London is one of the most iconic cities in the world. With over 30 million visitors per year, the eclectic city offers a booming arts scene, immersive cuisine, and historical sites around every corner. Planning your trip can feel daunting with so much to see and do.
I’ve rounded up some of my favorite totally free and family-friendly activities in London. These sites will immerse you in British culture and leave you feeling inspired and excited about the thriving city. Best of all, these things to do in London will keep more pounds in your pocket to eat a bit more and check out the local pubs.
The National Gallery
You could easily spend an entire afternoon getting lost in the National Gallery, which is home to some of the most famous pieces of art in the world. Located in Trafalgar Square, the gallery houses a collection of over 2,000 paintings which date back to the mid-13th century. Claude Monet’s famous Water Lilly Pond is a must-see.
The British Museum is located in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London. The museum first opened in 1753, and is known for human history, art and culture. It was the first public national museum in the world and famously houses the Rosetta Stone. Be sure to check the gallery floor plans to map out your visit ahead of time. While admission to the main galleries is free of charge, be aware that some special exhibits will cost a small fee.
According to Bon Appétit, Borough Market is “the food market that makes your farmers’ market look dinky”. Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest open markets in London. Located in Southwark, it consists of three unique areas with over 100 vendors. The stalls offer a range of fresh produce, meats, flowers, confectionary, and more—you could easily spend hours walking the passageways, sampling, and people-watching. The market also has free events throughout the year, including cooking demos, tastings, and a cookbook club. Check their events calendar when planning your trip.
Yes, this is the royals’ backyard, no big deal. But Kensington Gardens are also the most exquisite gardens in all of London. Enjoy the magnificence and meticulously-maintained landscape. Part of the Royal Parks of London, the vast grounds cover 270 acres. Be sure to visit the beautifully ornate Price Albert Memorial.
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum is London’s most extensive decorative arts and design museum. It houses over 2.2 million pieces and has hosted temporary exhibitions like “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” in the past.
The V&A is named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and welcomes over 3 million visitors each year. Easily accessible via the tube at the South Kensington stop, the V&A is not to be missed when visiting London.
An iconic London landmark, the Tower Bridge offers a unique view of the city from the River Thames. The bridge is free to cross and offers a perfect photo-op of a beloved British landmark. Traveler tip: while the upper deck of the bridge offers a spectacular (and dizzying) aerial view, it will cost a small admission fee.
Tate Modern is London’s largest museum of contemporary art. The Tate Gallery Family is actually comprised of four different galleries: Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St. Ives, and Tate Modern. The most popular of the four, Tate Modern, has over 78,000 pieces of art by over 4,000 artists. This museum is open seven days a week and also offers free guided tours. Traveler tip: upon arrival, start your visit on the lower level in the Turbine Hall, which is the centerpiece of the museum.
Changing of the Guard
A roughly 45-minute ceremony, the Changing of the Guard is a unique opportunity to see British tradition at its finest. The ceremony includes a formal regiment march accompanied by musical support from rotating royal bands. It begins promptly at 11 a.m. daily and draws a large crowd, so be sure to arrive outside of Buckingham Palace early to secure a good view.
There are many viewing platforms in London, but the Sky Garden offers more than just picturesque views: it’s also a unique public space. The building is exquisitely filled with an array of greenery. The Sky Garden also has an observation deck, an open air platform, restaurant and bar. Pro tip: while admission is free, advanced ticket registration is encouraged.
King’s Cross Station
King’s Cross is sure to appeal to all of you Harry Potter fans out there. This tube station is most famously home to Platform 9 3/4. For those looking for the perfect photo and the opportunity to travel to the wizarding world of Hogwarts, Kings Cross is a must-see.
There is so much to see and do in London; the city is rich in history and culture. Be sure to plan your trip ahead of time and strategically map out your routes. In addition to these attractions, there are many more sites that are free or charge only a small admission fee. What is on your must-see London list? Leave me a comment below and let me know!