So, you’ve decided to go to London — tickets are booked, a lovely hotel (maybe a vegan-friendly one) is chosen, but then you start looking at things to do, and your bank account begins to cry! London is a fantastic city and one of my favorites, but it’s not cheap!
You can easily spend hundreds of dollars before you even get to lunch (which can also be a pricey endeavor) — the key to visiting London is to pace yourself and check out free activities!
You’re probably thinking, hold up; there are free things to do in London? Surprisingly, yes! Not everything will cost you an arm and ten legs, and some free things are quintessential London activities! So, before you go and max out your credit card, consider adding this lineup of the best free things to do in London to your itinerary!
Free Things to Do & See in London
#1 Check out one (or more) of the many free museums
There are 26 free museums in London that cover everything from the history of London in the Middle Ages to gorgeous works of art by Van Gogh and Caravaggio. Some free museums include the Natural History Museum, British Museum, and Tate Modern — to see a complete list of free museums, check out Visit London.
Often museum tickets can set you back up to $20+ a person; this is an excellent activity to save a little cash and learn something new!
#2 Explore countless street markets
London is home to some of the best street markets in the world — whether you’re searching for antiques or fresh-cut flowers, you’ll find it in London. All the markets are free to explore, but if you see something you can’t live without, that’s not free!
A few of my favorite markets include:
Colombia Road Flower Market
This is one of London’s oldest flower markets and was initially started to improve East London. The flower market takes over Colombia Road every Sunday from 8 AM – 3 PM and is filled with fresh-cut flowers, potted plants, cacti, and more! It would be best if you arrived early, as it’s very popular and one of the best places to visit in Bethnal Green.
The former fruit and vegetable market is now a shopping destination and home to the antique-filled Apple Market. Inside Covent Garden, you’ll find plenty of popular shops, while the Apple Market takes up a small section of the building and is filled with jewelry, art, and handmade goods. Covent Garden is open daily, but The Apple Market runs from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM – 6 PM.
Camden Market & Buck Street Market
These two markets are right next to each other in Camden Town, and on the weekend, they are bursting at the seams with people looking for vintage clothing, art, street food, and much more. Buck Street Market is one of London’s newer markets and its first eco-market! All of the food waste produced at Buck Street is used to create energy for the national grid. Many shops are open all week but for the best selection, visit on the weekend, go early.
This is another famous London market and one of the largest antique markets in the world! Located in the chic neighborhood of Notting Hill, the market takes over Portobello Road Monday – Saturday with vintage clothing, fruits and veggies, antiques, and more. For the largest selection of vendors, visit on Saturday.
Right next to the iconic London Bridge is one of London’s oldest food markets. For over 1,000 years, Borough Market has been a hub for fruit and vegetable traders, but over time it’s grown into much more! Today you can still find fruit and veggies along with various street food vendors, including vegan-friendly ones!
Maltby Street Market
This street food market is one of London’s newest! Visitors will find freshly baked bread, plump veggie gyozas, Ethiopian cuisine, and more! It is only open on Saturday from 10 AM – 5 PM and Sunday from 11 AM – 4 PM.
Although this market is outside central London, it’s worth the trek (about 45 minutes by tube from Westminster)! The market is open every day, but on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, it is focused on antiques and collectibles; the other days are focused on arts and crafts. Aside from arts and antiques, you’ll also find plenty of food pop-ups.
#3 Capture epic London skyline views
For a birds-eye view of London, most people head to the London Eye, but if you want to save $30+, head to the beautiful Sky Garden! This giant skyscraper towers over 500 feet above London and is home to the city’s highest public garden that offers guests a 360 view.
Visiting this gorgeous garden in the sky is free, but you have to reserve tickets online ahead of time. If everything is booked, you can show up and stand in the same-day line. There is a good chance you can get in — I was successful!
#4 Get lost in colorful streets
London is full of personality and color! All across the city, you can find plenty of pastel-colored homes, bright shops, and even sparkling lights to brighten your day. For a colorful shopping or wandering experience, check out Neal’s Yard in the Seven Dials, Carnaby Street in Soho, Brick Lane in Shoreditch (and the surrounding neighborhood), Nottinghill, and Chinatown.
During the holidays, make sure you go out after dark and enjoy the twinkling lights on Regent and Oxford Streets, along with Marylebone Village.
#5 Learn a little history or check out Harry Potter film sights (or both!)
One of the best free things to do in London, and also one of my favorites, is to take a walking tour! No matter where I go, I always look for walking tours. They provide great insight into a city’s history and allow you to chat with a local!
When I first started investigating walking tours in London, I thought, oh no, this will be expensive, until I found London with a Local. They’ve partnered with Strawberry tours to offer a ton of free tours of London, everything from historic London landmarks to James Bond! I took a Jack the Ripper tour which was incredibly interesting and explored the lives of the women murdered instead of glorifying the killer.
One caveat, the tour is free — hooray — but don’t forget to tip! They make the tours free so everyone can join in, regardless of socio-economic status, and the guide doesn’t get paid. So, if you have a good experience, tip accordingly.
#6 Relax in a beautiful garden or park
Although London is a sprawling metropolis, there are over 5,000 acres of green space to enjoy, thanks to the Royal Parks system! The Royal Parks include Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St. James Park, The Regent’s Park, and others.
If this is your first time visiting London, don’t miss Hyde Park — while it’s a perfect place to stroll and check out the Kensington Garden, my favorite activity is The Speaker’s Corner. Hyde Park has a long history of protest, which continues today. Every Sunday, the public gathers on the northeast edge of the park to air their grievances. The corner has had famous figures show up, like George Orwell and Karl Marx — it’s open to anyone; you never know who might be there!
