Let’s face it — London is not a cheap city to visit. Luckily, there are a ton of free things to do in London. You could base your whole trip off of going to see the free sights, and you would still have seen most of the best of London.
Keep in mind that everything is free if you just look at it from the outside — that’s what Kevin and I did on day one of sightseeing in London. You can see a two day itinerary of some of the top London sights here, all of which you can experience just as well from the outside. If you need more free things to do, keep reading!
1. Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Experience the ceremonial Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. While the palace itself is unfortunately not free to tour the inside of, you can watch the royal revelry as the Queen’s Old Guard is replaced with the New Guard with 30 minutes of fanfare, cavalry, rifles, and marching.
Hours of Operation: Schedule to change, but usually Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 11 a.m.
2. Westminster Cathedral
Hidden off the normal tourist route, Westminster Cathedral is the largest Catholic church building in England and Wales, with a bell tower so tall and a facade so striking you won’t believe most people miss it. It is free to enter Westminster Cathedral, but going up the 210 foot tall bell tower will cost you.
Hours of Operation: Open during Mass times, subject to change, but typically daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
3. British Museum
This art and history museum has one of the largest private collections in the world. At the British Museum, you can see ancient artifacts like the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, and a kinda ridiculous bust of Caesar Augustus that I’ve taken a picture with every time I’ve gone to the museum.
Hours of Operation: Daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. with some galleries open late on Fridays until 8:30 p.m.
4. National Gallery, London
The National Gallery, London is a free art museum at Trafalgar Square. You can see paintings from some of the best artists from around the world from Michelangelo to Monet. There’s a lot to see, so make sure you give yourself enough time to peruse the entire collection.
Hours of Operation: Daily, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and open late on Fridays until 9 p.m.
5. National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery is exactly what it sounds like – an art museum of famous portraits. When it opened in 1856, it was the first portrait gallery in the world. Located in Trafalgar Square right behind the National Gallery, the museum showcases portraits of Britain’s most famous residents. The portraits are chosen by fame of the sitter rather than the painter, so not all are spectacular paintings, but subjects range from the monarchy to poets.
Hours of Operation: Daily, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and open late on Thursdays and Fridays until 9 p.m.
6. Tate Modern
If you haven’t had enough art museums yet, Tate Modern on the south bank of the Thames has free admission to its international modern and contemporary art collections. The museum explores themes in modern art such as the “artist and society”, performance and participant art, and “living cities.”
Hours of Operation: Daily, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and open late on Fridays and Saturdays until 10 p.m.
7. St James’ Park
This 57 acres of rolling green park space is completely covered with people out sunning and picnicking on a glorious sunny spring or summer day in London. St James’s Park is part of a chain of Royal Parks that is within a short walking distance from Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, St James’s Palace, and Buckingham Palace.
Hours of Operation: Daily, 5 a.m. – 12 a.m.
8. Hyde Park
The largest of the Royal Parks chain in the city, Hyde Park sits right in the heart of London with easy access to Kennsington Palace, Marble Arch, and the Buckingham Palace Gardens. The 350 acres of land holds the Serpentine Lido, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, and plenty of statues and sculptures to find.
Hours of Operation: Daily, 5 a.m. – 12 a.m.
9. Marble Arch
Originally designed to be a state entrance for Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch sits on a traffic island off of the northeast side of Hyde Park. Made of Carrara marble, the arch was designed based off of the Arch of Constantine in Rome and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Hours of Operation: Daily, 12 a.m. – 12 a.m.
10. Platform 9 3/4
Harry Potter fans can find Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, and you don’t even have to book a ticket! It’s located on the concourse on the way to Platforms 9 and 10. Because of the popularity of the site, there is now a Harry Potter shop right next to it that sells VIP photo packages where you can skip the line and have a professional photo taken, but you don’t have to do this. You can simply wait in line and have a friend or other person in line take a picture of you on your way to Hogwarts.
Opening Hours: Daily, during King’s Cross Station’s opening hours, 5 a.m. – 1:30 a.m.
11. Paddington Bear Statue
Paddington Bear arrived in London from Darkest Peru at Paddington Station, where Mr. and Mrs. Brown found him, gave him his name, and took him home. You’ll find the Paddington Bear statue right where he got off the train, sitting under the clock tower at Platform 1.
Hours of Operation: Daily, during Paddington Station opening hours, 12 a.m. – 12 a.m.
What’s your favorite free thing to do in London? Let me know in the comments!