If you're looking for things to do in London on a budget, you've come to the right place. The capital has a bit of a reputation for being expensive, and that's not wrong. But there are plenty of free and budget-friendly activities and experiences you can enjoy all over the city without worrying about burning a hole in your pocket. From free classical music concerts to award-winning free museums, here's our guide to cheap activities to enjoy in London.
Guide to budget-friendly activities in London
In this guide
- Sir John Soane's Museum – The home of Sir John Soane
- Natural History Museum – All about the natural world
- Tate Britain – A journey through British art
- Science Museum – One for the science lovers
- Holland Park – A breath of fresh air in west London
- Brick Lane – An East End gem
- Beigel Bake – A Brick Lane mainstay
- G Kelly – A Roman Road legend
- The V&A – The leading art and design museum
- Hackney City Farm – Farming in the city
- British Museum – Two million years of human history and culture
- Backyard Comedy Club – Comedy in the East End
- Broadway Market – Vibes all round
- Portobello Road Market – An age-old West London market
- Columbia Road Flower Market – An East End rite
- Sky Garden – One of the best views of the city skyline
- Primrose Hill – Views on views on views
- Greenwich Park – Eat, drink, play and learn
- Barbican Centre – Brutalist at its best
- Abney Park Cemetery – One of the Magnificent Seven
- National Portrait Gallery – The first portait gallery to exist
- Saatchi Gallery – The place to go for up-and-coming artists
- The Wallace Collection – A glimpse back in time
- Leadenhall Market – A historical market in central London
- Borough Market – A 1,000-year-old market
- Camden Market – Camden's eclectic market
- Highgate Cemetery – The burial site of Karl Marx
- St. Paul's Cathedral – A London landmark
- Museum of the Home – The evolution of the home
- London Mithraeum – A sliver of roman history
- The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & UnNatural History – Something wildly different
- The Hardy Tree – A grisly past
- Word on the Water – A quirky bookshop and events space
- Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park – One of London's Magnificent Seven
- St James's Park – Pelicans with a hint of royalty
- Hampstead Heath Ponds – A classic Londoner activity
- Billingsgate Roman House and Baths – A notable Roman discovery
- Richmond Park – A breath of fresh air in the city
- London Transport Museum – The history and future of transport in London
- Walthamstow Wetlands – A slice of nature in the East End
- Genesis – The oldest cinema in east London
- Stepney City Farm – Seasonality at Stepney City Farm
- St Martin-in-the-Fields – Free musical concerts
- Cheap cuts – Afforable hair treatments in the city
- London Cable Car – Scenic way to cross the Thames
- Ghostsigns – A different kind of street art
- Peckhamplex – Cheap local cinema
The home of Sir John Soane
Explore the former home of one of the greatest British architects, Sir John Soane, an architectural gem that is free to visit. His home has been kept exactly as it was left when he died, with rooms filled with all sorts of treasures, from art and antiquities to antiques and books.
All about the natural world
The Natural History Museum is a free-to-visit museum and is one of the most visited and interesting spots in the whole city. It houses over 80 million objects dating back billions of years, including Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species, hundreds of taxidermy animals, a giant blue whale skeleton and much more.
A journey through British art
Get up close to some of the most impressive classic artwork at Tate Britain, where you can visit for free and explore how art has evolved from the 16th century up to the present day. The permanent collection is free to visit, but there's also a programme of exhibitions that take place throughout the year that are often well worth a visit for a small price.
One for the science lovers
This Science Museum is the ultimate hub for great scientific achievements, and what's more, it's free to visit. Explore the interactive flight simulator, discover how motion theatre was invented and see the oldest display of clocks and watches worldwide, plus much more. It's a must for lovers of anything and everything science-related.
A breath of fresh air in west London
Escape the hustle and bustle of busy London life at the largest park in Kensington and Chelsea, Holland Park. This stunning park is home to an impressive Jacobean mansion steeped in history and a Japanese-style Kyoto garden where iridescent peacocks roam freely.
