Free Things To Do In London
Last Updated: 9th July 2019 | Main image: Pop Brixton
A brief rejoinder on pricing in London:
1 tuna belly hand roll at Sushisamba: £16.
1 Eggs Benedict at The Ritz: £40.
Access to daily concerts, a 900 year old Parliament building, a subterranean vault full of silver, a buried Roman temple, a vast warehouse filled with neon and a museum housing some of the world’s most treasured works of art going back centuries: £0.
If you thought London was one of Europe’s most expensive cities to explore… you’d be right. But there’s also an impressive amount of things to do for free here too, and here are the most valuable amongst them…
FREE THINGS TO DO IN LONDON THIS MONTH
Greenwich + Docklands International Festival
This festival is, frankly, insane. Over the course of a week, you’ll be able to walk into a giant painting; visit a caravan full of love songs; dance in an outdoor ballroom beneath a giant chandelier; watch Chinese pole artists and acrobatics troupes from around the world; wander through a huge, colour shifting inflatable labyrinth; see Moby Dick in both circus and martial arts form; and watch jugglers covered in lettuce. READ MORE
Details: Until 6th July | Across Greenwich
And just so Greenwich Peninsula doesn’t feel left out, they’re getting a free festival too. It’ll all be taking place across London’s newest park – a riverside promenade that’s basically London’s answer to the High Line in Manhattan. There’ll be live performances from musicians, cabaret stars, poets and speakers; interactive artwork (including a huge inflatable rainstorm) and a heap of riverside feasts with some of the city’s best restaurants. READ MORE
Details: 5th-7th & 12th-14th July | The Tide, Greenwich Peninsula
Everyman Presents: Summer of Love
There’s something for everyman (woman, and child) at this free outdoor film festival hosted by the boutique cinema. They’ll be screening recent releases and cult classics over the King’s Cross canals, while you lounge on beanbags on the opposite bank and sip cocktails. READ MORE | SEE MORE OUTDOOR CINEMAS
Details: Until 14th July | Granary Square, King’s Cross, N1C 4AA
Frieze Sculpture 2019
When you hear ‘Frieze’, your first thought is probably ‘statue’. And this summer, the renowned art fair is creating a “gallery without walls” by placing sculptures from 20 of the biggest names in modern art in the middle of Regent’s Park. There’s even a free audioguide to help you along the trail. READ MORE
Details: Until 6th October | Regent’s Park, English Gardens, NW1 4LL
Ronnie Scott’s 60th Birthday Party
Great jazz is timeless… but this jazz bar is 60, and to celebrate they’ll be holding a massive street party outside their Soho home, with live music all day (including an appearance from the legendary Pee Wee Ellis), Champagne, and street food from neighbours Hoppers and Little Italy. READ MORE
Details: 20th July | 47 Frith Street, W1D 4HT
Reckon you’ve got some roar talent? Berlin’s cult open-air karaoke party is coming to London this month, meaning you can take to the stage surrounded by dozens of fans… or just bring a picnic and enjoy everyone else’s attempts at Aerosmith. READ MORE
Details: 13th July | Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, 139 Vauxhall Walk, SE11 5HL
Summer by the River
London Bridge’s riverside festival is back, and it’s really making waves.
This year you can expect a programme of live music, outdoor swing dancing, mass sing-a-longs, film screenings, live broadcasts from the Royal Opera House, pop up theatre, craft workshops, brass bands, gospel choirs and a whole lot more… READ MORE
Details: Until 28th August | The Scoop, London Bridge, SE1 2AA
Prefer something a little more land-based? Well happily you can celebrate summer in the streets, too. Regent Street will be completely pedestrianised for a couple of Sundays this summer, with live music from a bandstand, street food, games and more. READ MORE
Details: 14th & 21st July, 18th August and 15th September | Regent Street, W1B
Driverless: Who is in Control?
It’s only a matter of time before driverless cars finally pass their Theory Test and take over the world’s roads. And to give you a little sneak preview of what that’ll be like, the Science Museum are displaying self-driving cars, autonomous flying drones and smart underwater vehicles, including the venerable Autosub Boaty McBoatface. READ MORE
Details: Until October 2020 | The Science Museum, Exhibition Road, SW7 2DD
Sadly, Giant Steps is not a freakishly large tribute band.
But it will still bring you an equal amount of musical joy. You see, Giant Steps is in fact a collaboration between Brilliant Corners (the Dalston bar/resto) and the Analogue Foundation (international supporters of analogue sound & processes), setting up shop in a 20,000 square ft. canal-side Victorian warehouse complex until October 2019… READ MORE
Details: Until October | Swan Wharf, 60 Dace Road, E3 2NQ
Museum of the Moon
Take one small step into the Natural History Museum this month, and you’ll find a giant, illuminated, perfectly replicated moon hanging in one of its halls. It’s a 6-metre wide artwork by Luke Jerram, and it’ll be landing in its new London home just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the (actual) moon landings. It’s free to take a look, but they’re also hosting a couple of events beneath it, including cheese and wine tastings, yoga, and DJ sets.
