Discover the gems of London for free, visit Buckingham Palace, see the changing of the guard, marvel at life-size dinosaurs, step onto a blockbuster film set, or enjoy music festivals and street performers. There are free things for everyone to enjoy.
With international travel back in full swing, many Americans’ thoughts turn to a trip to England, particularly to London.
The city is bursting full of culture and history, so it’s no wonder that the US has a whopping 936 aircraft departures and 257,331 seats a week! And if you’re from New York Tri States or California, you make up two-thirds of the weekly visits from America. But London can be very expensive; it’s number four in the world of most expensive cities to live in.
So you must ensure that your dollars stretch as far as possible.
What if we told you that you could see the Magna Carta, gaze at a Picasso, and push a trolley at the infamous Platform 9¾ in the Harry Potter films, all for FREE?
You heard it right, we’ve got all the insider tips for fabulous things to do in London that will cost you nothing! That said, some of these experiences have tickets that give you additional access or offer different opportunities, which can add to your experience if you choose to partake in them.
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British History at Its Best, All for Free
As soon as you arrive in London, you’ll see it’s brimming with history.
Take a trip to Tower Bridge, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be there to see the bridge’s opening, which is a genuinely remarkable sight. Standing on Tower Bridge, you can look down the river Thames and see the historic Second World War ship HMS Belfast.
From Tower Bridge you can walk to the Tower of London, while entrance to the tower isn’t free, your family can take photos with the iconic Beefeaters who guard the tower.
No visit to London is complete without a visit to Buckingham Palace, home to the British Royal Family. You can stand at the gates and see if the King is in residence, denoted by the flying flag.
If you time it right, you’ll see the changing of the guard, soldiers marching from St James’s Palace to Buckingham Palace dressed in red coats and bearskins. It’s a marvelous sight, and the kids love it!
Walk back down the famous Mall, and you’ll see Admiralty Arch, which leads you into Trafalgar Square.
You must stop for photos with the giant stone lions and Nelson’s Column and to see which exhibitions are currently being displayed on the Fourth Plinth, where artworks are rotated monthly.
Get Great London Views on Foot
Trafalgar Square is home to one of London’s most famous free art galleries, The National Gallery. Here you can immerse yourself in the stunning works of artists such as Monet, Van Gough, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo.
A short walk from Trafalgar Square, you’ll find yourself in Leicester Square, and if your timing is right, you may see a celebrity-studded red-carpet film premiere.
Covent Garden market is well worth a visit, with the market open Tuesdays through Fridays. Even when the market isn’t on, you’ll always be treated to a performance from talented street performers; acrobats, opera singers, and illusionists are frequently found here. There are some great hotels in Covent Garden, London. Keep your eyes open; the market is near the West End, which is theatre land, so you may spot some celebrities, too.
You’ll find the Seven Dials Market, a bustling street food market, and while the food isn’t free, it’s more cost-effective than eating in a restaurant in the square. You’ll find delicious pasta, Thai food, and great vegan options.
Venture out to Kings Cross and get a once-in-a-lifetime photo of you or the kids pushing a luggage trolley on Harry Potter’s Platform 9¾, which has to be on any guide to London with kids.
And don’t forget, Paris is only an hour’s flight away from London; here are some great suggestions if you are looking for where to stay in Paris with kids.
Must See Free London Museums
If history is your thing, then London is bursting full with it. Luckily, unlike many cities worldwide, London’s museums are free to locals and tourists alike.
The British Museum has breathtaking exhibitions that you can visit with free admission. A whole day can get swallowed up visiting exhibits like the Egyptian Rosetta Stone, The Elgin Marbles, and the Sutton Hoo Mask and Ship Burial Collection, a fascinating Anglo-Saxon collection discovered in 1939 and an incredible 1,500 years old.
You can also choose to do a guided tour that lets to skip the lines and get more in-depth information about the exhibits. After the tour, you’re allowed to stay at the museum as long as you want to see more or revisit your favorite parts.
Continuing the history trail, visiting the Natural History Museum must be on any discerning traveler’s list and is a kid’s haven. The world-famous dinosaurs are jaw-dropping; you’ll be treated to a view of a real Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, the skull of a Triceratops, and a Scolosaurus, a giant armored dinosaur.
You could easily spend the day in the dinosaur gallery, but there’s much more to see there.
Marvel at the first edition of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species and check out moon rock, which was given to the UK by President Nixon after the final Apollo 17 mission.
A visit to the British Library will treat you to the Magna Carta, Shakespeares’ first folio, and Jane Austen’s writing desk.
Also, consider the Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum and Design Museum.
Parks To Visit in London
Despite being the capital city of England, there are a surprising number of parks to visit.
In West London, visit Kensington Gardens and the Diana Memorial Playground. St James Park in Westminster is a great place to stop and take a breather; a playground keeps the kids entertained.
Another central park in Westminster is Hyde Park, covering 340 acres; there’s enough space for everyone here. If you are there on a Sunday morning, then make sure you visit Speakers’ Corner on the northeast corner. Speakers’ corner dates back to the 1800s; speakers would stand on a soapbox and talk on any subject they liked, usually to a heckling crowd.
You never know who may be speaking when you visit—famous speakers have been Karl Marx, George Orwell, and Vladimir Lenin—and it’s usually highly entertaining for the whole family. Even you could speak there if you wanted.
One of the best ways to see as many of these attractions and areas in as little time as possible is to purchase a pass for the hop on hop off bus that lets you avoid the Underground and see your favorite spots more quickly and easily.
Things To do in London South of the River
The South Bank is an up-and-coming area; it’s vibrant and cultured, and you’d be remiss not to visit it.
Between May and September, it hosts the Underbelly Festival, an eclectic collection of street entertainment and live performers. If it’s a nice, sunny day, there’s nothing better than grabbing a cold drink, sitting down, and soaking up the atmosphere.
London is the gateway to many other British locations; you can take the train or drive and enjoy days out in the Midlands (although you may want an overnight stay as there’s so much to do).
Plan Your London Visit Ahead
There are so many things to do in London that are free, but you can waste a lot of time if you don’t have a clear plan and itinerary. Look for attractions that are close together, places you can walk to; this will save on any train or bus fares. Get your kids excited for the visit with these England fun facts for kids, which have some surprising facts about London.
Plan your budget and stick to it, and there won’t be any unexpected credit card bills when you return home. Most of all, enjoy your visit!
Mandy is the enthusiastic creator of the vegetarian website Splash of Taste; she makes meat-free cooking fun and easy. Download her free 5 x Easy Vegetarian Meals Ebook. When Mandy’s not cooking and writing, you can expect to see her traveling, exploring countries and cuisines, or spending time with her chihuahua.