London can be expensive. I’ve visited a few times, and I can easily drop $50 and wonder where in the world it went.
For London visitors on a budget, I wanted to offer a few ideas for low- and no-cost activities. This blog post will cover my fave freebies.
The Imperial War Museum
Admission is FREE
Open daily from 10am – 6pm except December 24, 25, 26
This is, hands down, the most amazing museum I’ve ever visited (even better than the one in Gettysburg, if you can believe it). The Holocaust exhibit seems to still be operating, and it was incredible. Oh, just don’t take any photos within special exhibits like that one.
Don’t miss these sights, made famous in a lot of movies (this bridge was depicted as collapsing in a Harry Potter movie). The Millennium Bridge is a funky-looking pedestrian-only steel-suspension bridge that crosses the River Thames. The south end is near the Globe Theatre. The north end is near the City of London School below St. Paul’s Cathedral. The bridge isn’t far from the Southbank.
The Southbank is host to many exciting events, as well as some nightlife and dining, most all of which costs money. The famous London Eye is there, and they have Christmas markets November to January (always double-check dates). I’ve also seen where they have wine tastings and art/cultural venues like the National Theatre.
You don’t need to spend money to have fun at the Southbank, though. Walking around is fun, and the area offers fantastic photo opportunities with the River Thames as the backdrop. It’s also a stone’s throw from Big Ben and Westminster Abbey!
From the Southbank, cross over the Thames again and check out Westminster. There you’ll find sights like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey (where Kate Middleton married Prince Harry), and Buckingham Palace.
Of course, like everything, you’ll have to pay to access tourist sites (worshipers can access Westminster Abbey for free, but tourists must pay), but it’s loads of fun to just walk around and take photos. If you’re brave enough, do snap a photo with a beefeater (the nickname for the Royal Guard) outside Buckingham Palace. But don’t touch or harass them. They may wear funny hats, but they are part of the Queen’s highly trained guard and are not to be trifled with.
FYI, tours of Big Ben and Elizabeth Tower are often free, but they’ve been SUSPENDED until 2021 as these sights undergo restoration.
Sun: 12pm – 6:30pm
Mon – Sat: 10am – 12am
Located in Leicester (pronounced Lester) Square
M&M’s World is a four-level shop fully dedicated to M&M’s candy. You might think this is one to skip, but these shops are only located in a few places across the globe, and they are fully dedicated to whatever city/country they’re in. For instance, the one in London has a mockup Abbey Road with life-size M&M’s depicting the Fab Four.
Don’t forget to do a walk-through of the four levels and see if you can figure out what famous scenes are being depicted in the various “paintings” hanging the walls (M&M style, of course). My favorites include Robin Hood, the Red Baron being pursued by an English fighter pilot from WWII, and Shakespeare.
King’s Cross and St. Pancras Stations
These railway stations are adjacent and are fun to visit. Not only are there amazing statues (the 30-foot “The Meeting Place” statue of the famous couple kissing is at St. Pancras). I love checking out the Eurostar trains, too. These are the ones that travel to Paris via the Chunnel (channel tunnel) beneath the English Channel.
Harry Potter fans can also take a photo at the platform 9 ¾ from the movie (there’s even a shopping cart that looks like it’s disappearing into a wall!).
Open daily from 5am – Midnight
This sprawling green park is a great place for jogging, walking, and cycling. It also has horse riding, boating, and tennis, and there’s a Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain.
Famous (or some may say “infamous”) street artists and political activists have left their mark across London. Street art is becoming popular across the globe, actually, as other cutting edge artists crop up.
I haven’t seen any artwork in London yet, but I have in Paris.
Other fun stuff to do in London