Despite London being an expensive city to live in, it’s actually a surprisingly affordable destination to visit. Better still, there are hundreds of things to see and do without ever having to put your hand in your pocket. From parks and walking tours to historic buildings, galleries and museums, the list of free activities is endless. Here are three of the best free attractions in England's magnificent capital city.
The Royal Parks
When the sun shines on the city there’s no better place to be than at the eight green spaces collectively known as The Royal Parks. It seems that everyone, their families, and their pets venture outside to picnic, play games, fly kites, ride boats, and sunbathe at these stunning public parks. The parks occupy 5,000 acres of historic parkland with many playing host to heritage buildings, memorials, and monuments. They are also locations for year-round events such as concerts, exhibitions, markets and, theater productions.
In the heart of the city, the neighboring Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are among the busiest of the parks. See the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, The Albert Memorial and Queen Caroline’s Temple. Browse contemporary art at the Serpentine Gallery, listen to people talking at Speaker’s Corner and take the kids to the Diana Playground. Spot free-roaming deer, varied birdlife and colorful wildflowers at Richmond Park. The formal gardens of Regent’s Park resemble the scene of a period drama. Primrose Hill stands above this park and is London’s finest natural viewpoint. There’s few things more quintessential London than watching the pelicans from the comfort of a deckchair in St. James’s Park.
Start planning your visit to The Royal Parks.
Fancy seeing works by Old Masters, dinosaur skeletons, and artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome — all for free? Then head along to dozens of art galleries and museums that open their doors without asking for a penny. Art lovers rejoice in the chance to peruse paintings by Botticelli, Da Vinci, and Van Gogh at The National Gallery. Meanwhile, the Tate Modern showcases the best in contemporary and modern art from around the world. Get acquainted with British artists at the Tate Britain and appreciate the talents of Frida Kahlo and Picasso at the Whitechapel Gallery.
You could spend days, weeks, even months, touring the vast collections of the British Museum. There’s everything from Egyptian mummies to Pantheon sculptures and the Rosetta Stone to discover here. Meet birds, creepy crawlies, dinosaurs, mammals and reptiles at the Natural History Museum. The Museum of London takes you on a through-the-ages journey of the history of the city and the Grant Museum of Zoology has over 60,000 zoological artifacts.
Find out about more free galleries and museums via the official website of Visit London.
The Changing of the Guard
Head to Buckingham Palace on any given day at 10:45 a.m. to experience British pomp and pageantry at its best. The Changing of the Guard is an elaborate 45-minute-long ceremony performed by the soldiers of The Queen’s guard, who are responsible for protecting the official residences of the Royal Family. Dressed in their iconic red tunics and bearskin hats, the Old Guard lines up outside the gates of Buckingham Palace. Before relinquishing their duties, they await the arrival of the New Guard from nearby Wellington Barracks accompanied by a marching band. Listen as the band plays a mix of military songs, hits by The Beatles (among other music legends) and theme tunes from movies such as Star Wars. Then look on as the guards march, perform sword salutes and complete the handover procedure.
Arrive early to grab an optimal viewing spot at the palace forecourt, on the steps of Victoria Memorial or along Spur Road. Here’s some more useful tips for attending the Changing of the Guard.