While London is often associated with high costs for tourists, the city’s popularity and influx of millions of visitors annually have led to the availability of numerous free attractions. Despite its reputation, exploring London doesn’t have to drain your finances. In fact, we have curated a comprehensive list of cost-free activities in the city, including some hidden gems. So, you can enjoy the wonders of London without worrying about breaking the bank.
Even if you don’t want to pay, then it’s worth taking photos in the areas at least. The best thing about London is that most free attractions are next to each other, if not, walking distances from one another.
Below is a list of attractions that are worth visiting. There are tips on the attractions and recommendations on how long it take to visit each attraction.
How can I have fun in London with no money?
There are so many things you can do to have fun with no money. For those of you who have never visited London, then you’ve not delved deeper into what the city offers. You can visit top historical places and take photos outside Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and Buckingham Palace without going inside. You can walk along the Southbank by the River Thames, and enjoy sitting in Jubilee Park, eat and sit by the rows of cafes and restaurants and take photos of a hidden attraction, The Golden Hinde Ship and explore London’s beautiful neighbourhoods. Check the Southbank Walk for more information on the Southbank area.
You can also visit the top 8 Free Museums, window shopping in major high streets such as Oxford Street and Regent Street, famous markets and relax in Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square and the 8 Royal Parks.
What can you do in London for cheap?
Although they’re not free, there are so many cheap things to do in London. Many attractions have an entry fee of around £8 – £25 depending on how popular the attractions are. The more popular the attraction, the more expensive it is. The London Eye, Westminster Abbey (although you can visit for a free service, you’ll be able to see the interior without spending a penny), Shakespeare’s Globe, Theatre and Museum where you’ll learn about the theatre itself, costs around £17+. The Shakespeare Museum is free and it’s very intimate and peaceful. There weren’t a lot a lot of people visiting. The Clink Prison Museum, the oldest museum going back to the 10th Century is situated in the South Bank, and it costs £8 per adult and £6 per child. The Golden Hinde Ship, also situated in the Southbank, behind Borough Market is £5 per adult, £3 per child. It’s worth checking out the London Pass and the London Explorer Pass if you want to save money. If you’re travelling on a budget, it’s worth going inside one or two paid attractions for the duration of your visit.
If you’re visiting during winter, click for free things to do in London in December.
Piccadilly Circus is just a small square where everybody likes to hang out. Although it’s famous for its billboards and the Shaftesbury Memorial Statue, people just glance at them for 3 minutes, take selfies and be on their way to other attractions. However, it’s popular because it’s in the heart of the West End.
The streets linking to and from Piccadilly Circus are what you need to focus on.
Shaftesbury Avenue is the famous West End Theatre District.
Coventry Street leads to Leicester Square and Chinatown.
Regent Street links to Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road for luxury shopping in in Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, and Liberty’s and designer brands like Ted Baker, Chanel, Gucci and many others. You will also high street fashion stores such as Zara, H&M, and many others here.
The street of Piccadilly consists of the flagship Waterstones and Hatchard’s bookstores for book lovers. The flagship sportswear Lilywhites for sports lovers. St. James’ Church, a small intimate church to get away from the busy city life. The Ritz Hotel and restaurant and Green Park, which links to Buckingham Palace and St. James’ Park. The Mall in front of the Victoria Memorial, a spacious street where Royal parades go through is also a great spot to walk through. It also links Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square. Brits are usually avid walkers, and we usually walk around within the West End. Read more on the West End Walk.
Spend no more than half an hour here in Piccadilly Circus.
Like Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden is a place to hang out and go shopping. In Covent Garden, there are many boutique stores ranging from fashion, beauty, toys, and high-end restaurants. If you can find a bargain, go for it. In the Apple Market, people are simply happy to browse and not buy anything. Check out Moomin’s gift shop selling quirky tea towels, mugs, and general homeware.
Other than brand named and high street stores, you will see a few street performers. I’ve seen magicians and live statues here where when people throw a coin, they’ll change their position. In the square, you’ll usually see a large crowd watching street entertainers. It’s different every day. Some of them can be cheesy, but children do love them. If you’re okay with crowds, then Covent Garden is the best place to go.
The Jubilee Market sell general British souvenirs. It has a narrow pathway and you’re always squeezing through people. It can be a pain, but if you find a treasure, then the Jubilee Market is the place to go for gift inspirations. The Royal Opera House, and the London Transport Museum, which consists of the history of British transport, are two other attractions worth the visit. It’s great for all the family too.
Covent Garden is always busy, but there’s always something for everyone.
