12 Top Free Things to Do in London

Tower Bridge in London, U.K.

Karl Hendon / Getty Images

At first glance, visitors to London might worry that a trip to the popular U.K. capital is prohibitively expensive. And while they're not wrong—dining and other excursions here can easily add up—there are are a ton of free things to see and do. While the ideas in this article should get help you started, here's a peek at our super list of 100+ Free Things to Do in London—or, if you're traveling with little ones, our list of Free Things to Do in London with Kids should come in handy as well. Here's how to make the most of your time in this surprisingly affordable part of the U.K.

01 of 12

Geek Out at Platform 9 and 3/4

Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station in London

Portland Seminary / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

King's Cross, Euston Road, London N1C 4BU, UK

Harry Potter fans, rejoice! Whether you consider yourself to be a superfan or just a casual reader or viewer, it's still worth stopping by King's Cross to check out Platform 9 3/4, which is in fact a real place—note that you won't find it between the 9th and 10th train tracks, but outside the Potter-themed shop, Platform 9 3/4. Don your favorite house's scarf and snap an Insta-worthy photo as you push your cart through the wall or re-create any number of wizarding scenes from the beloved book and film franchise. Potterheads, this is your moment to shine.

02 of 12

Have Your Photo Taken at Abbey Road

People crossing the legendary Abbey Road like The Beatles in London

Richard Boll / Getty Images

Abbey Road, London NW8 9DD, UK

Calling all Beatlemaniacs: You simply cannot visit London without having your photo taken Fab Four style while stepping across the legendary Beatles crosswalk outside Abbey Road Studios. Read the notes from adoring fans around the world along the walls of the studio, then find a partner to help stop traffic and take your picture—it's still an active street after all—then do the same for them to ensure you each capture the perfect Abbey Road cover shot to remember your trip to London by.

03 of 12

View Legendary Collections at the British Library

Beethoven's collection at The British Library in London

The British Library

96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB, UK
Phone +44 330 333 1144

While most temporary exhibits at The British Library do require a fee, its permanent displays are free and open to the public year-round. Popular free collections include the Treasures of the British Library—where you can view the Magna Carta, Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks, notes written by Shakespeare, and handwritten Beatles lyrics—as well as the audiovisual Sound Gallery and the Philatelic Exhibition, which features an impressive collection of old and rare stamps.

04 of 12

Explore the British Museum

The British Museum

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba 

Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, UK
Phone +44 20 7323 8299

While you can visit more than 60 galleries virtually through its website, there's nothing quite like visiting The British Museum in person. Come to see its vast collections of historical artifacts from ancient Rome, Egypt (including the Rosetta Stone), as well as those from Europe's earliest days and all over the African continent, some of which are over 2,000 years old.

Continue to 5 of 12 below.
05 of 12

Visit the Tate Modern and Tate Britain

Sculptures in the art museum

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba 

Bankside, London SE1 9TG, UK
Phone +44 20 7887 8888

The ever-popular Tate Modern houses some of the finest pieces of contemporary art in the world, including works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol. Across town, the Tate Britain proudly displays British art ranging from the 16th century to the present day. Stop by one or both, depending on your interests and how much time your itinerary allows.

06 of 12

Visit the National Portrait Gallery

Interior of the art museum

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba

Saint Martin's Place, London WC2H 0HE, UK
Phone +44 20 7306 0055

Other major London art galleries include the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, while The Wallace Collection, located just off Oxford Street, makes a perfect escape from a busy London shopping spree. And remember, many of London's major art galleries and museums stay open late.

07 of 12

Witness the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Changing of the guards

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba 

No visit to London is complete without seeing this military tradition. The Queen's Guard in London changes in the Forecourt inside the gates of Buckingham Palace at 11 a.m. every other day—generally each Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Get there early and view the spectacle, which lasts about 45 minutes, from outside the front gates. Check the schedule online to make sure it'll be happening when you're in town.

08 of 12

Stroll the South Bank for a Free Tour of London's Landmarks

People walking along London's South Bank

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba 

Westminster Bridge, London SW1A 2JH, UK

It really is amazing how many London landmarks you can see along this stretch of the River Thames. Take a stroll from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge and you'll pass the London Eye, Royal Festival Hall, the Southbank Centre, the National Theatre, Oxo Tower, the Tate Modern, Shakespeare's Globe theater, Southwark Cathedral, and Borough Market.

Continue to 9 of 12 below.
09 of 12

Hang Out in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba 

Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DS, UK
Phone +44 20 7983 4750

Trafalgar Square is one of Britain's greatest visitor attractions; it was designed by John Nash in the 1820s and constructed in the 1830s. This iconic square has many sights to see, including Nelson's Column and the National Gallery. It is both a tourist attraction as well as a focus for political demonstrations. Every December, Norway donates a marvelous Christmas tree, meant to be a thank you to the U.K. for its help in achieving liberation from the Nazis during World War II.

10 of 12

Watch Street Performers at New Covent Garden Market

A street performer in Covent Garden

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba 

Nine Elms Lane, London SW8 5BH, UK
Phone +44 20 7720 2211

The West Piazza, North Hall, and South Wells areas of the New Covent Garden Market feature talented street performers to entertain you every afternoon. Good acts can draw huge crowds and the performers love to get audience members in on their acts. All the performers you see here are licensed and have passed an audition to perform. You can find more street performers on the weekend along the South Bank, particularly near the London Eye

11 of 12

Stroll Through a Famous Street Market

Camden Market

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba 

54-56 Camden Lock Place, London NW1 8AF, UK
Phone +44 20 3763 9900

London is known for its many street markets. Among the most-visited are the Camden Market and the Portobello Market, followed closely by the Greenwich Market. Other popular markets include the Old Spitalfields Market, the Brick Lane Market (Sundays only), the Petticoat Lane Market, the Columbia Road Flower Market (Sunday only), and foodie favorite, Borough Market.

12 of 12

Attend a Free Concert

Exterior of the National Theatre

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba

Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX, UK
Phone +44 20 3989 5455

The Southbank Centre features lots of free music events all year long, while you can find free foyer concerts at the National Theatre, also located along the South Bank. You can also enjoy complimentary Monday lunchtime recitals at the Royal Opera House and regular free lunchtime concerts at St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

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12 Top Free Things to Do in London