There is loads to do in London, even when you are on a budget. So go ahead and give your credit card a rest with these 10 fabulous and free things to do in London.
1. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is both the residence and administrative headquarters of the reigning monarch, however, that’s not always been the case. The original Buckingham Palace was far more modest. Built as a townhouse for the Duck of Buckingham in 1703 and then purchased by George III in 1761.
The decision to upgrade from a house to a palace came when George III was succeeded by his son, George IV. In 1826, George IV managed to persuade Parliament to stretch the agreed renovation budget from a modest £150,000 to a whopping £450,000. He then appointed architect John Nash to create a palace fit for a king. The Palace we’ve come to know today is still very much a functioning building.
Made up of 775 rooms including 19 state rooms, 240 bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Over 50,000 guests a year visit Buckingham Palace for state visits, royal ceremonies and garden parties. Whilst you can pay to visit inside a state room of Buckingham Palace, simply visiting the gates and watching such delights as the changing of the guard is completely free.
The changing of the guard takes place daily at 11.30am from April until the end of July and on alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting. The ceremony lasts approximately 45 minutes.
2. Natural History Museum
Open daily, the Natural History Museum is a great place to visit for free in London. Featuring hundreds of exciting and interactive exhibits including the ever popular Dinosaurs gallery and mammals display – with the unforgettable model blue whale.
Be sure to go on a self-guided tour around the Darwin Centre Cocoon where you can see hundreds of fascinating specimens and look into labourites where scientists are at work.
The Museum offers a wide-ranging programme of temporary exhibitions and events, including chances to join experts in the Darwin Centre’s high-tech Attenborough Studio in topical discussions about science and nature.
3. Kyoto Garden
Hidden in Holland Park is the wonderfully beautiful and peaceful Kyoto Garden. The garden was opened in 1991 as a gift from Kyoto to commemorate the long friendship between Japan and Great Britain.
The garden has been carefully designed to accurately reflect the key traits of Japanese gardens. Interact with the Peacocks or simply have a picnic on the bench in this delightfully peaceful park in central London.
4. Tate Modern
The former Bankside Power Station on the side of the river Thames is now formally known as the Tate Modern. Britains national museum of both modern and contemporary art from around the world.
Even if you’ve visited Tate Modern previously, it’s worth going again as new exhibitions are constantly launching – see the Tate Modern website for full details.
The tenth floor of the Tate Modern makes for a great budget alternative to the London Eye allowing you to capture the skyline of London and see how it’s changed over the years.
Remember how I said that many of the greatest iconic London sights and things to do are free, well Harrods is certainly one of them… well… kind of.
For over 160 years now, Harrods has been thee luxury shopping destination. Spread over seven floors and featuring over 300 departments dedicated to fashion, food and homeware. Harrods is an absolute must… even if (like me) you’re not that much of a shopper.
If all that shopping is going to make you hungry, choose from one of Harrods 27 restaurants including; Steakhouse, Pizzeria or Oyster bar.
6. Hyde Park
I like to think of Hyde Park as London’s version of the New York City Central Park. Covering over 350 acres and home to over 4,000 trees, a meadow, a lake and an ornamental flower garden it’s easy to forget you’re in central London.
Hyde Park is super functional, whether you’re a local Londoner or just visiting spend the day swimming, cycling and skating your way around and… If that’s not enough entertainment for one day there are also pitches for team games such as tennis, playgrounds for the children and even tracks for horse riding.
All that sport is likely to make you hungry, but of course Hyde Park has that covered with two restaurants – that is if you didn’t bring a long a picnic.
7. British Museum
The British Museum plays host to over six-million visitors per year, and it’s easy to see why. With World-famous objects spanning over two million years of human history including; the Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone.
In early 2003 the British Museum received a ten million pound grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which allowed the museum to expand it’s innovative outreach, increase public engagement and transform the way it displays and cares for it’s collection.
The museum is free to visit, open daily, and is the leading visitor attraction in the UK, an acclaim it’s held for over nine years.
8. Portobello Road Market
You’ll find the Portobello Road Market in the famous Notting Hill. Whilst there’s a street market six days a week, you’ll find the Saturday antiques market to be the most popular.
Since 1870 this narrow two mile road has played host to some highly established independent stores. Whether you fancy a bargain or not visiting Portobello Road Market is an absolute must!
9. Sky Garden
Early in 2015 Sky Garden opened it’s doors for the very first time. Think of it a cross between Centre Parcs and an airport lounge in the centre of the hustle and bustle of the city.
155 metres above ground and open 7 days a week, the Sky Garden provides views across London and far beyond. The garden plays host to two bars and two premium restaurants. Whilst this is a free space to visit, but you’ll need to book in advance.
If like me you want to come here for a drink and to take in the views of the London Skyline then it’s important to remember that there’s a baggage scan and a ban on liquids so be sure to drink up and dispose before you visit.
10. Science Museum
Last, but by no means least we have the Science Museum. Based in South Kensington. It was founded in 1857 and remains as one of the city’s major tourist attractions, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually.
The museum is open from 10am until 6pm daily (with the exception of the 24th – 26th December) and features a host of exhibitions and interactive galleries.
There are also opportunities to take part in additional exhibitions such as the simulator or IMAX experience however these are additional extras and will cost money (the price varies depending on the exhibition to learn more visit the website for the Science Museum)
There you have it, my list of the top ten free things to do in London. Think I’ve missed one? Disagree? As always let me know in the comments what you think. In the meantime don’t forget to check out my 5 free things to do in Leeds.