Known as the land of Royals and imposing architectures, London is an iconic and a leading global city. But along these titles, London is considered as one of the most expensive cities in the world. Which is why a lot of travellers get intimidated travelling in this English capital. However, backpacking in London is still doable if you know where to go. So here are the top 10 free things to do in London recommended by our expert travel bloggers. A proof that you don’t have to spend ridiculous amount of money in order to explore – even in an expensive city like London.
Table Of Contents
- 1 1. Walk around in Camden Market
- 2 2. Visiting Borough Market
- 3 3. Appreciate the modern arts in Tate Modern
- 4 4. Enjoy panoramic London in 360-degree view from Sky Garden
- 5 5. Witness the Changing of the Guard
- 6 6. Check out the city view from Madisons Rooftop Bar
- 7 7. Stroll along South Bank
- 8 8. Check out local produced products in Spitafield Market
- 9 9. Attending Services at St. Paul’s Cathedral
- 10 10. Climb Primrose Hill
1. Walk around in Camden Market
Camden Market is cultural haven for foodies, artists, and music lovers alike. Starting in 1974, the area of Camden Town began to reinvent itself by subletting their old industrial buildings to local artists and craft vendors. What was once a small, Saturday morning market quickly grew to become the largest market in London, attracting nearly 250,000 visitors per week. Bring your appetite, walking shoes, and people watching skills. Camden market now holds over 1,000 slots for the most unique street food vendors, vintage clothes and accessory shops, cafes, bars, and live music. Whether you’re looking for something to either brighten up your palate or your closet, you’re bound to find something that suits your fancy. Although weekends demonstrate peak hours of activity, you can find Camden Market open 7 days a week, and there’s a good chance you’ll need all seven days to experience all that Camden Market has to offer.
How to get to Camden Market
The easiest way to get to Camden Market is through public transportation, although you can drive there or taxi/uber there yourself. Should you choose to use public transportation you can take either the rail/train or the bus. If taking the rail/train: take the Northern Line and stop at either Camden Town or Chalk farm OR take the London Overground and stop at Camden Road. If you’re using the bus system, these are the buses that will get you to Camden Market: Kings Cross (214), Victoria (24), West End (274) or East London (393).
Source: Jennifer Kanikula of The SoFull Traveler.
2. Visiting Borough Market
London’s most popular food market, Borough Market is loved by Londoners and tourists alike, and is a must-visit for anyone who loves great food. The open market area is surrounded by several permanent shops and restaurants that are also worth a visit.
The market offers a huge array of fresh produce – meat, fish, fruit, vegetables – not to mention cheese (such wonderful cheese), charcuterie, bread and bakery items, honey, truffles, coffee and tea, fresh filled pasta, beers and wines…
Favourites not to miss include Neal’s Yard Dairy, Jumi and The French Comte stall for cheese, Utobeer for a large selection of bottled craft beer, Bread Ahead Bakery for the best doughnuts in London, Turnips for fresh fruit, veg and mushrooms, Tartufaia Truffles for their truffled honey, Furness for game and other meat, and Spice Mountain for a superb range of spices and spice blends.
How to get to Borough Market
Take the London Underground (we Londoners call it the Tube) to London Bridge station – this is closer than the station called Borough. Several bus routes serve the location and you could even travel by boat into London Bridge City Pier, on the commuter catamaran service run by Thames Clippers.
Top Tip: Make a side trip to nearby Maltby Street Market (weekends only), located along Ropewalk, about 15-20 minutes walk or a short bus ride from Borough Market. It’s small but has a fantastic vibe and more great food and drink to enjoy.
Source: Kavita Favelle of Kavey Eats
3. Appreciate the modern arts in Tate Modern
One of the best things about visiting London is how many fabulous museums are free for visitors, and the Tate Modern is no exception. Despite being one of the most famous museums in the world, there’s no admission fee except to go to the special exhibits. The permanent collection is permanently free. The focus of the museum is modern and contemporary art, with collections on topics like the impact of mass media, using new and unusual materials, and the artist’s role in politics. Besides visiting the museum itself, the area is fantastic for walking around and taking in some of the most famous views of the city like St. Paul’s Cathedral directly across the river. Shakespeare’s Globe and London Bridge are both just a short walk away.
How to Get to the Tate Modern
Source: Stephanie Craig of Sofia Adventures
4. Enjoy panoramic London in 360-degree view from Sky Garden
One of the best free things to do in London is to book yourself a visit to the Sky Garden with its 360-degree panoramic views over London. The view of the River Thames to Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf and London Eye is only a portion of what you can see from this amazing garden. Make sure you enjoy your visit with a glass of bubbles from one of the several Sky Garden bars. Maybe stay longer to enjoy a meal at a Sky Garden restaurant as you watch the sunset over the River Thames. No booking is needed if you want to visit between 7 am to 10 am each day. The other option is to book a day and time online more suited to your enjoyment. Time slots open on a Monday for bookings one week ahead. So, make sure you have your day and time prepared as the slots go fast. We chose 4.45pm in Springtime to enjoy the late evening sun with a drink and nibbles. And with a wonderful sub-tropical garden so high up, a stroll around the Sky Garden is a perfect must-see while in London.
