Best free London attractions and activities for summer

London is probably our favourite city on the planet. Trouble is, with all the temptations on offer, and the girls’ fondness for shopping, well, let’s just say my wallet screams a little whenever they suggest yet another weekend in the capital of Blighty. Luckily, shopping isn’t their only interest. We all adore the British Museum and can spend entire days there, especially in the Egyptian section. That’s just one of the suggestions offered in today’s post, where guest blogger Edel Flood lets us in on five fun and fabulous things to do in London this summer that are FREE. Enjoy!

City breaks during the summer need not be expensive, especially when you book cheap London hotels. I used to worry that long weekends in the UK would end up costing me more than a week abroad, until I made the effort to seek out free attractions and activities.

Below are my top five free London attractions:

1. The parks

London might be a hustling and bustling city, but I was shocked as to just how many parks and green spaces it boasts. One of my favourites is Hyde Park, especially when the sun is shining, as I can relax in the peace and quiet with a small picnic. Whether you’re looking for a fun day out with family or friends, or you’re on a romantic break, Hyde Park provides you with 350 acres to discover.

Spend an hour or two strolling through its gardens and meadows, past glistening lakes and trees, while the Diana Memorial Foundation and The Serpentine Bridge are well worth a look. Time your London break right and you can participate in a number of events being held to celebrate the 2012 Games. Between July 28th and August 11th, you can also watch the sporting event on one of six large screens – and all for free!

2. The British Museum

Rosetta Stone inscriptions, British Museum
The British Museum is a fantastic day out for kids and adults alike, and I was surprised at just how many of the exhibitions are completely free. This summer, you can check out showcases such as Crowns and ducats: Shakespeare’s money and medals, as well as an exhibition about the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games medals, which closes on September 9th.
Free digital workshops for kids are also held every weekend, while youngsters might like to follow an activity trail.

3. Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant

london bridge HDR
The celebration of the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II provides us with a four-day weekend, so make the most of your time off work by heading into the capital, where you can soak up the electric atmosphere. The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant is planned for Sunday June 3rd, so make sure you grab a good spot on the banks of the river. A flotilla will make a 7.5-mile journey along the waterway and will be greeted with a gun salute at London Bridge. To make sure you don’t miss a moment, there will be 50 large screens dotted along the bank.

4. V & A Museum of Childhood

Horses and Riders, 1940-70
This certainly provided me with a blast from the past and I was really impressed that the V&A Museum of Childhood was free. Childhood-related items are showcased here, dating back all the way to the 1600s. From puppets and teddy bears to dolls and photography, you’ll definitely spot several items you used to love when you were little. On June 9th and 10th there will be traditional Punch and Judy shows, while a Summer Games programme will run throughout August.

5. Science Museum

London Science Museum
I’m not massively into the subject, but I found the Science Museum to be really interesting – and the fact it was free also helped! The Make it in Great Britain exhibition will run between July and September and is dedicated to the country’s manufacturing sector. You might discover items made in the UK that you didn’t think were. If you’ve any burning science questions, make sure you check out one of the interactive shows that are created to help visitors better understand the topic.

What other free London attractions do you think should make the list?

Photo credits: Sophie’s World, Sophie’s World, vistic, Kotomicreations and davebodreau.

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40 Responses to “Best free London attractions and activities for summer”

  1. Ana (Ana Travels) 21 May 2012 1544 #

    I LOVE London. However, I don’t think I’d want to be there this summer, it’ll be a nightmare what with the Jubilee and the Olympics!

    I’d add the British Library. It’s got some amazing books on display.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1802 #

      Yeah, I’ll stay away for the Olympics, as well. Good tip with the British Library.

  2. ItalianNotes 21 May 2012 1648 #

    Great list, though you might consider adding a congestion warning for this summer as part of the attraction.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1802 #

      Best to get out of town for those days 🙂

  3. Alouise 22 May 2012 0141 #

    I remember being amazed at the British Museum when I went to London a few years ago. So much to see for anyone interested in history.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1803 #

      We absolutely love the British Museum. Would be so interesting to be there after hours, no one else about…

  4. Elena Anne 22 May 2012 0159 #

    I’ve heard about this paid street walk in London where you can see amazing graffiti artworks. Indeed, London is one of the most interesting places to visit especially if you’re into works of art and architecture as well.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1805 #

      Lots of great London walks. I haven’t heard of that one, though. Will definitely find out more.

  5. I just adore London, but somehow missed all of these freebie attractions besides a stroll through Hyde park.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1806 #

      Hyde Park is really nice, too 🙂

  6. Steve 22 May 2012 0912 #

    The V & A Childhood museum was a unexpected surprise. I would also add the National Gallery and National Portait Gallery.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1806 #

      Cool, thanks for the tips.

  7. Scarlett 22 May 2012 1101 #

    Brilliant post – loving the image of the Thames bridge too – gorgeous! x

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1807 #


  8. Christy @ Technosyncratic 23 May 2012 0231 #

    If wacky modern art is your thing, I’m fairly sure that Tate Modern offers free admission! 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1808 #

      I quite like Tate Modern and took my oldest daughter there when she was about 12. She wasn’t too keen – perhaps she’ll like it better now she’s older.