An East End gem
Brick Lane runs from Bethnal Green to Whitechapel and is the place to go for food, fashion and East End bargains. It's a paradise for vintage lovers; countless vintage shops line the street, and there's a bustling weekend market packed with a treasure trove of pre-loved goodies. As for the food, you can enjoy one of the best curries in London on Brick Lane, street food at the weekend market and iconic bagels from Beigel Bake.
A Brick Lane mainstay
Aside from vintage shops and curry houses, Brick Lane is also home to the most famous bagel shop in London, Beigel Bake. In the late 19th century, Spitalfields was home to a thriving Jewish community when Beigel Bake was established. It's open 24 hours a day, and people flock to get a taste of their well-priced, famous salt beef bagels (make sure you ask for mustard and pickles).
A Roman Road legend
G Kelly is a Roman Road mainstay and has served Londoners its iconic pie, mash, liquor and jellied eels since the early 1920s. It's a must for anyone looking to experience an authentic slice of the East End for a really cheap price. They also serve vegan options for those following a plant-based diet.
The leading art and design museum
The V&A Museum is free to visit and is the leading art and design museum in the country. It’s home to more than 2.8 million objects that date back over 5,000 years. There’s a permanent collection on display and regular exhibitions that are usually well worth a visit.
Farming in the city
Hackney City Farm is a working urban farm in the heart of Bethnal Green. It's home to various adorable farm animals, a farm shop, educational experiences and more, and it offers a welcome respite from the fast-paced city life for free.
Two million years of human history and culture
The British Museum is a treasure trove of some of the world’s most important and interesting artefacts and antiquities. From Mesopotamian objects to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, you could spend a week exploring The British Museum and still not even scratch the surface. What's more, it doesn't cost a penny to enter.
Comedy in the East End
Backyard Comedy Club has played a vital role in the East End comedy scene since it opened more than 20 years ago. The stage has welcomed some iconic comedians, like Harry Hill, Jo Brand, James Acaster and more. You can often catch performances for a small price, but there are also free nights where emerging talent come to practise their new content.
Vibes all round
This Victorian street market is located in Hackney and was a popular route during the Roman period. Today, it’s home to more than 70 shops, cafes and restaurants and is an excellent spot to stroll on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
An age-old West London market
Portobello Road Market has been around for more than 150 years and is the world’s largest antique market. You’ll find over a mile of stalls selling vintage treasures, street food, restored antiques and more. If you’re planning to visit on a Saturday, try to get down there early as it tends to get busy.
An East End rite
Every Sunday, hundreds flock to Columbia Road to pick up their blooms for the week from the flower market; it's a Sunday ritual for a lot of Londoners. The street is lined with sixty independent businesses, from art galleries and vintage clothes shops to delis and antique shops. It's a wonderful place to while away a few hours on a sunny Sunday morning.
One of the best views of the city skyline
For one of the best views in the city that won't cost you a penny, head to Sky Garden, located on the top floor of the building known as the Walkie-Talkie. Tickets are available to book every week, up to three weeks in advance, and grant you free access to the foliage-filled, glass-encased rooftop bar. There are also two bars and two restaurants if you want to enjoy a cocktail or meal with an epic view of the city skyline.
Views on views on views
Nestled atop a hill in Regents Park is Primrose Hill, a popular spot with sweeping views of London's epic skyline. The summit of this lush hill boasts panoramic views over Regents Park and the city for as far as the eye can see. The surrounding streets are lined with quaint townhouses, gastropubs and independent shops and cafes. It’s well worth a visit.
Eat, drink, play and learn
Greenwich Park is a Grade I listed park that surrounds several notable museums and landmarks, from the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum to the Cutty Sark and Greenwich Market. The park has plenty of space to play or picnic and various spots to enjoy sweeping views of the London skyline.
Brutalist at its best
Not only is The Barbican Centre a leading example of beautiful brutalist architecture, but inside you’ll find an art gallery, plant-filled conservatory and a programme of free and affordable events covering all topics, from art, design, photography and film to music and fashion.
