Free Things to Do in London
London is one of the most expensive cities to visit in Europe, especially with one pound equaling 1.5 dollars. On top of the exchange rate, almost everything in London costs money. London is far from a budget traveler’s dream - it has the second highest cost of living worldwide next to Tokyo. However, there are some free attractions that are worth a visit.
Spread over several hundred acres of sprawling green grass and lakes, Hyde Park is an enormous and beautiful park where one can go row boating, swimming (summer only) and heckle speakers at the Speakers’ Corner (Sundays only).
If you want to see many of London’s historical structures, start at the Tower of London near the Tower Bridge and Great Tower Street (Tower Bridge tube station) and walk along the Thames River. Along the way, you will pass St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, the Horse Guards, 10 Downing Street (of James Bond fame), Westminster Abbey, the Cabinet War Rooms, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben to name a few. When you get to the Cabinet War Rooms, you can take a detour down Birdcage Walk to Buckingham Palace.
Tate Gallery of Modern Art
This converted old power plant is now one of the most impressive art museums in the world. The work housed here is a stunning compilation of modern works. As impressive as the art is the fantastic writing that accompanies the various exhibits. It’s open from 10am to 6pm (10pm on Fridays and Saturdays) and best of all for the budget traveler, it is free. Take the tube to Blackfriars station.
Harboring one of Europe’s greatest collections of paintings by masters such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh, this gallery is a classic staple. Open Thursday-Tuesday, 10am-6pm, (Wednesday from 10am to 9pm). Free admission. Take the tube to Charing Cross.
This museum holds around 13 million historical items, including Cleopatra’s mummy, the Elgin marbles, and the Rosetta Stone. The Museum is open daily from 10am to 5:30pm. Admission is free. Take the tube to Tottenham Court Road or Goodge Street.
St. James’s Park
Smaller than Hyde Park, St. James’s is filled with ponds, fields, and free lawn chairs for relaxing. The park borders Buckingham Palace (see the Changing of the Guard) and is near Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. Take the tube to Westminster station.
Temple Church is a famous church that once served the Knights Templar of England. For those familiar with The Da Vinci Code, several parts of the book (and the movie) are based here. Free admission. Take the tube to Temple station.
This world-famous department store is interesting for everyone, even if you are not into clothes. The Food Halls and Egyptian Escalators are especially impressive. However, don’t expect to buy anything unless you have a couple thousand dollars sitting around! Open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm and Sunday from 11:30am to 6pm. Take the tube to Knightsbridge, South Kensington or Sloane Square.