London is not known for being a cheap destination, with pricey hotels, theatre tickets and eye watering bar tabs. But you can easily save your pennies while still having an amazing time with this list of the best free things to do in London. It blows our minds that so many of the city's world famous museums and galleries are free to enter, and there are lots of other surprisingly free activities and attractions you can enjoy too. From concerts to comedy, magnificent temples to mindblowing art, here are 100 totally free things to do in London.
1. Spend a whole day at the British Museum - in our opinion, the best museum in London. Mummies. the Rosetta Stone, Vikings, Romans, the Sutton Hoo ship burial, this museum has something for everyone.
2. Walk with dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum - famous for its fossils and dino skeletons, colossal mammals gallery and displays on Earthquakes and Volcanoes.
3. Blast off at the Science Museum - Soviet era supercomputers, medical breakthroughs, Stephenson’s Rocket and real space rockets
4. A treasure trove of fashion and art, the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibits 5000 years of human creativity including Ancient Greek ceramics and 3500 year old Egyptian shoes, drawings by Beatrix Potter and photographs by Cecil Beaton. We love the Theatre and Performance collection, featuring costumes from the Lion King, Wicked and the Bolshoi Ballet, Kylie Minogue's dressing room and Mick Jagger's jumpsuit.
5. Walk through time at the Museum of London from the prehistoric times until modern day. Highlights include the War, Fire and Plague gallery, and the gorgeous costumes in the Vauxhall Pleasure Garden recreation, War time London and the golden Lord Mayor's coach. NB: (2022 update) You'll need to wait until 2026 for this one as the Museum of London has just closed for a 3 year period, after which it will reopen at an amazing new West Smithfield location.
6. Get nostalgic at the Young V&A - toys, games, teddy bears and dolls from the last three centuries. Formerly the V&A Museum of Childhood, the Bethnal Green building is reopening in Summer 2023.
7. Imperial War Museum - housed in what was once Bethlehem 'Bedlam' Royal Hospital, the museum explores conflict from WW1 to the present day. Permanent collections include the First World War Gallery, the D-Day Landings and an exceptional, if very emotional, Holocaust exhibition. You can see an Enigma machine, walk through a recreated trench, look into the front section of a Lancaster bomber and see a Battle of Britain Spitfire and German V2 rocket in the world famous atrium.
8. Museum of London Docklands - located in a warehouse built in 1802, highlights include London, Sugar and Slavery, a hard hitting exhibition about the city's dark history with the slave trade, and Sailortown, an atmospheric walk through recreation of 19th century London docklands.
9. Find the jar of moles at the Grant Museum of Zoology - Quagga and dodo bones, jars of brains and a huge skeleton collection, including many endangered and extinct species.
10. Petrie Museum - precious Egyptian artifacts tucked upstairs in a former stable building including ancient clothing, mummy cases and papyrus texts.
11. Wellcome Collection - permanent and temporary exhibitions focusing on health and humanity, plus an extensive library.
12. Stand in front of Admiral Nelson's Trafalgar uniform that he was wounded at the National Maritime Museum - you can also see the famous armada painting of Queen Elizabeth I, Turner's The Battle of Trafalgar, Yinka Shonibare's Ship in a Bottle, 230 ship figureheads and a Polar Exploration gallery.
13. See the giant walrus at the Horniman Museum - Natural History, Anthropology, a butterfly house and an aquarium, plus a garden with beautiful views of the London skyline.
14. Hold a real gold bar at the Bank of England Museum
15. Challenge your perceptions of what art is at the Tate Modern - one of the largest galleries of modern art in the world, featuring works by Dali, Picasso and Warhol, and avant garde video installations.
16. Get your culture fix at the Tate Britain - from romantic Pre-Raphaelites to the Modernist sculptures of Henry Moore, JMW Turner to Francis Bacon and David Hockney.
