Visiting London can be expensive but you shouldn’t let that put you off taking a break in the capital, you just need to know the best places to visit and things to do that won’t cost the earth – or won’t cost anything in fact! Most of London’s major museums are free to enter and there are plenty of other things to do that will ensure a fun break in London without stretching your purse strings.
In the heart of cultural Bloomsbury, the British Museum houses over 13 million items in its comprehensive collection and welcomes over 6 million visitors through its grand entrance each year. This makes it the most visited museum in the country and one of the most popular in the world. You can see world famous artefacts such as the Rosetta Stone which unlocked the mysteries of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, the controversial Elgin Marbles and the magnificent collection of items from the Anglo-Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo. These are just some of the highlights but you could easily take a full day wandering the museum; a fascinating (and cheap) way to spend your time in London.
Vauxhall City Farm
A little piece of the countryside in central London. Vauxhall City Farm is located close to the River Thames a short walk from Vauxhall station. It’s free to enter and there are lots of animals to meet including goats, geese, horses, rabbits, chickens and even llamas! The farm is a registered charity so donations are welcome.
Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station
A must-visit for Harry Potter fans as this is where the Hogwarts Express departs from taking budding young wizards to school. Make this your first stop on a Harry Potter related break in London before stopping in the gift shop and heading to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in nearby Watford.
Camley Street Natural Park
A real oasis in the middle of central London, Camley Street Natural Park was once a coal yard for the railways into nearby King’s Cross station but has since been reclaimed and turned into an urban nature reserve. Walk up Pancras Road and across Goods Way to find the entrance gate. There are woodland, grassland and wetland areas which provide a habitat for amphibians, insects and birds as well as flowers, plants and fungi. The park lies alongside Regent’s Canal and makes the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of inner-city London.
Stephenson’s Rocket, the first jet engine, the Apollo 10 Command Module, Alcock & Brown’s transatlantic Vickers Vimy aircraft and Watson & Crick’s DNA double helix are among the highlights of a collection of over 300,000 objects at the Science Museum in South Kensington. From the industrial revolution to the space race and the beginnings of modern computing, the Science Museum covers every aspect of innovation and technology in a fascinating, interactive way that makes a great day out for visitors of all ages.
Natural History Museum
Just next door to the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum hosts an unrivalled collection of animal and plant specimens as well as dinosaur fossils and replicas of extinct species such as Stellar’s Sea Cow. It’s an ideal place to visit for families as curious young minds will find endless natural wonders to explore. The museum does get busy, especially during school holidays, so if you do arrive to find a long queue, pop over the road to the V&A Museum which is usually much quieter!
Unleash your inner hipster and visit ultra-trendy Camden Market. Shop for vintage apparel, secondhand books and of course, beard grooming products at the brilliantly named Sweyn Forkbeard. Once you’ve worked up an appetite try vegan street food, fresh pizza and artisan baked goods washed down by craft beer. The Holiday Inn Camden Lock makes the perfect base to explore London’s hippest district.
See how the other half live and indulge in some free window shopping at London’s swankiest department store. Over a million square feet of retail space means there’ll be something to suit everyone’s taste (if not everyone’s pocket) at Harrods. Check out the gaudy Egyptian décor in the clothing department or the art deco-inspired food hall. Although Harrods is free to enter, there is a dress code so make sure you wear your smartest attire so you’ll look the part even if you’re not spending anything!
Take in spectacular views over London from the Sky Garden, part of the 20 Fenchurch Street building in the City of London. Access to the Sky Garden is free of charge but you need to pre-book a timed entry slot. Tickets are available to book on a weekly basis every Monday when tickets for the following week are made available. You can enjoy an hour of panoramic views across the capital including iconic buildings like The Shard, The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. There are also several restaurants and bars where you can eat and drink while enjoying the views; again pre-booking is recommended.
Imperial War Museum
During the year of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, make sure you pay a visit to the Imperial War Museum near Waterloo. Established in 1917 as the first national war museum, it set out to collate Britain’s war effort and reflect on personal experiences of conflicts. The museum continues to do this brilliantly with several floors containing thousands of uniforms, weapons, tanks, planes, vehicles and other original items.
Museum of London
During 2018, the Museum of London in Smithfield is hosting two incredible free exhibitions. Votes for Women celebrates the 100th anniversary of women gaining the vote through images, films and personal items belonging to suffragettes. The squeamish among you may want to give Fatberg! a miss though. A huge concealed blob made up of fats, nappies, baby wipes and other nasties was found in a sewer in Whitechapel and it turned out to weigh the equivalent of 11 double-decker buses and measured 250m in length. Only one small section remains and is on display in the museum until July 2018 (if it lasts that long!)
If you have any recommendations of free stuff to do in London, let us know in the comments section below…