  9. Christina (Jandal Road) 23 May 2012 0233 #

    I love London, too. Your list is great, the parks would also be my number one. I particularly like Holland Park, and I’m a regular at the V&A and the Natural History Museum (sometimes just to look at the building itself…). Walking along the Southbank, exploring farmers markets and second hand book stores is also great.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1810 #

      Good tips, Christina. I once stayed in a B&B near Holland Park for quite a while – wonderful to walk through on the way to work every morning.

  10. InsideJourneys 23 May 2012 0255 #

    London’s a lovely city to visit, Sophie. I can see why your girls like it.
    This is a fabulous list of free things to do. I’ll make a note of it for my next trip and share it with friends who’ll be going for the Olympics!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1811 #

      Yes, I thought Edel had very good picks for cool London freebies.

  11. Sindi 23 May 2012 1247 #

    I think that the Science Musuem is the best choice for a family, when We’ve been there my little son had been totally amazed by the structures and kinematic installations which all could be given a try. That was an amazing experience for him, I think.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1812 #

      We haven’t been to the Science Museum yet, so glad to see you second the recommendation 🙂

  12. Francy R 24 May 2012 1048 #

    Well, I just came back from a week-end getaway in London! I try to go to Lonodon once a very two months at least! Well another free attractions should be added into your list is the London Museum, close to Barbican tube station. The Museum is amazing, as you can go through the whole London’ history. Another reason why to go to this museum is its location. It actually stand in a good area, just a few stroll away St. Paul and the City. I stayed at the Chamberlain hotel in the very heart of The City! I do recommend it: Here the link if you just need a tip for a good hotel in London:( )

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1814 #

      London Museum – another place I haven’t been yet. Thanks 🙂

  13. AdventureRob 24 May 2012 1135 #

    Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and Abbey Road for ‘that’ Beatles pose are 2 other great options for free London attractions. Actually I found London to be one of the best cities in the world for free stuff to do.

    There are usually parties and events that can be found free too if you look hard enough.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1815 #

      Oh yes, the Beatles pose. Very cool!

  14. A Montrealer Abroad 24 May 2012 1249 #

    The Natural History is a must, even for the non-scientist people out there. Also, walks are very enlightening in London, regardless of which neighborhood you stroll into.

    Also, a window-shopping session in either Knightsbridge or Camden (different budgets) is a lot of fun.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1816 #

      My youngest adores the Natural History Museum, especially the dinosaurs. She likes it even better than she likes Hamley’s – which is saying something…

  15. Simon P 24 May 2012 1346 #

    If we’re talking this summer then there’s going to be heaps of big screens in public places to watch the Olympics from – for free! I can’t wait.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2012 1818 #

      Screens in the parks, too, perhaps? That would be very nice.

  16. Lisa 25 May 2012 1937 #

    Great suggestions! We decided to avoid London this year because of the Olympics but hopefully will get back the following year. I would have loved to see the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames though!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 27 May 2012 1937 #

      So would I 🙂

  17. We loved our visit to London in 2008, but did all the typical touristy stuff – these 5 attractions will have to go on our list for our next visit!
    Thanks for linking up with us!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 27 May 2012 1938 #

      Happy to 🙂

  18. Ayngelina 29 May 2012 0016 #

    I hate to say this because I know it’s blasphemous but I find the British Museum boring. I have tried to make my way through it twice but I always give up because I’m so bored.

  19. Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 May 2012 1306 #

    We’re all history geeks, and really into anything that has to do with Ancient Egypt – and since Cat was born in China, anything on Chinese culture and history as well, so we can stumble around the place for days on end. That said, I suppose one does have to be interested in history – and even particular parts of history – to enjoy it. I don’t think it’s blasphemous, just a matter of interest.

  20. Amresh Kumar 4 June 2012 1226 #

    Best to go there lovely Place and its look like wondering of attractions

  21. World Traveller 3 October 2013 1846 #

    Looking to save a bit of money when visiting London? It’s important to note that Oyster fares are considerably cheaper than paper ticket fares on London Underground.

    I recommend you pick up an Oyster Card at the Underground station at Heathrow or the DLR station at London City Airport. If you fly into Gatwick, Stanstead or Luton airports (the stations for these airports are outside of the Oyster network) then pick up an Oyster card at the first tube station you go through. If you’re only going to be in London for a few days (ie: less than 7 days) then add on sufficient money that covers you for the number of zones you’re likely to commute in (for most tourists zone 1 & 2 are sufficient) for each day you’re in London plus about £5 extra for the extra trip from & to the airport.

    If you’re in London for 7 or more days then go for a 7-Day zones 1 & 2 Travelcard and some cash to cover any ‘out-of zone travel’.

    Oyster has daily price capping so if you make lots of pay as you go journeys in one day, you won’t pay more than the price of an equivalent Day Travelcard.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 October 2013 2204 #

      Great info. Thanks 🙂


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