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Explore things to do for free in London

London is crammed with tourist attractions, with a gallery, a theatre, a sporting venue or a historical feature on every other street corner, drawing people from around the world. However, London can be an expensive place to visit.

Our London hostels provide high-quality, value accommodation, but we can also help you to find a range of great activities to enjoy during your stay, which crucially won’t break the bank. Here’s our guide to the top things to do for free in England’s capital.

Notting Hill Carnival

Every August Bank Holiday, London’s Notting Hill becomes home to Europe’s biggest street festival –the world-famous Notting Hill Carnival. With live music from Caribbean bands, amazing street food, colourful costumes, street parades and plenty, plenty more, ‘Carnival’ is a must see if you happen to be in London over the bank holiday period. And what’s more it’s free to enter, so it should high up on your list of things to do for free in London! Be warned though, you will need cash to buy food and drink and it does get super-busy, especially at surrounding tube stations which serve the area – so make sure you’re well prepared for one of the biggest days in London’s social calendar.

Stay: YHA London Earl’s Court

Free museums

London’s range of museums is huge, and thankfully, a good number of them are accessible to the public for absolutely nothing. For something specific, head to the Imperial War Museum. The museum charts the history of modern warfare, from the First World War to more recent conflicts such as the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland and allows you to learn more about the clashes which have helped to shape Britain in the last 100 years. Alternatively, head to a museum with a broader subject matter such as the British Museum, which is particularly interesting if you are keen on anthropology and ancient history with its unique collection of treasures from numerous cultures from around the world.

Stay: YHA London Central

Changing of the Guard

If you’re a first timer to London, the chances are you’re going to want to catch a glimpse of Buckingham Palace, one of the UK’s, and indeed the world’s, most iconic and photographed buildings. A key feature of the palace is the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place frequently throughout the week, and sees the New Guard take over from the Old Guard in the duty of looking after the Queen’s most renowned residence. What a fantastic thing to do for free in London for all the family.

Stay: YHA London Oxford Street

Portobello Road

If you like things to do for free in London, chances are you’ll like a bargain too. And while you’ll have to get your wallet out if you want to purchase anything, a visit to Portobello Road Market costs nothing until something fabulous catches your eye and you can’t resist! Saturday is the best day to go, as the road goes into full street market mode, with antique arcades, vintage clothes and general bric-a-brac stalls, and even fruit and veg vendors. The road is awash with colour and vibrancy, and it really does provide an exciting day out for all the family.

Stay: YHA London St Pancras

Make a photo album

If you’re looking for free things to do in London, why not make a photo album? London is littered with famous landmarks and sights which have significant relevance within popular culture, meaning that it’s also one of the most photographed (and indeed photogenic) cities in the world. Create some mementoes and take a tour of the city with a camera in hand, snapping to your heart’s content! Whether it’s the zebra crossing on Abbey Road, the iconic Globe Theatre, the Royal Albert Hall or just the classic tube signs at Baker Street underground station made famous by Sherlock Holmes, there’s plenty of fun to be had in exploring London for the sole purpose of snapping. Charge up your camera or phone and hit the streets!

Stay: YHA London St Pancras

Free art galleries

Much like its range of museums with free entry, London is also blessed with a number of art galleries and exhibitions which are free to enter for members of the public, so visiting the art galleries should definitely be on your ‘things to do for free in London’ list. If world-renowned masterpieces are what you are after, then pay a visit to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, where you’ll be able to enjoy works by famous names including Van Gogh, Da Vinci and Constable. Alternatively, if you prefer a more modern, laid-back vibe, there are plenty of galleries presenting stimulating art to enjoy freely. If you’re a fan of Banksy, then pop along to the Hang-Up Gallery in Stoke Newington, where a room has been set aside – dedicated to one of Britain’s most notorious (and elusive) artists. Elsewhere, Tate Modern and White Cube Hoxton Square will also provide cutting-edge, ‘out there’ pieces for you to enjoy free of charge.

Stay: YHA London Oxford Street

Tag along with a free walking tour

One of the best ways to learn more about London and to get to grips with the scale and size of the city is to join up with a free London walking tour. Whether it’s a tour around Westminster, a street art tour, a food tour or simply an all-in-one tour, there are numerous tours which run daily throughout the year, allowing you to get your bearings and a taste for the city before you explore the city for yourself. One that we recommend is the  Undiscovered London walking tour, which introduces visitors to key aspects of London’s history and takes roughly two hours from its starting point daily at Green Park.

YHA Stay: YHA London Central

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Written by Ruby Higton

Here is Ruby and she is a digital marketer at YHA. She looks after all things social media, as well as content writing for and SEO. Her favourite hostel is YHA Perranporth.

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ActivitiesExplore things to do for free in London