London can be expensive. In fact, I’ve heard it called the most expensive city in the world. However, there are countless things to do/see in London without spending huge amounts of money and still managing to make the most of the city. One couldn’t possibly put together a list of everything to do in this vast and magnificent city, but you have to start somewhere. So, without further ado, here are 15 things you can do for free in London!
15. St. Dunstan-in-the-East
St. Dunstan-in-the-East, a cathedral built in approximately 1100 A.D., has seen its fair share of turmoil. Throughout numerous repairs and rebuilds, the church survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 A.D. only to be nearly destroyed in the WWII Blitz of 1941. Only the north and south walls remained in addition to Christopher Wren’s tower and steeple. Rather than rebuilding yet again, the City of London made the brilliant decision to turn the cathedral ruins into a garden with a fountain in the center of the Nave. This site is one of the most striking and peaceful areas in the city and serves as a reminder that beauty can endure even after such destruction.
Cathedral Window at St. Dunstan-in-the-East, 2016. c. Leah Putz
- Sample Global Foods at the Camden Market
Exploring the numerous shops, restaurants, and markets of Camden Town is an adventure in and of itself. The market is open every day, and there are countless food stands featuring food and drinks from all over the world. A lot of the small stalls offer samples as you stroll along, and it easy to end up feeling like you’ve eaten a full meal for free after meandering through the markets.
- Explore Greenwich
The borough of Greenwich is renowned for its maritime history and its location on the Meridian line at 0 longitude. This area in the eastern half of London south of the Thames has a lot to offer. The National Maritime museum, established in 1934 offers free entrance and sits on the edge of the beautiful Greenwich park. At the top of the hill in the park is the Royal Observatory and marks the Meridian line. From this vantage point, you can see a wonderful view of Greenwich Park and the skyline of London.
View from the top of the hill at Greenwich Park, 2016. c. Leah Putz
Located near Soho, London’s Chinatown is jampacked with authentic shops, restaurants, and culture. Grabbing a bubble tea and strolling through this area is a wonderful way to see a historical and rich part of the city, complete with a Chinese gates and a pavilion.
Chinatown, 2014. c. Leah Putz
- Piccadilly Circus
A good way to describe Piccadilly Circus is to say that it’s like the Times Square of London- complete with giant advertisements and an insane amount of tourists. Near this area is a plethora of tourist shops where you are sure you find the perfect souvenir to commemorate your time in London.
- Visit the many parks
London is full of green space. No matter where you are in the city, you’re probably within walking distance of a public park or garden, which can’t be said for many large cities in the world. Some of the most popular of these parks are Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, St. James Park, and Green Park. All of these parks, and many more, provide natural beauty and scenery to contrast the city landscape.
Hyde Park, 2014. c. Leah Putz
- Buckingham Palace
While it costs money to go inside Buckingham palace, it is free to admire the face of the Queen’s home, complete with a magnificent fountain and palace guards. I would recommend planning your visit to coincide with the changing of the guard, which takes place daily at 11:30 am during the summer months and on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday between 10:15 and 11:45 am during the winter. This is spectacular to witness.
Buckingham Palace fountain, 2014. c. Leah Putz
Southbank is one of my favorite parts of London. Complete with music, pubs and history, a lot of what is amazing about London can be found in this area beside the river. One of the most well-known staples of Southbank is Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. The theater is unmistakable as it is the only thatched-roof building in the city after the Great fire of London. The theater is still active and you can see shows performed there in the traditional Renaissance style if you’re willing to pay the ticket prices!
- Delight in one of the many museums
One of the things London does best is its museums. There are too many to count, and almost all offer free admission. My favorite is the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is full of fantastic art and historical artifacts. The British Museum is also incredible and houses the Rosetta Stone and statues from the Parthenon in Greece among others. Some other honorable mentions are the National Gallery, the National History Museum, and the Museum of London.
Natural History Museum, 2015. c. Leah Putz
- Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square sits in the City of Westminster and is a tourist must-see. No matter which direction you face when in the center of this square you’ll be looking towards a major monument. In the center of the square stands Nelson’s Column complete with four guarding lion statues and a large nearby fountain. There are also four pillars that mark the corners of Trafalgar, each with a statue of a figure from British history, with the exception of the fourth pillar which is reserved for commissioned pieces.
Sitting on the fountain in Trafalgar Square, 2014. c. Leah Putz
- Westminster Abbey
Like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey also costs money to enter. However, the exterior is a romantic mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and, quite honestly, breathtaking. The architecture of the Abbey is incredible and worth visiting even if you decide not to pay the ticket price to go inside.
Westminster Abbey, 2014. c. Leah Putz
- Stroll along one of the city walks
London has countless paths that make for fantastic city walks. My favorite is the walk along the Mall stretching from Buckingham Palace through to Trafalgar Square. Another great walk is along Fleet Street, which is one of the oldest streets in London and makes its way to St. Paul’s Cathedral. As I said, there is a plethora of these walks to choose from, and they all offer a great way to see and explore the city.
- The Gardens of Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is most well known for being the London home of Prince William, Duchess Kate Middleton, and their two adorable tots. The palace is also known for its beautiful front gardens. The Sunken Garden was inspired by a similar garden at Hampton Court Palace and is complete with numerous flower beds and a pond. Surrounding the Sunken Garden is what’s called the Cradle Walk, which is a shaded arched walkway with window-like cutouts that allow you to admire the beauty of the colorful Sunken Garden.
Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, 2016. c. Leah Putz
- Parliament and ‘Big Ben’
The Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower (known incorrectly as Big Ben, which is actually just the name of the bell inside the tower) are possibly the most recognizable landmarks of London. If you’ve ever seen a movie taking place in London, or a poster of the city, or a photograph, the majority of the time you’ll see these picturesque buildings. Visiting this area is a good way to pinch yourself and allow it to really sink in that you’re in London!
‘Big Ben’ and the Houses of Parliament, 2016. c. Leah Putz
- Admire the city
Stop a minute and really take in the sites, sounds, and culture of the capital of the United Kingdom. London is one of the oldest and richest cities in the world, and it’s a privilege to be able to meander its ancient streets, see the sites, and discover what makes this spectacular city so amazing.