On our first day in London, we saw five important sites without paying a dime… er, excuse me, a pence, toward entrance fees. The $20 was spent on tube fare and… well, beer. Anyway, the point of this post is to help you find awesome things to do in London without spending too much money. The list below details an actual day we spent in London–and loved it.
Here’s a quick list of five sites you can see in London for free.
1. Changing of the Guards
Contrary to what it may seem, the Changing of the Guards ceremony does not take place at the same time every day in accordance with the shift change. It doesn’t even happen every day. But, if you’re able to get to Buckingham Palace in time, you can catch a glimpse of the ages-old ceremony from outside the palace.
To find out the schedule, check here. (It’s a link to the Royal Collection Trust website.)
2. Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is an important city hub. From it, you can see statues, busy streets, all types of people, and museums, namely the incredible (and huge) National Gallery. While it may not seem that a city block should be a destination, it is one well worth seeing. We visited it twice and were enthralled both times.
3. Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection is known as a bit of a hidden gem (which seems like an oxymoron; if it’s “hidden,” how does it also have a reputation?) In some ways, it sits in the shadows of the National Gallery, but in others, it stands out completely. It is frequently described as “more manageable,” both because of its size and because of the smaller crowds. Its rooms are all distinct from one another, featuring carefully arranged artwork placed on stunning backdrops of French silk wall coverings and window dressings. (Seriously, the wall coverings themselves are spectacular.) But if you’re not much for decor, you still may be interested in seeing the largest collection of armor in Europe… and you can even try on a chain mail jacket, headpiece, and a covering of armor.
4. Kyoto Garden (Holland Park)
Kyoto Garden is placed in Holland Park, and really is a small attraction. In its center is a waterfall feeding into a koi pond, a water feature surrounded by peacocks, very bold squirrels, and other animals that are fun to watch. While the garden itself is lovely and peaceful, it is tiny. However, it’s worth the trek to Kensington (the neighborhood) because from it, you can take a stroll through the lovely Holland Park and may even stop to see a show.
5. Big Ben/Westminster Bridge
You can, of course, tour these two locations. However, if you’re visiting for the first time, I’d recommend simply planning to stop and admire the two infamous structures before making any plans to go in. You can view both clearly from a park with a striking statue of Winston Churchill and several other prominent Brits of ages past. Or, if you’re in the mood for a pint, check out St. Stephen’s Tavern, where you can stand outside and toast to Big Ben.
You can also see the National Gallery for free (which is in Trafalgar Square), but we opted not to see it that day because it is massive.
This little introductory tour of London required a lot of walking and a little bit of time spent with the map of the tube.
Do you have favorite cheap and/or free things to do in London? Should we add them to our list of things to do on our next visit?