Hattie Lloyd 29/08/23
30 Fantastic Free Things To Do in London | Leave Your Wallet at Home
Some people say the best things in life are free.
And, in all likelihood, those people are probably trying to sell you something.
HOWEVER… it turns out there actually are a great deal of extremely fun, informative, relaxing, fascinating, and endlessly entertaining things going on in this city that actually will cost you no money whatsoever. From concerts, to buried temples, extraordinary museums & art galleries, lush tropical conservatories, and a warehouse full of extraordinary neon, these are the very best free things to do in London…
Totally Thames | Boat Race, Art Installations, And Fascinating Talks
The Thames. It’s pretty mainstream. And there’s a monthlong festival this September to celebrate it in all its glory, with shed-loads of free things to do. You can join everything from a river race featuring 300+ boats, to mudlarking sculpture workshops and a visit to some Roman baths… buried in central London.
Details: 1-30th September | Along the Thames
Batman Unmasked | Visit the Batcave and see some cool props
Photo by Dev on Unsplash (edited)
There’s a new Batman exhibition coming to town, and it’s completely free (so they won’t be Robin’ you). It’s called Batman Unmasked, and its in honour of about six different anniversaries, ranging from Warner Bros 100th, to the 85th birthday of the masked crusader himself. You’ll get to step into a replica Batcave and see props & costumes from several decades of movies. Tickets predictably got snapped up insanely fast, but there are a few walk-in slots available each day.
Details: 5th – 17th September | 180 Piccadilly, St. James’s, W1J 9HF | Free
Open House Festival | Snoop around mansions & derelict factories. for free.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir – iStock/Victor Huang
London has so many amazing museums, galleries and free places to visit, that anything kept behind closed doors seems all the more enticing…
…and for just one fortnight a year, those doors are unlocked.
For three decades, Open House Festival has provided the public with legitimate ways to be nosy by throwing open the doors to private houses, mansions, libraries, clock towers, factories and other buildings of particular architectural interest, to all and sundry… for free.
Details: 6th – 17th September | Across London | Free
The Greenwich & Docklands International Festival | A festival of creativity in South London
This month sees the return of The Greenwich & Docklands International Festival (or the ‘GDIF’ to its friends) takes place, and it’s basically one of the highest concentrations of theatrical & artistic talent in the country. And pretty much all of the shows are free. This year’s events include a daring high wire act, an aquatic ballet performed by some life-size glowing robotic swans, and a play set on a partially submerged & sinking house. In the docks.
Details: Until 10th September | Across Greenwich | Free
The Bartholomew Fair | Watch people dance on the side of St. Paul’s
Doug Peters/PA Wire
The original Bartholomew Fair opened in the year 1133, and was held every year at the end of August for centuries until it was banned in 1855 for being too fun. Well, now it’s back. And its going to be updating the entertainment a wee bit with shows like a laser-mapped projection that follows a path around the Square Mile, as well as one in which a troupe of aerial performers will literally dance on the side of St Paul’s Cathedral… and likely get the fair banned for another couple of centuries.
Details: Until 16th September | The City of London | Free
Take In Some of the World’s Most Famous Art
It’s wild when you think how much art you can see for free in London. The old Victorian philanthropic ideals of free access for all have stuck around, and now you can head into the National Gallery, the V&A, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and dozens of other smaller galleries like the Wallace Collection without paying a penny…
LONDON’S BEST ART GALLERIES | SEE THE BEST EXHIBITIONS IN LONDON NOW
Take A Tour Of A London Museum
London is completely spoilt for free museums. There’s the British Museum (which contrary to its name is filled with fascinating objects 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 array of 18th century surgical instruments.
SEE LONDON’S BEST MUSEUMS | SEE UNUSUAL MUSEUMS IN LONDON
£1 Comedy at The Top 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. And you’ll end up saving enough to make up for your technically-not-free entrance fee.
Details: Every Monday, Saturday & Sunday night | The Top Secret Comedy Club, 170 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5PD
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. Find more cheap theatre hacks here
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 hear about the latest discoveries on Mars at Gresham College.
