Visiting London, it’s hard to imagine the UK is staggering its way out of a recession. Lamborghinis continue to roar down Bond Street, new restaurants pop up each week and in the hip East End, one can find many drinking 5 quid espresso drinks. However, there are plenty of budget-friendly things to do in London. Here is our guide to the best free things to do in London.
This article is inspired by our Rough Guide to England, your essential guide for travelling to England.
Thanks to those philanthropic Victorians, there are a great collection of free museums in London. Most of them double as architectural marvels. The Natural History Museum, V&A Museum of London and the Science Museum are great places to start. Also worth seeing is the British Museum, the Museum of London, and the Grant Museum of Zoology.
Most of London’s wonderful permanent art collections are free to all (stick that in your pipe Musée du Louvre!). As well as the National Gallery and the two Tates, try the Whitechapel Gallery or the newly revamped Photographers' Gallery. Or check out the art collection at the Queen's House.
Apart from buskers murdering Coldplay on the tube, you’ll find free music across the capital. Camden pubs such as the Lock Tavern regularly host free gigs while Rough Trade record stores put on in-store performances by surprisingly big names.
For some free Bach or Beethoven try a student performance at the Royal Academy of Music or an evening concert at St Martin’s in the Fields. If you’re under 26 you can also enjoy a huge range of free events at the Barbican arts centre.
A smile costs nothing so they say, especially on Tuesdays at the Camden Head Pub or Wednesdays at the Comedy Café. Each venue hosts free nights where comics try out new material (be gentle!).
For a couple of quid, you can access the capital’s network of bulky-but-brilliant “Boris bikes” for 24hrs. Hiring the bikes is then free if you limit each ride to 30min (a range of apps help you find the docking points).
Ready to see the city via bike? Don't miss our guide to cycling in London.
With London Zoo costing a staggering £63 for a family of four, it’s worth knowing you can see wildlife for free in the capital. Richmond Park is famous for its herds of deer while the Lee Valley provides everything from butterflies to swooping peregrine falcons. An afternoon here is one of the best free things to do in London.
Pageantry breaks out regularly across London from the Changing the Guard outside of Buckingham Palace — which is free to view. For something less stuffy don’t miss the Notting Hill Carnival held each August bank holiday.
It's a wee bit cheeky but you can sample plenty of free titbits at London’s wonderful food markets. Try Borough for the widest range or its smaller, cooler, rival Maltby Street. Even Harrod’s food hall hands out the odd morsel.
Visiting the UK with your animal companion? Check out our guide to dog-friendly spots in the United Kingdom.
Both Visit London and National Rail’s Day’s Out Guide offer a range of 2-for-1 deals for those travelling by tube or train. If you simply must go to Madame Tussauds this is probably the cheapest way to do it.
Every night, the gates to the Tower of London are ceremoniously locked. This traditional ritual has occurred since the middle ages and is a great thing to do in London for free.
Brick Lane Street in Shoreditch is a great place to see London's cutting-edge street art. There are plenty of massive and intricate murals to stroll by. A walking tour to see the graffiti in the area is one of the best free things to do in London.
For a break from the bustle of the city, try a free walk through a park. London is home to many iconic parks. The most well-known parks are St James Park and Hyde Park. But also worth visiting are Regent's Park, Greenwich Park, Holland Park and Battersea Park.
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London is a huge sprawling city and it's worth going up to see it from above. Primrose Hill in Regent's Park is a popular place to take in the view. Equally gorgeous but lesser known, Parliament Hill also offers great views. London's Sky Garden is a glass dome located on the top of a hill and is one of the most beautiful places in London. It is free on weekdays.
God's Own Junkyard is a dizzying collection of neon signs and is a great place to visit in the city. The establishment is part store, part art gallery, and part museum and is one of London's great attractions for those who are budget conscious.
There are plenty of sights to see for Harry Potter fans in London. Visit Kings Cross station to visit platform 9 3/4, or take a walk through Leadenhall Market also known as Diagon Alley.
Looking for inspiration for your trip to London? Take a unique trip and read our guide to London off the tourist trail.
This district in west London features a lovely canal built in the 1800s. This area is covered in beautiful green foliage and is worth a visit. A boat ride is included for free if you have a London Pass.
Although many may visit to spend money, many of London's markets are worth visiting for window shopping. Covent Garden, on London's west end, might be known for its luxury shopping — but it's worth a visit just to see this district's architecture. Borough Market, known for its food stalls, is one of the oldest food markets in London and is worth a visit.
For an eery but unique site, don't miss the opportunity to take the Greenwich foot tunnel. This tunnel is built directly under the Thames and is one of the best free things to do in London. Over 4,000 people come to crosswalk this path every day.
London is known for its expensive housing. Although it's unlikely to stay in London for free (unless you happen to have a good friend with a couch), there are some options available for the budget conscious.
For more about where to stay, check out our guide to the best places to stay in London.
If you're planning your trip to London you won't want to miss our Rough Guide to England.
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Top image: River view of Big Ben and-Houses of parliament in London, England, United Kingdom © S.Borisov/Shutterstock