102 Free Things To Do In London

By Londonist Last edited 8 months ago
102 Free Things To Do In London

London: the beer's extortionate, the rent's a scam. But at least you can do all of this lot without reaching for your credit card...

Wooden model of a tiger attacking a British soldier
Tippoo's Tiger is one of the most bizarre objects in the V&A's free permanent collection. Image: V&A.

Museums

1. See the gruesomely humorous Tippoo's Tiger at the V&A.

2. Marvel at the British Museum's Parthenon Sculptures aka Elgin Marbles (they might not be here forever).

3. Check out a Victorian computer at the Science Museum.

4. Do the 'Designer Maker User' exhibition at the Design Museum

5. Crane your neck to see Spitfires and fighter jets swoop overhead at IWM London.

6. Ogle the Lord Mayor's rather bling gold coach at the Museum of London.

floating jellyfish-like drones in the turbine hall
Tate Modern's Turbine Hall always has something free and fascinating to see. Image courtesy Tate. Photo: Will Burrard Lucas.

Galleries

7. Count the nipples in the National Gallery.

8. Peruse the Hogarths, Turners and Moores at Tate Britain.

9. See what's cooking in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall.

10. Grin back at the Laughing Cavalier at its home in the Wallace Collection.

11. Admire avant garde art at White Cube.

12. Be wowed by the neon wonderland that is God's Own Junkyard.

13. Get grossed out by the Wellcome Collection's creepiest objects. [Currently closed]

Skyscrapers line the horizon under a menacing sky. A green park is in the foreground as seen from a tower.
The view from Caledonian Park clock tower. Not too shoddy. Image: M@/Londonist.

Views

14. Take the lift to the Sky Garden for awe-inspiring London views.

15. The Garden at 120 has some pretty impressive vistas too.

16. Sign up for a free climb up the Caledonian Park clock tower.

17. Get one of the best views of St Paul's from One New Change's terrace.

The lush, jungle-like Barbican conservatory
Barbican Conservatory is what rainy Sundays were made for. Image: Barbican.

Gardens

18. Snap Insta-friendly wisteria pics at Hampstead's Hill Garden and Pergola.

19. Read the stories of heroic Victorians in Postman's Park.

20. Stroll around the quintessentially English gardens at Streatham Rookery.

21. Spend a rainy Sunday exploring the jungle-like Barbican Conservatory.

22. Eat your sandwiches among the bombed-out ruins of St Dunstan in the East.

23. Search for interesting names on the gravestones in one of London's 'Magnificent Seven' cemeteries.

24. Watch koi carp swim by a waterfall in Kyoto Garden.

A white turnstile guards the entrance to a passage known as Dairy Walk
A rare remaining turnstile in Wimbledon. Cost to enter: nothing. Image: M@/Londonist.

Getting around

25. Sail across the Thames on the Woolwich Ferry.

26. Use this turnstile guarding a quaint Wimbledon snickelway. No toll required.

27. Ride on the show-stopping Egyptian Escalator at Harrods.

28. Explore the Barbican from its 'pavements in the sky'.

29. Take the (very short) trip up London's only funicular railway.

A packed auditorium listens to a talk at LSE
Gen up on politics, war and health, without having to fork our for a degree. Image: LSE.

Talks and lectures

30. Attend a lecture on maths, Christmas carols or pornography, courtesy of Gresham College.

31. Sign up for a fascinating afternoon talk at Guildhall Library.

32. Be a good listener at Speakers' Corner.

33. Gen up on politics, war and health at LSE.

a young girl plays with fishy soft toys
Plenty of fishy fun to be had at the National Maritime Museum's AHOY! children's gallery. Image: M@/Londonist.

Kids

34. Feel old by showing your kids what you used to play with, at the Museum of Childhood. [currently closed]

35. Explore south London's version of Jurassic Park, aka the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs.

36. Visit the children's-only park and playground at Coram's Fields (as an accompanying adult, you can go in).

37. Get lost in the winding cobbled alleyways of Sailortown.

38. Sign up your little 'un for a Storyplay workshop.

39. Watch them captain an ice-breaker at AHOY! children's gallery.

40. Keep them occupied for hours in the Granary Square fountains.

a tunnel bright with various graffiti artworks
Leake Street Arches is an ever-changing subterranean art gallery. Image: Leake Street Art Gallery.

Underground London

41. Delve into the remains of a London amphitheatre.

42. Explore a long lost Roman temple secreted below the Bloomberg building.

43. Take a stroll beneath the Thames via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

44. Check out the latest graffiti masterpieces in Leake Street Arches.

hindus in colourful dress reach out for a candle
A Hindu 'Aarti' ceremony, at the glorious Neasden Temple. Image: Londonist.

Religion and faith

45. Experience a Hindu 'Aarti' ceremony at Neasden Temple. [Currently closed]

46. Sing hymns at Westminster Abbey.

47. Attend a service at the beautiful Bevis Marks synagogue.

48. Explore one of Europe's largest Sikh temples (and eat some amazing food while you're there).

49. Take a tour of the East London Mosque.

50. Be bedazzled by the gilded ceiling of Fitzrovia Chapel.

people hold phones aloft to film marching soldiers down the mall
Have your camera ready for Changing the Guard. Image: Londonist.

