Our Favourite Free Things to Do in London
We’re not going to sugar coat it, London is an expensive city to visit...but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of places to enjoy for free.
We all know that London living comes at a price (a high one), but don't let that put you off. Despite its reputation for being an expensive city to explore, there's a whole host of fantastic free things to do in London. We here at Plum Guide have compiled a list of our favourites of the lot, from markets to parks to museums. You're in for a treat (and your wallet is too).
Natural History Museum
London has one of the most extensive histories in the world, but the Natural History Museum goes way beyond that (like before Doctor Who even existed). With over 80 million life and earth science specimens housed within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology, and zoology, there’s plenty to see. An afternoon will go by quicker than the melting of the polar icecaps. The most impressive pieces are the larger-than-life dinosaur skeletons and wide-ranging taxidermy.
Imperial War Museum
A place to reflect on the realities of the past and honour the sacrifices of the brave men and women who were caught inbetween, the Imperial War Museum acknowledges these tragedies of war with subtlety and care. One of its great strengths is its ability to take the World War and deconstruct it into relatable human context. Unique letters and objects tell the brave stories of ordinary people impacted by extraordinary circumstances.
St. James's Park
Nestled between Buckingham Palace, the Mall, Horse Guards and Birdcage Walk, St. James’s Park is located right in the heart of the city. That’s probably why one of its most famous residents has chosen to call it home for so long. First introduced in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador, there are now over 40 very social pelicans roaming about. Be sure to visit in the afternoon where they are fed at 14:30 sharp. Don’t forget to give the other water birds, owls, and woodpeckers some attention too. Jealousy amongst fowls is real. It's the perfect place for a picnic (London weather permitting of course).
Bookworms, get ready to fall in love with the ultimate public library. The British Library is the largest library in the world with over 170 million items catalogued. In other words, anything that has ever been written down since the beginning of communication is hidden somewhere inside this massive building. Unique treasures include the Magna Carta, Jane Austen’s and Leonardo da Vinci’s personal notebooks, as well as handwritten lyrics by The Beatles.
A great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre is to retreat to Bushy Park. It’s the second largest Royal Park with an area of 445 hectares, which makes it ideal to explore via cycling or horseback riding. Discover over 300 free-roaming deer along your journey and a rich diversity of fungi, ancient trees, and grasslands with its varied historic ecosystems.
St. Paul's Church
Churches tend to be architectural feats, but St. Paul’s Church (not to be confusde with St. Paul's Cathedral) in Covent Garden went the other way. Designed simply, the architect was asked to reference a barn, and he nailed it. Also known as the Actors’ Church, St. Paul’s has long been associated with the theatre community. The first Punch and Judy show took place here in 1662, and there are memorials dedicated to Charlie Chaplin and Vivien Leigh.
Originally part of the western section of Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens was annexed by Queen Caroline in order to form a Royal landscape garden. As a result, the gardens continue to maintain a more polished look. Beyond the natural beauties such as the Round Pond and sunken Dutch garden, there are also many monuments to visit. The Albert Memorial, the Peter Pan statue, and the Diana Memorial Playground are just a few of the highlights you’ll pass as you wonder the attractively tree-lined paths. Stay nearby in one of our remarkable homes like Kensington Luxe.
There are so many free things to do in London from ground level, but few offer the chance to view London sights from higher up. The Sky Garden is the city’s highest public garden, occupying the top three floors of 20 Fenchurch Street. Locals also know the building as the 'Walkie Talkie' based on the outer form. The panoramic views are arguably some of the best of central London. Keep in mind that even though space is free, it does get popular and crowded, so it's best to book your visit in advance.
London boasts some of the greatest markets around, but none are as celebrated or established as Borough Market. Around for over 1,000 years, this most loved of London markets is filled with quality British produce and speciality foods. It’s a great place to go for foodies and food lovers, but its history and location underneath a maze of Victorian railway arches will bring enough entertainment to anyone.
Portobello Road Market
Many consider the 90s rom-com for the popularization of Notting Hill, but the Portobello Road Market is also to blame. As charming and vibrant as the neighbourhood it resides in, the market sells everything. From vintage clothing to fresh street food to one-of-a-kind antiques, you’ll find everything you’re looking for (and nothing you actually need).
Shoreditch Street Art
There's plenty of free art inside London’s numerous galleries, but what many visitors forget about is all the art that’s right outside in plain sight. Shoreditch offers some of the best strips of street art in the city. Like the culture it critiques, the graffiti and murals change almost every day. But it’ll always be replaced by something guaranteed to impress, from works by world-famous names like Banksy to up-and-coming artists. Wanting to stay in the neighbourhood? Choose from one of our amazing homes like Shoreditch Treehouse in the area.
If our list of free things to do in London has tempted you to a trip (which we're sure it has), then next up is deciding on where to stay in the city. Our carefully curated collection of London homes shows you only the top 3% of vacation homes, because we're serious about standards…and we know you are too.