13 Free Things To Do In London
London, England, is a wonderful and historical city that makes a great vacation destination, there is a lot to see and do! Here is a shortlist of 13 free things to do in London that will give you a good starting point for planning your vacation.
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British Museum (britishmuseum.org)
Located in London’s Bloomsbury section, the British Museum was first established in 1753 and is committed to art and culture, and human history. The museum’s permanent collection includes over 8 million works, with some of the most famous being the large red granite statue of Amenhotep III (dating from 1350 BC), various artifacts from the tomb of King Khasekhemwy (2690 BC), the Rosetta Stone, sheet five of the Book of the Dead of Hunefer, and Parthenon Marbles from the Acropolis of Athens (447 BC).
Free except for special exhibits.
Take in the view at Sky Gardens (skygarden.london)
Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden with breathtaking views of the city, especially at night. The beautiful glass dome of 20 Fenchurch Street is one of the city’s most famous and stunning architectural sights and the building is home to exclusive restaurants, an open-air terrace, and observation decks. Entry to the Sky Garden is free, but guests must book their visit online.
Fenchurch Restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner (lunch hours are Monday through Saturday from 11:45am-2:45 pm and Sundays 11:45am-2:45 pm, dinner hours are Monday through Saturday 5:45pm-10:15 pm, Sundays 5:45pm-8:45 pm) and the bar is fully stocked.
Changing of the Guard (bit.ly/ChangingoftheGuard)
Taking place every morning at 11:30 am (local time) and lasting for 45 minutes, the changing of the guard outside of Buckingham Palace is a truly impressive thing for tourists and locals to witness.
Also known as Guard Mounting or simply Changing the Guard, this ceremony begins around 11 am when the Buckingham Palace Old Guard forms in the palace’s forecourt and is then joined by the St. James Palace Old Guard promptly at 11:15 am. Then the New Guard arrives from Wellington Barracks and takes over for the Old Guards in a formal ceremony.
This British custom can be seen for free every day from April until July and alternate days from August to March (weather permitting). Check website for any schedule changes or updates.
Queens Life Guard (bit.ly/QueensLifeGuard)
These free events give visitors a chance to watch a highly regarded tradition take place every day. Each day The Queen’s Life Guard leaves Hyde Park Barracks at 10:28 am on weekdays (9:28 am on Sundays) and rides to Horse Guards Parade passing through Hyde Park Corner and along Constitution Hill and The Mall. The ceremony of Changing The Queen’s Life Guard then takes place on Horse Guards Parade.
Check the website for updated times, schedule, and locations of the free events.
Old Royal Naval College (ornc.org)
This centerpiece of Maritime Greenwich (a world heritage site that is home to the National Maritime Museum) sits upon the site of the Palace of Placentia (Greenwich Palace), where two Tudor queens were born (Mary I and Elizabeth I), which was demolished in 1694. The grounds and several of its buildings are open to the public for viewing.
One of the most impressive areas of the college is the massive “Painted Hall” which is over 40,000 square feet of painted walls and ceilings that depict the accessions to the throne of William III and Mary II in 1688 and George I in 1714.
The site is regularly featured and used in feature films like “Patriot Games”, “Shanghai Knights”, “The Madness of King George”, “The Avengers”, “The Mummy Returns”, and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”.
Admission and walking tours are free, check with the visitor center for more information.
The British Library (bl.uk)
Officially the National Library of the UK and also the largest library in the world, the British Library was established in 1973 as it detached from the British Museum. Anyone with a permanent address can apply for a Reading Pass to read its huge volume of book collections, and there is also an Online Gallery where images of many of the books that reside at the library can be seen and read online. There is also an electronics collection (called “Explore the British Library”) and a Digital Library System.
In the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, there are a number of antique and rare manuscripts and books on display, including “Beowulf”, “Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer, the journal of Captain Cook, Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre”, “Nicholas Nickleby” by Charles Dickens, and “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf. There’s also an entire room that solely features the “Magna Carta”.
Be sure to register online ahead of time if you’d like access to a specific item.
Science Museum (sciencemuseum.org.uk)
The Science Museum of London is one of the city’s major tourist attractions, with more than 3.3 million visitors annually. The Science Museum does not charge admission, however, some temporary exhibitions may have an admission fee.
