I’ve rounded up some of my favourite places to visit in London for free, and I’ve listed some activities that cost a little money but won’t break the bank.
London is a great place to visit because there’s always lots going on. While some tourist attractions can be expensive, there are many places you can visit for free, and public transport is subsidised, so you can travel around the city relatively cheaply. A single bus journey can cost as little as £1.50 (correct at March 2019). For up to date prices see the Transport for London website.
My first four places are in Greater London, easily accessible by bus or train. If you are having a mini break in London, then I would definitely recommend taking a day away further out from the city and visiting at least one of these places for free (apart from travel costs to get there).
1. Greenwich Foot Tunnel
This is such a great way to get from one side of the River Thames to the other (unless you don’t like tunnels of course).
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel runs under the River Thames between Cutty Sark Gardens and Island Gardens, on the Isle of Dogs. It is 1,217 feet in length and approximately 50 feet deep. Its original purpose was to allow south London residents to work in the docks on the Isle of Dogs. It was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie and was opened on 4 August 1902 at a cost of £127,000. The tunnel is lined with 200,000 glazed white tiles.
The circular entrance buildings are similar both sides of the river and contain a lift and a long spiral flight of stairs. It is open 24 hours a day, although the lifts do not always run the full time.
Greenwich is home to the historic sailing ship, the Cutty Sark. There is an interesting market in the village. You can pay to cross the Thames on the Emirates Cable Car at Greenwich Penisula or Royal Docks.
2. Brockwell Park
Our favourite park is Brockwell Park, at Herne Hill, near Brixton. It’s within a few minutes walk of the railway station and accessible by bus.
The 50.8 hectare park has a lido* and a quiet walled garden, as well as a children’s playground. The many open grassy areas are ideal for picnics, although there is a café if you need to buy refreshments.
The park has views of the London skyline.
*You do have to pay to swim in the lido.
3. Crystal Palace Park
There are lots of things to see for free at Crystal Palace Park. The railway station and bus stops are right on the doorstep, so it is very easy to get to.
This Victorian park has many different parts to explore, including the site of the ‘Crystal Palace’ which has an interesting history. The Palace was made from glass and iron and was a magnificent structure, until it was destroyed by fire in the 1930s.
The park is home to an urban farm, boating lake, maze, skate park, dinosaurs and the National Sports Centre.
4. Primrose Hill
Primrose Hill is described as a village. It is a highly desirable residential area in North West London, near London Zoo and Regent’s Park.
It is worth a visit for excellent views of London.
My next places are things to do for free nearer to Central London, and could be visited all in one day. So, if you get to the end of your city break and you are spent out, apart from a few pounds left on your Oyster Card, consider this list:
5. National Portrait Gallery & Trafalgar Square
The National Portrait Gallery is situated right by Trafalgar Square. You can grab a selfie with the Lions, marvel at the 51.6m tall Nelson’s Column and then dive in to the National Portrait Gallery afterwards. Some exhibitions may cost, but the majority of the gallery is free.
You can grab a selfie with the Lions, marvel at the 51.6m tall Nelson’s Column and then dive in to the National Portrait Gallery afterwards. Some exhibitions may cost, but the majority of the gallery is free.
6. St Katherine’s Dock
St Katherine’s Dock is close to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Here you can mingle with the fancy boats moored in the marina, or watch them go through the lock and onto the Thames. It is free to walk around here, but beware that restaurants and bars can be a bit pricey, although there are places you could sit with a picnic.
7. Limehouse Basin
Limehouse … the gateway between the River Thames and over 2,000 miles of navigable canals and rivers. It connects to the rest of our network along the Limehouse Cut – the oldest canal in London … one you may recognise from a certain Mission Impossible film sequence.https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/places-to-visit/limehouse-basin
Cost saving activities – not totally free but cheaper ways to see the sights
If you combine my list of free places to visit in London, with my list of cost saving activities below, then you can enjoy a great day out, or mini break, without overspending!
The Clipper is a cheap and fun way to see the Thames and the many landmarks alongside the river. These boats are a type of public transport in London. They were originally set up to offer an alternative for commuters. You won’t get a tour guide’s commentary, but you can relax with refreshments from the onboard Costa Coffee.
Try to get a seat outside on a nice day. It’s quite exhilarating to feel the rush of Thames air past your face. These catamarans are designed for speed, not a leisurely cruise.
Heritage Route 15
You can travel from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill on an old Routemaster bus. The Routemaster is the traditional iconic red London bus. This short route goes past landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral.
Check their website for the timetable.
Number 11 bus
This is a Transport for London public bus. It follows a route near to famous tourist attractions, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square and Houses of Parliament. Try using Google Maps on your smartphone to check the route as you go along.
I can recommend Big Bus Tours if you can afford a guided tour on an open top bus. Adult prices (at the time of publishing – March 2019) from £35.10
What are my blogging friends saying about London?
Here’s a further reading list if you would like to look at some other blogs about London
Thanks for reading Part One of my guide to places to visit in London for free. I hope you found it useful. More guides coming soon!
Let’s start a conversation in the comments:
> where is your favourite place to go for a city break, or
> give me a fun fact about your hometown