Top 6 Free Activities in London
Big attractions in the capital that won’t break the bank
It’s not a secret. London isn’t a cheap city to live, work or play in. In fact, it’s currently the number 1 most expensive city in the UK and 6th in the world. What’s more, those travelling with children might soon realise that the streets aren’t quite paved with gold in the big city, but your wallet better be. That said, when done correctly, a trip to London doesn’t have to be expensive and talk of ‘big city prices’ shouldn’t stop you from visiting.
Our guide will show you some of the best attractions London has to offer. What’s more, they won’t cost you a penny. Let’s jump in!
Changing of the guard
While actually going into Buckingham Palace will cost a fee, watching the ‘Changing of the Guard’ ceremony is completely free. Onlookers can see the event from outside the Buckingham Palace gates every day at 11am. Be sure to get there early for a good vantage point – our recommendation is the steps of the Victoria Monument – as it’s a very popular attraction! This activity makes an excellent pairing with a trip to St James Park (next door) or a very simple walk down from Trafalgar Square along the Mall to soak in the Royal atmosphere.
Any budding witches and wizards in the group will instantly recognise Platform 9 ¾ from the Harry Potter books. It was the platform that Mr. Potter took to board the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross Station. Obviously, Platform 9 ¾ didn’t really exist outside of the franchise (sorry Potter-lovers), that is, until a homage was created at the station. Now, visitors can queue to get their photo taken at the ‘secret entrance’ to the platform. There’s also a nearby Harry Potter memorabilia shop, which is free to browse but is definitely not easy on the pocket. Approach with caution!
Visit Any Free Museum
London is brimming with culture and history, and one of its many free museums is a great way to access it. Some of the key highlights include:
Natural History Museum
Dedicated to the natural world, this museum has over 80 million items within five main collections or themed areas. The kids will almost certainly head straight for the dinosaur exhibits, but there are plenty of exhibits to entertain the whole family
Museum of London
As the name suggests, the focus of this museum is the history of the city and its people. It follows London’s evolution from prehistoric times right up to the modern day (and everything in between!).
Victoria & Albert Museum
If fashion and art are more your thing, then the V&A Museum has you covered. As a museum of art and design, the collections have everything from ancient Chinese ceramics to modern day high-fashion artefacts.
As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum is chock full of interactive exhibits guaranteed to engage and entertain everyone. The museum is generally divided up into several themed areas including space exploration and the science of everyday items in our home. It also looks at the science of our past, present and future, designed to inspire any budding future genius in your group.
While many of the museums are free to enter, most accept donations to help keep them this way. If you can afford to, please consider dropping a few pounds in their tin. Some museums also feature special exhibits which may have a separate fee to attend. Check their website before attending for up-to-date information.
Picnic in the Park
Just a stone’s throw away from the hubbub of Oxford Street or Piccadilly Circus, London has some of the most beautiful parks in the country. All are free to enter and make the perfect spot for an impromptu picnic with spectacular views and plenty of space to roll out the picnic mat. Some of the top highlights include:
Set right in the heart of London, visitors can see the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, watch locals brave the chilly Serpentine for a swim, or simply unwind in the 1.42km2 of space.
St. James’s Park
Right next to Buckingham Palace with plenty of wildlife and open water. Makes for an excellent spot to enjoy the cucumber sandwiches, scones and Pimm’s while feeling like a Royal.
With its tree-lined pathways and rose gardens, Regent’s Park might win the crown for the most scenic London park. In the summer months, there is an Open-Air Theatre, if you fancy some theatre after your picnic. It also hosts London Zoo for those wanting to visit while in the capital. It also has 4 (count them!) playgrounds if the kids need to burn off some energy.
While a little out of central London, Richmond Park is worth the visit due to its unusual residents – deer. As the largest London park, the area hosts plenty of wildlife (keep those sandwiches well-guarded) and boasts status as a site of special scientific interest.
St Martin’s in the Fields (Lunchtime Concerts)
St Martin’s in the Fields is an oddly named Anglican church in the NE corner of Trafalgar Square. Over time, the church has built a reputation for hosting a series of non-religious classical music performances.
At 1pm on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, the church has free lunchtime concerts, where attendees can see an eclectic range of professional (and student) musicians perform. The music ranges from classical to pop and everything in-between. It’s a great opportunity to sample high-quality music in a beautiful setting that’s right in the heart of the city. Everyone, regardless of their faith, is welcome.
Watch a Trial at the Old Bailey
Probably one for the slightly older children (they suggest 14+) and adults, the Old Bailey has a viewing gallery for the general public to watch ongoing trials. Entry is free, there is no need to pre-book, allowing ad-hoc visitors to watch the drama unfold.
While you are unlikely to stick around for the whole thing, the experience is a novel one for everyone involved as you get to see the inner workings of a court case. There’s no way of knowing what kind of case will be brought forward that day, so it may be helpful to ask on the day you are visiting to avoid anything too unsettling.
While it’s hard to escape that London can be an expensive city, it doesn’t have to be this way. The city has plenty of free activities that are more than enough to keep solo travellers, couples or families entertained. Rather than being ‘the cheap option’, many of these free activities are also some of the best in the capital. This means, that if you know how to find them, nobody needs to choose between ‘free’ and ‘fantastic’. Enjoy!
As with all activities, do make sure you give enough time for any potential travel delays. Passengers should be back at Hammersmith Bus Station (Stop D) at least 15 minutes prior to the pre-booked departure time. Unfortunately, the coach is not able to wait if you are running late.
London transport costs vary. The London Underground will be a lower-cost alternative to a taxi or Uber. Remember walking is free!
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