With over 300,000 items, the collections at the museum include the oldest surviving steam locomotive called Puffing Billy, a reconstruction of James Watson and Francis Crick’s model of DNA, a special exhibit “Glimpses of Medical History”, a new 3d IMAX Cinema which shows nature and science documentaries, and much more.
Platform 9 3/4 (bit.ly/Platform934)
King’s Cross Station is a major railway and underground station serving London and is located in the central part of the city, nearby to Regent’s Park, Kings Cross, Bloomsbury, and Somers Town. The station is also located next to King’s Cross St. Pancras Underground Station, on the Circle line, Metropolitan Line, Victoria line, and the Hammersmith & City line.
It’s also home to Platform 9-3/4, from the popular “Harry Potter” book series (and wildly popular movie franchise) written by J.K. Rowling. According to the books and movies, Platform 9-3/4 is where students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry enter the steam engine station that takes them on to the school. Us muggles must settle for a luggage cart going through the wall mock up. The nearby gift shop provides scarves for your chosen house to complete the perfect photo op. They will even fling the scarf in the air while you snap a photo so you appear to be flying!
You are free to use your own camera and there is zero sales pressure to buy a print (though available) from the gift shop. But you might wait in line for up to an hour depending on how busy it is.
Vauxhall City Farm (vauxhallcityfarm.org)
The Vauxhall City Farm is located in central London and is home to animals such as llamas, horses, chickens, ducks, goats, and more. They offer riding lessons, educational activities, and an escape from city life. They are open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10:30am-4pm and are closed on Mondays.
The farm was set up over 35 years ago as a way to educate the community and give locals a place to unwind from busy city life. Their other services include animal boarding, incubation, venue for events like parties, and filming and photo shoots.
Admission is free but groups larger than 10 should call ahead.
Watch the street performers at Covent Gardens (coventgardenentertainment.co.uk)
Covent Garden Entertainment is responsible for the street performers often seen in Covent Garden, London, and features performers and acts including stage acts, walkabout acts, daredevils, and comedians. Shows can range from 5 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on what act is being performed.
Performers include Jack Wise (magician, sword swallower, ventriloquist), Rob Roy Collins (escape artist), Psycho Sam (performance artist), Reuben Dotdotdot (street acrobat), Ernesto the Magnifico (comedy stunt man), Bendy Em (contortionist), AJ James (“escapologist”, acrobat, compere), Lisa Lottie (hula hoop artist), Team Power Stilts (extreme acrobats on stilts), Steve Faulkner (street magician), Mr. Spin (juggling street performer), and Jason Maverick (award-winning entertainer).
As always, check the website for the latest details and performers.
This main thoroughfare runs through Camden and Westminster and is part of the B507 road. It roughly runs northwest to southeast, cutting through St. John’s Wood. It is well-known for being on the 1969 Beatles album cover of the same name and for Abbey Road Studios.
The Beatles and other popular bands have recorded at the studio which is located at the southeastern section of the road in St. John’s Wood. The zebra crossing where the Beatles did their iconic album cover is a popular stop on the London tour circuit.
Hear Big Ben Strike 12*
Big Ben was previously named the Clock Tower and most recently was given the moniker Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to honor the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. It was completed in 1859 and celebrated its 150th anniversary in May of 2009. This British icon has come to be a prominent UK symbol and often used to identify London in films and photos.
The twelve strikes of the main bell have been used in many audio media sources, and it’s one of the things that visitors to London love to listen to. The twelve strikes are especially popular on New Year’s Eve, as it marks the beginning of the New Year.
National Maritime Museum (rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum)
Located in Greenwich, London, the National Maritime Museum is one of the largest museums of its kind in the world and is also the preeminent maritime museum of the United Kingdom. It was established in 1937 and its historic buildings form some of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.
The museum’s collection includes paintings like the portrait of Captain James Cook (by Nathaniel Dance), the painting of the “Bretagne” by Jules Achille Noel (c. 1859), the “Battle of Trafalgar” (c. 1805), and more. There are also many other collections, including oddities like miniatures, including “The Pool of London” (c. 1780), the “Royal Dockyard at Plymouth”, and more. Figureheads at the museum include Coriolanus (c. 1876 from the merchant ship of the same name), Royal Charlotte (c. 1824 from the royal yacht of same name belonging to Queen Charlotte), and Brittania (c. 1878 from the schooner “Brittania”).