Everyone has probably heard that London is not exactly a cheap city to visit or stay in; accommodation, food, and transport cost a pretty penny. The city is rumoured to being not only an expensive English city but also one of the most expensive cities in Europe.
However, stepping away from the rumours, no other city offers so many free, high-class attractions to enjoy. From its museums, parks, and markets to its ancient cemeteries, street art by famous artists, and excellent public spaces, there are numerous fun, cheap things to do in London!
Whether you are planning a trip for a short time or a more extended time, you will never run out of budget-friendly things to do in London.
So, what are the most fun, cheap things to do in London? Let’s find out!
You can’t make it to London without paying a visit to one of its museums—you just can’t! London is a city of many renowned museums that hold hundreds of years within their walls. You can go to a museum for an hour because you’re just walking by, or you can go to several museums in one day; there are plenty of them!
Another cool thing about London’s museums is that they can also be used as public spaces—with Wi-Fi, coffee shops and a welcoming atmosphere. You can safely nestle somewhere with your laptop, and you won’t get kicked out by a security guard.
Any museum would be a great addition to your list of budget-friendly things to do in London. From the largest ones to smaller museums, you’ll find a fascinating museum to explore wherever you go. Keep the following list in mind when planning your visit, but remember, that’s not even half of what the city offers. So, here are some of the free museums in London you should consider paying a visit to.
The British Museum is one of the biggest and most well-known museums in London and the entire world. It has a historical and archaeological collection of works from many civilizations and historical periods.
Overall, the museum has over eight million objects that document the development of culture from its beginnings to the present day. It contains the famous Rosetta Stone that helped the world decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs, in addition to an extensive collection of Egyptian mummies and sarcophagi. A visit to the British Museum is a must on any list of fun, cheap things to do in London.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is a fascinating museum located in an eye-catching building; it’s like being at Hogwarts! The natural science collection at the museum includes animal skeletons (yes, this is the museum with the dinosaurs!), meteorites, and herbaria.
The museum has displays dating as far back as Charles Darwin, including a first copy of his famous On the Origin of Species!
A visit to the Natural History Museum is an absolute joy, and if you are visiting in winter, there’s an ice rink in the courtyard that you can enjoy too.
As you may have concluded from its name, the London Museum is dedicated entirely to the City of London. Clothing, jewellery, toys, and other objects representing people’s lives are used to illustrate the tale of London and its inhabitants.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Perhaps the best arts and crafts museum in London, if not in the whole country, is the Victoria and Albert Museum. It houses the world’s most extensive collection of decorative arts, from Asian ceramics, Japanese swords, and Chinese paintings to European furniture and modern appliances. It is all about fine art here!
Art lovers will also enjoy themselves at the National Gallery. The gallery holds over two thousand paintings from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. Here, you’ll see works by many legendary European artists, including Da Vinci, Botticelli, Caravaggio, and Van Gogh, to name a few.
The Tate Modern
With a unique name for a museum like the Tate Modern, it seems only fitting that the museum also occupies a peculiar building. The structure used to be the Bankside Power Station, which has been rejuvenated and classified as a museum.
The museum features a collection of British art from 1900 to the current day, with numerous works by international artists added.
In 2016, the museum built a new structure, namely Blavatnik Building. There is an observation deck on the 10th level of the building viewing the Thames and the city.
One of the most uncommon yet cheap things to do in London is to enjoy the city’s public spaces. There are dozens of places to chill out with your laptop in warmth and comfort, with free Wi-Fi, of course. Sometimes these places are so unexpected that you’re likely to find them by accident; you just need to know where to explore.
The Barbican Centre for the Arts
The Barbican Centre for the Arts is such a lovely destination that hosts music concerts, theatrical performances, and film screenings. What makes visiting the centre one of the best cheap things to do in London is that on Level G of the giant Barbican Centre, you will find free installations, seating areas, and desks for work.
But that’s not all; on Level 3 of the Centre is the Barbican Conservatory, with tropical plants and exotic fish. The conservatory is free to visit on Sundays and holidays. We recommend checking the opening times in advance, though, as it is sometimes closed for private events.
