London can be an expensive vacation trip, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re a fan of high art or enjoy getting down and dancing the night away, tourists will find plenty of free things to do in London on vacation. Not sure where to find information on the many tourist attractions and fun available to London tourists gratis? Check out our quick list of many attractions available in the fair city of London year round.
Art and Artifacts
From primitive paintings to the finest contemporary arts, London is one of the major art centers of the world. Enjoy a wide variety of art from all corners of the world, all for free.
- 1. Visit Camden Arts Centre for free any day. The Camden has been open since the 1960s, and underwent a renovation in 2004. On Wednesday nights, you can visit the galleries until 9 p.m.
2. Browse the permanent collection of the prints of 16th century artists and satirist William Hogarth at Hogarth’s House on Great West Road in London.
3. Watch for free exhibits at the Chisenhale Gallery, which features four or five artists per year in free exhibitions and installations.
4. Enjoy the collection of contemporary masterpieces by such artists as Picasso, Miro, Warhol, Dali and Pollock at the Tate Britain. In addition to regular hours, visitors can enjoy Late at Tate on Friday evenings until 10 p.m., making it an enjoyable start to an artistic weekend.
5. Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum to check out the historical fashion collection, textiles dating back 2,000 years, 400-year-old dollhouses and more than 500,000 collected photographs.
6. The National Portrait Gallery houses one of the largest collections of portraits in the entire world, boasting more than 330,000 pieces. Those pieces include 207 portraits of Queen Victoria and 38 portraits of Sir Paul McCartney, among others.
7. There’s more to see than tellers at the Bank of England. The Bank of England’s free museum includes exhibits of old typewriters, portraits of governors and an interactive foreign-exchange desk for kids.
8. The British Museum has been open more than 250 years, and its collection shows it. Drop by to visit thousands of artifacts, including ancient Mesopotamian jewelry and Chinese jade, along with about 70,000 other artifacts and objects.
9. Love English décor and decorating? You need to visit the Geffrye Museum, which includes exhibitions of English interior décor from the 1600s to the present. Enjoy the Christmas archive and outside period gardens for more ideas.
10. Browse a collection of archaeological artifacts that include medieval Penn tiles, Roman pottery and Chinese armorial porcelain as well as pharmaceutical glass. The museum is free to the public and open on weekday afternoons.
11. Visit the Museum of London for free and check out Bronze and Iron age artifacts, pieces from Roman and Medieval London and contemporary pieces of interest, including an extensive collection of garments and uniforms.
12. If you have a love of Egyptology, you’ll want to schedule a visit to the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College. The collection there includes fragments of the first known calendar (2900 B.C.) and some of the earliest linens still in existence.
13. Enjoy some of the finest in contemporary artworks at the Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park. The contemporary art space has featured artists like Dallas Seitz, Ben Cook and Hellen van Meene. The gallery is open at various hours during the week, so check the website for specifics.
14. Among the most popular free attractions in London is the home of London architect Sir John Soane, which features a wide-ranging collection of hundreds of historical artifacts. Admission is free, but waits for entry can be long, so try to arrive early on weekdays.
15. Get to know musical instruments and natural history up close and personal at the Horniman Museum. You can visit the oldest surviving aquariums in London and enjoy the museum’s 16 acres of gardens.
- 16. The Changing of the Guard is a London tradition, and one that shouldn’t be missed. You can see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, at Horse Guards’ Parade and at Windsor Castle. The ceremony takes place at Buckingham Palace daily at 11:30 a.m. May through July, and at Horse Guards Arch at 11: a.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. on Sunday,) and at Windsor Castle 11 a.m. Monday-Saturday, April through July.
17. A lesser-known London tradition takes place every evening when the Chief Yeoman Warner locks the main gate to the Tower of London and brings the keys to the Resident Governor. Attendance at the Ceremony of the Keys is free, but is in high demand with limited space. Apply for tickets at least two months in advance through the Tower of London website.
Culture and Fun
London has no lack of culture, both high-brow and low-brow. Don’t miss out on these fun, free activities during your London stay.
- 18. Enjoy a radio or television show taping at the BBC. Check out the BBC website for instructions on how to apply for free tickets to the tapings of shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Coming of Age.
19. On the first Friday of the month, drop by the Clowns Museum, a private museum run by the Clowns International since the 1960s. You’ll see costumes, props and paraphernalia, as well as a collection of eggs made up with the faces of some of the world’s most famous clowns.
20. The City of London is home to 70 markets, open air and indoor, that you can browse for free. Among the most famous are the antiques market at Portobello Road on Saturday, Petticoat Lane market and the Piccadilly Crafts Market in front of St. James Church.
21. Enjoy Brit politics at its finest with a visit to Parliament’s Question Time. Overseas visitors can wait in line for free tickets to be admitted to the Question Time during the summer opening. Political enthusiasts will find it more than worth the wait.
22. Visit Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Epping Forest, built in 1543. Admission is free to the public, and there are often special events like themed-craft afternoons and historic re-enactments.
23. Take a cultural walk along Wandsworth High Street, which has been a main London thoroughfare for more than 500 years. Visit the oldest brewery in Britain and stop in at a 1908 cinema to take in the sights.
Kids may or may not enjoy the Changing of the Guard, but there are many free events for kids in London that they’re guaranteed to enjoy. Check out some of these great things to do with kids in London for free.
- 24. Visit Winnie the Pooh’s “100 Aker Wood” at Aldenham Country Park in Hertfordshire. In addition to the homes of Piglet, Pooh, Eeyore, Christopher Robin and Owl, there are playgrounds, a livestock farm and a toddler area in the 175-acre woodland. Admission is free, and while there’s a parking fee, you can get their on public transit.
25. Drop by Coram’s Fields after a visit to the British Museum, and enjoy picnic areas, sports fields, a pet’s corner and a wading pool, along with many organized kids’ activities. Admission is free, but adults must be accompanied by a child.
26. Let the kids get their hands dirty at Cuming Museum, which offers lots of hands-on activities to introduce the younger set to culture and history from around the world. There are three galleries stocked with artifacts and exhibits collected in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Cuming family.
27. Introduce children to cultures from around the world at the London International Gallery of Children’s Art. Unlike most other museums that feature the works of adults aimed at children, the London International Gallery features artworks created by children from many countries. After touring the galleries, children can join in with workshops and courses where they can make their own art.