A Guide to Free Days Out in London
What You Need to Know
- Make use of local listing magazines and websites to learn of free things to do in the city.
- Many of London’s most famous museums and galleries are free to visit.
- Weather permitting you can spend a whole day relaxing in London’s world-famous parks and gardens, enjoying the stunning views and world class horticulture.
- Go online to learn of free guided walking tours. It is possible to take in most of London’s most famous landmarks without having to pay a penny.
- As well as the classic tourist attractions, London’s many venues play host to gigs and other events which are often free.
Plan your day
One of the biggest financial shocks many visitors to London get is the cost of getting around the capital.
So, to save on travel, it’s wise to plan your day out in advance and to try and stick to one area of the city.
Fortunately, this is entirely feasible. Get to West Kensington, for example, and the Natural History, Science and Victoria and Albert museums, as well as Hyde Park, Harrods and the other upmarket shops of Knightsbridge are all within walking distance of one another.
Similarly, once you’re in the West End, it’s possible to take in historic squares, iconic landmarks, world-class galleries and shopping all without spending an extra penny on travel.
When it come to trips greater than a day in length, other than a friends couch, you aren't going to get a place to sleep without spending any money. However, there are many London Hotels that charge reasonable prices.
Museums and Galleries
Most of London’s best-known cultural attractions are free of charge. In terms of museums, the British Museum, the Natural History, Science and V&A Museums, the Museum of London and the Imperial War Museum, all allow both Londoners and tourists alike to enjoy their permanent collections free of charge, though admission to special temporary exhibitions may cost extra.
Similarly, it’s possible to enjoy a whole day’s worth of world-class art without spending a penny.
The Tate Modern and the Tate Britain, the Saatchi Gallery, the National Portrait and National Gallery and dozens of smaller, independent venues such as the Photographers’ Gallery in Soho and the Whitechapel Gallery are all free to visit.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the West End or the South Bank, London’s parks offer the chance to enjoy a relaxing day in world-famous landscaped gardens for no money at all.
Among the most popular are Hyde Park, where Speakers’ Corner offers extra free entertainment, Green Park, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill, from where you can enjoy stunning views of the city skyline, for free.
Check out the Royal Parks’ website for details of free guided walks through ‘London’s lungs’.
Landmarks and Attractions
While many major attractions charge hefty entrance fees, it’s still possible to play the tourist in London and see most of its best-known sites free of charge.
So, a day’s frugal sightseeing might include taking in Parliament Square, complete with an obligatory photos of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, hanging out in Trafalgar Square, enjoying the buskers of Covent Garden and then taking in the atmosphere of Leicester Square and China Town.
Additionally, a walk along the world-famous South Bank, strolling past landmarks such as the London Eye, the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre costs nothing at all, neither does a trip to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Again, it’s a good idea to plan your route and itinerary beforehand so as to ensure you get the most out of your day in London.
As with museums and galleries, it’s possible to enjoy a taste of London’s live entertainment scene without spending a penny.
Check out listing sites such as Time Out, Londonist or All in London to see what’s on when and where.
It’s likely that there’s a free gig, show, lecture of performance on somewhere, so tap into local expert knowledge to get the best tips.
If you do have money to spend, you can get a lot for a little by cashing in on a great offer. Cheap theatre tickets and discounts for other attractions can often be found online.
- Check Timeout to find out what’s going on whilst you’re in town.
- A good resource full of free things to do in London can be found here.