Having lived in London for a year on an un-paid placement, I was always looking for free things to do in my free time at night or at the weekends. This list could be endless as there are a million-and-one things to do in London. However, for those who are strapped for cash or who just want an enjoyable day out, here are my favourite things to do around London that won’t cost you a penny!
- See London’s Skyline from The Sky Garden
If you want a beautiful panoramic view of London, The Sky Garden is one of the best places to visit. It is the highest public garden in London and is literally an oasis in the sky. You do have to book in advance before you go up, and you are limited to an hour in the gardens but it is totally worth it when you are up there. As well as the floor-to-cealing windows there is also an outside viewing platform that is open on days when weather conditions are good and wind speed is low.
Closet Tube = Monument
2. Find Mummies, Dinosaurs and Picassos in London’s Best Museums
From top left to bottom right:
The Science Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Natural History Museum, Tate Britain, The British Museum, Tate Modern, Imperial War Museum,The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. I found that visiting museums was the best way to spend by free time. They were fun, interesting, dry places to go when it was raining, and most importantly they were FREE. My favourite, and the one I would go back to multiple times is the National Portrait Gallery. It has something for everyone, modern art, classical art, paintings, sculptures, photographs AND it is significantly more quiet than its neighbour, the National Gallery.
These are just a few that I have been to but The Transport Museum, Horniman Museum, V&A Museum of Childhood and Wellcome Collection should also get an hournable mention.
3. Watch the Seasons Change in the Park
It’s surprising how much green space there is in London and each park has it’s own unique quality. Primrose Hill is part of one of my favourite parks, Regent’s Park and you can probably see why from the picture above – taken in Regents Park. I often found myself sipping wine and watching the sun set over London’s skyline on Primrose Hill with my flatmates as it was near to where we lived. Regent’s park always has something going on whether it’s people walking through the vast greenery and gardens, rowing boats on the pond, productions taking place in the Open Air Theatre, or people having picnics on the greens. It is a great place to relax and let all your troubles float away.
While Regent’s Park is my personal favourite you should also check out Hyde Park‘s speakers corner, St James Park for sneaky view of Buckingham Palace, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park for the deers, Battersea Park, and Greenwich Park for the Observatory and stunning views.
4. Eat As Many Samples As You Can in the Markets
As well as having a plethora of parks, London is also well known for it’s markets. I didn’t get to go around all of them during my year in London but did learn the hard way that not all the markets are open on a Sunday as I presumed. Borough Market, Brick Lane Market, Camden Markets, Columbia Road Flower Market, Covent Garden/Apple Market, Old Spitalfields Market, Portobello Road Market and the Southbank Market are all worth having a nosey around. The best thing about the markets is the hustle and bustle and the whole atmosphere that they create. In places such as Borough you can ask for samples of food before you buy which is always a bonus! I could spend hours walking around the markets finding all sorts of food, clothing and jewellery treasures and awakening all my senses to the amazing sites and smells, unless it is near the fish… the fish never smell good.
5. Discover Southbank
Southbank is a very dynamic area and has a varied range of attractions throughout the year including Udderbelly, The Festival of Love and the Christmas markets to name a few. The one permanent fixture throughout the year however, are the street performers. They are one of my favourite thing about Southbank as they provide a positive atmosphere and interact with everyone in the street, inviting them to watch their acts. There are also amazing views of Parliament and other buildings north of the Thames from Southbank, so it is nice to stroll down the street and take in the views.
Closest Tubes = Waterloo, Embankment
6. Become the Fifth Beatle at Abbey Road Studios
Abbey Road Studios always attracts a crowd as people stop to take pictures on the zebra crossing made famous by The Beatles. There is also a Beatles memorial wall at the site that people graffiti (personally I’m not a fan of this as it looks messy) with lyrics and messages. I think when most people visit they overlook the studios themselves and the impact it has had on the music industry, and are more interested in getting that iconic picture. As you can’t actually go inside the studios, take time to reflect and maybe even listen to some of your favourite music as you pass by.
Closest Tube = St John’s Wood
7. Fall in Love with Somerset House
Somerset House is all sorts of fun! They have art exhibitions, fountains that you can run through, they show films during the summer and they have a skating rink in the winter. Who can say no? It is a beautiful neoclassical building that I could walk around for hours. I would have to say though, from my own experience, it is very easy to get lost around the building. I was walking round in circles for a while before I found where I wanted to be. But, I have just found out they do free guided tours so why not try one of those out!
Closest Tube = Temple
8. Catch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Of course when in London you have to pop on over to see Queen Lizzy! Crowds can get big at the Buckingham Palace gates in high seasons and it is especially busy for the iconic Changing of the Guards that happens daily at 11:30am. It is a great way to start a morning in London and makes me feel oh so patriotic. The guards march in their vibrant red uniforms through the gates of the palace and are followed by a band who have been known to play Happy Birthday for Prince George and more famously, the Game of Thrones theme tune. Get to the gates early if you want a good viewing position.
Closest Tubes = St James’ Park/ Victoria/ Green Park
9. Chill with the Lions in Trafalgar Square
One of my first memories of London was climbing the Lions in Trafalgar Square with Alice and our Dad so it was always nice to visit Nelson, his column and the lions whenever I could. Trafalgar Square is another extremely diverse area that is host to a whole load of festivals throughout the year; my favourite being the Diwali festival! There is also a big art influence within the Square with the presence of the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the plinth which is a platform for chosen artists to display their work. The fourth statue to be featured on the plinth is a giant blue cock which belongs to German artist belongs to Katharina Fritsch. Go to Trafalgar Square, make a wish in the fountains, see the blue cock and celebrate the diverse British culture!
Closest Tubes = Charring Cross
10. Create Your Own Walking Tours
One of he best walks that I used to take while in London was my walk to work. I would come out at Westminster station and stroll past the Parliament building, Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, St James Park and if I was to go further I could easily reach Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Leicester Square and the London Eye too. By walking places rather than taking the tube you save money and get to see a lot more of London. You would be surprised how many of the famous sites are close together.