Fabulously Free Things To Do In London
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Fabulously Free Things To Do In London

London on a budget is hard – but not impossible...

As the cost of living crisis (or ‘cozzy livs’, as it is affectionately known) bites, you might be tightening the purse strings and seeking some cheaper ways to spend your time in London. With ticketed viewing platforms, exhibitions and even some cemeteries charging an entry fee (seriously), it sounds impossible. Luckily, we’re here to help. Here’s the ultimate guide to the best free things to do in London for anyone balling on a budget (or trying to).

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Free Things To Do In London

Free Museums

London is often called the best city in the world when it comes to culture, and a lot of that is down to our incredible selection of museums, most of which are completely free to visit. Perfect for a rainy day – or, frankly, a scorching day when all you need is blasting air conditioning – there’s something for everyone on the free museum scene, from art to history to science. Note that some may require booking in advance, but the following are all of the free museums London has to offer:

  • British Museum
  • National Gallery
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Natural History Museum
  • Science Museum
  • Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)
  • Tate Modern
  • Tate Britain
  • Imperial War Museum
  • Museum of London
  • National Maritime Museum
  • Wallace Collection
  • Sir John Soane’s Museum
  • The Courtauld Gallery
  • The Wellcome Collection
  • The Horniman Museum and Gardens
  • Grant Museum of Zoology
  • The Library and Museum of Freemasonry
  • Royal Air Force Museum
  • The Wiener Library
  • The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
  • The Museum of London Docklands

Tate Britain Architecture

The C&TH Pick: The Tate Britain

The original place to go when you’re bored and lacking in cash, The Tate has long offered a haven of culture (and free shelter from the rain) to Londoners. While some of the exhibitions do charge, there are plenty of free collection displays to keep you consumed for hours on end without spending a penny. At the Tate Britain, see the world’s largest collection of Turner’s work, and visit the two rooms dedicated to the sculptures of Henry Moore. Or if contemporary art is more your scene, head to the Tate Modern for their long standing displays on Media Networks, art in social and political context and lots (and lots) more. Plus, on the first Friday of every month, Tate Modern opens its doors after hours for the curiously minded to explore the gallery without the throngs of tourists battling for a view. You’ll find an eclectic mix of art, music, film and workshops going on into the late hours, so gather your friends and do something different next month. Entry is free, with drinks and eats available to purchase.

Details: The Tate Britain (Millbank, London SW1P 4RG) and Tate Modern (Bankside, London SE1 9TG) are free to visit. Tate Museum Lates take place every Friday evening and are also free to visit, though booking may be required. tate.org.uk

Free Live Music

In an effort to make music accessible, the Royal Opera House hosts a ‘Live at Lunch’ series, where you can drop by for free lunchtime performances featuring Royal Opera House artists as well as guest musicians. Located in central Covent Garden, it’s the perfect lunch-time break from hitting the shops on a weekend. No ticket, seat reservation, or booking number needed; just turn up to any of the free events, sit back and enjoy 45 minutes of free culture right in the heart of the city.

Live at Lunch Royal Opera House

Details: Paul Hamlyn Hall at the Royal Opera House (Bow St, London WC2E 9DD). The current season is running from 22 September 2023–23 February 2024. All events are free and unticketed – just show up to the event you want to see. See the full line up at roh.org.uk

The Hill Garden & Pergola

Tucked in the West Heath is this magical hidden gem. A raised walkway overgrown with greenery and vines, The Hill Garden & Pergola feels like stepping into another world, the cracked pillars evoking a sense of fading grandeur, while the nearby manicured gardens and rectangular lake reassure that feeling of loving cultivation is alive and kicking. It was dreamt up by William H Lever (before he became Lord Levehulme), a wealthy patron of the arts, architecture and landscape gardening, along with landscaper Thomas Mawson in the early 20th century. The Pergola itself is a masterpiece of classical columns twined with vines. With the associated house since demolished, The Hill Garden is a pretty pocket of tranquility and perfect beauty tucked among the more rugged, undulating Hampstead Health.

Details: The Pergola, Inverforth Cl, London NW3 7EX. Find opening times at cityoflondon.gov.uk

London’s Prettiest Parks For An Autumn Walk

City Farms

No need to venture far afield: did you know there’s a whole host of free-to-visit farms right in the city? Ranging from chickens to guinea pigs, horses to alpacas, they offer a lovely slice of rural life without the treks, plus some allow feeding and petting, too.

Donkey grazing at Hackney city farm in London

The C&TH Pick: Hackney City Farm

While you shouldn’t expect Cotswolds levels of countryside charm, Hackney City Farm is still a lovely escape from the hustle just beyond its gates. You may not spend an entire day here but it’s definitely worth a stroll around the grounds, petting the animals which range from ginormous pigs to grazing sheep and donkeys – plus keep an eye out for little piglets and baby goats.

Details: Open Tuesday–Sunday 10am–4.30pm plus Bank Holiday Mondays at 1a Goldsmiths Row London E2 8QA. Free to visit. hackneycityfarm.co.uk

London’s Best City Farms

The Garden At 120

Skip the Sky Garden queues and pricey cocktails, and climb a tower just down the road at 120 Fenchurch Street. This rooftop garden is significantly lower down than the sky-high Sky Garden, but the views still stretch for miles around and, being eye-level with many landmarks, you feel more immersed than ever in the city skyline. Better still, you’re actually out in the open air, so it’s perfect for sunny days. Pro tip: visit on a weekday for incredible tranquility.

