London is expensive, there are no two ways about it. But, fear not, there are still a few places where you can be entertained or have fun for free. Check out the second part of my list for free things to do next time you are in London.
Visit a Gallery
The National Gallery – This art museum was founded in 1824 and houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to around 1900. There are works by Johannes Vermeer, Sandro Botticelli, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo. Open daily from 10am-6pm.
Tate Modern – Housed in a former power plant, this is one of the best art museums in the city and is home to lots of contemporary and modern art. It’s a beautiful space and is filled with some really interesting pieces. Open daily from 10am to 6pm (10pm on Friday and Saturday).
The Wallace Collection – This art collection contains pieces from the 15th to 19th centuries, spread out over 30 separate galleries. You’ll find paintings, armour, furniture, decorative art, and everything in between here. Open daily from 10am-5pm.
National Portrait Gallery – This was the very first portrait gallery in the world when it opened in 1856, and to this day is still one of the largest — there are almost 200,000 portraits here! Open daily from 10am-5pm (10am-8pm on Thursday and Friday).
Tate Britain – A museum home to an expansive collection of British artwork from the 16th century to the present. It’s not as big as Tate Modern, but it arguably has more famous works of art, including works by Francis Bacon, Richard Dadd, and William Blake. Open daily from 10am-6pm.
Whitechapel Gallery – This gallery is home to contemporary works of art, and often displays temporary retrospective exhibits. Opened in 1901, it was also one of the first publicly funded galleries in London. Open Tu-Su (11am-6pm; 11am-9pm on Thursdays).
Serpentine Galleries – Located in Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park, these two galleries were established in 1970 and are home to modern and contemporary art. Open daily from 10am-6pm.
People watch in the parks.
London has some beautiful parks filled with flowers, ponds, ducks, geese and beautifully manicured lawns. Some of the best parks are:
St. James’s Park – Covering over 23 hectares, it’s home to a variety of paths and trails, a lake, and plenty of birds (including pelicans!).
Green Park – This park was first established in the 1500’s, though unlike almost every other park in the city it doesn’t have any buildings or lakes in it.
Regent’s Park – This massive park is one of the Royal Parks of London. Established in 1811, it’s also home to the London Zoo and Regent’s University.
Kensington Gardens – Another Royal Garden of London, this once-private garden is home to the Serpentine Galleries as well as Kensington Palace.
Hyde Park – This is perhaps the most famous park in London. Originally the private hunting grounds of Henry VII, it opened to the public in 1637. It is a great place to stroll, picnic, or catch one of the many events that are hosted here throughout the year.
Holland Park – This park has an eclectic mix of attractions, from Japanese gardens to a giant chess set to the ruins of the Holland House that was bombed in WWII.
Battersea Park – This park used to be a very popular area for duelling. Nowadays it’s used for running, playing sports, having picnics, and music performances. There’s a children’s zoo too.
Take a free walking tour
London is covered with walking tours. From free tours to speciality tours to paid tours to literary tours to quirky tea tours, London has it all – including lots of free tours.
Free Tours by Foot – The tours cover the major highlights, are well written, presented, and very insightful. Some of their tours are Westminster Tour, Harry Potter Walking Tour, Soho Tour, Ghost Tour, and Street Art Tour. Most walks last two to two and half hours.
Free London Walking Tours – This tiny company offers free walks from a few older British chaps that have the air of university professor. They tell silly jokes but have full knowledge of the most arcane facts of London history. They tend to cover a lot of ground – physically and factually – so it’s a whirlwind! Be sure to check out their Fire, Pestilence and Plague and Debauched London tours. Tours last two hours.
Strawberry Tours – This tour company is more for young travellers, the guides and the attendees are younger. They run a number of free tours, speciality tours, and paid pub crawls. Tours are free, but any tips received by the guides are donated to charity.
New Europe Walking Tours – This free walking tour company has walking tours all over Europe. They are sort of the “backpacker” tour as most hostels always promote them. You will see mostly young travellers on their tours. They are good for a large historic overview of the city.
Other things to try.
See The Changing of the Guard – Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace at 11:30am as well as the Horse Guards at Whitehall at 11:00am.
With so many free things to see and do in London, you’ll be able to fill your days and nights of your visit without ever having to spend a penny! The city may be expensive but with some many free things to do, you’ll be able to afford all those pints by not spending any money during your day. There’s no reason to spend a lot of money when there’s so much to do here for free.