17. Face off with the great and good at the National Portrait Gallery, the most extensive collection of portraits in the world including Medieval and Tudor monarchs, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, John Lennon, Darcey Bussell, Queen Elizabeth II, David Bowie, John Keats and Harold Pinter.
18. In Chelsea, the Saatchi Gallery aims to make contemporary art accessible for all.
19. More than just wallpaper, the William Morris Gallery celebrates the creations and collaborations of the British artist, William Morris.
20. Accumulated over two centuries by the Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the Wallace Collection is a gorgeous assortment of paintings, porcelain, sculpture, furniture and gold trinkets not far from the bustle of Oxford Street. Highlights include works by Rembrandt and Canaletto, and the famous Laughing Cavalier.
21. Head east to the Whitechapel Gallery, a contemporary art gallery opened in 1899 to educate the local community and showcase both famous and up and coming artists. Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Frida Kahlo all had premieres there.
22. Explore the Treasures collection at the British Library, including the Magna Carta, drawings by Michaelangelo and Florence Nightingale, original writings by Dickens and the Bronte Sisters and handwritten Beatles lyrics.
23. From Hendrix's guitar to John Lennon's glasses, Madonna's Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra to Freddie Mercury's chair, The Vault, downstairs at the Hard Rock Cafe on Old Park Lane is a treasure trove of Rock history.
24. Painting Paradise: the National Gallery is so much more than a wet weather plan, it's a who's who of artists. Reubens, Cezanne, Seurat, Monet, Titian, Van Dyke, Van Gogh, Turner, Constable, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Botticelli, to name but a few.
25. Watch Tower Bridge open. You can check the schedule here.
26. Make like the Fab Four and cross the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing. You can find more info and other London Beatles locations in our blog here!
27. Pose with a red phone box. Bonus points if you can get a London landmark in the background, like the ones facing Big Ben on Parliament Square, or the ones next to St Paul's Cathedral!
28. Hear Big Ben's bongs - the famous bell is finally back in action after a very long restoration period!
29. Watch the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London - free tickets must be booked in advance online, and are very popular! This ancient ritual takes place every evening as the Tower is locked up for the night.
30. Watch the street performers in Covent Garden and Leicester Square.
31. Crack the Da Vinci Code at the Temple Church of the Knight's Templar, tucked behind Fleet Street.
32. See the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace - have you even been to London if you haven't seen this??
33. Celeb spot at Leicester Square on a film premiere night
34. Watch the pelicans being fed at St James Park between 2:30pm and 3:00pm every day, next to Duck Island Cottage
38. See the Shakespeare window at Southwark Cathedral
34. Feel like you've travelled to Thailand at Wat Buddhapadipa, Wimbledon
35. Browse food from around the world under the railways arches of Borough Market (look out for free samples!)
36. Watch Musical Theatre's finest at West End Live, a free weekend festival every summer in Trafalgar Square.
37. Looking more like a mosque than a church with it's Neo Byzantine orange striped bricks and tall minaret like bell tower, Westminster Cathedral is the largest Roman Catholic church in the UK. The inside is decorated by over 100 different types of marble, from 24 different countries.
38. Join the party at Notting Hill Carnival, celebrating the British West Indian community every year on August bank holiday weekend.
39. Hob nob with the high and mighty at Harrods -1 million square feet of luxury retail spread over 6 floors. Check out the beautiful listed food halls, the black granite perfumery and take the Egyptian Escalator up to Shoe Heaven on the fifth floor.
40. Wonder at Shri Swaminaryan Mandir, known by locals as Neasden Temple, once the largest Hindu Temple to be built outside of India. Carved in Kandla, India entirely out of marble and limestone by traditional Indian craftsmen, the 23000 pieces were then shipped back to the UK and assembled by community volunteers in just 3 years.
41. Join the chorus at Choral evensong at St Paul's Cathedral. Every evening from 5 - 5.45pm on Monday - Saturday and 3.15 - 4.15pm on Sundays, service sheets are provided. Entry to St Paul's is rather expensive, so this is a great way to enjoy the beautiful interior for free. NB this is a religious service so please be respectful and stay in the seating area.