One of the Magnificent Seven
Abney Park Cemetery is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London that was initially laid out as an arboretum with more than 2,500 species of plant. Later, in the 70s, Abney was abandoned and left to flourish. Today, the wild wilderness of the cemetery is maintained and managed and is a beautiful place to stroll through and admire all of the Victorian graves.
The first portait gallery to exist
The National Portrait Gallery opened in 1856 as the first portrait gallery to exist anywhere in the world. It's free to visit, and inside, it houses a vast collection of portraits and photos of some of the most notable British figures in history.
The place to go for up-and-coming artists
Saatchi Gallery is a free, contemporary art gallery established in 1985 by the notable Charles Saatchi. It works to promote emerging artists whose work hasn't had much visibility in the UK. It's had its fair share of homes, but the Duke of York's HQ on King's Road in Chelsea is the most impressive.
A glimpse back in time
The Wallace Collection is free of charge seven days a week and showcases the very best of European paintings covering a variety of topics, from landscapes to portraits. Highlights include oil paintings from the 14th to the late 19th century and various medieval and Renaissance objects.
A historical market in central London
Leadenhall Market dates back to 1321 and is located right in the heart of what was Roman Londinium. These days, it’s home to several independent retailers, cafés, restaurants, wine bars and a pub, and is an excellent market to indulge in a spot of shopping.
A 1,000-year-old market
Borough Market dates back over 1,000 years and today is one of London’s most famous food markets. You can pick up produce from local traders or enjoy a sit-down meal in one of the many varied restaurants and street food traders. Top tip: you can also fill up on the delicious samples from the street food tasters.
Camden's eclectic market
Camden Market is home to over 1,000 shops and stalls selling everything from clothing and music to art and food. The street food scene here is next to none, and it’s home to some of the city’s top traders, like Yorkshire Burrito, Bill or Beak and Neat Burger. Again, this is an excellent spot to stock up on free samples.
The burial site of Karl Marx
Highgate Cemetery is perhaps the most famous cemetery in London and is one of the Magnificent Seven. It's the burial site of many notable figures in history, like novelist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), painter Henry Moore and the father of Communism Karl Marx.
A London landmark
St. Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral and the second largest church in the country. It’s open to visitors throughout the week, with regular daily services open to the public. It's an architectural landmark just as much as it is an art one, with temporary art exhibitions often popping up throughout the year.
The evolution of the home
Take a look back in time at The Museum of the Home, a free museum that showcases the evolution of the classic British home through the years. Wander through the rooms, each telling the story of what we define as 'home' in certain periods of history, and see how furniture and domestic interiors have changed from 1600 to the present day.
A sliver of roman history
The London Mithraeum is one of the most notable Roman discoveries of the past century. It’s a temple to the mystery god Mithras and was initially built in the 3rd century AD. You can visit it on selected Saturdays throughout the year, from April to November for a small charge.
Something wildly different
If you’re looking for something totally out-of-the-ordinary to sink your teeth into in the city, head to The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & UnNatural History. The museum is filled with ghastly curiosities and fantastical objects, like a taxidermied unicorn, a mummified mermaid, a jar of Kylie Minogue's faeces and two-headed kittens. It might be a little different, but it's certainly one to turn heads.
A grisly past
This ancient churchyard is home to a towering ash tree surrounded by hundreds of overlapping gravestones. The graves were placed in their permanent spot by novelist Thomas Hardy before he became a writer, to make room for new railway lines.
A quirky bookshop and events space
Word on the Water is located on a 100-year-old Dutch barge anchored at Granary Square. Inside you’ll find a bookshop stocking various books and valuable editions in a cosy and comfortable setting. They also host events, from jazz evenings to spoken word nights.
One of London's Magnificent Seven
Another addition to the list of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries is the historic Tower Hamlets cemetery nestled down a street in Bow. It’s a designated Local Nature Reserve and is home to a wide variety of wildlife. It offers a welcome pocket of peace from the busyness of city life.
