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13 Free Things to See / Do in London

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Yesterday, Grant wrote about owning a piece of London’s Heathrow Airport, so I thought it would be fun to write a post about London too.  As much as we like to accrue miles and points from putting spend on our credit cards, it’s still great to enjoy free things when you travel. London is one of my favorite cities. And as I found out, there’s a lot to enjoy that’s easy on the travel budget.

1. Tate Modern. I’ve discovered that while many museums around the world charge an entry fee, they also provide some exhibitions that are free. The Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world. And it’s important to note that most of the exhibitions are free.

a group of people walking up stairs

Tate Modern. Image source: http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern

2. Yoga Class. Yoga may not be your thing, but if it is I noticed that all around London there were offerings of free Yoga classes. This impressed me, so take advantage of a class. It’s always fun to meet new people and experience a new teacher and setting for Yoga.

3. Outdoor Cinema. London uses its historic monuments as settings for outdoor cinema events. Great idea!

4. BFI Mediatheque.  Another idea for you film buffs is visiting the British Film Institute. It hosts the annual BFI London Film Festival and inside you’ll find the BFI Mediatheque. You’ll enjoy free access to thousands of archived TV shows, films, and documentaries. You’ll also find lots of information about London itself.

people sitting on benches in a room

Mediatheque at BFI Southbank. Image source: http://www.bfi.org.uk/archive-collections/introduction-bfi-collections/bfi-mediatheques/bfi-mediatheques-around-uk/mediatheque-bfi-southbank

5. Ceremony of the Keys. Every night at exactly 9:53 PM at the Tower of London, you’ll see the Ceremony of the Keys. It’s been happening for 600 years! This is where the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom are guarded. The only time this ceremony was interrupted was due to an air raid during the Second World War.

a group of men in red uniforms holding hats and holding guns

Ceremony of the Keys. Image source: https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/explore/ceremony-of-the-keys/

6. Street Art in Shoreditch. Locals say that London’s amazing street art is best displayed on the walls around Shoreditch. Walk the neighborhood and enjoy the art!

7. Natural History Museum. I find Natural History Museums fascinating. They spark my imagination and I always learn something new. This museum has a human evolution gallery, along with over 22 million insect and plant specimens. It’s well worth a visit if you’re interested in life on earth.

a screenshot of an elephant's face

Natural History Museum in London. Image source: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions.html

8. Pelicans at St. James’s Park. This is such a simple delightful free thing to do. St. James’s Park, like all the parks in London, is a relaxing fun place to visit. If you’re at the park any day at 2:30 PM you can watch the pelicans being fed in their natural environment.

a pond with trees and a building in the background

St. James’s Park. Image source: https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/st-jamess-park

9. Abbey Road. This may sound hokey, but here’s what happened to me. I was in a cafe in London proper enjoying espresso and a sweet. I struck up a conversation with a few locals at the counter and they couldn’t believe I hadn’t been to Abbey Road. Sure, I was a Beatles fan but thought visiting Abbey Road would be too touristy. They insisted I go, so even though it was late afternoon and I had other plans, I left the cafe, got on the train, and off to Abbey Road I went. Yes, I’m glad I went and yes I took the usual hokey picture of me crossing Abbey Road! And so should you. It was fun!

a person crossing a street

Crossing Abbey Road. Image source: Grant’s private collection

10. Kensington Roof Gardens. This is the second largest roof garden in Europe. Try to get there just before nightfall because most people say the gardens look their best in this light.

a rooftop patio with a black and white striped floor

Kensington Roof Gardens. Image source: http://kensingtonroof.com/Kensington/

11. Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. This fountain was inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004 as a tribute to Princess Diana’s love of children. Locals tell me it has become one of their favorite spots for a Sunday afternoon outing.

12. Wellcome Collection. If you’ve got a curious nature and curious mind, you’ll love this place because it’s filled with weird and unusual objects.

13. The Scoop. Although most museums in London are free, the theaters are not. This outdoor amphitheater, however, offers free performances. I stumbled upon this place during a walk and sat there with a cappuccino enjoying the space and watching the performers rehearse a play. It’s a good space to check out.

a group of people sitting on steps in front of a tower bridge

The Scoop. Image source: https://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/wimbledon-at-the-scoop

Hope you’ll add some of these free places and activities to your itinerary when you’re in London. It’s a wonderful city to explore. Do you have any of your own discoveries to add?

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6 thoughts on “13 Free Things to See / Do in London

  1. bluecat

    Ahh…you left off my favorite: the V & A museum. What a great place to just wander around. And the lunch room is very nice too. — I guarantee that this museum is unlike any other that you’ve been to!

    BTW, #5 is cool and you feel like you’re special to be there after the place is closed, but realize that it’s super hard to do, what with the year-out reservation that’s required. Still, if you can plan ahead, it’s fun!

    1. Shelli Post author

      How did I miss this one, bluecat? You are right on the (no) money on this suggestion. In general, it’s a good idea to go into museums and ask if any of the exhibits are free of charge. I’ve seen some wonderful exhibits this way. Thanks for reading and adding to the ideas.

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  3. Nicholas

    One thing that my wife and I did when we were in London in December was visit the London MIthraeum. It was extremely cool to see the reconstructed temple and artifacts in the middle of the bustling city. I’d highly recommend it! It is free, but you need to make advance reservations (or walk in and get lucky).

    1. Shelli Post author

      Great idea, Nicholas. I didn’t know about this. I found a site like this in Lisbon, as well. Thanks so much for adding it to our list.

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