42. Dive into the labyrinth of Camden Market, housed within a historic stables building. Browse vintage clothes and quirky art, and pose with Amy Winehouse's statue.
43. Admire the enormous creations at the Lego store, Leicester Square
44. Go deer spotting in Richmond Park
45. Visit beautiful Liberty, the stunning Tudor Revival style department store at the top of Carnaby Street, made from ancient ships timbers. Famous for its colourful floral fabrics, the store feels surprisingly open, with each floor built around an atrium.
46. Attend a lunchtime classical concert at St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square
47. Browse the antiques and artisanal crafts at Greenwich Market.
48. See the Christmas Lights on Regent Street, Oxford Street and Carnaby Street
49. Sing along with the singing lifts at the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre
50. Visit toy heaven at Hamleys, Regent Street
51. Window shop the art and antiques of Portobello road market, and photograph the colourful terraced houses.
52. Watch a free show at the Scoop. Every summer you can enjoy free theatre, festivals, films and sport screenings at this amphitheatre near London City Hall on the South Bank.
53. Browse beautiful blooms at Columbia Road flower market, every Sunday near Bethnal Green
54. Get political at Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park. Public speakers have been exercising their freedom of speech here for years. Any subject is allowed, as long as it is lawful. Sunday afternoons are usually busiest, and former orators include Lenin, Orwell and Marx.
55. Wander beneath the red lanterns and gates of Chinatown and check out the shops and supermarkets. There is an enormous parade here on Chinese New Year
56. Immerse yourself in the beautiful installations of the Canary Wharf Winter Lights festival
57. Watch a court case from the public galleries of the Old Bailey.
58. Head up hill to watch the New Years Eve fireworks from a distance. We'd recommend Parliament Hill, Greenwich Park or Alexandra Palace for views of the city skyline.
59. Pick a side and cheer on the Boat Race
60. Search for Wombles on Wimbledon Common. If nothing else, it's a lovely green space for a stroll.
61. Watch the Fortnum and Mason clock chime. The bells which chime every 15 minutes cone from the same foundry as Big Ben, and on the hour, Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason appear.
62. Book a free tour at Brixton Windmill.
63. Walk the Greenwich foot tunnel under the Thames from Island Gardens to Cutty Sark.
64. Laugh yourself silly at The Top Secret Comedy Club, Drury Lane - check online to find out when their next free shows are.
65. Spot a secret view St Paul's from King Henry's Mound, Pembroke Lodge Gardens in Richmond Park, perfectly framed in a gap in the hedge.
66. Pay your respects to Ziggy Stardust at the David Bowie Mural, Brixton, painted after the star's death in 2016. You can find it down the side of Morleys department store.
67. Get a backstage view of the National Theatre where you can watch sets and scenery being made from the Sherling High Level Walkway.
68. Visit an amazing piece of hidden history in the basement of Guildhall Art Gallery: London's Roman amphitheatre. Discovered in 1988, it once held gladitorial fights and public executions. You can also see the outline of the arena marked out in dark stones on the Guildhall yard outside. We have a full blog about visiting the London Amphitheatre here!
69. Escape the city rush into the green oasis of St Dunstan in the East , a church partially destroyed in the Blitz and now transformed into a dramatic garden.
70. Bring some strawberries and watch Wimbledon on one of the big screens set up around the city during the tennis tournament.
71. Retrace Jack the Ripper's footsteps in Whitechapel
72. Take a photo of the Churchill Arms, Notting Hill. Possibly the most photogenic pub in London, festooned in flowers, and in winter, hundreds of lights and Christmas trees.
