This post on free things to do in London is from Lotte who blogs about her travels at Phenomenal Globe Travel.
London isn’t known for being a cheap destination. In fact, it might just be one of the most expensive ones in the world. However there are a lot of great free things to do in London.
I lived in London for 4 months in the summer of 2013 (which apparently was the sunniest summer in 7 years, lucky me). I was accompanying my husband who was doing a work project there. I would be starting a new job when we returned to the Netherlands so I decided to make the most of my time in London. Instead of getting a temporary job I seized the opportunity to thoroughly explore. I walked around the city for 4 months and really got to know the place. London is without a doubt my favorite city in the world! What can you do in this great city without breaking the bank? Here are some suggestions for free things to do in London.
Visit one of London’s many museums
All public museums in London are free, and there are a lot of museums. I did my best to visit as many as I could. Here are my top 3 picks:
A visit to the Museum of London is a great way to get a feeling for the city. I learned how the city was founded and how it developed through time. Don’t miss the section with recreated historic wooden houses and shops and displays of clothing from different eras.
The Natural History Museum is another favorite of mine. I particularly loved the Human Body and Dinosaur exhibits. Don’t forget to check out the Grand Sequoia!
The Tate Modern is a must visit. I am not that much of a modern art lover, but their collection is one of the best in the world. Plus, the Tate’s building, formerly the Bankside Power Station, is amazing; if you are into architecture you’ll absolutely love it. Also, there’s a great view of St Paul’s Cathedral across the Thames from the building’s balcony. Admission to the museum is free but there is as charge for some of the special exhibitions.
Greenwich is quite possibly my favorite place in London. Mostly known for being the site of the Greenwich Meridian (zero longtitude), its the place from which time around the globe is counted. I like it because it feels like a little village but can easily be reached from London city center by Docklands Light Railway (DLR) or by riverboat.
I recommend starting your trip at the Island Gardens where you’ll have a great view over Greenwich. You can also take the foot-tunnel under the Thames to reach Greenwich itself. The first thing you’ll see upon arriving in Greenwich is the Cutty Sark, a tea clipper that sailed from England to China in England’s maritime glory days (there is a fee to board this). Visit the Maritime College or the Maritime Museum to learn more about England as a naval power. Hungry? Visit the Greenwich market where you’ll find all kinds of international street foods, ranging from Ethiopian dishes to Italian arrancini. Once you have filled your tummy with delicious snacks, climb to the Royal Observatory. From the hill you’ll have a beautiful view over Greenwich, the Thames and Canary Wharf. I suggest taking the riverboat back to the city; it’s a lovely trip.
Walk along the South Bank of the Thames
Take a walk along the Thames, starting at St. Thomas Hospital (where you can get the best coconut milkshakes in the world at AMT Coffee) along the South Bank to London Bridge. Along the way you’ll pass the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern museum and several very old pubs. Plus, you’ll have an excellent view of the opposite side of the river where you can see a lot if impressive buildings. You’ll eventually come to London Bridge, where you must visit Borough Market (opened Thursday, Friday and Saturday). Feeling energized from your Borough Market snacks? Continue your stroll along the South Bank and walk from the London Bridge to the famous Tower Bridge.
Visit Neal’s Yard
Neal’s Yard is a cute as a button tiny courtyard, hidden among the lovely streets of Covent Garden. Neal’s Yard was developed by Thomas Neale in the 17th century and is home to colorful houses and little shops selling all kinds of organic food. It’s one of the cutest places I’ve visited in my life and a great place to escape the crowded streets of London.
Browse Harrods and Hamleys
Harrods may be one of the most expensive stores in the world but you don’t have to buy anything. Visiting the store is an experience in itself. Don’t forget to check out the beautiful Egyptian staircase and the deli section (where you’ll be tempted to buy a delicious looking sandwich or chocolates). You can spend hours admiring the countless expensive items on display without spending a dime.
Another store that is fun to visit, particularly if you have kids, is Hamleys Toy Shop. The famous store was founded in 1760, making it the oldest toy shop in the world. Its flagship location at 200 Regent Street is the largest toy store in the world. You can’t help but feel like a little kid again in this wonderful shop.
This is just the beginning of free things to do in London; there are many, many more. Worthwhile museums, interesting boroughs like Camden Town and Clapham Common (where I lived those 4 months), beautiful parks and excellent markets. London is never boring! There really is something to do for every budget. So have a great trip and don’t forget to get a pint in a nice pub, it may not be free but you are in London after all.
What are your favorite free things to do in London?
Lotte was born and raised in the Netherlands and is trying to explore as much of the world as possible! Up until now she’s lived in Barcelona, London and Amsterdam and visited 32 countries. She’s always loved travel and writes about her adventures on her blog Phenomenal Globe Travel. In 2017 she and her husband will go on a round the world trip. They don’t know where they’ll end up yet or how long they’ll be gone; probably until the money runs out. You will find her on Facebook and Instagram.