As the capital city of England, London attracts visitors from far and wide who are drawn to its history, architecture, and good ol’ English charm. But with 32 unique boroughs forming this famously expensive city, it can be difficult figuring out what to do and where to go during your stay without breaking the bank.
Well, luckily enough for you my dear reader, I’m here to give you some of my top places to go in London that won’t cost you a penny!
From the obvious choices to some hidden gems, read on to discover some of my favourite city sights or check out my YouTube video below (or do both, I can’t tell you what to do).
Let’s warm up with the most obvious choice, shall we?
The City of Westminster takes up a large chunk of central London and lies host to some of the most famous tourist spots in the city.
You’ll likely know these two already but I’ll include them anyway as whether you’ve heard of them or not, they’re still a wonderful free thing to go and see!
See the Queen at Buckingham Palace
Imagine visiting London and not going to see the Queen of England? I know, it’s crazy isn’t it.
The Palace was built way back in 1703 and the first royal to live in it was Queen Victoria.
If you’d like to know whether or not the Queen is home, simply take a look at the flag billowing in the wind above the palace. If it shows the Queen’s royal standard flag then the Queen is in residence, if it shows the Union Jack then she is elsewhere.
A top tip is to do a little research and find out the times for the changing of the guards so you can plan your trip accordingly, it’s definitely a must-see!
Listen to Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament
This iconic building is where the UK government meets to deliberate over the rules and regulations of the country.
It’s also pretty well known for being the location that Guy Fawkes tried to blow up in an attempt to kill King James way back in 1605. Needless to say, he was unsuccessful and is now the subject of a yearly celebration called Guy Fawkes Night (or Bonfire Night) across the UK.
This recommendation would usually include Big Ben, however, due to a renovation project he’s been sat in scaffolding for the past 5 years (although, if you’re reading this in 2022 it should all now be completed – lucky you!)
Home to the iconic Nelson’s Column, National Gallery, and National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square is a central hub of London that plays host to many events throughout the year.
While we were visiting there was an interesting art display (see photo of drone on ice cream), with the drone camera actually being linked to a live feed that you could view online, you can read more about it here.
This art display was on Fourth Plinth, a massive plinth that changes frequently to feature artists from all over the world.
Walk along the Riverside of Southbank
The riverside path allows you to take in the scenery of the skyline, you’ll even spot many of the locations featured in this guide while appreciating the atmosphere that flows all around you.
From the street performers to the gorgeous smells of the many restaurants and cafes that spill out over the area, take your time and get a real feel of city centre life.
While visiting the London eye itself isn’t free, in fact, it’s actually pretty expensive, there’s no reason why you can’t go and have a look at this famous attraction for some pretty photos as you make your way along the riverside.
You’ll also spot the Shrek museum right next door and, while I didn’t want to pay to go in, I just couldn’t resist taking a photo with Donkey!
Enjoy the Architecture of St. Pauls
Crossing the Millenium Bridge, you’ll see the dome of St. Paul’s cathedral lining up perfectly centrally in the distance.
The cathedral you see today is technically the 5th edition by Christopher Wren.
In case you’re interested, here’s a little timeline of the previous St. Pauls (and the story of their demise):
- 604AD, burned in a fire (there was a lot of wood in those times… not very practical)
- 962AD, destroyed by the Vikings
- Somewhere between 962-1087AD, burned in a fire (there’s a theme here…)
- 1666AD, burned in the Great Fire of London (are we done with the fires now?
- 1711AD, the version as you see it today was declared officially complete and so far is the longest standing ‘version’ in history
You can pay to enter this gorgeous building, but at around £20 per person, I’d recommend just having a look around the outside and the surrounding areas.
There’s a wonderful free-viewpoint if you head to nearby One New Change and get the lift up to the sixth floor.
Head for some street food in Camden
It’s worth noting that if I had to pick an absolute favourite spot in London, it would be Camden.
Known for its street food market and an eccentric mixture of shops, you certainly won’t be disappointed hopping on the tube and heading away from central for this one.