UCL | V&A | National Gallery | Conway Hall | Gresham College | The British Academy
Catch A Free Lunchtime Concert at the Royal Academy of Music
Totally free concerts from the next generation of insanely talented musicians, from guitar trios to accordion chamber music.
Details: Certain Tuesdays from 1pm, book ahead | 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…
Browse The Best Food Markets in London
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.–
Enjoy A Stellar View of St Pauls
The One New Change shopping centre in St. Paul’s has an incredible rooftop 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
Get Down for Free 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: 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
Wear Shades to God’s Own Junkyard
Essentially the modern-day equivalent: a huge, glittering warehouse space crammed with neon signs and artwork collected over decades.
Details: Open Friday – Sunday | 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-5.20pm, Saturdays 9am-1pm | The London Silver Vaults, Chancery Lane, WC2A 1QS
Crane Your Neck at Fitzrovia Chapel
Oh, just a secret chapel hidden amongst some Fitzrovia apartment blocks with a completely gold ceiling.
Details: Open Wednesdays 11am-7pm | Fitzroy Place, 2 Pearson Square, London W1T 3BF
Design Your Victorian Dream House at the William Morris Gallery
Designer, writer, poet, campaigner: William Morris was a Victorian Renaissance man. You can admire his artwork at his Walthamstow childhood home which is now a free-to-enter museum dedicated to the many facets of his work.
Details: Open Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm | William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow, E17 4PP
Bask In A 13-Acre Botanical Garden
Fulham Palace, the official residence of the Bishop of London since the 11th century, has a history stretching back a casual 6,000 years. You can wander round its historic rooms for free, before picknicking in the enormous gardens outside, many of which have been quite beautifully designed.
Details: Open daily | Fulham Palace, Bishop’s Avenue, Fulham, SW6 6EA
Talk With The Animals at 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
Make Up A Secret Handshake at Freemasons’ Hall
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, 9.30am-5pm | 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ
Revel in the Charms of Kenwood House
A grand stately home atop Hampstead Heath, filled with priceless artwork, insanely beautiful rooms, and no less than 112 acres of gardens.
Details: Open daily, 10am-5pm | Hampstead Lane, NW3 7JR
Browse the Blooms at 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.
Details: Sundays 8am-2pm | Columbia Road, E2 7RG
Sunbathe in the Queen Elizabeth Hall Rooftop Garden
The perfect spot to take a picnic, the rooftop garden and bar atop the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank is free to enter, and offers a leafy oasis amidst the brutalist concrete jungle of the Southbank Centre.
Details: Open Wed-Sun | Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
Take A Stroll Along The Thames
Image: Martin Hesketh/Flickr
By a convenient fluke, many of London’s most interesting sights can be found along the river – take the Nudge’s walking tour here.
Head Underground To Roman London
Image: James Newton
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 it’s totally worth it to get up to one of the best viewpoints in London for free.
Details: Weekdays 10am-6pm, weekends 11am-9pm – must book ahead HERE | Sky Garden Walk, EC3M 8AF
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. Follow our Hampstead Heath Itinerary to carry on from here and find a free miniature zoo, too.
Details: Open daily from 8.30am (closing times vary) | The Pergola, Inverforth Close, NW3 7EX
Visit The Terrapins At The Barbican Conservatory
They also have tropical fish, and over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees in a very literal concrete jungle.
Details: Open most days, book in advance | Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS
Toe-Tap To Live Blues At The Blues Kitchen Camden
Entry’s free most nights of the week… though it’s going to take some willpower to resist the scents of mouthwatering BBQ dishes from the American south wafting out of the kitchen.
Details: Free entry Monday-Thursday | 111-113 Camden High Street, Camden, NW1 7JN
Walk Your Way Through London’s Best Walks
Simon Wilkes / Unsplash
From the Jubilee Greenway to Richmond Park. Fancy more of a challenge? Step up and try one of these amazing hikes near London…
Looking for more things to do in London? Check out our roster of 101 London Date Ideas
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