Details: Throughout July | Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD
Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic
The Wellcome Collection are about to unveil their exhibition about deception, illusion, and misdirection.
…Or are theeey….
Yes, they are. And besides attempting to explain how magic works by ‘hacking’ our senses and playing on subconscious processes in the brain, there’ll also be live performances and an impressive collection of magical artefacts, from Houdini’s ‘bell box’ to Tommy Cooper’s fez. READ MORE
Details: Until 15th September | Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE
Camden Market Lates
Camden’s got a new late night event.
And you’ll want to market in your diary.
The world-famous market will be keeping its gates open after hours for a couple of weekends this summer, with pop up bars, street food and DJ sets right by the canal… READ MORE
Details: Throughout the summer | West Yard, Camden Market, NW1 8AF
FREE THINGS TO DO IN LONDON ALL YEAR ROUND
Head To An Art Gallery
Almost every single art gallery in London has a free permanent collection to look around. Catch famous faces from Elizabeth I to Mick Jagger at the National Portrait Gallery, find cutting-edge sculpture at the Pangolin, or interrogate the delicate fragility of existence itself in front of a blank canvas at the Tate Modern. You can even visit the ticketed exhibitions at The Photographers’ Gallery for free after 5pm.
SEE EVERY EXHIBITION RUNNING IN LONDON RIGHT NOW
Take A Tour of London Museums
London is completely spoilt for free museums. There’s the V&A (focussed on art and design from around the world); the Natural History Museum (home to animatronic dinosaurs, an earthquake simulator and a dimly-lit library of preserved Victorian worms in jars); and the Science Museum (rockets, steam engines, iron lungs). There’s more unusual ones, too, like the Horniman Museum (which wins points for name alone, if not the overstuffed walrus) and the Wellcome Collection’s unsettling collection of 18th century surgical instruments.
SEE LONDON’S BEST MUSEUMS | SEE UNUSUAL MUSEUMS IN LONDON
£1 Comedy at The Secret Comedy Club
£1 for a whole night of comedy?
You must be having a laugh.
Because it’s here that you’ll find line-ups of top-quality comedians off the TV and stand-up circuit – plus drinks so well-priced for London that you’ll find anything funny by the end of the night.
Details: Every Monday, Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday night | The Top Secret Comedy Club, 170 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5PD
Free Concerts at St. Martin-in-the-Fields
Just your typical free concert in an insanely palatial church, from haunting violin solos to improvised 17th century dance music on a lute.
Details: Mondays, Tuesdays & Fridays, 1.45-3.45pm | St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 4JJ
Walk the Sherling High Level Walkway
Watch set designers and prop makers beavering away from the National Theatre’s backstage high-level walkway. Resist the urge to shout “LOOK OUT”.
Details: Open Mon-Sat 9.30am-7.30pm, just turn up | National Theatre, Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PX
Pay What You Can For Theatre Tickets
Every Tuesday evening, Hackney’s Arcola Theatre sells Pay What You Can tickets on a first-come, first-served basis – and you fork out whatever you can, no judgement.
Details: Every Tuesday from 6pm (but aim to queue before then) | Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL
Dance To Live Music at Hootananny Brixton
Brixton’s perennially packed live music dance hall, with street food outside and a stage inside, where you can bop along to anything from Balkan gypsy folk to Bhangra hip hop.
Details: Free entry most weekdays and before 9pm on weekends | 95 Effra Road, SW2 1DF
Learn Something Niche on a Lunchbreak
Swap actual food for food for thought at one of London’s many lunchtime lectures – pick up a bit of art history at the National Gallery, attend a philosophical debate at Conway Hall or learn about 19th century ‘tuberculosis chic’ at the V&A. READ MORE
UCL | V&A | National Gallery | The British Museum | Conway Hall | Gresham College | The British Academy
Catch a Free Lunchtime Concert at the Royal Academy of Music
Totally free weekly concerts from some of the city’s most talented musicians, from guitar trios to accordion chamber music.
Details: Every Tuesday from 1.05pm, just turn up | Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Road, NW1 5HT
Explore London’s Secret Gardens
A guide to greenery in London: 1) Hyde Park. 2) Regent’s Park. 3) Hidden walled gardens, canal boat rooftops and an urban community garden on a former railway track…
FIND LONDON’S SECRET GARDENS
Head To The Royal Opera House at Lunch
And find free performances ranging from opera to ballet, from some of the city’s most talented artists.
Details: Regular lunchtimes from 1pm, just turn up | Royal Opera House, Bow Street, WC2E 9DD
Browse London’s Food Markets
They’re all free to enter, and there’s usually samples to be had if the sight of mountains of cheese is too much to resist.
READ ABOUT LONDON’S BEST FOOD MARKETS
Free Stand-Up Comedy In A Victorian Pub
The Roebuck in Borough is already one of the area’s lovelier taverns. And alongside their regular poetry nights, quizzes and life drawing classes, they also throw in a monthly free stand-up night – after which it would probably be advisable to grab something at Padella, most of whose mains are under a tenner.
