing Big Ben bong!
Visit the House of Commons and the House of Lords – The Houses of Parliament (locatedinside the Palace of Westminster) is the legislative body for the United Kingdom. Although you may assume that such an important building would be closed to visitors, this is not the case! Any time the House of Lords or the House of Commons are at work inside the Palace, it is FREE for 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).
Take in a Free Concert – Held in the historic church of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, weekly classical concerts are performed here which are totally free to attend! Each concert lasts around 45 minutes and one need only arrive around 10 minutes in advance to snap up an excellent seat.
See the Changing of the Guard – No trip to London would be complete without taking in all the pomp and glory of the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. Either join us on one of our Westminster Tours, or take in the ceremony yourself and enjoy one of the most fabulous displays of pageantry you will ever see!
Guide Yourself Through Greenwich – Greenwich is fast becoming one of the most well-known boroughs of London. Encompassing over 4 centuries of royal influence, naval regalia, and enough museums to keep you busy for weeks, Greenwich is also home to one of the best London markets! Get the most out of your Greenwich visit with our free self-guided walk.
Take a Self Guided London Bus Tour – London buses are cheap and easy to use, and once you know where you’re going you’ll find that you can do some sightseeing whilst riding the bus – at no extra cost! Take a peek at routes RV1, 9 and 15 which pass some of the most popular sites in town: Kensington Palace, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, and Somerset House just to name a few.
See the Ceremony of the Keys – 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.
Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey – We know that both St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey have a hefty price-tag for those wishing to buy tickets to go inside. But for those who are travelling 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.
Go to the Museum – Which museum? Well, here in London you are spoiled for choice! The majority of all our national museums are free for the public to visit. Although exhibitions may cost additional money, entrance to the museums and into the primary gallery space comes at absolutely no extra cost. You could easily spend days exploring all the museums and galleries London has to offer and it will not cost you a single penny!
Visit Little Venice – At the confluence of Regents and Paddington Canals lies an often overlooked area of London. Take an hour and visit Little Venice and then walk Regents Canal through Regents Park on to Camden Town.
Take In A London Lecture – Gresham College in the centre of London has been putting on public lectures for around 400 years! From topics like history and philosophy to art and modern life, the lectures here are aimed to entertain and educate members of the public. Not only are the lectures here completely free to attend, some of them take place in Barnards Inn Hall, one of the oldest surviving parts of the College that has been in existence since the 16th century. For a list of upcoming topics, check out their website.
Go to the Park – London has a plethora of beautiful landscapes for you to explore. Vibrant and buzzing Hyde Park, host to events throughout the year; Royal Kensington Gardens; picturesque Regent’s Park; St. James (home of the swans belonging to Her Majesty) or Henry VIII’s hunting grounds – Richmond Park! And all our free, run by the Crown Estate, for you to enjoy!
Take in a show at Wilton’s – Wilton’s in the world’s oldest surviving Grand Music Hall! Shows have been taking place here since the 1850’s and today this historic venue hosts musical, burlesque and comedy acts. Today, Wilton’s plays host to the occasional FREE performance for the public to attend! Snap up a ticket soon as they go quite fast!
Visit Platform 9 3/4 – What’s a trip to London without a visit to the most famous train platform in the world? Delighting Potterheads for years now, Platform 9 3/4 is tucked away in the back of King’s Cross Station. Visitors can command take a photo as they push their trolly through the magical barrier into the other side!
Visit God’s Own Junkyard – A free and fabulous museum that features the collection of neon lights made by artist Chris Bracey. You can see work of his that previously helped advertise London establishments and also pieces used in film and television. This is one of London’s true hidden gems!
Watch the Ceremony of the Keys – Every night at the Tower of London, the fortress is locked in a historical ceremony that has been unchanged for nearly 500 years. The world-famous “Beefeaters” work together with Queens Guard soldiers to lock the Tower, securing all the valuables (like the crown jewels) inside in a ceremony that includes military marches, musical support and secret passwords! Visitors must have a ticket to watch the Ceremony but the good news is that the tickets are free! Book your ticket at the Historic Royal Palaces website.
Watch a Political Debate and Visit a Royal Palace – The Palace of Westminster is better known to most people as the Houses of Parliament and this historical building is open to guests all year ‘round. On the weekends and during holidays, visitors can pay to take a tour of the building BUT the real treat is that whenever the House of Commons or House of Lords are working at Parliament, it is free for the public to go inside the building! Sit in the public galleries for as long as you like, walk through one of the oldest rooms in the country, and pick up all kinds of free leaflets and information about the history of one of London’s most famous buildings. Check out the schedule on their website before you go.
