London Drum

Top 10 Things To Do For Free In London

Here’s our list of the Top 10 tourist attractions in London that are completely free to visit

1 Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Changing the Guard at Buckingham PalacePhoto: Craig Cross

There are quite a few daily parades that could appear on this Top 10 list, but the most popular by far is the famous Changing the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace.

This is the one that every tourist wants to see. Unfortunately this also means that it gets extremely busy, but don’t let that put you off because part of the spectacle and atmosphere comes from standing in a crowd of thousands as the marching bands troop down the Mall. You can hear the trumpets and drums coming from quite a distance, and you get a genuine thrill as they come through the gates.

Because it’s so popular you do have to arrive pretty early if you want the best viewing spot, so make sure you read Craig’s review before you go. He goes into detail about the best place to stand and what time you’ll have to arrive before the best spots have gone.

2 Watch MPs debating inside the House of Commons

House of Commons

Did you know that you can visit Parliament and watch MPs debating inside the House of Commons for free? And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a UK resident or an overseas tourist either – you can just queue up outside the Cromwell Green visitor entrance and wait for a space to become available.

If truth be told the debates themselves can be a bit boring, but it’s worth visiting simply to see inside the Houses of Parliament. You’ll get to see the 1,000-year-old Westminster Hall, the beautiful St. Stephen’s Hall, and stand in the Central Lobby where they do all the interviews on the 10 o’clock news.

If you don’t mind writing to your MP a few months in advance then you can request a ticket for Prime Minister’s Questions instead.

3 View from the Sky Garden

Sky GardenPhoto: Craig Cross
Opening times?
10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Fri); 11 AM to 9 PM (Sat-Sun); Last entry 1 hour before closing
Time required?
A typical visit takes 1 hour (but more if you plan to stop and eat in the restaurant)

If somebody told you what was at the top of this skyscraper before you saw it, then you would never believe them. There’s a tropical garden up there! The top floors of the Sky Garden are like a big greenhouse filled with palm trees, plants and jungle ferns. They even pump some of that warm misty spray out of the pipes to keep it all at the right temperature.

The windows are triple height and you can look straight down into the Tower of London and get a great view of Tower Bridge and the City skyscrapers. And they’ve got an open-air balcony as well if you don’t mind getting your hair all blown about.

4 Changing the Guard at Horse Guards and Dismounting Ceremony

Dismounting CeremonyPhoto: Craig Cross

There are two more parades that you might be interested in visiting. The first one is Changing the Guard at Horse Guards. The big difference between this and the one outside Buckingham Palace is that this parade has horses instead of musical bands, but it does have the advantage of being a lot less crowded.

It takes place in two different areas so you won’t be able to see the whole thing from start to finish. We recommend standing on the parade ground rather than inside the courtyard.

The second parade is the daily Dismounting Ceremony which takes place inside the courtyard at Horse Guards. This is a good choice if you have little kids because it doesn’t take very long so there’s not so much standing around.

5 Evensong at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral

Evensong at Westminster Abbey

A church service might not be everybody’s idea of a fun holiday activity, but these are not ordinary church services – and they’re not ordinary churches either! Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral both hold choral services in the evening, and they’re a great way to see inside both buildings for free.

Craig has attended both of these services and if he had to choose one over the other then he’d definitely pick the Evensong at Westminster Abbey. The pews are arranged in the North and South Transept so you’re treated to a fine view of the golden altar and famous Cosmati pavement. But the Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral is worth doing as well.

6 Free museums (British Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and V&A)

British MuseumPhoto: Craig Cross

One of the best things about London is all the free museums and art galleries. And we’re not talking about piddly little museums with lousy exhibits – we’re talking about some of the best museums in the world! Which ones you visit is going to depend on your interests, and whether you have kids, but here’s a selection of the best ones…

The British Museum is great for the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. They’ve also got a lot of Chinese, Japanese and medieval English history.

The Natural History Museum has 69 million specimens including fossils, skeletons and stuffed animals. The dinosaur bones are a particular favourite for children, but they also have a huge collection of rocks and plants, and explain natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanos.

The Science Museum is perfect for kids because it’s full of push-button experiments, simulations, space ships and fast cars. They’ve also got a floor full of airplanes.

7 Free art galleries (National Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern)

National GalleryPhoto: Craig Cross

A lot of London’s art galleries are free, but the best of the bunch is undoubtedly the National Gallery. Its huge collection includes artworks by practically every great painter who ever lived from Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir and Titian, to Turner, Monet, Da Vinci and Van Gogh.

The next best free gallery is Tate Britain, which focuses on British art from the 16th-century onwards.

The Tate Modern is one of the most visited attractions in London, and focuses on modern art. It’s one of those places that you’re either going to love or hate.

8 View from One New Change

View from One New ChangePhoto: Craig Cross
Opening times?
Roof terrace: 6 AM to midnight (Mon-Sun) · Shops: 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Wed, Fri-Sat); 10 AM to 8 PM (Thu); 12 noon to 6 PM (Sun)
Time required?
A typical visit takes 20-30 mins

Hardly any tourists know about the view from One New Change which is a shame, because it’s actually rather great! It’s basically just a big shopping centre but they have an open-air terrace on the roof.

You get a great view of St. Paul’s Cathedral, plus a distant view of Parliament and the London Eye.

9 Covent Garden street entertainers

Covent GardenPhoto: Craig Cross
Time required?
A typical visit takes 45-60 mins (but more if you plan to stop and eat)

Walking around London can be a tiring business, and sometimes you just want to sit down and rest… that’s where Covent Garden comes in. The central piazza is full of cafes with pavement seats where you can be entertained by the street performers.

If you sit downstairs then you can usually find some classical buskers and opera singers, whereas the big square outside might have anything from acrobats and fire-eaters to clowns and comedians.

10 View from Greenwich Hill, Primrose Hill and Parliament Hill

Greenwich ParkPhoto: Craig Cross

At 203-feet Primrose Hill is a bit of a climb, but its position north of Regent’s Park gives you a fine view of London Zoo. You should also be able to pick out the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s and The Shard.

Greenwich Hill is a bit further away but gives you an even better view that spans the entire stretch of the river from the London Eye to the O2 Arena.

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