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the british museum in london

35 Free Things to Do in London (2024)

July 21, 2023

London is a bustling city with so much to see and do, that it can be hard to know where to start. If you’re on a budget while in this exciting city, there’s no shortage of free entertainment! Check out the best 35 free things to do in London.

The best free museums and art galleries in London

London is a vibrant, creative city with an exciting history. With so many free museums and galleries, you’ll be able to experience as much as you can handle!

1. The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is a great place to visit for people of all ages. The museum has a vast collection of specimens from various branches of natural history, including botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology, and zoology. The museum is located in South Kensington, it’s a beautiful building and it’s free to enter.

Opening hours: Every day 10am-5:50pm

Address: Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD

Dinosaur skeleton at The Natural History Museum

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2. The British Museum

The British Museum is one of the UK’s best-loved museums and attracts more than five million people each year. It houses over eight million objects, covering human history and culture from all around the world.

Here, you can see some of the most important artefacts ever found including the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies and the Parthenon sculptures.

Opening hours: Saturday – Thursday 10am-5pm, Friday 10am-8:30pm

Address: Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG

Ornate ceiling and staircase in The British Museum

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3. Tate Modern

Tate Modern is one of the world’s most popular museums, boasting a collection of modern art that includes works by Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp. The museum opened in 2000 on the site of an old power station and has been an incredible success ever since.

Opening hours: Every day 10:00am-6pm

Address: Bankside, London SE1 9TG

Tate Modern museum building

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4. Tate Britain

Tate Britain focuses on British art from the 16th century to the present day and houses a collection of over 70,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, and other forms of visual art. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, lectures, and educational programs, and is a great place to visit for all ages!

Opening hours: Everyday 10am-6pm

Address: Millbank, London SW1P 4RG

Interior of Tate Britain

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5. The V&A

If you’re looking for an affordable afternoon activity, the V&A Museum is a great place to start. The V&A is home to over 4.5 million objects, including over 70,000 items from its own collection. Highlights include one of only two complete suits of armour worn by Henry VIII, an 18th-century mechanical organ, a remarkable collection of medieval stained glass, and numerous paintings by artists like Rembrandt, Rubens and Michelangelo.

Opening hours: Saturday – Thursday 10am-5:45pm, Friday 10am-10pm

Address: Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL

Sculpture gallery in the V&A

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6. The National Maritime Museum

This museum is dedicated to the maritime history of the UK and has a collection of over 2 million items, including paintings, maps, charts, ship models, and scientific and navigational instruments. The National Maritime Museum‘s exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including naval history, the history of exploration and discovery, the history of science and technology, and the social and cultural impact of the sea. The museum also has a large reference library and hosts temporary exhibitions and educational programs.

Opening hours: Every day 10am-5pm

Address: Romney Rd, London SE10 9NF

Exterior of The National Maritime Museum

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7. The Science Museum

The Science Museum is another popular choice with visitors as it has a whole host of hands-on exhibits and activities which illustrate scientific principles. Test out your knowledge or learn new things with fun, informative activities at the museum.

Opening hours: Every day 10am-6pm

Address: Exhibition Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD

Multiple levels inside The Science Museum

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The National Gallery houses one of the finest collections of European paintings in the world. The Gallery’s collection includes paintings from as early as 1250 to 1900, including masterpieces from artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Velazquez.

Opening hours: Saturday – Thursday 10am-6pm, Friday 10am-9pm

Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

Paintings in The National Gallery

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The National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1856 and was the first portrait gallery in the world. The collection includes works by famous artists such as Hans Holbein the Younger, Joshua Reynolds, and Lucian Freud, as well as a large collection of photographs. The gallery also hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions, lectures, and educational programs.

Opening hours: Reopens June 2023 (check website)

Address: St Martin’s Place​, London, WC2H 0HE​

Paintings in National Portrait Gallery

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10. The Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts is one of the most prestigious art institutions in the world. It houses a collection of over 7,000 paintings and sculptures, which are displayed in its galleries. The RA hosts major exhibitions every year, with a new set starting each spring and autumn. Past exhibitions have included works by Picasso, Rembrandt and Monet to name just a few!

Opening hours: Monday closed, Saturday – Thursday 10am-6pm, Friday 10am-9pm

Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD

Exterior of The Royal Academy of Arts

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11. The Museum of London Docklands

The Museum of London Docklands tells the story of London’s river, port and the people who lived and worked in the Docklands area from the 17th century to the present day. Its collection includes a wide range of ship figureheads, ceramics, and tools, as well as interactive exhibits and displays. Explore the history of trade, migration and the growth of the port of London. The Museum of London Docklands is open to the public and admission is free, but some special exhibitions may have an admission fee.

Opening hours: Everyday 10am-5pm

Address: No.1 Warehouse, West India Quay, London E14 4AL

The best free parks and gardens in London

Although a large, sprawling city, London has its fair share of beautiful green spaces. Check out some of our favourites below:

12. Hyde Park

Hyde Park is a great place to visit in winter, especially with the Winter Wonderland display each season. You can go ice skating at this time of year, as well as see Christmas markets. If you’re looking for something more relaxing than skating, you can visit the Diana Memorial Fountain near Speaker’s Corner or take a walk around Serpentine Lake.

