5 free things to do in London

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

Things to do for free in London - The Natural History Museum is housed in a beautiful building photo Phenomenal Globe

The Natural History Museum is housed in a beautiful building photo/Phenomenal Globe

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.

Visit Greenwich


Free things to do in London - The view of Canary Wharf from the Greenwich Observatory photo Phenomenal Globe

View of Canary Wharf from the Greenwich Observatory photo/Phenomenal Globe

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

Things to do for free in London - You'll discover the historic Anchor Bankside Pub while walking along the Thames photo Phenomenal Globe

You’ll discover the historic Anchor Bankside Pub while walking along the Thames photo/Phenomenal Globe

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

Free things to do in London - Colorful Neal's Yard, hidden away in busy Soho photo Phenomenal Globe

Colorful Neal’s Yard, hidden away in busy Soho photo/Phenomenal Globe

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

Free things to do in London - LEGGO soldier at Hamleys photo/Phenomenal Globe

LEGGO soldier at Hamleys photo/Phenomenal Globe

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.

31 Responses to “5 free things to do in London”

  1. Lane Billings
    January 25, 2019 at 2:07 pm #

    Harrod’s is massive and the food court hall is amazing! Definite must!

    Trafalgar Square is a great public space. The most popular markets are Camden Market and Portobello Market.

    Another free thing is Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens in Regent’s Park and the Changing of the Guard in from of Buckingham Palace. It gets very crowded during the Summer holiday. 11:30 AM during the Summer. Every other day in Winter.

    • Billie Frank
      January 25, 2019 at 4:22 pm #

      Thanks for the great additions to the free things. London probably has hundreds of wonderful things people can do that are cool and free. Queen Mary’s Rose Garden sounds cool. And of course the changing of the guard- which is probably on everyone’s London tourist itinerary.

  2. Lotte
    January 25, 2019 at 2:37 pm #

    Thank you very much for the guest posting opportunity! I hope to see many more editions of the ‘5 free things to do in …’ 🙂
    Lotte recently posted..Camping In Japan: The Perfect Packing ListMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 25, 2019 at 4:22 pm #

      Thanks for sharing London with us. More free things coming next week.

      • Lotte
        January 26, 2019 at 1:49 am #

        Looking forward to it!

  3. Karen Warren
    January 30, 2019 at 1:47 am #

    Great list (although I’m not sure I’ve ever actually been to Neal’s Yard). You could add Leadenhall Market, an old market and the setting for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.
    Karen Warren recently posted..What Bloggers Can Expect at TBEX International in JerusalemMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 30, 2019 at 12:07 pm #

      Thanks for the tip on Leadenhall Market! I bet that draws a lot of Harry Potter fans.

  4. Suzanne Fluhr
    January 30, 2019 at 5:09 am #

    Perhaps the most memorable free museum in London for me was the British Museum. There’s a little cafe on the first floor for a light lunch or a full service restaurant on the third floor. I also enjoyed the National Portrait Gallery which checked 2 boxes for me, art and history via the many portraits of historical figures. I’ll second Lotte’s endorsement of a visit to Greenwich. In addition to the light rail she mentioned, you can also get there by boat on the Thames from central London (the Embankment).

    • Billie Frank
      January 30, 2019 at 12:07 pm #

      Thanks for your comments on what you did for free in London. Great help to readers! So many free things are out there for travelers to discover.

  5. Pamela McKuen
    January 30, 2019 at 8:42 am #

    How fun!And educational. I had no idea about Greenwich, but love exploring Harrod’s. Thanks for posting Free Things to Do in London.

    • Billie Frank
      January 30, 2019 at 12:03 pm #

      Glad you learned something new from the post!

  6. Rebecca
    January 30, 2019 at 9:45 am #

    Great post! It’s so important to find free things to do in a city.
    I love walking across the Millennium Bridge across the Thames, gorgeous views.
    Rebecca recently posted..WokyKo at CARGO, Wapping Wharf, BristolMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 30, 2019 at 12:03 pm #

      We love free! We have an entire series coming- stay tuned.

  7. Justin
    January 30, 2019 at 12:29 pm #

    I like that you’ve brought attention to the South Bank in this… it is so often overlooked, but it’s absolutely beautiful and almost idyllic in certain areas. Nice post!

  8. Janice Chung
    January 30, 2019 at 12:51 pm #

    I was in London a year ago and did many of the things listed, although I think I might have missed Neal’s Yard. I also didn’t realize one could take a riverboat to Greenwich. I would have loved that. Guess I’ll have to return. There are SO many things to see and do in London and I love how the museums are FREE!
    Janice Chung recently posted..What You Need To Know About Bouillabaisse In MarseilleMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 30, 2019 at 6:30 pm #

      It is great that the museums are free. That could keep someone busy for a while.

  9. Donna Janke
    January 30, 2019 at 1:35 pm #

    Great list. I love London. Its museums are fantastic. The British Museum is another impressive museum. I also really enjoyed the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. Just walking around parts of London is a highlight. I walked the South Bank area in my most recent visit.
    Donna Janke recently posted..California Pacific Coast: Oxnard to CapitolaMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 30, 2019 at 6:31 pm #

      Walking around a historic city is always great. London certainly has some great museums.

  10. Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    January 30, 2019 at 4:47 pm #

    Great suggestions all! London is also my favorite city in all the world. And I do also adore Neal’s Yard, but I usually wind up buying something there.
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers recently posted..Great Sleeps: Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Lake Charles, LouisianaMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 30, 2019 at 6:32 pm #

      It’s great to mix free with a bit of spending!

  11. Anne
    January 31, 2019 at 1:46 pm #

    Oh this makes me want to return - so many fun and free places to enjoy! With just a short time in London earlier this month, we just walked and walked….along Hyde Park, then Oxford Street. It was a perfect rainy day activity - lots of intriguing shops and pubs to pop into to warm up once in a while!
    Anne recently posted..Upstairs and Down in AixMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 31, 2019 at 4:01 pm #

      Walking is the best way to see a historic city with definitive neighborhoods like London has. My rainy day choice is museums.

  12. jane canapini
    February 1, 2019 at 5:58 am #

    I love these kinds of posts, since I’m always looking for free things to do wherever I go, London included! I remember Neal’s Courtyard from a visit many moons ago, too, so thanks for that memory!

    • Billie Frank
      June 17, 2019 at 1:09 pm #

      Many more free things to do posts coming. It’s a great series!

  13. C. - The Dime Travelers
    February 2, 2019 at 11:32 am #

    Great post! Loved learning about Greenwich!!!

    • Billie Frank
      February 3, 2019 at 2:12 pm #

      I agree. Greenwich looks well worth a visit!

  14. Bola
    February 2, 2019 at 11:36 am #

    As a Londoner I love the way museums are free but there’s always a temutation to buy a souvenir or two in the Museum’s shop. I have been to most of the listed places but would love to see The Museum of London.

    • Billie Frank
      February 3, 2019 at 2:13 pm #

      You’re lucky to live there- you can do it all! And what’s great about free museums is if you can avoid the gift shops- you can have a totally free experience.

  15. Doreen Pendgracs
    February 5, 2019 at 2:05 pm #

    I’ve done all the things on your list except Neal’s Yard. I’m sorry we missed it, as we were in Covent Garden, so were very near by.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..succumbing to the magic of Lucerne, SwitzerlandMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      June 17, 2019 at 1:09 pm #

      Next time! There may be great chocolates there.

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