15 Free Things to Do in London
A day in the capital doesn't need to break your budget.
If you live in London, you're probably quite used to spending an arm and a leg on everything from a pint of beer to a night at the theatre. Londoners and visitors from outside the capital alike will be cheered to know that while eye watering prices are par for the course in the city, there are plenty of ways to entertain yourself and your family for free if you know where to look. Make sure you check out our UK school holidays page, so you can plan the best time to go.
Museums and Galleries
Thankfully, most major museums and arts galleries in London are completely free of charge (although a donation is welcomed if you can spare a few coins). Favourites include the Natural History Museum in South Kensington with its popular dinosaur gallery and collections of everything from fossils to birds to whales and creepy-crawlies; and the nearby Science Museum with its galleries on space exploration, computing and engineering. Children will enjoy the interactive Launchpad exhibit on the third floor (free); grownups might prefer the monthly Lates events with talks, workshops and a cash bar (free, advance booking required).
The V&A, also in South Kensington, is a treasure trove of beautiful objects and a must-visit for anyone interested in fashion, architecture and design. Some special exhibitions are ticketed but the permanent collections are free to visit.
Art lovers should head to the National Gallery in Charing Cross where over 2,000 international artworks from the thirteenth century to the present day are on display; or to Tate Modern on the Southbank with a focus on contemporary art and plenty of interactive displays and hands-on activities for children and young people to enjoy.
The Great Outdoors
Despite being one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, London has a wealth of green spaces which are free to enjoy and a pleasure to visit, especially in the summer months. What could be more relaxing than a picnic in Hyde Park (enter from Lancaster Gate tube for the prettiest gardens) or St James's Park, en route to a peek through the bars at Buckingham Palace?
Music and Film
Film buffs needn't pay through the nose for multiplex cinema tickets - take a look at free film festivals for a guide to free events taking place in outdoor and pop-up venues all over London. If you're feeling bold, the monthly Duke Mitchell Film Club at the Phoenix Artist's Club in the West End offers a monthly pot luck screening with quizzes, trailers and short films thrown in, all for free.
There's a plethora of free live music events to be found almost every day of the week - check out the ever-changing listings in Time Out to find out what's on this week in your neck of the woods.
If you're really ready to go off the beaten track in search of new experiences, try the new website Funzing - a community board advertising workshops and activities you won't find elsewhere. Some have a small charge but there are plenty of things you can try for free - why not become a zombie for an evening in Mile End or learn how to make your own furnishings?
Do you have a favourite free activity in London? Let us know below!
Written by Lise Smith, a former contributor to Lonely Planet's India guidebook - she's seen her fair share of hotel rooms (both grotty and glamorous!). She learned to walk in a hotel corridor in Tunisia, and at the age of three had been on more aeroplanes than buses. Lise writes for a number of local news, technology and arts publications.Top
"On that trip I learnt something very important. Escape through travel works. Almost from the moment I boarded my flight, life in England became meaningless. Seat-belt signs lit up, problems switched off. Broken armrests took precedence over broken hearts. By the time the plane was airborne I’d forgotten England even existed."Alex Garland, The Beach