Details: 120 Fenchurch St, London EC3M 5BA. thegardenat120.com

Street Performers

Can’t afford dinner and a show in Soho? No problem, we’ve at least got the latter sorted. Walk past the theatres and head for the Covent Garden market square where, without a doubt, at least one street performer will be presenting, if not two or three. From juggling fire-breathers and comedians to opera-singers and stuntmen, you’ll find anything from the wacky to the wonderful right here in the market square – and even the premium seats are free.

Covent Garden Entertainer

Details: Everyday, all the time at Covent Garden (James St, London WC2E 8BU). coventgarden.london

Brutalist Architecture

Fancy yourself a culture vulture? Step outside for London’s largest, permanent exhibition: the streets. One thing that really stands out, loathe it or love it, is Brutalism, a modernist style of architecture best expressed in the Barbican. Check out our full guide to Brutalism in London for more spots to visit.

Barbican Conservatory

Speaking of Brutalism, the Barbican Conservatory is a surreal post-apocalyptic space – and a visit is one of the most magical free things to do in London. A concrete space overgrown with greenery, climb the concrete stairs to see plants cascading down the walls and flourishing around pools of vibrant green water. Or just sit and have a chat, breathing in that lovely, humid plant smell.

Details: Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS. Free to visit, but tickets must be booked in advance at barbican.org.uk

Gods Own Junkyard

This vibrant space is perfect for north-east Londoners – or anyone open to a trek. It’s a garage-style space teeming with disused neon signs, whether salvaged, reclaimed or saved from film sets. It makes for a quirky stroll and a great Instagram backdrop if you fancy a photoshoot. Plus there’s a lovely cafe right inside, a perfect vantage point to soak up the vibrance.

Details: Open Fridays and Saturdays from 10am–10pm and Sundays 10am–6pm at Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, London E17 9HQ. Check the site before you visit to ensure it isn’t booked out for an event. godsownjunkyard.co.uk

Flower Markets

Everyone loves a bit of biophilia, but popping into a plant shop doesn’t always scratch the itch. Instead, try one of London’s lovely weekend flower markets, where traditional traders pull punters with calls of exclusive deals and unique plants (teddy bear sunflowers, anyone?).

bouquets of flowers wrapped in brown paper at a market

The C&TH Pick: Columbia Road

Bucketfuls of beautiful blooms line Columbia Road every Sunday, accompanied by succulents, taller leafy plants, and independent market traders shouting their exclusive deals. You’ll undoubtedly move at a snail’s pace down the narrow street – amid a throng of sunglasses, takeout coffees and puppies – while customers line up to enter the pretty boutiques and cafes lining the other side of the road. It’s London’s most famous flower market, and offers a glorious slice of unchanging London life, with reasonable prices across flowers and bulbs, succulents and houseplants. With a rainbow of vibrant colours, it’s hard to resist succumbing to the classic Instagram shots. Afterwards, head into Shoreditch, or grab a bagel on the ever-popular Brick Lane.

Details: Sundays, 8am–2pm at Columbia Road, Bethnal Green E2 7RG. columbiaroad.info

These Are The Best Flower Markets In London

Street Markets

From Christmas markets to farmers markets, street food to vintage homewares, London’s market scene is world-famous. And, luckily, it’s totally free to enjoy – so long as you’re not lured into purchasing one of the many incredible items on offer.

Portobello road, famous market in London

The C&TH Pick: Portobello Road

It must be said that any venture into Portobello Road will likely not be cost-free once you’ve spotted a golden trinket or printed leather jacket that you simply must own, but half the fun is just watching market life unfold around you. Wander around and trawl through the stalls’ curiosities, sorting trash from treasure with beautiful Notting Hill as your backdrop.

Details: Saturdays in London W11 1LJ. visitportobello.com

On Your Bike

Whether you’ve lived in the city for a second, a lifetime or never at all, there are always pockets you haven’t yet explored – so hop on your bike and get to it. For the tourist route, cycle Battersea Park to Greenwich, which will take you pass the London Eye, the Globe and the Tate Modern – as well as Borough Market if you want to stop off and have a wander (and a snack). For London au natural, you can’t do better than the route from Big Ben to Richmond Park. It’s hard, long and hilly, so not one for the faint hearted, but with views well worth the thigh burn.


Details: Find London’s cycle routes and maps at tfl.gov.uk

Magnificent Seven Cemeteries

Bear with us… It’s not as strange as it sounds. London’s rich history manifests in myriad ways, from architecture to legal systems, but one of the most fascinating places to observe the city’s past is its cemeteries. London’s Magnificent Seven is a collection of grand Victorian cemeteries dotted around the city. Each of the seven boasts its own stories; from the touching to the spooky to the totally bizarre. You can easily while away many an hour browsing the headstones.

Graves in the East cemetery of Highgate Cemetery

Highgate is arguably the most famous, thanks to its renowned inhabitants which include Karl Marx, Christina Rossetti, and Lucien Freud. For picturesque scenes, you can’t do better than Brompton Cemetery in Kensington.

London’s Best Cemeteries For An Atmospheric Stroll