If you make the visit please also drop into Cyberdog, an iconic store filled with trance music and cyber clothing that makes for some fun window shopping.
Go window shopping in Covent Garden
Probably one of the most iconic spots in London to visit is the bustling square of Covent Garden.
A car-free piazza featuring wonderful craft stalls in its centre at the Apple Market, with tonnes of gorgeous restaurants and wonderful street performers dotted around the outer edges.
If you head to Covent Garden, make sure you take a minute to find the more hidden Neals Yard – you’ll see why below.
Take in the colours of Neal’s Yard
This colourful little corner of Covent Garden is actually a little tricky to find (we walked past the entrance twice before realising).
Tucked away in its own little haven sits Neal’s Yard, which actually used to be used as a waste area filled with bins until Nicholas Saunders turned it into the beautiful space you see today.
All of the businesses here focus on ethical and sustainable trading – pretty cool!
Relax in the sunshine at Hyde Park
The largest of the four royal parks in London, Hyde Park makes for a beautiful place to stop on a sunny afternoon.
There’s a lot you can see here, but a personal favourite is a stroll around the Serpentine lake to the Italian Gardens that sit at the parks northern end.
If you did want to splash a little cash here, I’d recommend renting a rowboat for 30 minutes to get some real ‘The Notebook’ vibes. The boats cost £8.50 per adult and £6 per child.
Visit Diagon Alley at Leadenhall Market
You might just recognize Leadenhall Market as the location of The Leaky Cauldron and entryway to Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone film.
This market dates way back to the 14th century and is sat in what was originally the heart of Roman London, in fact, buried underneath those beautiful red arches and cobblestone streets are the remains of the old Roman Market.
As with St. Pauls, part of the area was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666, with much of what you see today is from a rebuild in the 1800s.
See the lanterns in Chinatown
This area of London is absolutely fantastic if you want to go out somewhere to eat. The streets are filled with bright lanterns and a rich aroma of the various restaurants and vendors.
You can also see the famous Chinatown Gate, a vibrant ornamental gate with traditional Qing Dynasty designs.
Before settling in its West End home as we know it today, Chinatown used to be located in Limehouse where the boats docked. The move began in the 1950s when a few Chinese restaurants were opened by immigrants and slowly it grew into the bustling cultural centre we know and love.
While in Chinatown we also stopped by the now Tik-Tok famous Hefaure 黑芙蕾 to try their Japanese pancakes.
These gorgeous discs of fluff were honestly insane and definitely not overhyped!
Definitely hard to miss, London’s Tower Bridge is an instantly recognisable spot on the skyline and often features as a key recognition point for any film and TV set in London.
This is a fully functional bridge so you can of course visit for free, if you wanted to you can also grab a ticket to visit the inner workings of the bridge.
When we visited we were lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on your viewpoint) to see the bridge opening up to let what looked like an old-fashioned pirate ship pass through!
Feel the tranquility at St Dunstan in the East
A hidden gem turned ‘insta-famous’ location, the church was originally built in the Saxon times and (surprise surprise) was partially destroyed in the Great Fire of London as with many other iconic locations (see St. Pauls Cathedral).
It was partially restored and then, sadly, destroyed again back in the ‘Blitz’ of the second world war – but every cloud has a silver lining and this partial destruction lead to the gorgeous ruins you can go and visit today.
Travel to the centre of time in Greenwich
You’ve heard of the GMT time zone, right? Well, that stands for ‘Greenwich Mean Time’ after this famous London Borough which falls on the Meridian line.
Besides the cool fact of ‘travelling to the centre of time’, Greenwich is, in reality, a gorgeous place with lots to see and you could easily spend a day or two here.
If you’re just heading for the afternoon, I’d recommend hanging out in the giant park next to the observatory for amazing views of the London skyline.
And here concludes my blog of the 14 best things to do in London for free!
I hope you enjoyed, see you next time.
The Chaos Diaries
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