Things to do for free in London

London might be an expensive city but some of its best attractions are completely free. There are lots of free museums and galleries. You can watch a parade, political debate or attend a church service at St. Paul’s. Or how about a view of the skyline? Check out our Top 10 list of free attractions to help narrow it down.

Recommendations Craig recommends… Ceremony of the Keys and PMQs are worth getting tickets for. Not many tourists know about the Sky Garden either.

Bank of England Museum

It’s not all about money in this museum, they also have a lot of interesting pictures showing how London used to look in the past.

British Library

There’s a free exhibition of old manuscripts by the likes of Galileo, Shakespeare and Henry VIII, plus some beautiful old Bibles and maps as well.

British Museum

One of the world’s great museums with a huge collection of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese and African artefacts. If you only see one museum, make it this.

Ceremony of the Keys

The best free parade in London. You’ll get to see the Yeoman Warders locking up the Tower of London in a ceremony that dates back over 700 years.

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Every tourist who visits London has this parade at the top of their itinerary. It’s totally free – but it’s also incredibly crowded!

Changing the Guard at Horse Guards

If you don’t fancy the big crowds at Buckingham Palace then try the Changing the Guard ceremony at Horse Guards instead.

Common Council at the Guildhall

A monthly meeting of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen. It’s worth a visiting this event simply to see inside the medieval Guildhall.

Covent Garden street entertainers

Covent Garden is a great place to do some people watching. You can sit in one of the cafes and enjoy some street entertainment.

Dismounting Ceremony

A short ceremony in the afternoon which makes a great alternative to Changing the Guard if your kids can’t handle the crowds at Buckingham Palace.

Downing Street

After you’ve looked at Parliament and Big Ben have a walk down Whitehall and peer through the black gate to see where the Prime Minister lives.

Geffrye Museum

This interesting little museum is housed inside an old almshouse, and shows how British living rooms and furnishings have changed over the centuries.

Greenwich Hill

If you’re looking for a cheap way to fill up an hour then how about climbing up Greenwich Hill to see its fantastic view of the London skyline?

Guildhall Art Gallery

This art gallery has something surprising in the basement: the remains of Londinium’s Roman amphitheatre where the gladiators fought.

Horse Guards

A popular photo-spot for tourists are the sentry boxes at Horse Guards. They stand by the mounted soldiers and snap a photo next to their giant horses.

House of Commons public gallery

This is one of the best free events in London. You can sit in the public gallery and listen to the politicians debating all afternoon.

House of Lords public gallery

Tourists don’t realise they can see inside the Lords for free. They don’t even need a ticket – just queue up outside Parliament.

Imperial War Museum

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to free museums in London. The Imperial War Museum is a popular choice with military enthusiasts.

Leadenhall Market

It’s just an under­cover shopping street really, but the beautifully ornate decorations make Leadenhall Market a great place to stop for a pub lunch.

London Mithraeum

Explore the 2,000-year-old Temple of Mithras in the basement of the Bloomberg building, atmospherically lit with hologram-like effects.

Mayor’s Question Time at City Hall

Once a month the Mayor of London has to sit inside City Hall and get grilled by the London Assembly. You can see it for free.

Museum of London

Another of London’s free museums. This one tells the story of the city from pre-history all the way through medieval and Tudor times, up to the present day.

Museum of London Docklands

An interesting museum that explores the history of the River Thames and the area around Canary Wharf and Docklands.

National Army Museum

The National Army Museum tells the story of the British military from the days of Henry V and Agincourt all the way up to World War II and beyond.

National Gallery

This is the best free gallery in London – and possibly the entire world! You’ll find paintings by lots of great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Van Gogh.

National Maritime Museum

This free museum is worth a visit just to see the bullet-pierced jacket that Nelson wore at the Battle of Trafalgar.

National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is round the corner from the National Gallery, and concentrates on famous faces from British history.

Natural History Museum

Combine the Natural History Museum with the Science Museum next-door for a great kid’s day out that won’t cost a penny.

Old Royal Naval College

The Old Royal Naval College is one of Wren’s best pieces of architecture. Don’t miss the chapel and spectacular Painted Hall.

One New Change

This is one of two views of the skyline that won’t cost you any money. Ride the lift to the roof terrace for a fantastic view of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Parliament Hill

You’ll have to trek over Hampstead Heath to find it, but when you climb up Parliament Hill you’ll be rewarded with a great view of London’s skyline.

Petrie Museum

This small university museum is great for people interested in ancient Egypt. It has an extensive collection of pottery, jewellery and tomb stelae.

Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs)

UK citizens can write to their local MP and request a ticket to see the Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons.

Primrose Hill

Do you fancy a bit of exercise? Take a stroll up Primrose Hill and see how many of London’s landmarks you can spot with­out looking at the plaque.

RAF Museum

This museum has more planes and helicopters than an airport. It is especially strong on World War II planes like the Spitfire and Lancaster Bomber.

Royal Courts of Justice

How about watching a case at the Royal Courts of Justice? The case might be dull, but it’s still worth a look simply to see the cathedral-like interior.

Royal Hospital

Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital is home to the Chelsea Pensioners. You can walk around the grounds and see the chapel, Great Hall and museum.

Saatchi Gallery

If you’re a fan of contemporary art then check out the Saatchi Gallery. It’s full of up-and-coming artists that you’ve probably never heard of.

St. John’s Gate

This castle-like gatehouse used to part of the medieval Clerkenwell Priory. It contains a small museum about the Crusades and St. John’s Ambulance.

St. Paul’s Cathedral Evensong

If you want to visit St. Paul’s for free then we recommend attending the Evensong service because that includes some music.

Science Museum

A good museum for families, especially if your kid is into space. It has lots of early inventions from clocks and computers to planes and rockets.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane’s old house is one of the best museums in London. The decorations inside really do have to be seen to be believed.

Sky Garden

Imagine if they put the glass Palm House from Kew Gardens on top of a skyscraper. That’s exactly what they’ve done at the Sky Garden.

Speakers’ Corner

If you’re stuck for something to do at Sunday lunchtime then why not listen to some lively debate and heckling at Speakers’ Corner?

Tate Britain

Tate Britain is one of London’s most popular art galleries, with British art by the likes of Constable, Gainsborough, JMW Turner and Blake.

Tate Modern

Tate Modern is housed inside an old power station and contains some of the biggest names in modern art: Andy Warhol, Dali and Pablo Picasso.

Victoria & Albert Museum

Don’t miss the Cast Room and artworks by Raphael. It’s also particularly strong on Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern art.

Wallace Collection

An eclectic collection of arms, French furnishings, pieces of porcelain and jewellery, and paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian.

Westminster Abbey Evensong

A great way to see inside Westminster Abbey for free is to attend their Evensong service and enjoy some beautiful choral music.
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