How to get to London Sky Garden
The Sky Garden is at the top of the Walkie Talkie Building at 20 Fenchurch Street with concierges available to direct you to the lift entrance. It is only a few minutes walk from the Tower of London with Monument the closest tube station.
Source: Maura of Travel Kiwis
5. Witness the Changing of the Guard
As we crossed Green Park we could see Buckingham Palace in the distance. Buckingham Palace is massively imposing and important looking with its regal gates and large railings surrounding it. This is where the changing of the guard takes place. The Queens Guards have been watching over the Royal Palaces since 1660. The ceremony lasts about 45 minutes, is very traditional and beautifully choreographed. It pays to check online the times for the changing of the guard as they don’t do it every day. I would also suggest arriving at least 45 minutes before the ceremony, so you get a good spot.
The Changing of the Guard is when the Old Guard passes their duties onto the New Guard. The New Guard marched in at 11 am (sharp) and was accompanied by a military band which even played the James Bond theme. It was quite an experience standing outside the palace, listening to the band and watching the guards. You forget about the crowds surrounding you. After the band finished they all marched off again. As they disappeared into the distance and the last strands of the band drifted away, the crowd dispersed, all was calm again.
How to get to Buckingham Palace
Source: Jem of Little Adventures NZ
6. Check out the city view from Madisons Rooftop Bar
How to get to Madisons Rooftop Bar
Source: Greta of Gretas Travels
7. Stroll along South Bank
South Bank is one of the city’s premier cultural districts and simply begs to be explored. Start off on the south side of Westminster Bridge and enjoy postcard views of Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. After strolling past the London Eye, stop to enjoy street performers and musicians entertaining the crowds. In warmer months, Underbelly Festival plays host to performances, live acts and pop-up bars.
Continue to the Southbank Centre, home to galleries, live music and a vibrant street food market (Fri-Sun). Stop at Insta-friendly Southbank Skatepark before browsing books at the daily market under Waterloo Bridge.
Amble on to Gabriel’s Wharf and enjoy stunning views of the Thames and the skyline. There are restaurants, cafes and shops to explore while artists sculpt elaborate sand sculptures on a small beach. Look up to see the historic Oxo Tower before making your way to Tate Modern – one of the world’s most famous art galleries.
Next, catch a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe or grab a riverside drink at the 17th century The Anchor pub. Finish your walk at the renowned Borough Market – where delicious street food and fresh produce await. Ambling along London’s South Bank is one of the best ways to enjoy a few hours in the capital.
How to get to South Bank
Westminster, Waterloo, Embankment and London Bridge Underground stations all allow easy access to South Bank.
Source: Alexei Gaynanov of Travel Lexx
8. Check out local produced products in Spitafield Market
How to get to Spitafield Market
Source: Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery
9. Attending Services at St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was designed by Christopher Wren and constructed at the turn of the 18th century, has one of the world’s largest and most famous church domes. While there is an admission fee to tour the Cathedral, there is no fee to attend services. On our last visit, our family really enjoyed the Choral Evensong service we attended. Before the service began, we had a few minutes to wander around the nave before we took our seats. Our kids were entranced by the beautiful singing in this stunning English Baroque Cathedral. It was truly an amazing experience to enjoy beautiful music and architecture simultaneously.
How to get to St. Paul’s Cathedral
The most direct way to get to St. Paul’s Cathedral is to take the Underground to the St. Paul stop. However, we prefer to approach St. Paul’s by crossing the River Thames over the Millennium Bridge from the Tate Modern.
Source: Catherine D’Cruz of We Go With Kids
10. Climb Primrose Hill
Located on the north side of Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill offers one of the most iconic views of London. Purchased from Eton College in 1841 to extend parkland for London residents, Primrose Hill has been a natural historic landmark for centuries. The steep climb to reach the summit, 63 meters above sea level, is well worth it as 360° panoramic views of London’s skyline awaits. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic as a quiet solitude surrounds you while marveling the spectacular London skyline!
How to get to Primrose Hill
Located in Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill is a fifteen-minute walk from Camden Town and Chalk Farm. The nearest tube station is Chalk Farm and is an eight-minute walk from the tube station.
Source: Heather Rader of Ohio Girl Travels
Looking to visit London soon and don’t know where to stay yet? Check out the list of awesome hotels in London here.
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