The Big Smoke can have a big impact on your wallet but you’ll be glad to know there are lots of things to do for free in London too. Check out this list of money-saving museums, parks, markets and more!
Getting access to scientific knowledge should be free, something the city of London has realized since the Science Museum was founded in 1857. Kids will love the hands-on exhibits all designed with learning in mind, while adults will be amazed, or maybe just freaked out by things like the space toilet, the pregnant man and a seven-toed cat. A highlight is the Launchpad gallery, housing more than 50 interactive exhibits to illustrate different concepts in physical science.
Natural History Museum
Everyone remembers their first visit to The Natural History Museum, if only for the giant dinosaur bones. You’ll find 36 free galleries inside London’s most popular museum, where the only thing you have to pay for are special exhibitions. The blue zone is home to large mammals and dinosaurs, while the red zone features the creation of the Earth. The green zone focuses on the planet’s evolution and the orange zone shows us a wildlife garden and also scientists at work.
One of the city’s biggest parks was once King Henry VIII’s hunting grounds, but these days you can hunt for hotdog stands and shady spots for summer picnics. Dip you toes in the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, or go for a chilly swim in the Serpentine. People-watch from a waterside café or go for a jog or bike ride. This huge green space is a heavenly free oasis in hectic London.
Have a go at boating, tennis, horse riding, or join the many joggers, walkers and cyclists enjoying the open air. Lady Diana’s commemorative memorial is also here. In the summer, numerous festivals set up in Hyde Park, and in the winter it’s home to the festive fun fair, ‘Winter Wonderland.’
Take a walk along the Thames
The River Thames is the longest river in England and the second longest in the UK, with the heart of it winding through central London. It costs nothing to take a breezy/hot/cold/wet walk beside its murky brown waters, depending on the weather, and a walk along the Thames is a great way to see the famous London landmarks. You’ll see the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Cutty Sark, the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, Tower Bridge and loads more. On a hot day stop en route at a Thameside pub for a cold cider – bliss.
Portobello Street Market
What you’ll find at The Portobello Street Market depends on which day you visit, but for an entertaining walk and some excellent people-watching opportunities, there’s no better place to be. There’s the fruit and vegetable market, the antiques market, the second-hand goods and bric-a-brac market, the vintage clothing market and the furniture market… and they all come together on weekends to create one of London’s busiest markets. You’ll also find street performers and cute little cafes for a coffee or tea stop.
Borough Market first popped up in the 13th-century, so by buying a cheap lunch here you’ll be doing what Londoners have done for hundreds of years! It’s free to walk around and try the samples, and if you catch a cooking demo from a chef or kitchen gadget seller (a regular treat) you might just fill yourself up completely on freebies. As one of the biggest and oldest food markets in London it’s the place to go to sample cheeses, meats, breads, cakes and more.
From floppy hats to homemade bags, to ethnic jewellery and donuts the size of your head ‘Camden Market’ or ‘Camden Lock’ has it all! Tattoo parlours and shoe shops line the streets leading up to this famous market, where over 1000 stalls make unique gift-buying easy, but if you’re low on cash it’s worth a wander round just for the people-watching. It’s a playground for goths and tourists alike, and with weekend crowds hitting the 100,000 mark it’s never boring!
Angel Comedy Club, London
Looking for a laugh on Saturday night? The cosy and intimate Angel Comedy Club is the place to tickle those funny bones with an assortment of professional, award-winning stand up comedians who are really very funny. The shows start at 8 pm on Saturdays and fill up quickly, so arrive at 7 pm to bag yourself a seat, and don’t come with a big group – they won’t let you in if there’s more than 8 of you.
Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross
If you can’t afford the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter, don’t despair, there’s still a slice of Potter magic for you elsewhere, and it’s free! Head to Platform 9 3/4 in the busy King’s Cross Station and pose with the luggage trolley, half embedded in the wall. Take a photo by the sign and tell your friends you stood in the exact spot where Harry Potter boarded the train to Hogwarts.