Enjoy the Lights at Piccadilly Circus – Famous the world over, Piccadilly Circus is a large traffic junction in the middle of London, linking Haymarket, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly and Regent’s Street. And it was here just over 100 years ago that the first electric lights in the capital were put on display. The bright lights here still draw visitors from all over the world who have come to enjoy some of the most famous lights on earth.
Stargaze in Hampstead – The Hampstead Scientific Society opens their observatory to the public from September to April each year. Guests are given information on the various telescopes here, the vast range of celestial objects they will get to view, and also special events that coincide with eclipses and meteor showers, etc. And best of all – it’s all for FREE! See when their next star-gazing event is on their website.
Go on a Bat Walk – London Zoo isn’t the only place in London where you can see animals! The London Bat Group is a charity that works toward the well-being and preservation of bat species living in London. As part of their work, they organise free ‘Bat Walks’ at random days throughout the years where guests are taken to various different locations, taught about bats and their place in London, as well as a great chance to see these fascinating little creatures! Find out when the next walk is on their website.
Visit a Museum – London’s museums are always worth visiting and the majority of them are free (read our guide to free London Museums). However, what is not as well-known is the fact that some museums operate late nights, where doors are opened to the public long after the sun has set! Think if places like the National Gallery or the Tate Modern (open until 10pm!) for a chance to explore the museums for free, once the larger crowds of day time guests have departed.
Head to the Southbank Centre – All throughout the year, the Southbank Centre showcases exhibitions, art installations, film and events. They are almost always all free and they stay open well into the evening hours. Check out interesting instillations like an interactive LED light room, or watch films detailing life on the front lines of conflict throughout the world – the exhibitions are ever changing and always engaging. Find out what’s coming up on their website.
Take in a Talk – Birkbeck University in London’s Bloomsbury area operates a constantly changing calendar of interesting lectures and talks. The events normally take place in the evening, making this a great way to spend your time after many of the bigger tourist attractions have closed. Talks here take in a wide variety of subjects and topics, usually based around science, history and current events. See what talks are on during your London visit on their website.
Get a Good View – 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 unrivalled 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. Book your tickets on their website.
Walk on the Wild Side – University College London’s Grant Museums Zoology is not only free to visit, but throughout the year the college stages free film screenings of movies centred around animals. Showing cult classics and quirky movies, the screenings are free for members of the pubic to attend – and they often provide a free glass of wine for visitors to enjoy when the film has finished!
See a Comedy Show – The Angel Comedy club takes place upstairs i a pub near Angel Underground Station. Tickets for each Saturday night performance are FREE on a first-come first-served basis. Featuring known performers and up-and-coming acts, it’s a guaranteed great night out that won’t break the bank!
Diana Memorial Playground – The Diana Memorial Fountain itself is good fun for children, it’s free to take off your shoes and tread through the water (a great treat, especially in summer!). But next to the Fountain is the Memorial Playground, full of activities and displaying a large climb-able pirate ship right in the centre, it’s one of the best outdoor activities for youngsters here in the capital.
See the Ceremony of the Keys – 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 is a great treat for children and adults alike!
The Science Museum – The Science Museum is worth visiting even for those traveling without children – but for those with little ones, the Science Museum is full of hands-on educational activities. Here children can create science-based art, construct their own crafts, and take in a fun film in the Science Museum IMAX theatre.
Visit Platform 9 3/4 – What’s a trip to London without a visit to the most famous train platform in the world? Delighting Potterheads for years now, Platform 9 3/4 is tucked away in the back of King’s Cross Station. Visitors can command take a photo as they push their trolly through the magical barrier into the other side! Allow your children to get as close as they can to attending Hogwarts!
Museum of Childhood – Run by the brilliant heads of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of Childhood is aimed at visitors of all ages, with special events and programmes for children even as young as under 5. With multimedia interaction and various displays and installations, this museum highlights childhood experiences from all over the world and is a great day out for the entire family.
London is one of the biggest and most sprawling metropolises in the world – but we also have our fair share of green spaces, and wild animals! City farms are popping up all over the place and offer a great way for children to get hands-on experience with farm animals as well as speaking to their caretakers and learning about running a classic British farm.
The Barbican Big Adventure – This is a family-oriented do-it-yourself adventure trail! By solving clues, playing games, and even using artistic talents, families will be led through the vast architecture of the Barbican Centre, learning about the building – and London – whilst making their way. Totally free and with a possible prize at the end – this is one of the most unique family experiences in London.
Crystal Palace Dinosaurs – Located entirely inside Crystal Palace Park, the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are a collection of over 30 statues, all designed by artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. Although the statues are Victorian, they are still a brilliant treat for modern families. Listed by English Heritage as a Grade 1 Monument, the dinosaurs are life-like and fantastical and definitely worth a visit.