Details: Last Thursday of every month | The Roebuck, 50 Great Dover Street, SE1 4YG
Get A Free View Over London
The One New Change shopping centre in St. Paul’s has a huge viewing platform that manages that rare combination of being both free and relatively uncrowded – head up for a great view of the cathedral dome and sunsets over the Shard.
Details: Open daily, 6am-midnight | 1 New Change, EC4M 9AF
Free Events at Pop Brixton
Dancing in a village of shipping containers.
It’s a crate night out.
And surprisingly for a night at such an atmospheric, al fresco venue – packed with pop up street food kitchens and bars – you won’t have to part with any pennies to catch the live musicians and DJs taking to the Pop Brixton stage. And if you’re in need of some restoration the morning after, there’s also regular free tai chi and urban gardening classes.
Details: Mondays 12.30-1.30pm, Thursdays 10am-12pm, Friday & Saturday nights | Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PQ
Get Lost In The Sir John Soane Museum
The eccentric home of 19th century architect Sir John Soane has been kept exactly the way he left it – with moving walls, a 3000 year old mummy in the basement, and a gothic hideaway for his monk alter-ego, Padre Giovanni.
Details: Open Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm | 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP
God’s Own Junkyard
Essentially the modern-day equivalent: a huge, glittering warehouse space crammed with neon signs and artwork collected over decades. READ MORE
Details: Open Friday & Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday 11am-6pm | God’s Own Junkyard, Unit 12 Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, E17 9HQ
Visit London’s Silver Vaults
A subterranean treasure trove occupied by expert silversmiths, where you can browse through everything from contemporary jewellery to flamboyant Georgian salt pigs.
Details: Open weekdays 9am-5.30pm, Saturdays 9am-1pm | The London Silver Vaults, Chancery Lane, WC2A 1QS
Oh, just a secret chapel hidden amongst some Fitzrovia apartment blocks with a completely gold ceiling.
Details: Open Wednesdays 11am-4pm | Fitzroy Place, 2 Pearson Square, London W1T 3BF
Stepney City Farm
You can cuddle rabbits, baby goats and lambs. For free.
Details: Open 10am-4pm, Tuesday-Sunday | Stepney City Farm, Stepney Way, E1 3DG
Surprisingly for one of the world’s most famously secretive organisations, you can have a snoop around the grand art deco Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden whenever you like.
Details: Monday-Saturday, check ahead HERE | 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ
A grand stately home atop Hampstead Heath, filled with priceless artwork, insanely beautiful rooms, and no less than 112 acres of gardens. READ MORE
Details: Open daily, 10am-4pm | Hampstead Lane, NW3 7JR
Columbia Road Flower Market
If you can resist the urge to buy multiple succulents, you can enjoy all the bustle of London’s biggest flower market for free. READ MORE
Details: Sundays 8am-3pm | Columbia Road, E2 7RG
Take A Stroll Along The Thames
By a convenient fluke, many of London’s most interesting sights can be found along the river – take the Nudge’s walking tour here.
Over 900 years old, Westminster Hall is not just the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, it’s also the free-est.
Details: Open 9am-8pm when Parliament is in session | Houses of Parliament, SW1A 0AA
Watch the Ceremony of the Keys
Every night, the Tower of London is locked up in the same elaborate way as it has been for the past 700 years. And it’s an excellent way to get a glimpse of the castle while swerving the usual £25 entrance fee.
Details: Every night, must book ahead HERE | Tower of London, EC3N 4AB
Head Underground To Roman London
It’s an ancient Roman temple. In London. Plus you can see how much lower the ground was 2000 years ago.
Details: Open Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12-5pm | 12 Walbrook, EC4N 8AA
See London From 500ft In The Air
Granted, you need to be fairly organised booking tickets for Sky Garden (they’re only released a few days in advance) – but the view is totally worth it.
Details: Weekdays 10am-6pm, weekends 11am-9pm – must book ahead HERE | Sky Garden Walk, EC3M 8AF
Climb Brixton’s 200 Year Old Windmill
You can even volunteer to mill some flour while you’re at it.
Details: Second weekend of every month, March-October | Windmill Gardens, West end of Blenheim Gardens, Off Brixton Hill, SW2 5EU
Perambulate the Hampstead Pergola
As elevated walkways built by the aristocracy out of rubble from the Northern Line go… this is probably one of the loveliest.
Details: Open daily from 8.30am (closing times vary) | The Pergola, Inverforth Close, NW3 7EX
Climb Hackney’s Oldest Tower
That lone tower by Hackney Central station is the only remaining part of St. Augustine’s Church, demolished in 1798. And today you can climb up it for a free bird’s eye view over Hackney.
Details: Last Sunday of every month | Mare Street, E8 1HR
Looking for more things to see in London? Check out our roster of 100 London Date Ideas