Saturday, 20 July 2019

The Best Free Things to do in London

Little Venice London
For the sheer cost of entry to its major attractions London must outrank almost every other capital city on the planet. Spend a couple of days visiting attractions like the Tower of London, the View from the Shard, the London Eye and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich and you can easily spend £100 (USD125/AUD180). But don't despair! Like most cities, London has its share of free things to do. You just have to know what they are. To help you along a bit I have put together a list of the best free things to do in London. You will find my favourite attraction at the top of the list.


The best free things to do in London


1. Little Venice


At the intersection of the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal and Regent's Canal, not far from Paddington Station there is a floating neighbourhood of brightly coloured canal boats - home to London waterfolk. With towpaths to walk beside the canals, pubs and waterborne cafes to take a rest at, and canal boat tours and water taxis when you get sick of walking, you can spend half a day or more exploring a part of London many don't know exists.

Where is Little Venice - Bloomfield Rd London

Nearest Tube station - Warwick Avenue, Paddington Station

Little Venice
Little Venice 

2. The British Museum


Everyone has heard of the British Museum, but did you know it is free. In fact there is no shortage of museums and art galleries in London which are absolutely free. You will need at least half a day to see the British Museum, more if you want more than a casual glance at the most famous exhibits.

While you are there make sure you see the Rosetta Stone (for a look at the Egyptian town where the stone was found read -  11 things to do in Alexandria ), the Elgin Marbles, the Portland Vase and the Lewis Chessmen (for the story of how one man bought a Lewis Chessman worth for £5, and stored it in a drawer for 55 years never realising it was worth £735,000 click here).

You can find a list of the top 23 free museums and galleries at VisitLondon.com or if you have a few hours to spare a comprehensive list of 190 free museums at MuseumsLondon.org.

Where is the British Museum - Great Russell Street London WC1B 3DG

Nearest Tube stations - Tottenham Court, Holborn

Lewis Chessmen
Three of the Lewis Chessmen at the British Museum

3. St Dunstan in the East


St Dunstan in the East has stood for almost a thousand years. It was damaged in the Great Fire of London and again in the Blitz during World War II.  Rather than rebuild the church after the Blitz the City of London turned it into a public garden. With vine covered walls and trees growing where people once prayed, today the church is an other-worldly respite from the urban jungle surrounding it.

Where is St Dunstan in the East - St Dunstan's Hill London EC3R 5DD

Nearest Tube stations - Monument, Tower Hill

St Dunstan in the East
St Dunstan in the East


4. Leadenhall Market


One for the die-hard Harry Potter fans, Leadenhall Market became Diagon Alley in the films. Even if you aren't a fan of the films the market is worth visiting for its ornate architecture and history going back to the 14th Century.

Where is Leadenhall Market - Gracechurch St London EC3V 1LT

Nearest Tube stations - Fenchurch Street Station, Cannon Street Station


Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market aka Diagon Alley, London

5. The View from the Sky Garden


The Sky Garden on the 35th floor of 20 Fenchurch St (the 'Walkie-Talkie' building) has the best free view in London. The Sky Garden is about two-thirds the height of the viewing platforms at The Shard. To be sure of entry you must reserve your free spot in advance from the Sky Garden's website.

Where is the Sky Garden - 20 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 8AF

Nearest Tube station - Monument Station

Walkie-Talkie building
Look for the ugliest tall building in London!

6. Borough Market


Borough Market is fabulous. If you like wandering around markets don't miss it. It is all about food - seafood, fruit and vegetables, cheese, wines and other edible delicacies, all presented in a riot of colour, textures and patterns. We stayed in self-catering accommodation and the meal we made with a chicken bought at the market was the best meal we had in London. My only regret was that we weren't staying close enough to shop there every day.  Go at lunch time if you can and try one of the cafes or grab a take-away. If you aren't a foodie then go for the history. Borough Market has existed for 1,000 years.

For tips on visiting the market and a guide to what's on offer see Borough Market London The Best Gourmet Guide For Foodies.

