London is ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in and visit, but that doesn’t mean you need an unlimited budget to be able to enjoy it.
While there are plenty of things that are on the pricy side in London, the city is also generous with what it offers for free. With a little imagination and flexibility there are plenty of activities in the capital that cost absolutely nothing, leaving you more to spend on food and fashion.
1. Free Museums and Galleries
London boasts some of the best museums and art galleries in the world and much to the amazement of foreign tourists, many of them offer completely free entry to the main exhibits. These include:
- The National Gallery
- British Museum
- Tate Modern
- Museum of London
- National Portrait Gallery
- National History Museum
- Victoria & Albert Museum
- Science Museum
London is a huge urban centre, but it’s also full of green spaces where you can relax in nature, walk, jog, or enjoy a picnic. Some of the best parks to explore include:
3. Walk Along the Thames
London is a city that’s often best explored on foot and one of the best places for a leisurely walk is alongside the Thames. You get great views of some of the city’s most iconic bridges and landmarks here such as the London Eye, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the Palace of Westminster. The South Bank also offers cultural attractions including The Southbank Centre, The Royal National Theatre, and The Tate Modern.
4. Browse the Markets
Whether you’re interested in food, vintage clothing, antiques, art and crafts, or bric-a-brac, London has the market for you. London’s markets are not only a great place to pick up a bargain but are also a fun way to spend a few hours browsing and sampling some of the amazing street food on offer.
- Borough Market – food
- Portobello Road Market – antiques, vintage clothing, and pretty much everything else
- Brick Lane Market – vintage clothing, furniture, and more
- Camden Lock Market – clothes, accessories, and homewares
- Old Spitalfields Market – fashion, antiques, art
- Greenwich Market – jewellery and crafts
- Colombia Road Flower Market – plants and flowers
5. Sky Garden
Sky Garden is a public garden located at the top of a skyscraper with panoramic views of the city below. There’s also a fancy bar and restaurant, but it costs nothing to enter the garden and enjoy the views, although booking in advance is a must.
20 Fenchurch St, London EC3M 8AF, UK
Open 10am – 6pm Monday to Friday and 11am – 9pm on weekends
6. Free City Walking Tour
There are loads of free walking tours on offer, guided by enthusiastic volunteers. It’s a great way to learn more about the city and you just tip the guide what you can afford and feel the tour was worth at the end.
One of the most interesting walking tours is the free Harry Potter tour, which takes you around some of the buildings that inspired J.K. Rowling’s tales including Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic.
Harry Potter fans also shouldn’t miss Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station for a photo opportunity posting with a luggage trolley embedded in the wall.
7. Covent Garden
Covent Garden is a shopping area but there’s no need to spend any money if you don’t want to. You can just walk around, people watch, soak up the atmosphere, and enjoy being entertained by the numerous street performers in the Piazza such as buskers, magicians, mimes, jugglers, and more. All street entertainers must pass an audition to perform at Covent Garden, so you’ll definitely be in for a good show. You can also do a self-guided historical walking tour around Charles Dickens’ offices, the coffee shop frequented by Samuel Pepys and other famous poets and writers, and several other locations of historical significance.
8. Free Fitness Classes
You don’t need to join a fancy gym to burn off some calories and get fit. Many of the sport brand stores including Sweaty Betty, Adidas Studio, Nike, Lululemon, and Reebok Fithub offer totally free classes in store. These classes are usually very popular so make sure to book well in advance.
There are also lots of free community running clubs and outdoor exercise classes you can join including Sweatshop Running Community, GoodGym, Our Parks, London City Runners, and Parkrun.
9. Attend a Free Lunchtime Concert
There are free lunchtime concerts held at several art and cultural venues across the city including The Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre, St James’s Piccadilly, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, and The Royal Opera House. Some venues require booking in advance.
10. Window Shopping at London’s Most Famous Shops
Ok, so maybe you don’t want to spend any money, but that doesn’t mean that shopping is out of the question. Browsing the goods on offer at some of London’s best stores is a fun activity in itself and one that you certainly won’t be alone in enjoying as Harrods is one of London’s top tourist attractions and welcomes millions of visitors a year. Giant toy store Hamleys is also well worth a look if you have kids, and bibliophiles should head to the book heaven that is Daunt Bookshop in Marylebone.