Being in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world, on one of the tightest budgets in the world, I’ve been learning how to navigate the city while spending as little money as possible. If you ever find yourself here on a tight budget, here are some free things to do in London:
Get a Free Map. The tourist office charges £1 for a map, but if you grab the pamphlets for the walking or bus tours, they contain maps. Also, the Museum of London gives away a map for free if you ask. The Lonely Planet map can sometimes be hard to read, and these other maps give you a good idea as to where all the sites and underground stops are without having to squint at a book.
Visit Museums. Most of the museums in London are free. The Museum of London, the British History Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum are all free. Get your fill of British history without spending a pence!
Visit an Art Gallery. The National Gallery and the Tate Modern are also free.
Buy an Oyster Card. This may not be free, but for 28 pounds you get unlimited usage of the bus and trains. I’m not sure why they call it an Oyster card, though. It’s not shaped like one.
People-Watch. Sunday is market day in London. There’s the Camden Market, the Portobello Market, the Flower Market, and a million more markets. People-watch, get great photos, and enjoy local London life without spending a dime.
Watch Iconic Symbols. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace at 11:30am as well as the horse guards at Whitehall at 11:00am are both free and interesting to watch.
Free Internet. Looking for your online fix? The city libraries offer free Internet. There are five library locations around the city. You get a free half hour, but if it’s not busy you can stay on until you’re finished.
Walk Around. London is a huge city, and there are beautiful historic buildings everywhere. In fact, London beat me. I found this city to be totally unwalkable. I walked for four hours and barely made a dent on the route I was going to take (hence the need to get the Oyster Card). I’ve walked countless other European cities and never had this problem, but there’s simply too much to see here. However, once you walk and get out of the tourist area around the Thames, you’ll get to see London the way the locals do.
Lounge in the Parks. Spending a day in the park is free wherever you go. London has some great parks, and when the sun comes out (which hasn’t been too often), Londoners flock outside. Join them for some fun in the sun.
See Westminster Abbey. You can get into Westminster for free. You have to cheat slightly, though. Westminster will not charge you entrance if you’re there for worship. (Maybe worshiping its beauty?) If you want to get in and not pay, say you’re worshiping. I didn’t do it, but I’m just putting it out there that you can.
Get Cheap Theater Tickets. The theater in London is one of the best in the world. However, it’s also bloody expensive. A night at the theater can blow any traveler’s budget. However, there are plenty of ways to find discount tickets.
London may be expensive, but it’s very possible to fill your days with free activities. If you do want to go in to see the sights, you’ll have to pay—sometimes as much as £25! So try out the above activities and save some money.