As for somewhere to eat, check out the Flat Iron for great steak. The restaurant is always busy, and you must book in advanced, but the service is excellent. For dessert, make sure you get a silver token to get your free ice cream. For traditional British fish and chips, check out The White Swan. British pubs are always packed with people drinking and eating, and if you find a table, grab it while you can, otherwise, a member of staff will be happy to find you a table. Beware that some pubs don’t do table service, and you’d have to order at the bar.
Spend no more than 1 hour here, excluding lunch or dinner.
Aside from admiring the four lions protecting the Nelson Column and the fountains (that’s what people like to do when they arrive), Trafalgar Square is not just a square with nothing in it, but also an icon. It’s where all the major events happen. Click for my post on Events in Trafalgar Square.
Like Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square is a place to hang out. Whether you want to have a rest from the busy city life, have a rest from hardcore shopping or people watching, Trafalgar Square is the place to be.
Whenever I finish a stressful day in London, I often go to Trafalgar Square to relax. London can be stressful but thank goodness for so many areas to relax. There are always enough coffee shops like Starbucks or Costa in every corner of the city. Although coffee shops are always busy and there’s limited seating to charge your phone, they’re great places to relax. After 20 minutes in Trafalgar Square, I often spend half an hour visiting the National Gallery in front. I usually love the British architecture and paintings from Van Gogh, Monet and many more going back to the 19th Century.
Spend no more than 30 minutes here.
Like Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, and Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square is another place to relax. In the middle of Leicester Square, you’ll see the Shakespeare Memorial Statue surrounded by fountains, and in summer, children love splashing themselves around them. Alongside the memorial statue, see if you can find statues of Bugs Bunny, characters from Singing in the Rain and Paddington Bear, a movie memorial trail commemorating a hundred years of Hollywood films.
As most know, Leicester Square is home to movie premieres such as Star Wars, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the Harry Potter movies, and many more. There are usually crowds of people gathering around the Odeon Cinema and if you’re lucky, take a snapshot of celebrities when they arrive. Britney Spears, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz have walked through the red carpet here in Leicester Square. As London can rain almost nearly 70% of the times, waiting for celebrities and being pushed and shoved by other people can be a pain. Get there early as possible and stand in front of the entrance where celebrities will pass.
The best thing about Leicester Square is that it links to Chinatown, Shaftesbury Avenue, the theatre district, and Piccadilly Circus. You can also find several stalls selling theatre tickets. If you shop around, you may get 50% off on same day theatre shows up to a week in advanced.
There are also many food outlets serving world dishes, from Italian to Mexican to steakhouses, McDonald’s, and KFC as well as traditional British pubs for fish and chips and pies.
A lot of websites tell you to go up to the 9th Floor of Indigo Hotel and you’ll see a great view of London, but I went up there with a friend. It’s not that great. London can be industrial, so don’t expect to see anything fancy. Look down from the top, you’ll see a great birds-eye view of Leicester Square.
If you happen to visit London in December, make sure you check out the Christmas Market in Leicester Square.
Spend no more than 30 minutes here.
London museums that are a must to visit
Which museums are free in London?
There are many free museums in London. The first top 5 free museums are the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, Victoria, and Albert Museum (V&As), Science Museum, and the National Gallery.
From learning about ancient mummies, discovering different types of dinosaur fossils, exploring contemporary art, and finding out about London’s history, you’re sure to learn something while in London.
Click on the photo to find 3 more free museums in London and find more information about each museum.
If you’re short of time spend no more than 1 hour in each museum since you can spend more than 3 hours in one museum alone. Post COVID, you’d have to book an entry slot on their website, but you can stay there for as long as you please. Click the link below to go to their website and book your free entry time.
8 Royal Parks of London
What I love about London are the parks scattered around the area. Even outside Central London, there are small local parks you can still enjoy.
The 8 Royal parks of London tourists must visit are Hyde Park, Green Park, Kensington Gardens, Bushey Park, Greenwich Park, Richmond Park, St. James’ Park, and Regent’s Park. They all have different things to do and see, and the best part is, they’re all free.
Spend no more than 1 hour in each park if you’re short of time but feel free to jog, relax, and socialise during events found on their website. There’s always something for everyone, from families, friends and couples.
If you visit The Shard and you want to eat lunch or dinner, it’s not cheap. It can be crowded with people considering its popularity, but the environment is great, especially for a family with children. You usually see businesspeople having dinner and lunch as well as office parties, and the service is always second to none. The waiters are knowledgeable about the menu and the wine. It’s one of those experiences where, once you’ve experienced a place, you’ll try something different, but each to their own tastes.
The Shard is beautiful when you visit in the evening. London is beautiful at night than during the day. You can also go up to the top floor just for the view and sit outside on a fresh cold breeze (with your jacket of course) or on a warm summer evening. Find out more on their website.