If you love birds, don’t miss St. James Park, it’s home to a group of royal pelicans! The pelicans first became park residents in the late 1600s (they were a gift from the Russian Ambassador) and have remained in the park since (well, obviously not the same pelicans). They can roam and go where they please, but they usually don’t wander too far from the lake.
#7 Ceremony of Keys
The Brits love tradition, and this is one of the few you can witness for free (you do have to pay a transaction fee of £1 to reserve the ticket). The Ceremony of the Keys is the official locking of the main gates for the evening. The ceremony started in the mid-1300s when The Tower of London was home to the King. It has continued almost every night for seven centuries.
You must pre-book the tickets online, which can be difficult to reserve. Once you know that you’re going, check daily (they do update availability when they have cancellations). Also, if you can get tickets, make sure you arrive by 9:30 PM; late arrivals will not be allowed. Unlike the bus or tube, the ceremony is always on time.
One note, if you want to visit The Tower of London, you have to pay — a ticket to the Ceremony of Keys does not give you access.
#8 Enjoy a show at East London’s famous gay bar, The Glory
For a fun and memorable night out, consider checking out The Glory! This bar and LGBTQAI+ venue is home to a nightclub and regular events. Some events are free to attend; you have to check out their website in advance, and others require a ticket or a door cover.
#9 Stroll along the Thames Path
Most people associate the Thames with Big Ben and the London Eye, which is correct; it does meander past both, but did you know the Thames Path is 185 miles long and starts in the Cotswolds? You could go on an epic bike adventure beginning in the heart of London, through historic towns and beautiful meadows to the Cotswolds, or enjoy the path in central London — this is one of the many think that should be on your UK bucket list!
If you’re looking to capture some beautiful photos of London, the path and multiple bridges will give you unique vantage points!
#10 Explore London’s Little Venice
You expect to see canals and houseboats in Amsterdam and Venice, but in London!? There sure are! Just north of Paddington, Little Venice begins where Regent’s Canal and Grand Union Canal meet. The area is dotted with cafes, a puppet theatre, gardens, and restaurants (you’ll also run right into Camden Market).
The area is free to wander and is usually not very busy (perfect if you’re looking for a break from the crowds). You are welcome to kayak through the canals (if, by crazy chance, you brought your own), you can also take a boat ride or rent a kayak, but that’s obviously not free!
Need More Free Things to Do in London?
Ok, if those weren’t enough to get you going, here are a few more things you can consider doing for free!
- Stroll along Abbey Road like a Beatle.
- Stand on the Prime Meriden Line (Longitude Zero (0° 0′ 0″) in Greenwich Park.
- Watch the changing of the Guard in front of Buckingham Palace. This happens every day at 11 am in the summer and every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday in Fall – Spring.
- Check out a neon sign art gallery at God’s Own Junkyard — this is a fun thing to do in London with kids!
- Enjoy free blue’s music at Ain’t Nothing but… on Sunday – Thursday evenings.
Budget-Friendly Hotels in London
14-20 Norfolk Square, Tyburnia, London W2 1RS
If you’re looking for a budget hotel that is conveniently located and clean, look no further than St. David’s — this hotel is a money-saving gem! I stayed here solo for three nights, and it was perfect. It is located just around the corner from Paddington Station, making it easy to get around the city or to or from Heathrow Airport.
Book via Booking.com
Coram St, London WC1N 1HT, United Kingdom
This Holiday Inn is right around the corner from the Russell Square Station on the Piccadilly Line — makes getting to and from the airport and around the city easy. It was exactly what you would expect from a Holiday Inn — clean, quiet, and big enough to leave your stuff while you’re out and about — what more could you ask for?
Money Saving London Transit Tip
Many people suggest grabbing a Visitor’s Oyster Card or a Visitor’s Travel Card, but I think for most visitors, especially those on a budget, you’ll end up spending more!
Instead, use contactless payment such as a credit card, Apple, or Google Pay every time you go through the tube or hop on a bus (make sure you always use the same card or form of payment). The TFL (Transport for London) caps daily and weekly fares, the cap within zone 1 is £7.70, and for zone 6 (where Heathrow is located), it is £14.10.
In comparison a Visitor’s Oyster Card is an additional £5 – 7 (plus shipping and depending on where you buy it — you can purchase online and in select shops). The Visitor’s Travel Card is £14.40 for one day in zones 1 – 4 to £60.90 for 3 days in zones 1 – 6. The big difference between these two is that the Visitor’s Travel Card provides unlimited travel (you must purchase it online and have it shipped to your home).
During my last trip to London I only used contactless payment and the most I spent in one day was £14 which included a trip to Heathrow and multiple trips throughout Central London.
UK Vegan Travel Planning Help
If you need more travel planning help in London or if you plan to check out more cities across the UK, be sure not to miss these fantastic vegan travel guides and articles!
12 Mouthwatering Spots in London for Vegan Breakfast or Brunch
10 Must-Try Vegan Bakeries in London
11 Beautiful Vegan-Friendly Hotels in London
The Best London Vegan Travel Guide
12 Delicious Spots for Vegan & Gluten-Free Food in London
The Ultimate Vegan Travel Guide to Brighton, UK
Complete Vegan Travel Guide to Edinburgh
The Best Spots for Vegan & Gluten-Free Food in Brighton, UK
Can’t Miss Vegan Restaurants & Bakeries in Glasgow
6 Amazing Restaurants for Vegan Breakfast in Edinburgh
Vegan Festivals and Events Worth Visiting This Year