10 Free Things to do in London

9:10 PM


London is notorious for being expensive. As an American living there for the last year and dealing with the exchange rate, nothing was ever cheap. I spent most of my money on coffee and alcohol, or going to concerts, but there's plenty to see and do in the city that doesn't cost a pence.
1. BOROUGH MARKET
Nearest Tube station: London Bridge
Borough Market is located in Southwark next to the Shard and is home to some of the most delicious bakes and street food in the city. Wander around and sample some food, buy fresh produce, and enjoy the atmosphere. You’ll be able to find a wide assortment of food, including pies, Scottish eggs, puddings, honey, truffle oil, produce, Thai food, and fresh seafood. If all that food shopping is making you thirsty, make sure to visit Maltby Market and all the breweries surrounding it (it’s just a short seven minute walk away).

2. MUSEUMS
Nearest Tube stations: South Kensington, Leicester Square, Embankment, Sloane Square, Blackfriars
This probably goes without saying, but you need to see some of London’s museums. All of the museums are free, although special exhibits are typically twenty pounds. I spent a majority of my free time going to various museums and galleries, as the collections are constantly changing and rotating. My favorite ones were the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, and the Saatchi Gallery. There are over fifty museums and galleries scattered throughout the city for you to enjoy. If you work during the day, there are often museum late nights, which happen about once a month on Friday if you want to see the galleries at night.

3. PARKS
Nearest Tube stations: High Street Kensington, Kentish Town, Baker Street
This is also obvious, but make sure to go to some parks, which are all free. Although it does rain a bit in London, try to go to a few parks. These are great for exploring, picnicking, reading, paddle boating, and just escaping the chaos of the city. I loved bringing a picnic with my friends and drinking prossecco, and during the summer I had a blast paddle boating on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, but you can also swim in Hampstead Heath’s ponds. During the winter, Hyde Park hosts Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, a free winter carnival. You can even get a great view of the city from Primrose Hill in Hyde Park and Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath. Make use of these public spaces and escape the busy streets of London for some fresh air. My favorites were: Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.

4. CAMDEN MARKET
Nearest Tube station: Camden Town
Camden Market was always my go-to when I didn’t know what to do in the city. Head on the Northern line and get off at Camden Town to explore the marketplace and find new clothing, jewelry, search for your favorite vinyl, and try some street food at Kerb. There’s always something for everyone at Camden. There was recently a fire at the market, but make sure to continue to support it and all the small stands.
5. EAST LONDON STREET ART
Nearest Tube station: Old Street
Head to Shoreditch and Hackney to find some of the best street art in the city. You can go on street art walking tours, or wander around and see murals by Brick Lane and the Boxpark. Google street art in advance if you’re looking for a specific mural or Bansky piece, or just take your time and enjoy the east side of the city and all it has to offer.

6. WATCH THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Nearest Tube station: Green Park
It doesn’t matter if you’re a local or a tourist – the changing of the guard is a must.  Head to Buckingham Palace and watch this at 11 am (get there early for a good view) on Monday, Wednesday or Friday. This is a classic example of British culture and is quite the event (it lasts 45 minutes). So make sure to grab your camera and bring some snacks if you’re planning to get there early and enjoy the show.

7. SHOP ON OXFORD STREET
Nearest Tube station: Marble Arch, Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street
Oxford Street is one of the most famous shopping streets in the world. You’ll be able to find all your favorite stores here, as well as the British department store Selfridges, all on the same street. The main shopping part extends from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road for over a mile. If you’re not planning to shop, you can window shop and get your daily steps in while watching tourists and locals alike dodge in and out of shops. Or if you want some entertainment, wait until Zara has a sale and watch the chaos unfold.
 
8. PORTOBELLO MARKET
Nearest Tube station: Notting Hill
Feel like an extra from the movie Notting Hill and walk along the pastel-painted houses while shopping for antiques and thrifted clothes. You’ll want to go on either a Friday or Saturday because this is when the most stalls are out. You’ll be able to find vintage football gear, printer trays, books, records, and clothes as you wander down the mile-long stretch, listening to street musicians and watching bloggers take photos in front of the charming Victorian houses. It gets very busy, so go early if you want to avoid crowds (if you’re planning to go to Farm Girl).
 
Nearest Tube station: Monument 
Sky Garden is a bit of a little secret. Located up in the Walkie Talkie, the Sky Garden has a great view of river and southern side of the city. On the top floor you can wander around the garden, enjoy the view, grab a coffee, and chill – all for free. It can be hard to get a reservation to go up (you have to book in advance) so check the website regularly and schedule a time to go up with your family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, whomever.

10. COLUMBIA ROAD FLOWER MARKET (Sunday Only)
Nearest Tube station: Bethnal Green
Head out to Bethnal Green on a Sunday to go to flower market on Columbia Road. Shop for peonies, hydrangea, cacti, succulents, or really any plant you fancy. The road isn’t very wide and gets crowded fast, so make sure you get there early. After you shop for flowers you can window shop in the boutiques, grab a coffee, or head to Shoreditch and show off your new bouquet.


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