Living the London life on a budget: top free activities to do in London

by Emma Bertie

Worried about overspending in London? Whether you live in London, are here for a weekend mini-break or a longer adventure, I’ve put together a list of my favourite free things to do in London; a mix of cool places to visit and things to do that won’t cost you a single penny!

Victoria and Albert

Visit the best museums and galleries

Did you know London has over 75 free museums and galleries? That’s enough to keep you busy for days, months even. To save you from mindlessly seeing them all, I recommend exploring Exhibition Road in South Kensington which is home to 3 of the largest and most popular museums; The Victoria & Albert Museum, The National History Museum and The Science Museum, all conveniently located next to each other and, of course with free admission.

First up is the Natural History museum where you can explore how the world has changed over the years with immersive displays and exhibitions. Upon entry you will be welcomed by a 26-metre dinosaur skeleton that has been on display since 1905- this definitely caught my attention! Then hop across the road to the Victoria & Albert museum which is the largest museum of decorative arts and design. From ancient sculptures, and a world-famous fashion collection to antiques from Asia, the V&A will no doubt keep you entertained for hours. At the end of the street is my personal favourite- The Science Museum. I remember visiting this as a child, and even today I get excited by all the immersive displays. They have everything from satellites in space to a pregnant man!

For art lovers, the city boasts a diverse and eclectic variety of galleries. My favourite free galleries to go to are Tate Modern and the Saatchi Gallery. Tate Modern is Britain’s national gallery of modern art located on the Banks of the Thames. The five-story building is bound to keep you occupied for hours where you can discover art movements and practices in the permanent collection including Pablo Picasso’s powerful Weeping Woman.

Browse the markets

Like any Londoner, I love a market and when it comes to markets in the city, you are spoiled for choice. You can browse the stalls, take in the diverse cultures and just soak up the atmosphere. Here is a pick of my favourites that are all free to browse around (until you get tempted to buy!):

Ever seen the movie Notting Hill? If you want to feel like Hugh Grant or Julia Roberts you must take a trip to Portobello Road Market. This is the world’s largest antique market full of everything from Spanish food stalls, records and designer vintage clothing. When ​​the market is not taking place, the street can be best admired for its independent stores, charming cafes and the picturesque-painted houses- they make the perfect photo opportunity!

Another favourite of mine is Old Spitalfields market. Unlike many of the other markets, this one is open every day and is fully covered so is perfect for the rainier days! It is full of hundreds of food stalls, independent boutiques and vintage shops. As we are keeping this free, outside the market is a collection of outdoor artwork by a number of creative artists including a bronze sculpture of a Dogman and Rabbitwoman!

Last but by no means least is Borough markets which is renowned as the city’s best food market located next to London Bridge. If you are a foodie like me, you will love the variety of smells and aromas as you wander about the different stalls. My top tip is to try and spot the stalls offering free tasters!

London - Canary Wharf

Relax in a scenic park

One of my favourite activities to do (when the weather is nice) is to go on a walk around a park or grab a picnic with a friend. London is full of green spaces, so much so that it is actually named a forest by the UN, so there’s no better way to spend the day than by visiting one of the parks. Grab a book, a bike or a friend and enjoy the sights of these different parks. And did I mention its completely free?

Richmond Park is hands down my favourite park to go to, it’s home to over 650 deer so you might even be lucky enough to have a deer come join your picnic! It’s one of the largest royal parks and is the perfect place to walk around when the sun is shining.

St James park is another one of my favourites to go to. You have Buckingham palace on one side, Westminster on the other and you can even see the horses guard parade! Its hard to believe you can find such a peaceful and picturesque park in a busy city. There is also a huge lake that is home to hundreds of birds.

Hyde Park is probably the most famous of them all. Set right in the heart of London, Hyde Park offers both world-class events and concerts together with plenty of quiet places to relax and unwind. I’d recommend walking through the Italian Gardens which are full of sculptures and fountains!

London Museums

Snap a picture-perfect photo opportunity

Last on my list of free things to do is to tick some of the most Instagrammable places in London off your list and visit some of these picture-perfect places!

I have to include Sky Gardens as it has without a doubt one of the best views of the city – for free! Sky Gardens is a viewing gallery on the 43rd floor of the Walkie-Talkie with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. It has a leafy indoor jungle garden with spectacular views of London as well as an open-air terrace providing views across the Thames.

For all the Harry Potter fans you must visit Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station. It is quite possibly the most famous railway platform in the world – and it doesn’t even exist! Venture over to King’s Cross Station to snap a photo of the famous platform sign (which is located between platforms 9 and 10) and live your Harry Potter dream.

South Bank

If your trip to London is coming to an end and you haven’t yet seen everything you wanted, I’d recommend heading over to South Bank where you can make the most out of this fantastic location by bagging a load of London icons for your photo album!  From the South Bank, you can see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and if you cross over Westminster bridge you can see the London eye!

So there you have it, a list of things to do in London. Who knew it was possible for London to not break the bank?