What are the best free activities in London?

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Answered by: Anna, An Expert in the London - See the City for Free Category
London has a reputation as one of the most expensive cities in the world, and I can personally testify that I have seen a jacket at Harrods that cost more than my university fees for the year, but there are also an endless amount of free activities in London that you can't get anywhere else. So if you're planning a visit, don't worry that you will miss out because you can't afford the best of the city, the amount of things you can do for free will keep you well-occupied!



Museums

London's museums and art galleries are some of the best in the world, and most of them are free. You can spend far more than one day wandering the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world's largest design museum. But while the major museums, such as the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Natural Science Museum, are well worth a visit, they are often very crowded, and there are many lesser-known gems that you can visit if you want to dodge the crowds. The Wellcome Collection is a museum that combines displays of old medical artifacts and modern art. For those interested in lives of the wealthy in the past, Kenwood House is a stately home built in the 17th century and boasting an impressive picture collection that includes Vermeer and Rembrandt. The Museum of London is a lesser-known alternative to the major museums, with an impressive collection of archeology, artifacts and records relating to the history of the city. Besides this, many museums, such as the V&A, the British Museum and Tate Britain run daily free tours, during which a member of museum staff introduces visitors to the collections, and one-off talks and lectures (also free) that focus on specific subject matters. The lists of these talks can always be found on the museum websites.

Parks



The speed and intensity of London can get exhausting very quickly, but luckily you don't have far to go for a break. London's parks are impressive in both design and scope, and are a must-see in the spring and summer. Nicknamed 'the lungs of London' for their greenery and size, they have been a historic feature of the city for centuries. Westminster has a series of royal parks; St. James's, Green Park and Hyde Park, all very close to one another, and St. James's is home to several species of exotic birds and a few pelicans. Regent's Park, slightly further north, contains London's largest rose garden, as well as the beautifully designed English Gardens and large stretches of fields and paths. If you want to venture a bit further afield from the city centre, Hampstead Heath is a huge park, much wilder than the ones in the city, with open grassy spaces and woods. It also contains Parliament Hill, which affords one of the most spectacular views on the city. To the southwest is Richmond Park, historically a royal deer park, which now has peacefully undisturbed herds of very friendly deer. The parks are extremely well-maintained and safe, and the ones closer to the city centre boast spectacular flowers, landscape gardens and topiary.

Walks and tours

Walking tours are some of the most informative and fun free activities in London. There are several companies that specialise in free walking tours of the city, and since London is its own outdoor museum, these are a wonderful way to both learn about history and enjoy the sights. There are both general tours of popular areas such as Westminster or the City, and more specific tours, focussing on such topics as the architectural history of certain neighbourhoods, Jack the Ripper, urban legends, or local traditions. If you're feeling really independent, you can go on some of the countless self-guided London walks, provided by organisations such as the City of London itself or the Inner London Ramblers.

Markets

London has a large number of outdoor markets that are particularly delightful in the summer. Some, such as the Borough Market, which sells fantastic street food, or Camden Market, which sells almost anything in the world, are open every day, while others are only open on certain days. Portobello Road Market is the world's largest antiques market, and Saturday is the day to go. Sunday is the day of Brick Lane Market, with crafts, vintage clothing, records, fashion, and still more food on offer. Even if you don't plan on spending any money, these markets are a great place to see fantastic items and get inspiring ideas.

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