20 FREE things to do in London 2019

No other city in the world has better or more free things to do than London. In addition to world-class museums – almost all of which have free admission – the city is home to beautiful parks, buzzing markets, captivating cemeteries, stunning churches, and phenomenal viewpoints. Here are 20 of the hundreds of free attractions in London, Britain’s capital.

 

1. National Gallery
Housing masterpieces by painters including van Gogh, Renoir, da Vinci and Michelangelo, the National Gallery is home to one of the world’s most impressive art collections and sees over six million visitors every year. Avoid the hordes by visiting on weekday mornings or Friday evenings. Whatever time you go, the permanent collections are always free.

the national gallery photo
The National Gallery

2. British Museum

The British Museum is one of London’s top attractions, and absolutely free. It is bursting at the seams with enthralling artefacts from all over the world, from Egyptian mummies to samurai armour and Anglo-Saxon burial treasures to the Rosetta Stone. Remarkably, the 80,000 objects on display at any one time only make up 1% of the eight million objects in the museum’s possession.

british museum photo
The British Museum

3. Houses of Parliament
Home to the world’s most famous clock, Big Ben (officially the Queen Elizabeth Tower, but no one calls it that), the Houses of Parliament is a neo-Gothic wonder built in the mid-19th century. It is made up of two houses – the Commons and the Lords – and if you reserve ahead (or just try your luck on the day) you can go inside to watch British democracy in action.

houses of parliament photo
Houses of Parliament

4. Tate Modern
Located in what was once Bankside Power Station on the south bank of the Thames, Tate Modern is one of the city’s most loved attractions. You can enjoy the permanent collection, which includes works by Pollock, Warhol, Matisse, and Picasso, for free. The upstairs cafe has wonderful Thames views, and the building itself is amazing.

Tate Modern
Tate Modern

5. Greenwich Park
Head to the top of the hill in the centre of Greenwich Park and you’ll be treated to a spectacular free view of the city: the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf loom up behind the 17th-century Queen’s House, and beyond, the Thames snakes its way into the heart of London. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic in the capital on a summer’s day.

Greenwich Park
Greenwich Park

 

Cheap Flights to London

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Gdansk

03.10.2019

08.10.2019

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Dortmund

07.09.2019

09.09.2019

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Bremen

04.09.2019

11.09.2019

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Milan

17.09.2019

18.09.2019

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Cologne

04.09.2019

05.09.2019

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Karlsruhe

12.09.2019

17.09.2019

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Stockholm

10.09.2019

17.09.2019

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Copenhagen

11.09.2019

25.09.2019

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Brno

12.09.2019

17.09.2019

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Eindhoven

15.10.2019

16.10.2019

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Poznan

04.10.2019

08.10.2019

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Toulouse

06.09.2019

12.09.2019

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Bordeaux

19.09.2019

23.09.2019

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Lisbon

22.11.2019

27.11.2019

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Belfast

27.09.2019

29.09.2019

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La Rochelle

13.10.2019

15.10.2019

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Cork

17.09.2019

23.09.2019

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Berlin

17.09.2019

18.09.2019

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Alicante

03.10.2019

09.10.2019

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Nuremberg

11.09.2019

12.09.2019

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Frankfurt

10.09.2019

24.09.2019

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Turin

10.10.2019

16.10.2019

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Hamburg

10.09.2019

12.09.2019

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Edinburgh

03.10.2019

04.10.2019

Tickets from GBP29

Kosice

10.09.2019

17.09.2019

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6. East London street art
The ephemeral nature of street art makes it difficult to say with confidence where you might find specific displays at any one time. However, certain areas of East London, notably Shoreditch, are famous for having particularly impressive graffiti. The side streets around Brick Lane always yield some decent artwork, as do Middlesex and Sclater streets.

East London Street Art
East London Street Art

7. Borough Market
Having celebrated its 1000th birthday in 2014, it’s fair to say Borough Market is one of London’s more established haunts. Located under a maze of Victorian railway arches and open Monday to Saturday, Borough Market is stuffed with lovely food and food-lovers, featuring cuisine from all corners of the world. It offers everything you need for a memorable grab-and-go breakfast or lunch but is also a good place for a simple wander (keeping an eye out for free samples).

Borough Market
Borough Market

8. Museum of London
Off the radar to most visitors, yet one of the city’s great attractions, the Museum of London provides a walk through London’s various incarnations – from the geological history of the Thames Valley to the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants to modern-day bankers.