The British Library
The British Library is not only one of the fun, cheap things to do in London but is also considered both a landmark and a place where you can work, study or snap the best London photos. There are so many old books, maps, and other artefacts here that the library could pass as a museum (it used to be part of the British Museum).
It goes without saying that you need something to read to get into the reading room. But apart from these rooms, there is a large area open to all visitors. There are Wi-Fi, tables, toilets, a café, and tours around the library (including several free ones).
The Opera House
The Opera House is another pleasant surprise in London and a must-have addition to any list of cheap things to do in London. The place is open all day to the public, and it has some spectacular modern interiors, a coffee shop and a restaurant. Also, the building has Wi-Fi, tables and sofas in the lobby with panoramic windows where you can enjoy the views of the market and the square below.
If you are lucky, you can catch one of the rehearsals and workshops held in the lobby sometimes. To get to the terrace and the lobby with sofas, just take the stairs to the top floor. Even if you’re not looking for cheap things to do in London, a visit to the Opera House should be on your itinerary!
London’s Double-Decker Buses
A must-do for anyone visiting London is, of course, a ride on the famous double-decker. However, remember these regular buses go to the same places. Buses number 9, 11, 15, and 24 go all the way through the centre. So, decide where you need to go, get on the top deck, and enjoy the ride.
Another way to save money on public transport is to take a ride on the Thames on the Thames Clippers. They are part of London’s transport system and depart from almost every central London pier every 20 minutes. All the boats have both covered and open decks, and some have refreshments, Wi-Fi, and toilets.
Other Free and Cheap Things to do in London
Changing of the Guard
With London’s reputation as an expensive city, it is hard to believe that one of the famous things to do in London is also free. Yes, we are talking about the world-famous changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace!
The theatrical spectacle with guards in red uniforms and bear hats is just spectacular! The ceremony happens on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday for about 45 minutes. Try to be at least half an hour before the show starts (the earlier, the better). Otherwise, you’ll have to watch the show on other people’s smartphone screens. Also, it is better to check the calendar first; sometimes, the show gets cancelled due to weather or city events.
London Parks and Gardens
London’s parks are a real treat to anyone looking for relaxing yet cheap things to do in London. There are plenty of parks and gardens in the city, including Hyde Park, St James’s Park, Kensington Palace Gardens, Regents Park—the list goes on!
Some public gardens are so fancy you feel like they are private territory; for example, the secret Phoenix Garden in London’s West End. Surprisingly, it’s public and free! It is a hidden corner of serenity in the heart of the metropolis, to say the least!
Budget-friendly London is not only about visiting museums and public places! There are also the city’s famous observation decks. By far, the coolest observation deck in London is the Sky Garden at the Walkie-Talkie skyscraper. The skyscraper got its name because of its shape, which looks like a walkie-talkie! As for the Sky Garden, it truly lives up to its reputation of being a tropical garden 155 metres above the city, and it’s all free!
The site is top-rated, and you need to book in advance. There is a free viewing platform on the 10th floor of the Tate Modern, but note that the site closes earlier than the museum, so don’t come too late. To be on the safe side, make sure to check the opening hours on the day you plan to visit.
Fans of dark romance will appreciate a walk through the ancient Brompton Cemetery, one of the city’s seven 19th-century cemeteries, aka ‘London’s Magnificent Seven.’ At the centre of the cemetery, you will find a chapel designed in the image of St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Unlike the famous Highgate Cemetery in the Magnificent Seven, entry to Brompton Cemetery is free.
Harry Potter World
At London King’s Cross railway station, precisely at platform number 9 ¾, there is a trolley sticking out of a brick wall. Make a stop there and take some memorable photos that will make you feel like you are in the Harry Potter world. Shop for all your favourite merchandise at the Harry Potter shop and live the wizard life—this is probably one of our favourite things to do in London.
While we tried to cover, as much as we could, the best cheap things to do in London, there are still so many other activities and sites to explore in the foggy city. Whether you are travelling with your kids or as a couple, during summer or winter, London always delights its visitors!