London can be pretty expensive, and is often considered as one of the most expensive city of the world. When you travel on a budget, this is not a good news ! One of the biggest expenses for a traveler is accommodation and a crappy accommodation in London will cost you one arm and one leg. So.. better save your money on other things and enjoy for free what the capital has to offer.
One of the cheapest thing you can do almost everywhere is to walk and wander around and discover the town and its famous sights. In addition, a lot of museums and galleries are free to access…. and you can eat lunch or relax in one of the numerous parks disseminated around the city.
Here is a list of free things I really enjoyed doing when I was in London last year, maybe it can gives you some ideas :
Westminster Abbey is one of the most incredible example of English Gothic architecture at its finest ! It is also famous because every monarch has been crowded here. There is a fee to visit the church, but some parts are free, including the Cloisters and the College Garden. The cloisters were used by the monks for meditation and exercise, and were built between the 13th and the 15th century. It’s a very quiet place, often neglected by tourists who preferred to pay and see the church itself.
Victoria Tower Gardens
It can be quite tricky to enjoy Big Ben alongside tons of crazy tourists that want to take a picture of this iconic Londonian landmark. If you want to find a quiet spot to enjoy this area of London, you can walk along Houses of Parliament, then make you way to the Victoria Tower Gardens nearby. From there, you can have a view on the river and on the London Eye. It’s quite pretty, you can even enjoy a picnic over there as you can buy something to eat at the supermarket nearby.
Trafalgar Square is a vibrant open space and A LOT of people are packed there. But it’s this vibrant aspect that makes it interesting. Around, you can find the National Gallery, an art museum where you can admire amazing paintings (from Leonardo da Vinci, to Monet).
St James’s park
This park is the oldest of the capital’s eight Royal Parks and is situated at a walking distance from many others famous sights, such as Big Ben or Westminster abbey.
There is a lake in the middle of it, and therefore a lot of bird life, including pelicans and wild ducks. You can also find plenty of grey squirrels that will try to steal a bit of your food if you don’t pay attention. This is an ideal place to relax, and if you like flowers, they have nice beds all around the lake with very colourful specimens !
The Palace Gardens is an intimate, tranquil and secluded oasis, currently the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. An arched arbour of red-twigged lime, known as the Cradle Walk, surrounds the palace garden with arched viewpoints where you can admire the flowers. There are several benches were you can sit down in the shade.
The Natural history museum
The museum is a center for scientific research specialized in conservation and has many collections of historical value, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin. I had the chance to go there for a conference, and visit the museum “behind the scenes” and that was truly incredible ! The museum is free of access and if you go early (and choose the secret entrance) you will avoid the crowds :-)
Camden Lock Village
I think this must the most peculiar place of London ! You can find amazing street Art, from tags scrawled on to walls to weird and colourful pieces… Everything is so vibrant over there !
I went there in early morning (and I think it’s the best time to enjoy it as no one is there). This is a hot spot when it comes to international food. On the lower level of Camden Lock Market you have food stalls from nearly every country in the world and I was tempted by so many including the Columbian Street Food, Falafel Time or Feed me primal. Since it was early, I sat down on one bench, had a coffee, and look at them preparing the food. It was a nice experience. It was deserted, and amazing.
King’s Cross St Pancras
If you are fan of Harry Potter and have a few minutes to spare before taking your train, have a look at the Harry Potter Shop and see the platform 9 3/4 :-)
Of course, there are many things to do for free when you are in London, and don’t limit yourself to these examples. The purpose of this entry was to illustrate that it’s really possible to enjoy London on a budget, not to make a list of everything available :-)