Address: London W2 2UH 

13. Battersea Park

This park covers an area of about 200 acres and is located on the south bank of the River Thames. Battersea Park offers a wide range of recreational activities and attractions, including gardens, lakes, sports facilities, children’s playgrounds, and the Battersea Park Zoo. The park also has a number of historical and architectural features, such as the Peace Pagoda. The park also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including festivals, concerts, and sporting events.

Address: London SW11 4NJ

14. Hampstead Heath

This large parkland covers almost 200 hectares of land in northwest London, making it one of the largest urban parks in Europe! Hampstead Heath features miles upon miles of hiking trails, as well as ponds where people often go swimming. This is such a beautiful part of London, perfect for tranquil Sunday walks.

Address: London NW3

15. Regent’s Park

Located in the northwestern part of the city, between the neighbourhoods of Marylebone, St. John’s Wood, and Camden. The park is named after the Prince Regent (later King George IV), who commissioned its design in 1811. Regent’s Park is a popular spot for Londoners and visitors to enjoy a variety of recreational activities, including boating on the lake, playing sports on the sports fields, or visiting the park’s many gardens and floral displays. Enjoy Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, an open-air theatre that hosts a variety of performances throughout the summer months.

Address: London NW1

16. Greenwich Park

Located on a hill in the southeastern part of the city, Greenwich Park offers panoramic views of London. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park is home to many historic and architectural features, including the Royal Observatory, the Prime Meridian Line and the Greenwich Meridian, which is the line of longitude that separates the Eastern Hemisphere from the Western Hemisphere. The park also includes the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House and the Old Royal Naval College which are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Address: London SE10 8QY

17. Richmond Park

This park covers an area of about 2,500 acres and is one of the largest royal parks in London. It is also a national nature reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Richmond Park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, foxes, and a wide range of bird species and features many historic and architectural points of interest, including the Isabella Plantation, a 40-acre garden filled with azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, and other plants. In the park, you’ll find the White Lodge a royal residence for over 300 years.

The park also offers a variety of recreational activities, such as cycling, horseback riding, and walking, as well as playing sports on the sports fields. The park also has many picnic and barbecue areas, playgrounds, and a visitor’s centre.

Address: TW10 5HS

18. Kensington Gardens

Originally part of Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens became a separate entity in the late 18th century. The park is home to many historic and architectural features, including the Italian Gardens, the Albert Memorial, and the Serpentine Gallery. The park also features the Peter Pan Statue, which is a popular attraction with many. Feeling active? The park is perfect for a jog. Kensington Palace, which was once the residence of Princess Diana, is also located in the park and is now open to the public.

Address: London W2

19. St James’s Park

Located in the central part of the city, near Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster, St James’s Park is the oldest of the Royal Parks of London.

The park is home to a lake, Duck Island, and the Blue Bridge. The park is great for a stroll, people-watching or a great place to take the kids. St. James’s Park also features several cafes and restaurants, as well as the famous pelican feeding ceremony that takes place every day at 2:30 pm.

Address: London SW1A 2BJ

20. Alexandra Park

You’ll find Alexandra Park in the borough of Haringey and it is one of the largest parks in London. The park was opened in 1873 and was named after Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who was the wife of Edward, Prince of Wales. Explore the boating lake, or go for a round of cricket or tennis. The park also has an athletics track and a skatepark, perfect for active visitors. Enjoy the Victorian Palm House, filled with exotic plants and flowers. Or opt for the observatory, which is open to the public and offers stunning views of London, and a cafe for when you need replenishment.

Address: Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY

21. The Barbican Conservatory

The Barbican Conservatory is a unique and serene oasis in the heart of the city. Enjoy the tranquillity and peacefulness of the conservatory while taking a stroll around the various sections of the garden, including the cactus house, the fern house, and the palm house. The Barbican Conservatory also hosts various events throughout the year, such as yoga and meditation classes, and classical music performances. Admission to the conservatory is free but you may need to check the schedule and book a slot in advance, as capacity is limited.

Opening hours: Every day 9:30am-11pm, Bank holidays: 12-11pm

Address: Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS

22. Crossrail Place Roof Garden

On the famous Canary Wharf, you’ll find this stunning roof garden on top of the Crossrail transport hub and shopping centre. The garden was designed by Gillespies, a landscape architecture firm and it was completed in 2015. Incredibly, you’ll find a meadow and wildflower area up here. Plus, the views are gorgeous. Pop in during the day or opt for one of the specially-programmed events at Crossrail Place Roof Garden.

Opening hours: Every day 9am-9pm

Address: Crossrail Pl, London E14 5AB

Other best free places to visit in London

With so much to explore, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Let’s take a look at some of the best free places to visit in the capital:

23. The British Library

The British Library is one of the world’s largest libraries, and it’s open to the public. You can see some of their most important documents, like the Magna Carta and Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. The library also has a cafe, shop, exhibition space and more!