Where is Borough Market - 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL. Next to Southwark Cathedral

Nearest Tube station - London Bridge


Borough Market
Borough Market seafood


7. Southwark Cathedral


Also known as The Cathedral and Collegiate of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, Southwark Cathedral's place in history goes back for 1,000 years or more. The church was founded in 1106 as a priory but there are mentions of a place of worship at the spot where the cathedral now stands as long ago as the 7th century, including a reference in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The cathedral welcomes visitors and even runs free 45 minute tours during the week. Check the schedule of services before you go so your visit doesn't clash with a service. 

Don't miss the cathedral garden and the seriously weird looking monument to Mahomet Weyonomon which sits in one corner. Mahomet was a Mohegan chief who sailed to London to petition King George III for the return of stolen lands in New England. He contracted smallpox and died while waiting for the audience. He was finally given a symbolic royal audience by Queen Elizabeth II when she unveiled the monument in 2006. Of course, he was long dead by then.

Look for Doorkins Magnificat. Doorkins was a stray cat who began visiting the Cathedral in 2008. Finding a kind and loving community who were happy to feed her on a regular basis, she did what cats do and moved in. Shes has lived in the cathedral ever since. A cold day when we visited we found her stretched out on a radiator in a quiet corner.

Where is Southwark Cathedral - London Bridge, London SE1 9DA 

Nearest Tube station - London Bridge

Mahomet Weyonomon Memorial
David and I in front of the Mahomet Weyonomon Memorial in the garden of Southwark Cathedral.


8. The Regent's Park


You can't come to London without visiting its parks. Of the most well-known central London parks; The Regent's Park, Hyde Park, St James Park and Green Park, The Regent's Park is by far my favourite. It has flowers, lakes, swans, tea shops, an open air theatre and hopefully, sunshine - what more can you ask for!

Where is The Regent's Park - Regent's Park London NW1 4NR

Nearest Tube stations - Regent's Park, Great Portland St, Baker St, St John's Wood and Camden Town are all close by.

Regent's Park
The Regent's Park

Once you have done all the free things there is a whole city of paid attractions and tours as well. We used Get Your Guide to book tickets in Britain and it worked brilliantly. I like Get Your Guide tours because they generally have free cancellation up to 24 hours before the tour starts - always check the terms and conditions yourself. It is nice to know you can cancel or reschedule if you need to.




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16 comments:

  1. There is lots to see in London and you picked some of my favourites as well as some I didn't know about. I would have liked to have seen Little Venice (and it was near to where I was staying).

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    1. I loved Little Venice. David and I took a long walk along the canal and stopped for lunch at a canal boat cafe. It was really enjoyable. I can't remember how I found out about it. It certainly isn't all that famous.

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  2. I can't wait to visit London one day. Thanks for all of the great suggestions. It's always nice to have free things to do to offset our budget. I'm especially excited about the museum. Pinned so I can refer to this later. #WeekendWanderlust

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    1. Nearly all the museums and art galleries are free in London which is good because it gives you something to do when London's famously fickle weather turns against you.

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  3. Thanks for sharing! I had no idea that the British Museum was free. I went to the Tate Modern which I also believe was free? It's been too long I can't remember. Will check it out next time!

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    1. I think the Tate might be free too - lots of the art galleries are. Personally I am more of an outdoor tourist which means I don't want to pay big admittance fees when I know I won't last long inside.

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  4. A great list, filled with London venues that are of interest to just about every traveler, on any budget! Your photos and descriptions make me want to visit each and every one.

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    1. It doesn't take that long to visit them all. Then you can start on the paid sights!

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  5. Everytime I go back to London I discover something new and interesting and your list has given me yet more ideas. It truly is a wonderful city and you don't need to pay a fortune.

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    1. We will be regular visitors over the next few years. One of our sons is moving there for work - and of course we have to visit him!

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  6. I do adore London. And it is super expensive to maneuver. Fortunately, many other museums are also free.

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    1. I am not really a museum person. I am the kind who just wants to spend 15 minutes seeing all the famous stuff I have heard of - unless of course it is cold and wet outside and then I make an effort to find other exhibits interesting. Anyway if you just want a quick look around an expensive entrance ticket is a problem.

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  7. Lyn, what an informative post. Even though London is my home city I just can't see enough of Little Venice.

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    1. I absolutely agree with you. Little Venice is lovely.

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  8. LOVE this list! And we're so glad there's a market in there - that's always one of our favorite activities in any city. So now our London List is longer...but cheaper! Win-Win! :)

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