73. Grab a spot on the roadside and cheer for thousands of runners in April at the London Marathon.
74. Wander Regents Canal tow path
75. Smell thousands of roses in Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, Regent's Park
76. Find some serenity at Kyoto garden, Holland Park.
77. Stroll the canals of Little Venice and admire the painted narrow boats.
78. Seek out your favourites from history with English Heritage's blue plaques. There are more than 950, all marking notable people who lived at the address. Recipients are varied, from Bram Stoker to Joseph Grimaldi, and Jimi Hendrix and composer Handel are next door neighbours at 23 and 25 Brook Street. You can search for Plaque locations using the English Heritage website.
79. Search for street art in Shoreditch
80. Take a photo at platform 9 3/4, London Kings Cross Station. There is a trolley halfway through the wall for you to pose with, no running required!
81. Potterheads will also enjoy wandering through Leadenhall Market, which posed as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.
82. Explore the gothic monuments in Brompton Cemetery and see if you can find the grave of Emmeline Pankhurst.
83. Snap a colourful photograph at Neals Yard.
84. Spend the day at Hampstead Heath. Have a picnic, wander through the woods and find the hidden pergola, looking straight out of a Shakespearian romance.
85. Walk the Southbank - one of our favourite things to do in London! Following the river from Westminster Bridge to Southwark Bridge, you'll pass famous sites such as the London Eye, the National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe and the Tate Modern.
86. Pay tribute to heartbreakingly heroic Londoners at Postmans Park and read their stories of self sacrifice.
87. Get lost in a concrete jungle at Barbican Conservatory - a gorgeous green space hidden in Brutalist architecture.
88. Enjoy glorious views from the Sky Garden on level 35 of the 'Walkie Talkie', Fenchurch Street. Unlike many viewing platforms around the world, it's totally free to enter! All you have to do is book a timed ticket online in advance.
89. See St Paul's from above at One New Change roof terrace.
90. Watch a Parliamentary debate in the House of Commons
91. Visit the animals at a city farm - feel like you've escaped to the countryside and see cows, sheep and llamas. Our favourite is Mudchute farm on the Isle of Dogs, a massive 32 acres and home to many rare breeds.
92. Attend a lecture at Gresham college - for over 400 years, this institute has offered free lectures to the general public. You can also watch many of them online, going all the way back to 1983!
93. Pack a picnic with a view - head to Primrose Hill, Parliament Hill, Alexandra Palace or Greenwich Park to enjoy sweeping views of the London skyline with your sandwich.
94. Walk (or run!) around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford - the 2012 London Olympics was a tremendous success, and many of the Olympic and Paralympic venues, including London Stadium, the Aquatics Centre, the Copper Box Arena and VeloPark, can be seen amongst gardens, play areas and waterways.
95. Giggle at the Crystal Palace dinosaurs -dating from Victorian times, these life size Grade I listed monuments are now known to be woefully inaccurate, they were the first statues of dinosaurs in the world. See how many you can spot lurking amongst the undergrowth and in ponds across three islands.
96. Enter neon nirvana at Gods Own Junkyard - crammed into a warehouse is the largest stock of vintage neon signs in Europe. It's absolute Instagram heaven. Showcasing the late owner artist Chris Bracey’s work, the collection ranges from his 60s roots making sex shop signs for Soho sex shops to pieces specially commissioned for movies such as Eyes Wide Shut, Batman and Blade Runner.
97. Go mudlarking - comb the foreshore of the Thames for shards of pottery, clay pipe bowls and Roman roof tiles.
98. Add your flair to the Leake Street graffiti tunnel -this 300 metre tunnel beneath the tracks of Waterloo station is a public legal street art space and is constantly changing and updating as people add to it.
99. Kayak Regents Canal and help the environment with Moo Canoes - every month, in conjunction with the Lower Regents Coalition, volunteers can take part in litter picks, either by kayak collecting floating rubbish as you go, or by walking along the tow path.
100. Enter the Freemasons - step inside the magnificent Grand Temple of this secret society on a free guided tour.
Have you done any of these? Let us know below! Anything you'd add to the list?
Check out our other free London walking itineraries!