Quintessentially London experiences

51. Hang outside Buckingham Palace one afternoon for Changing the Guard.

52. Sign up for the Tower of London's after hours Ceremony of the Keys.

53. See justice in action at the Old Bailey.

54. Pay homage to the mystical London Stone.

55. Lift a solid gold bar at the former Bank of England.

slice of reality - a ship cut down the middle - on the muddy banks of the thames
Ship shape... sort of. Image: M@/Londonist.

Self guided tours

56. Tick off Londonist's collection of Weekend Walks.

57. Go in search of ghost signs (maybe using this superb book as a guide).

58. Explore the West End with Ian McKellen.

59. Walk The Line, spotting zany sculptures across North Greenwich and east London.

60. Walk around the whole of Greater London, via the London LOOP (not in one go — it's 150 miles).

61. Go in search of chewing gum art on Millennium Bridge.

A woman puts her ear to numerous strange shaped listening horns which dangle over a fence
The Lullaby Factory is perhaps the strangest musical instrument in the city - and it's free to play on! Image: Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Music

62. Bathe in some Bach at a lunchtime concert at LSO St Luke's.

63. Treat your ears to 45 minutes of classical music at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

64. Play Elton John's piano at St Pancras International.

65. Dance on a clown's grave at Joseph Grimaldi Park. (It's a musical grave.)

66. Play with the wonderfully loopy Lullaby Factory at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

67. Enjoy a bitesized chunk of opera at the Royal Opera House.

68. Listen to students sing in the Dulwich Picture Gallery's Christ's Chapel.

69. Spend your lunch break listening to live classical music at Lauderdale House.

graham norton poses with hollywood guests including bryan cranston and benedict cumberbatch
It's free to watch Graham Norton chew the fat with Hollywood A listers. Image: BBC.

Evenings out

70. Catch free comedy in Angel (but put something in the bucket if you can afford to).

71. Take a dance class at Bar Salsa!

72. Enjoy some open mic spoken word in Hackney.

73. Be in the audience on Graham Norton's popular chat show.

74. Discover the next big music artist at the Old Blue Last.

The grand entrance to Borough Market - with its green columns and glass roof
Go on the hunt for tasters around Borough Market. Image: Shutterstock.

Window shopping

75. Pretend you can afford that candelabra at London Silver Vaults.

76. Admire the mock Tudor beauty of London's most unique department store.

77. Snaffle a few cheeky samples at Borough Market.

78. Smell the blooms at Columbia Road Flower Market.

79. Watch people haggle at the world's largest antique market in Notting Hill.

80. See what's going under the hammer at a police auction.

black history tube map
The Black History Tube Map, which you can explore (and buy) at the Black Cultural Archives. Image: TfL.

Libraries and archives

81. Do a spot of research in the British Library's Reading Rooms.

82. Pore over 1,000 years of history at Kew's National Archives.

83. Discover amazing stories at the Black Cultural Archives.

84. Explore the the world's oldest collection of material on the Nazi era at Wiener Library.

85. Leaf through archives on costume, advertising and architecture at the Rotherhithe Picture Research Library.

loads of runner in the drizzle, but smiling
Run off that Saturday morning hangover with a 5k Parkrun. Image: Burgess Parkrun.

Sport and exercise

86. Get up at a decent time on a Saturday, and do a Parkrun.

87. Sign up for a free class at Sweaty Betty.

88. Watch boarders take on quarterpipes, ledges and flat banks at Stockwell Skatepark.

89. Play giant chess in Holland Park or Victoria Embankment Gardens.

a green parakeet flies towards an open hand
Feeed the biiiiirds parakeets. M@/Londonist.

Nature and animals

90. Feeed the biiiiirds parakeets in Kensington Gardens.

91. Spot deer in Richmond Park.

92. Get a taste of rural life at one of the city's many urban farms.

93. Count moles in a jar at the Grant Museum.

94. Say hello to the overstuffed walrus and his friends at the Horniman Museum.

95. Have a four-tonne blue whale hover above you at Natural History Museum.

stones, bones and other bits and bobs on a thames beach
Mudlarking on the Thames foreshore — it's the gift that keeps on giving. Image: M@/Londonist.

On the Thames

96. Go mudlarking (or simply visit a Thames beach at low tide — Bankside is particularly good).

97. Listen to a 1,000-year-long piece of music in a lighthouse.

98. Help clean up the foreshore, with Thames21.

99. Watch Tower Bridge open up for a big ship — it does it more often than you might think.

A St Mungo's volunteer talks to a homeless man
Give back to London by volunteering. Image: St Mungo's.

Volunteer

100. Help homeless people by volunteering your time at a charity like Crisis, St Mungo's or Centrepoint.

101. Get green-fingered in a community garden.

102. Discover countless other volunteering opportunities through Team London.

Last Updated 23 January 2022