The major city and capital of the UK, London has a surprisingly extensive list of excellent free activities – so many, that you could probably have an absolute blast in London without spending any money at all on attractions.
The very best overview of London we have encountered is the Walk London free self-guided tour site. We did the Westminster Walk, which visits the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, No. 10 Downing Street, the Horse Guards household cavalry, the Banqueting House in the Palace of Whitehall, Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery (free entry), St. James’ Palace, the Mall and Clarence House, Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews, Churchill’s War Rooms, and Westminster Abbey. It’s amazing that all of this can be visited within the span of 1-2 hours if you’re short on time.
Our favourite and most frequently visited free attraction in London is the British Museum. Maps (available for a donation of 1 pound) have a ‘1 hour’ guide which is highly recommended, taking you past all of the museum’s highlights, like the Rosetta Stone, but even though we’ve done it twice, it took us several hours each time, because we kept finding other interesting things along the way! There are several (also free) guided tours run by expert volunteers everyday (check the counter at the entrance) which are well worth doing if you get the opportunity. The Natural History Museum is another free and incredible place to visit, although the quality of exhibits is more hit-and-miss (some of the presentations seem quite outdated, but the building is stunning and there are some truly amazing things to see).
The London Underground is an attraction in itself, and visiting the Baker Street and other famous stations is quite interesting, as you can see tribute paid to their famous residents. Paddington Station, for example, has a charming bronze of Paddington you can visit. We also enjoyed visiting the various locations made famous by Monopoly. You can get a spectacular view of Tower Bridge from London Bridge.
If you’re flying out of Gatwick airport, make sure to pick up some of the free magazines on offer before boarding your flight.
Other free places to visit on our list for next time are Platform 9 ¾, the Bank of England Museum, the V&A Museum of Childhood, the Guildhall, the Museum of London, the Middle Temple Hall, the Horniman Museum, Westminster Cathedral (note: not the Abbey) the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Hunterian Museum. After four trips to London, we still haven’t exhausted our wishlist of free activities!
If you’re visiting England, make sure to also check out our free guide to Bath!