The Natural History Museum – Another Dinosaur related mention on our list! The Natural History Museum currently has on display fossils, bones and re-created statues of dinosaurs on display…including a moving, ‘breathing’ T-Rex! Also at the Natural History Museum is the wonderful section on bugs and insets, giving children a chance to get up close and personal with creepy crawlies!
Feeding the Ducks – Both Regent’s Park and St. James’s Park play host to hundreds of birds and waterfowl. Bring along a loaf of bread and get feeding! The birds in both parks are tame and will even take food right from your hands. Although it’s important to keep an eye on your children (especially with the shockingly big pelicans and swans) it’s a fun experience for members of the entire family.
Street Performers – London is full of people making a living by performance art! Head to places like the Covent Garden Piazza, the north side of Trafalgar Square, or the Southbank near the London Eye to espy human statues, break-dancers, musicians, magicians and even some of your childrens’ favourite cartoon characters come to life!
Changing the Guard – You can’t go wrong with the Changing of the Guard! This is a traditional London treat that is good fun for ALL ages. Check out our post for tips on the best place to stand, or even to march alongside the Guards themselves!
Climb the Monument – Designed by Sir Christopher Wren to commemorate the Great Fire of 1666, this 202ft tall structure is the tallest free-standing stone column in the WORLD! For visitors wanting to experience one of London’s oldest tourist attractions, it’s possible to climb all 311 steps to the top and get some great views, too! Tickets are under £5.00 for adults and under £3.00 for children which makes this an affordable London experience.
Watch A Film – Home to the London Classic “Sing Along Sound of Music,” the Prince of Wales Theatre is centrally located in Leicester Square and features classic cinema, art house films, cult classics, relatively new releases or long-forgotten films for an extremely affordable price. Shows run daily and tickets start as low as £4.00. Check out their website for details of upcoming shows.
The Old Operating Theatre – The last surviving Victorian operating theatre in London is located on the Southbank near London Bridge Station. Visitors can come inside to learn the history of modern surgery, see the theatres where early surgeries were carried out (complete with seats for observers!) and take in the curiosities of the old herb garret. It’s a fascinating, macabre and CHEAP thing t do with tickets for adults coming in at £6.50.
See A Play At the Globe – During the summer, the historically accurate Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre puts on daily performances of some of the Bards best-known and occasionally little-known works. Here at the Globe ticket prices are a far cry from the expensive seats up for sale in the West End. Visitors to the Globe actually have the option to enjoy a performance for as little as £5.00! Holders of these cheap tickets are known as ‘groundlings’ because these tickets entitle you to stand on the ground in front of the stage, instead of sitting up in the benches. Although it can be tiring, being a groundling is an experience that would have been familiar to 16th century visitors to the Globe which means in addition to the theatre entertainment, groundlings are also having a truly historical London experience!
Cruise the Thames – KPMG Thames Clippers offer an affordable and interesting way to see the city. Prices for adults start at just £4.50 (and additional discounts for Oyster or Travelcard holders!) and boats depart every 20 minutes throughout the day. Visitors can travel from pier to pier between Westminster and all the way along the Thames to Greenwich – an excellent way to beat London’s rush hour or traffic gridlock!
Visit Westminster Cathedral – If the price to visit Westminster Abbey is a bit out of your price range, Westminster Cathedral offers an affordable and reasonable alternative. Located down the road from the much more well-known Abbey, Westminster Cathedral is the mother church for practicing Catholics in England and Wales. Consecrated in 1910, the Cathedral is free for the pubic to visit and showcases beautiful neo-Byzantine architecture. The burial place of multiple Archbishops of Canterbury, the Cathedral was also featured in the Alfred Hitchcock’s film Foreign Correspondent. For a real treat, visitors can purchase tickets (£5 for adults and £2.50 concessions) to climb the Campanile Bell Tower – 273 feet up, the viewing gallery provides guests with a stunning 360degree views over London and there is even a lift to make the trip up easy! For those who cannot afford a visit to The London Eye or The Shard, or want to avoid the crowds that they attract, a visit to little-known and quiet Westminster Cathedral is your next best bet!
Free Tours By Foot – And of course, you should join us on one of our tours! All of our tours operate on a pay-what-you-like basis which means they are tours for every budget. Come with us to explore royal Westminster or Kensington and the Old City of London. See some of the best street art in thew sold and follow in Harry Potter’s footsteps! Or solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper and visit Rock n’ Roll royalty! Whatever you’re into – we have tour for your interests AND your budget!