Even though Sky Garden is free, you can’t just go there on the day. You’d have to book on their website for a timeslot with a minimum of 3 days in advance. Find out more on their website.
The similarities between Sky Garden and The Shard is the view of London. The difference is Sky Garden is more like a massive greenhouse where you can take photos of some of the plants. There are several paths to take between Sky Garden’s green plants. You’ll learn a lot about the different names of each plant if you’re a fan of horticulture, and although the bar is expensive and busy, you’ll be able to sip cocktails and wine overlooking the view of London. There are seating areas, but you may have to grab one if there’s one free. It seems there are hundreds of people visiting Sky Garden, but seating can be limited.
Sky Garden is an alternative to The Shard, and the Shard is an alternative to Sky Garden. If you missed the Shard, you won’t miss much if you’ve visited Sky Garden, even when you want to have lunch or dinner. Both places offer the same view of London, and both places are upmarket and expensive. It’s a draw in terms of experience.
Usually, you’ll get a 1-hour slot and won’t be able to stay longer than that to avoid overcrowding. It shows how popular this place is.
London mews are always missed by tourists, and not a lot of tourists know about them. They’re part of London’s history that’s not to be missed. Usually, London mews are hidden away from large streets, and the pathway is usually narrow with 1000 – 1500 square feet in size. It’s always a dead end and it’s always peaceful and quiet, so it’s a great way to get out of the crowds.
Since the Tudor and the Victorian times, during the 17th to the 18th Century, wealthy people had horses, coachmen, and servants. When they travel, the servants would sleep upstairs, and the horses would be kept downstairs. If you notice, all the colourful garages you see in the mews keep its traditional gates, big enough for the horses to enter. Most mews still have archways for the carriages to pass through. Now converted into small houses and garages for cars, the environment is always quiet and peaceful. These mews now cost more than a million pounds to buy, and you’d be lucky to live away from the busy streets. I could still imagine the horses and the servants walking past whenever I visit.
When I pass the traditional Georgian, Tudor, and Victorian houses I still look through the Victorian windows, and I could still imagine Victorian housemaids and their wealthy owners going about their daily business. Some Victorian houses can be dark, and you can imagine them being haunted. Some has kept its 18th Century exterior, but the interior has been revamped to have a modern 21st Century feel. It’s amazing how London was still prosperous back in the 18th – 19th Century and you can still feel its history in the present day.
People usually spend 15 minutes taking photos. Be careful, you must respect the residents but I won’t waste too much time on visiting every single mew, cos once you’ve seen one or two, the rest look the same. Sometimes, there are roadworks cars parked so it can ruin your photos.
Here are some mews worth visiting:
St. Luke’s Mews (used as a set in the Notting Hill movie). The pink house with the bicycle is still there. Although, this mew is quiet, you have to respect the owner of the house, so be careful.
Sussex Mews West
Holland Park Mews
A Guide to London’s beautiful neighbourhoods
I could write a novel about London’s beautiful neighbourhoods and London mews. In different areas of London, there is always something unique in each neighbourhood and the London mews. In every neighbourhood, most shops will still keep their 18th – 19th Century Victorian shop fronts but inside, it’s modern. You’ll see different multicoloured, white, off-white, tall, and traditional red-bricked buildings.
Although most Georgian, Tudor and Victorian houses are still owned by a wealthy family of four, some of them have been converted into upper-class and working-class flats, depending on where you live. Most neighbourhoods have a mix of million pound flats and houses with flats owned by the council, one minute you’ll be in the posh end of the neighbourhood, and the next you’ll be in the rough area. Don’t fret about going through the rough area, London is as safe as you make it, even at night. Just be vigilant of strange behaviours, especially if you’re a tourist. Find out about London’s safety tips before you go.
Generally, if you visit most of the neighbourhoods in Central London, you’ll be mixing with the multicultural Asian and the Afro-Caribbean community. You’ll feel the multi-cultural vibe and the various neighbourhoods you see in pictures is what you see in real life.
Here are some places you should visit:
Holland Park, Notting Hill and Portobello Market and the Kensington Borders
Belgravia, Chelsea, and South Kensington. For inspiration, you can check out my post on things to do in Chelsea
Hampstead and Primrose Hill
Marylebone, Mayfair, and St. James’
Covent Garden, Bloomsbury, and Fitzrovia. Covent Garden is in the West End, check out my West End Walk post for more inspiration on things to do near Covent Garden.
Chiswick, Kew, Barnes Village, and Richmond
Soho, Greenwich, and East London
So, there you have it. 9 Amazing free attractions to visit in London. If you have any questions about this post, you can comment down below or contact me on Facebook. If you have Pinterest, pin my pin so you won’t forget what free attractions you can visit before you go.