1. Art Galleries
Tate Modern and Tate Britain are exceptional national art galleries housing some of the finest artworks in the world. Tate Modern focuses on contemporary art while Tate Britain displays British Art from the sixteenth century to the present day.
Other major London art galleries include the National Portrait Galleryand the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. I would also recommendThe Wallace Collection as it’s just off Oxford Street so a perfect escape from a busy shopping spree.
All of London’s major museums are free, but most offer some special exhibitions for a fee. My favorite is the Museum of London where you can learn the history of London from Roman times to today. And I love the Geffrye Museum which shows English domestic interiors and helps bring to life what it was really like to live in London. The Horniman Museum is another good day out – you have to see the over-stuffed walrus!
And remember, many of the major art galleries and museums stay open late.
I regularly hear people tell me the Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens in Regent’s Park is their favorite spot in London, and who am I to argue? I would also recommend St. James’s Park as it offers one of the best views of Buckingham Palace. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (side by side) are enormous and includes the ever popular Diana Memorial Playground and the Peter Pan Statue.
No visit to London is complete without seeing this military tradition. The Queen’s Guard in London changes in the Forecourt inside the gates ofBuckingham Palace at 11.30am every day in the summer and every other day in the winter. Get there early and view the spectacle from outside the front gates.
5. South Bank
It really is amazing how many London landmarks you can see along this stretch of the River Thames including The London Eye and Tate Modern. You can download free walking tours of the South Bank area from Walk This Way.
Trafalgar Square is one of Britain’s greatest visitor attractions and was designed by John Nash in the 1820s and constructed in the 1830s. This iconic square has many sights to see including Nelson’s Column and theNational Gallery. It is both a tourist attraction and the main focus for political demonstrations. Every December, Norway donates a marvelousChristmas tree, to thank Britain for liberation from the Nazis.
7. Street Performers
The West Piazza of Covent Garden Market has street performers to entertain you every afternoon. Good acts can draw huge crowds and the performers love to get audience members to help them with their act. All performers are licensed and have passed an audition to perform here.
London is well-known for its popular street markets. The most popular are Camden Market and Portobello Market, following closely by Greenwich Market. Find out about these markets and more:
- London Street Market’s Guide
- Camden Market Guide
- Portobello Market Guide
- Greenwich Market Guide
- Old Spitalfields Market Guide
- Brick Lane Market Guide (Sundays only)
- Petticoat Lane Market Guide
- Columbia Flower Market (Sunday mornings only)
- Borough Market
You can see inside Westminster Abbey for free. The Abbey never charges people who want to worship but they rely on admission fees from visitors to cover running costs. Evensong is the most beautiful of services where the Abbey choir sings. The Choristers of the Choir are educated at Westminster Abbey Choir School and are all extremely talented. Evensong is at 5pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, plus at 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
10. Free Music
- Southbank Centre has lots of free music and other events and there’s Free foyer concertsat the National Theatre, also on the South Bank.
- Free Monday lunchtime recitals at the Royal Opera House.
- Regular free lunchtime concerts at St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
- Saturdays at Notting Hill Arts Club, see Rough Trade’s free showcase.
See: Free Music in London for full details.
There are loads more free things to do in London. Keep an eye on the London for Free section as it is regularly updated.
OK, one more for luck…
Watch a Trial at the Old Bailey
The Old Bailey is probably the most famous criminal court in the world. You can watch the proceedings from the public galleries from 10am, Monday to Friday.
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