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.

Top 10 free attractions Here’s our pick of the ten best free attractions in London. These are the places that every tourist should try and visit during their holiday.Ceremony of the Keys
Prime Minister’s Questions
Changing the Guard
View from the Sky Garden
Natural History Museum
Westminster Abbey Evensong
British Museum
National Gallery
Science Museum
Entertainers in Covent Garden

Recommendations Craig recommends… You’ll have to apply for tickets a few months in advance, but the Ceremony of the Keys and PMQs are both well worth it. 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 and paintings showing how London used to look in the past.

British Library

Their exhibition of old manuscripts by the likes of Galileo, Shakespeare and Henry VIII is completely free. They’ve got some beautiful old Bibles and maps as well.

British Museum

One of the world’s great museums with an extensive collection of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese and African artefacts. If you only see one museum, this should be it.

Ceremony of the Keys

The best free parade in London. You’ll get to witness the Yeoman Warders locking up the Tower of London in a ceremony that dates back 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 also totally packed!

Changing the Guard at Horse Guards

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

Common Council at the Guildhall

A monthly meeting of the Lord Mayor of London and the 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 pavement cafes and enjoy some free 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

While your looking at Parliament and Big Ben have a quick walk down Whitehall and peer through the black gate at Downing Street to see where the PM lives.

Geffrye Museum

This interesting little museum is housed inside a beautiful old almshouse, and shows how British living rooms and furnishings have changed down 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 view of London’s skyline? It goes from Big Ben to Canary Wharf.

Guildhall Art Gallery

This art gallery has something surprising in the basement: the remains of London’s Roman amphitheatre. You can see a few walls and see where the gladiators fought.

Horse Guards

One of the most popular photo-spots for tourists is by the sentry boxes at Horse Guards. They stand next to the mounted soldiers and have their photo taken by a horse.

House of Commons public gallery

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

House of Lords public gallery

Most tourists don’t realise they can see inside the House of Lords for free. You don’t even need a ticket. You can 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 the best one for military enthusiasts.

Leadenhall Market

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

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. This is your chance to see him 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 the medieval era and Tudor times, right up to the modern day.

Museum of London Docklands

Canary Wharf only has a handful of attractions, and this one explores the history of the River Thames and the Docklands redevlopment.

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 – maybe the entire world! You’ll find paintings by all the greats artists in here, from Leonardo da Vinci to Vincent van Gogh.

National Maritime Museum

This free museum if worth a visit simply to see the jacket that Nelson wore at the Battle of Trafalgar (complete with a bullet hole in the shoulder).

National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is round the corner from the National Gallery, and shows famous faces from history. It’s a Who’s Who of British luminaries.

Natural History Museum

If you want a great free day out with kids then try the two museums in South Kensington: the Natural History Museum and Science Museum.

Old Royal Naval College

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

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 great view of St. Paul’s. (The other one is the Sky Garden.)

Parliament Hill

You’ll have to trek across 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 Egyptian archaeology. 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 free ticket to see the lively Prime Minister’s Questions in the Houses of Parliament.

Primrose Hill

Do you fancy a bit of exercise? Take a gently 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 legendary Spitfire and Lancaster Bomber.

Royal Courts of Justice

How about going to watch a case at the Royal Courts of Justice? The case might be dull, but it’s still worth a visit 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 gardens, painted Great Hall and chapel.

Saatchi Gallery

If you’re a fan of contemporary art then check out the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. It’s usually full of up-and-coming artists that you probably haven’t heard of.

St. John’s Gate

This stone gatehouse used to part of the medieval Clerkenwell Priory. It has a small museum inside about the Crusades and the modern-day work of St. John’s Ambulance.

St. Paul’s Cathedral Evensong

If you want to visit St. Paul’s for free then you need to attend one of their services. We recommend the Evensong because that includes music.

Science Museum

A good museum for families, especially if your kid is interested in space. It has thousands of inventions from clocks and computers to trains, planes and space rockets.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

Not many tourists think to visit this place, but it’s one of the best little museums in London. The inside really does have to be seen to be believed.

Sky Garden

Imagine if they put the Palm House at Kew Gardens on top of a skyscraper. That’s exactly what they’ve done at the Sky Garden – it’s full of palms and tropical plants.

Speakers’ Corner

If you’re stuck for something to do at Sunday lunchtime then take a stroll down to Hyde Park and enjoy some lively debate and heckling at Speakers’ Corner.

Tate Britain

Tate Britain art gallery is one of London’s most popular free attractions. It shows 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 the biggest names in modern art: people like Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.

Victoria & Albert Museum

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

Wallace Collection

An eclectic collection of arms, armour, old French furnishings, pieces of jewellery and porcelain, 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, where you can enjoy some beautiful choral music.
 
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