Opening hours: Monday – Thursday 9:30am-8pm, Friday 9:30am-6pm, Saturday 9:30am-5pm, Sunday 11am-5pm

Address: 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB

24. Changing the Guard Ceremony outside Buckingham Palace

Watching the Changing of the Guard is a great way to learn about the history of Buckingham Palace. There are plenty of photo opportunities, and there’s also a handy spot to get ice cream or coffee (or both).

The changing of the guard occurs every day at 11:30 am and lasts for about 40 minutes, so you can easily spend an hour there if you want.

Address: London SW1A 1AA

25. Portobello Market

This street market is located in Notting Hill and known for its wide variety of antiques, vintage clothing, jewellery, and collectables. Portobello Market is one of the most famous street markets in London and a popular tourist destination, it’s a great place to explore and find unique and interesting items. It’s not just a market but also a cultural experience, with its vibrant atmosphere courtesy of street performers, delicious food and great shopping opportunities.

Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 8am-7pm, Sunday closed

Address: Portobello Rd, London W10 5TY

26. Little Venice

The main attraction of Little Venice is the Regent’s Canal, which offers visitors the opportunity to take a boat ride on a traditional canal boat, known as a narrowboat. Pass by the colourful houseboats and the historic bridges that cross the water. The area is also home to many cafes, pubs, and restaurants with outdoor seating areas that offer great views of the canals.

Find Little Venice in the junction between the Grand Union Canal, the Regent’s Canal, and the entrance to Paddington Basin.

27. Borough Market

Located in Southwark, just across the river from the Tower of London Borough Market stalls sell fresh produce, fish and meat—plus there are tons of food stalls with gourmet ingredients for sale. You’ll find everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to artisanal cheeses, breads and pastries—and even some of London’s most famous street food vendors like Bill or Beak BaoBaboushka!

Opening hours: Monday – Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 8am-5pm, Sunday 10am-3pm

Address: 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL

28. Chinatown

Chinatown is one of the most popular tourist destinations in London, known for its delicious Chinese food, colourful street markets, and bustling atmosphere. Here, you can find everything from Chinese herbs and spices to traditional Chinese medicine. The area is also known for its Chinese New Year celebrations, which are some of the largest and most vibrant in Europe, with colourful parades and dragon dances. Once you’ve sampled lots of delicious food, take a break in Soho Square and Golden Square after a long day of exploring.

Address: London W1D 5QA

29. Leicester Square

Made famous in the 20th century as a Bohemian hot spot, Leicester Square has played host to the likes of Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, The Who and The Clash who played at local venues surrounding the square. Here, you’ll find lots of entertainment in the form of cinemas, nightclubs, bars, restaurants and more. This is a great spot for people-watching!

Address: Leicester Square, London WC2H 7LU

30. Abbey Road

Forever cemented in music history by The Beatles, Abbey Road and its namesake studio are world-famous and a tourist must-see. Take selfies with your friends like The Beatles did, or explore its rich music history that includes Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, and Oasis.

Address: London NW8

31. Camden Market

Camden Market is an indoor shopping centre filled with colourful stalls selling everything from clothing and accessories to jewellery and homewares. There are many restaurants inside so if you get hungry during your visit there’s no need to leave! Plus, check out the  open-air market with over 300 stalls selling everything from vintage clothes and jewellery to home furnishings and food. The market also has live music on stage every day at lunchtime and in the evenings.

Opening hours: 10am-late (check website for different venues)

Address: Camden High St, London NW1 8QP

32. Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is one of the most historic and important places in London. The Square is home to Nelson’s Column, a monument to Admiral Horatio Nelson (who was born just up the road in Greenwich) as well as the National Gallery and St Martin-in-the-Fields church, both of which are internationally renowned.

The square is also an ideal place for people-watching and you’ll often see buskers entertaining the crowds with performances on their instruments or even singing while they perform acrobatics!

Address: London WC2N 5DN

33. Covent Garden

Covent Garden Market Piazza – home to the famous flower market — this area is a popular destination for both tourists and locals in search of a lively atmosphere. With plenty of street performers on hand to entertain you, you can enjoy performances ranging from acrobatics to singing and dancing. If you’re lucky, you might even see some street artists painting live caricatures! In addition to its many attractions and activities, Covent Garden also hosts several markets that are open every day of the week.

Address: London WC2

34. Piccadilly Circus

Known for its iconic neon billboards, lively atmosphere, and its status as a major transportation hub, Picadilly Circus is surrounded by many famous shops and attractions. They include the Criterion Theatre, the London Pavilion and the statue of Eros. The area is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike and is known for its street performers, so catch a free show! Then stop by one of the many delectable restaurants, cafes, and pubs.

Address: London W1D 7ET

35. South Bank

If you’re looking to have a cultural experience in the city, look no further than the South Bank. Here, you’ll find the namesake South Bank Centre, BFI, gorgeous riverside lawns and lots of cultural activities. The centre hosts festivals and events throughout the year, ranging from performance art to comedy shows.

Address: SE1

On a final note

With so many free options in London, you won’t be stuck for activities!

One of the best ways to enjoy London without spending a lot of money is to stay in a hostel. At Clink, we have great options to save you money both at Clink261 Budget Hostel and Clink78 Backpackers Youth Hostel in King’s Cross.