Some people say the best things in life are free.
And generally, we don’t believe them.
HOWEVER… it turns out there actually are a great deal of extremely fun, informative, relaxing, fascinating, and endlessly entertaining things going on in London 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 activities the capital has to offer…
FREE THINGS TO DO IN LONDON THIS MONTH (August 2021)
Music at the Horniman Museum
Every Thursday in August, the bandstand outside the Horniman Museum is going to have a new pair of live acts playing the evening away. It’s all free (you need to pre-book tickets though) and the lineup is curated by talent-scouting radio station Balamii. Plus? You’re right next to the Horniman, which is already one of London’s most unusual & interesting museums. And it’s also free.
Details: Thursdays in August (19th, 26th) | The Horniman Museum, 100 London Road Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ | Free
Visit London Wonderground
London Wonderground is relocating this year from its regular digs on The South Bank to sunny Earl’s Court, and it’s bringing with it a gigantic, 1000 person-capacity Big Top hosting a veritable buffet of top-notch entertainment, plus a bandstand playing live music; old school fairground rides (helter skelter, swing rides etc.); lots to eat & drink from a variety of food stalls & trucks; and an actual sand-between-your-toes beach. It’s all free to enter, so enjoy.
Details: Until September 26th | Empress Place, Earls Court, SW6 1TT | Free to enter, but events are ticketed
Go Between the Bridges
Between the Bridges is London’s huge new 4,000 sq ft festival of fun – which can most boringly be described as a “really big beer garden” but should more accurately be described as “a massive, mostly free to enter (other than £5 on Fri & Sat nights) alfresco adult playground which fuses a smorgasbord of bars, street food, DJs, live music and crazy golf with themed markets, drag brunches, a famous exploding throwing game from Colombia and four different dining zones (The Garden; The Riverside; The Dock; and The Pier)”
Details: Throughout August | Queen’s Walk South Bank SE1 | Free to enter (£5 on Fri & Sat nights)
Listen to The Cubitt Sessions
Coal Drops Yard has lots of lovely shops and restaurants, and so in order to get people down to those lovely shops and restaurants, they’re setting up a stage, adding a load of deckchairs, and putting on a series of concerts from artists like Jake Isaac, George Harliono and the whizzes from the English National Opera – and it’s all completely free (so long as you don’t spend any money at those lovely shops and restaurants).
Details: 11th-22nd August | Coal Drops Yard | Free
See Snapshots of Performance Art
Performance art tends to be seen only when it’s – well, performed. But to celebrate ten years of the UK’s first exhibition space dedicated to the artform, Performance Space is staging a free exhibition of photographs from some of the most brilliant work they’ve supported. Check out performers wrapped in gold foil and striking portraits of Brooklyn artist Keijaun Thomas before retiring to Marcella for a slap-up Italian feast (on Sundays, you can score 3 courses for £20).
Details: 12th-19th August | VSSL Studio, Enclave, 50 Resolution Way, Deptford, London, SE8 4AL | Free entry
Hit Thamesmead Festival
Okay, so this one is a little out of town. Buuuut, it’s promising three stages with dozens of live acts, plus a ton of street food, craft stalls, an outdoor art trail, a street parade with percussion and steel-pan musicians, live poetry readings, relaxing acoustic music performances, and a dog show.
All for the princely sum of zero dinero.
Details: 14th August, 12pm-7pm | Southmere Park, SE2 9XA | Free
See the London Symphony Orchestra
See the LSO, as conducted by Sir Simon Rattle on a giant temporary stage in the middle of Trafalgar Square. They’ll be playing some energetic numbers from both The Nutcracker and Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances (it’s basically 19th century house music) as well as showing off the talents of teenage violin prodigy Leia Zhu.
Details: 15th August, 6.30pm | Trafalgar Square | Free
See the Northern Lights. in Greenwich.
The snappily acronymed GDIF (Greenwich & Docklands International Festival) have had enough of mother nature’s bullshit favouritism, and decided that if she won’t bring the Northern Lights to us, then we’ll just have to create them ourselves. Just one of the many free events on at the fest, Borealis will apparently involve a f**kton of lasers lighting up the sky. Other than that, there’s a whole load of cool theatre, dance, art installations, circus, street games, and music, all completely gratis.
Details: 27th August-11th September | Across Greenwich & Docklands | Free
Enjoy Greenwich Fair
Also part of the GDIF, the Greenwich Fair is pitched as a kind of ‘festival within a festival’, liberally spraying the grounds of the Old Naval College with street arts, theatre, circus, and installations across the Bank Holiday weekend. It’s all completely free, and the weather’s looking good too…
Details: 29th August, 1-9pm | Old Naval College, SE10 | Free
Hear Music at Paddington
Every Thursday lunchtime this summer you can drop into a deckchair at Merchant Square, or pull up a stone pew at the Paddington Central amphitheater to listen to the musical talents from a series of eclectic performers. There’ll be anyone from saxophonist Bukky Leo, to Cuban group Son Guarachando and Latino pianist Elaine Correa performing at both locations. And it’s completely complimentary.
Details: Until 9th September | Paddington Central, Sheldon Square & Merchant Square, Floating Pocket Park | Free
FREE THINGS TO DO IN LONDON ALL YEAR ROUND
Check Out An Exhibition
There’s a host of new exhibitions to check out, most of which won’t cost you a penny – they include a chance to enter an acoustic black hole; explore Britain’s female surrealist movement in the ’30s; and see some of the most intense colours nature can create in a botanical garden…
SEE THE BEST EXHIBITIONS 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
Go Swimming Outdoors
You know what the best bit of swimming outdoors is? Even if it rains, you’re already wet. So take advantage while you can, and check out the best spots for open-air bathing in the capital, broken down into heated, unheated, and wild categories… COME ON IT, THE WATER’S FINE
£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. 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
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: Thursday-Sunday | St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 4JJ
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 hear about the latest discoveries on Mars at Gresham College. READ MORE
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 weekly concerts from some of the city’s most talented musicians, from guitar trios to accordion chamber music.
Details: Every Tuesday from 1pm, 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
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
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. READ MORE
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: Friday 11am-10pm; Saturday 11am-10pm; 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-2pm | Columbia Road, E2 7RG
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 daily | Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
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.
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
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
Take Yourself On A Brick Lane Street Art Tour
Street artists from all over the world come to Brick Lane to showcase their work, and with that, it’s constantly changing, meaning you can come again, and again…and again, and still be delighted every time.
Details: Brick Lane, Shoreditch, E1 6QL
Visit The Terrapins At The Barbican Conservatory
They also have tropical fish, and over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees. READ MORE
Details: it’s open selected Saturdays and Sundays between 12 and 5pm | Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS
Toe-Tap To Live Blues At The Blues Kitchen Camden
Entry’s free most nights of the week. READ MORE
Details: Free entry Monday-Thursday | 111-113 Camden High Street, Camden, NW1 7JN
Walk Your Way Through London’s Best Walks
From the Jubilee Greenway to Epping Forest. READ MORE
Last Updated: 10th August 2021 | Main image: POP Brixton
Looking for more things to do in London? Check out our roster of 100 London Date Ideas