The Best Free (and Cheap) Things to do in London

Today marks SIX MONTHS that I’ve been living in London!

I can’t believe I’ve been here for that long…it seems like just yesterday I arrived on the hottest September day in 100 years.

To commemorate the occasion, I compiled a list of my favorite free or cheap things to do in London (so far). I’m by no means an expert, but here are some things I’ve really enjoyed so far!

FREE

Museums
Everyone knows that most of London’s museums are free, so I won’t go into that too much, but it’s obviously worth mentioning! Check out Time Out London’s guide to free museums in London if you’re planning to go museum-hopping while you’re here.

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The Women’s March in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square

Sky Garden
One of London’s skyscrapers, called the Walkie Talkie building, has an indoor garden on the top floor. Entrance is free but you have to book a time slot about three weeks in advance. You can also get a very fancy cocktail from the bar while you’re there.

The Sky Garden

The Sky Garden

The 10th floor rooftop of the Tate Modern museum has a great view over the city, and entrance is free!

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The view from the Tate Modern

For other great views over the city, check out Primrose Hill Park, Hampstead Heath, and Greenwich Park.

Platform 9 ¾

A trip to London isn’t complete without a visit to Platform 9 ¾ in Kings Cross Station! The line can get VERY long, so I would not recommend going at say, 5pm on a Saturday evening like my cousins and I did. I was in Kings Cross Station early on a weekend morning there was almost no line. There’s a professional photographer but you can have someone else (a friend or a buddy you make in line) take a photo with your phone/camera for free. The photo area leads straight into a Harry Potter giftshop (of course) where they sell many of the souvenirs also available at the Harry Potter Studio Tour.

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Houses of Parliament Tour

Okay, this one is only free if you’re a British resident. If you happen to be living in the UK, you can book a free tour of the Houses of Parliament by contacting your Member of Parliament. If not, you can pay for a tour on the weekends that’s for tourists. It was very interesting but I am personally not that interested in government that I would have wanted to pay for the tour – I loved the free one though! You can also go into Westminster Hall, which dates back to the 11th Century (where the tour begins) for free.

Big Ben as seen from Westminster Hall

Big Ben as seen from Westminster Hall

You can also take a free tour of Big Ben if you’re a UK resident, which I did in November! But as of December 2016, tours are closed for renovations until 2020.

Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace

I actually haven’t done this since the first time I visited London when I was a child – it’s on my list of things to see before I leave!

Walk (or run) across Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic sights in London – and it’s free to walk or run across!

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Parkrun

Parkruns are weekly free timed 5Ks in parks all over the UK. If you register ahead of time and print your own personalized barcode, then you can scan it after the race and get your time. (No barcode, no time!) There are a lot in London, including my local one in Hampstead Heath – definitely check them out!

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Tower of London Ceremony of the Keys

Yet another thing I haven’t done yet but am planning on doing before I leave! Although they are free, you have to book tickets way in advance.

The Ceremony of the Keys is the traditional locking up of the Tower of London and has taken place on each and every night, without fail, for at least 700 years.

House of Minalima

Oh man, I’ve been meaning to do a whole blog post about this but haven’t gotten around to it – instead it’ll make the Free London roundup!

The graphic design team who worked on the Harry Potter films as well as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them recently set up a pop-up gallery of their original artwork and props from the films. You can see books, potions labels, newspapers, posters and more up-close. It’s right by the theatre where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is playing in Soho (if you’re lucky enough to snag a ticket, which I have not been able to do so far) and when I went in December I got to chat with one of the two designers, who was in the shop that day. A really cool (and free) exhibit for anyone into Harry Potter – or graphic design!

1920s Broadway posters designed for the "Fantastic Beasts" movie

1920s Broadway posters designed for the “Fantastic Beasts” movie

Yoga

Like in the US, Lululemon stores in London offer free yoga classes. Make sure you get there early to snag a spot – I arrived exactly on time once and got shut out of the class! Sweaty Betty stores also offer free workout classes but you have to register online one week in advance.


 

Cheap

Take a boat ride to/from Greenwich

The boat ride along the Thames to and from Greenwich is very scenic – you sail under Tower Bridge, past the Tower of London and The Shard – and you can use your Oyster Card!

Taking the boat back from Greenwich on the Thames River

Taking the boat back from Greenwich on the Thames River

Double Decker Bus Ride 

One of the best ways to sightsee in London is by bus! If you ride during the day (after morning rush hour) you have a good chance at getting the front seat on the top of a double decker bus. The bus costs less than £2 to ride and if you pick a scenic route, you can get a great view of many of the sights. The Telegraph has a roundup of some of the best London bus routes for sightseeing. 

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Globe Theatre

At the famous Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a replica of the theatre along the Thames that was in use during Shakespeare’s time, you can get £5 tickets to stand in front of the stage like a Groundling! If you don’t mind standing up, it’s truly an incredible experience. You can get very close to the stage and see the actors clearly, and it’s an open-air theatre so if it’s a beautiful night you can see the stars twinkling above you. 

Shakespeare's Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe

 

RunThroughUK race

RunThroughUK has relatively inexpensive 5K, 10K, and half marathon races throughout the year in parks all over London. They have a mid-week summer evening series as well. And their medals are amazing!

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Rent a Boris Bike

Boris Bikes are London’s city bike system. You can rent one for a few pounds and make your own bike tour! (Yet another thing I haven’t done yet, but is on my list!) The Telegraph has a roundup of London’s best sightseeing routes by Boris Bike.

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