Museum of London
Museum of London

9. Kensington Gardens
The delightful Kensington Gardens are home to a trove of treasures, including the Albert Memorial, the Peter Pan Statue, the Serpentine Gallery, the Round Pond and the Diana Memorial Playground. All are free to admire or visit, and when you’re done with the sights, you can wander along the tree-lined paths which crisscross the whole park. East and north of here is a string of Royal Parks, all free to enter: Regent’s Park, Hyde Park, Green Park, and St James’s Park.

Italian Gardens, Kensington Gardens
Italian Gardens, Kensington Gardens

10. The Changing of the Guard
One of the best ceremonies in the city, the Changing of the Guard takes place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 10.30am outside Buckingham Palace. Dressed in bearskin hats and red tunics, the Queen’s Guard stomp around in time to music in a display of awesome pageantry, as they switch responsibilities with one another.

Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard

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11. National Portrait Gallery
Before Google or Wikipedia, the British came here to put a face to the names of famous historical figures from the country’s history. As such, the paintings are prized more for their subjects rather than their artists. Highlights include portraits of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth II, the latter courtesy of pop art sensation Andy Warhol.

National Portrait Gallery
National Portrait Gallery

12. Natural History Museum
Those Victorians sure liked to collect and catalogue. This is one of the most compelling results: the Natural History Museum owns an outrageously large collection (around 80 million items) of all things nature in a lovely Gothic Revival building, which opened in the late 19th century. A wildlife garden is open March to November, and the main hall is dominated by an enormous blue whale skeleton.

 

The Natural History Museum

13. Victoria & Albert Museum
Arguably the world’s best decorative arts museum, the V&A, as it’s generally known, has been open for over 150 years and contains an incredible 4.5 million items. The first floor focuses on Asian (Japanese swords, ancient Chinese ceramics) and some European art, including plaster casts made from Michelangelo’s David (note the fig leaf created in the 19th century to protect the sensibilities of Victorian visitors). The Ardabil Carpet in the Middle East-focused Jameel Gallery is the world’s oldest, dating from Iran in the 1500s.

Victoria & Albert Museum

14. Sky Garden
Offering perhaps the best free vantage point in Central London, the indoor viewing decks and restaurants occupying the top three floors of 20 Fenchurch Street (known to locals as the ‘walkie talkie’) are a great place to hang out without spending a penny. It is open daily, and you’ll need to book your (free) visit in advance.

Sky Garden
Sky Garden

15. St Paul’s Cathedral
Not to be confused with St Paul’s Cathedral (a big attraction that comes with a ticket price), this church on the western flank of Covent Garden Piazza is also known as the Actor’s Church. The first Punch and Judy show took place here in 1662, and there are memorials to Charlie Chaplin and Vivien Leigh. It’s open weekdays.

St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral

16. Portobello Road Market
Located in the heart of charming Notting Hill, this atmospheric and energetic market sells everything from vintage clothes and sumptuous street food to antiques. It’s busiest on Saturdays, but there’s always something going on, whatever day of the week you visit.

Portobello Road Market
Portobello Road Market

17. Science Museum
The highly informative and entertaining Science Museum fills seven floors with interactive exhibits. The Energy Hall highlights the first steam locomotives, which date from the early 19th century, while the third-floor exhibits, which include old gliders, hot-air balloons and flight simulators, are popular with kids.

The Science Museum
The Science Museum

 

18. Sir John Soane’s Museum
Housed within the actual home of the prolific Regency architect Sir John Soane, this museum is full of the man’s personal effects and curiosities, creating one of London’s most atmospheric and fascinating sights. The house is largely as Soane left it upon his death in 1837, with Christopher Wren drawings, a lantern room and slaves’ chains. Aim to go on the first Tuesday of the month, when the home is lit by candles.

Sir John Soane's Museum
Sir John Soane’s Museum

19. Hampstead Heath
This enormous, ancient parkland is one of the best places to escape the city while at the same time catching an amazing view of it: the vista from Parliament Hill, which forms the southeast part of Hampstead Heath, is so impressive it’s actually been protected by law. Elsewhere in the park you’ll find a zoo, three swimming ponds (nominal charge which is often ignored) and plenty of quiet spots for a back-to-nature-in-the-heart-of-London picnic.

Hamstead Heath
Kenwood House on Hamstead Heath

20. Wallace Collection
One of London’s best small galleries, hidden away just north of Oxford Street, the Wallace Collection is an enthralling glimpse into 18th-century aristocratic life, set up in a lavishly restored Italianate mansion stuffed with 17th and 18th-century art.

The Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection
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