Pelicans with a hint of royalty
Take a leisurely stroll through picturesque St James’s Park in Central London, one of London’s eight Royal Parks flanked by Buckingham Palace and Clarence House. Enjoy spectacular views of London’s landmarks from various points throughout the park, and keep your eyes peeled for the resident pelicans introduced to the park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador.
A classic Londoner activity
Hampstead Heath’s ponds are one of the city's best places to go swimming. For years, loyal swimmers have used the ponds throughout all seasons to connect with nature and keep fit and healthy. There are mixed ponds and separate ladies' and men’s ponds to take a dunk in, but they can get quite busy during the summer, so booking is recommended.
A notable Roman discovery
The discovery of Billingsgate Roman House and Baths is one of the most notable Roman discoveries from the past two centuries, and excavations revealed that the house was built in the second century. Now, the baths are open for the public to explore on selected Saturdays throughout the year, from April to November, on 45-minute guided tours.
A breath of fresh air in the city
Richmond Park is a welcome respite from the constant hum of busy city life. It’s a National Nature Reserve and is renowned for the wildlife that roams it freely, like herds of red and fallow deer, bats and birds. There's also a big insect population, including over 139 spider species, 546 butterfly and moth species and more than 1350 beetle species.
The history and future of transport in London
Transport has played a vital role in the function of London for as long as it has existed, and the award-winning, free London Transport Museum offers a look back at its history and future. You can also book specially organised tours that’ll take you to disused parts of the transport network.
A slice of nature in the East End
Walthamstow Wetlands is a 211-hectare internationally-important nature reserve and reservoir in the heart of east London. Get stuck into one of their organised events, like bush-crafting workshops and bat walks, or feast on seasonal dishes at The Engine House Café.
The oldest cinema in east London
Genesis Cinema is the oldest cinema in east London and is set inside a beautiful 19th-century east London music hall. It’s been screening blockbuster movies and independent art films since it opened as a cinema in 1912. You can nab tickets for a reasonable price, with different tiers available for different screens.
Seasonality at Stepney City Farm
Meet and greet adorable farm animals and learn the ins and outs of a working farm at the free Stepney City Farm. There's also a seasonally-inspired, farm-to-fork cafe that serves a changing menu of fresh dishes.
Free musical concerts
Every summer, St Martin-in-the-Fields host a free programme of live music in their medieval courtyard setting. The music played ranges from classical to experimental and is an excellent opportunity for emerging talent to showcase their works. Although the concerts are free to attend, donations are gratefully received.
Afforable hair treatments in the city
There are plenty of hairdressing salons all over London that offer hair treatments for a fraction of the price if you book with a trainee. Whether you're needing a cut or colour, you'll certainly be able to find a salon in London that will be able to help you achieve your new look at a budget-friendly price, from Hari's and Windle London to Vidal Sassoon Academy and Jo Hansford, to name a few.
Scenic way to cross the Thames
Built for the 2012 Olympic Games, the London Cable Car is now a popular sightseeing attraction. The gondola takes from the Royal Docks to the Greenwich Peninsula or vice versa, providing a thrilling experience at an affordable price along the way. Enjoy the stunning panoramic views as you cross the Thames at a height of 90 minutes. The ride even slows down during the evening, so you can get your fill of the sights.
A different kind of street art
Ghost signs refer to vintage hand-painted advertisements that remain on buildings, gradually deteriorating with time. Sam Roberts, an expert on ghost signs in the local area, has curated three tours of such signs located in various parts of London – Clapham, Stoke Newington, and Bankside. These tours can be experienced either in-person or virtually, and each tour ticket provides 30-day access to the designated route along with accompanying audio and text commentary.
Cheap local cinema
Have an affordable trip to the cinema when you visit Peckhamplex. This cinema offers a uniform and low-cost ticket price whilst screening films covering a vast array of genres from mainstream blockbusters to foreign language and arthouse films. Events like premieres and Q&As also take place here, featuring stars like Idris Elba.