Are you visiting London on a budget? Not got a lot of money to spend? Well, do not fret… because here’s a list of the 10 best things that you can do for free. These top tourist attractions can all be enjoyed totally free of charge.
Big Ben is usually off-limits to the public, but did you know that you can climb up it for free? All you've got to do is write to your local MP for a ticket and they will arrange for you to attend a tour. The guide will take you up the tower to see the clock mechanism, the clock faces, and even let you stand in the belfy whilst the big bell goes off!
The Ceremony of the Keys is the traditional locking up of the Tower of London, which has taken place on each and every night for at least 700 years. The event is free to attend, but must appply for a ticket a few months in advance (at least). It’s a good way to get inside the Tower and see a few of the most famous locations for free – places like the Traitor’s Gate, the Bloody Tower and the famous White Tower.
No trip to London would be complete without seeing the Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. It starts at 11.30AM in the summer and every other day in the winter. There are actually two detachments of the Guard that get changed – one at Buckingham Palace and another at St. James’s Palace, a short walk down The Mall. If you arrive early then you can take up a position by the front gates.
Did you know that both UK residents and overseas visitors can enter the Houses of Parliament and watch the MPs debating for free? Galleries run around the top of both Chambers (the Lords and the Commons). The visitors section is at the back, looking towards the chair. Arrive early though, as you might have to queue for 1 or 2 hours. Opening times: House of Commons public gallery (when in session): 2.30 PM to 10.30 PM (Mon, Tue); 12:30 AM to 7.30 PM (Wed); 10.30 AM to 6.30 PM (Thu); 9.30 AM to 3 PM (Fri).
It’s quite expensive to get inside Westminster Abbey these days, but anyone attending a mass can get in for free. We recommend visiting during the Choral Evensong, which combines a traditional mass with a choir. You won’t be able to see the whole of the Abbey, but the pews are arranged in the North and South Transept so you’ll have a fine view of the golden altar, the Quire, and the famous Cosmati pavement. There is a similar service at St. Paul’s Cathedral as well, if you fancy doing them both.
Most of London’s big art galleries are free (like the Tate Britain and Tate Modern), but pick of the bunch is the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. It houses more than 2,000 works from 1260 onwards. All of the great names in art history can be found here including Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Titian, Turner, Monet, Da Vinci and Van Gogh. Opening times: Gallery: 10 AM to 6 PM (Sat–Thu), 10 AM to 9 PM (Fri); Tours: 11.30 AM, 2.30 PM (daily) and 7 PM (Fri) . Cost: Free.
London has loads of free museums (like the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and V&A), but pick of the bunch is the British Museum. It covers everything from ancient Egypt and Greece, to Italy, Africa and the Orient, and includes colossal works by the Romans, Greeks and Persians. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Marbles, and the world-famous Reading Room. Opening times: Galleries: 10 AM to 5.30 PM (Sat to Wed), 10 AM to 8:30 (Thu, Fri); Last admission 10 minutes before closing time. Cost: Free.
The Natural History Museum is known as the “dead zoo” and houses more than 69 million specimens from our prehistoric past to the present day. The dinosaur bones are a particular favourite, but they also have elephants, lions, tigers, rhinos and every kind of bird – even the Dodo! Opening times: 10 AM to 5.50 PM (daily); Last admission 5.30 PM. Cost: Free.
Sometimes all you want to do is have a sit down and watch the world go by… and there’s nowhere better than Covent Garden. The historic piazza is where you’ll find a plethora of professional street entertainers… everything from acrobats and mimes, to fire-eaters, clowns and comedians. Downstairs you can enjoy some upmarket busking, where classical musicians ply their trade.
At 203 feet Primrose Hill is a bit of a climb, but it’s well-worth the effort – it boasts one of the best views of the London skyline. Its position north of Regent’s Park gives you a fine view of London Zoo below, as well as the City in the distance and Canary Wharf to the east. You should be able to pick out the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s and the Shard, but there’s a big silver plaque to help you.
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