How you can travel for free on London Underground and buses for life

This would be a huge help for those who have to get around a lot

  • 20:13, 28 NOV 2023

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While the London Underground and the city's buses are a dream for getting around our frankly massive city, the costs can really add up over time, even putting you off making some journeys.

Fortunately, there are ways to save, whether that's adding a railcard to your Oyster card, or taking advantage of multiple buses within one hour so you only pay once. But one special pass blows all of these out of the water though, giving holders free travel for life on buses, the Tube, DLR, Trams, the Overground, and the Elizabeth line - everywhere on Transport for London's (TfL) network.

Known as the TfL Freedom Pass, there are several ways you can get one, but you'll have to fit into two groups of criteria.

READ MORE: Inside the London Underground's brand new trains as line gets £2.9 billion upgrade

how to travel for free in london

The first of the two types of Freedom Pass is an Older Person's, this allows the holder to travel free on TfL services from 9am on weekdays and anytime at weekends and on bank holidays.

To get an older person's Freedom Pass all you have to do is live in a London borough and be of state pension age (that's 66 for both men and women). You can apply for one online here.

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The other version is the Disabled Person's Freedom Pass, which grants you free travel at any time on TfL services.

To be eligible for this you must live in a London borough and have an eligible disability. Eligible disabilities include:

  • People who are blind or partially sighted
  • People who are profoundly or severely deaf
  • People without speech
  • People who have a disability, or have suffered an injury, which has left them with a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to walk
  • People who do not have arms or have a long-term loss of the use of both arms
  • People who have a learning disability that is defined by TfL as 'a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning'
  • People who, if they applied for the grant of a licence to drive a motor vehicle under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1988, would have their application refused pursuant to section 92 of the Act (physical fitness) otherwise than on the ground of persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol.

However, London boroughs may, at their discretion under exceptional circumstances, issue Freedom Passes to disabled people that do not meet one of the statutory eligibility criteria. You can find more information on this here .

If you have one of the eligible disabilities you can apply for a Freedom Pass online here.

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Who can travel on UK public transport for free?

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An empty bus

For a majority of people, travelling in the UK using public transport is far from free.

Whether you’re in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, most adults will have to shell out a few quid for bus tickets, or pay a heftier fee for monthly passes or train tickets .

However, some people can access free travel – by bus or even, in a few rare cases, rail – depending on where they live, their age, and whether or not they have a disability.

Free travel could be a huge help, especially given the current cost of living crisis.

So, if you’re wondering whether you might be eligible for free public transport where you are, we’ve rounded up all the information – plus where you need to go to learn more or apply.

Let’s take a look…

Who can travel on public transport for free in the UK?

Here is a breakdown of some of those who are eligible for free travel across the UK.

Free travel for under 18s, over 60s and disabled people in London

London Underground sign

We’ll kick off with London … and its network of Tubes, Overground trains, DLR trains, trams and buses.

Firstly, under 5s travel for free on buses and the Tube, plus other Transport for London (TfL) services mentioned, if they’re with a fee-paying adult.

Children up to age 17 can also benefit from free travel, with children aged 5 to 10 also able to travel for free on the Tube, DLR, buses, trams, etc, using the ZIp Oyster Photocard .

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The ZIP Oyster Photocard is also available for children aged 11 to 15 , providing free bus and tram travel (not Tube), and for 16 to 17 year olds who specifically live in London , again for free buses and trams.

Over 60s living in London can get free travel with an Oyster Photocard , while anyone over 66 (state pension age in England) or who has a disability and lives in London can travel for free using the Freedom Pass .

Finally, veterans may be entitled to free travel in London with the Veterans Oyster Photocard .

Check the TfL website for any stipulations , such as services and times will accept your photocard or Freedom Pass.

Liverpool bus driving past the town hall.

Free bus travel for over 66s in England

When you reach the state pension age in England (currently 66), you can get free bus travel .

You’ll have to apply through your local council. Start by typing in your postcode on .

Free bus travel for under 5s in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland

In both England and Scotland, children under the age of 5 usually travel for free on buses.

In England, you might find this varies by bus operator – and may only apply if the child is accompanied by a fee-paying adult. It may also apply to local metro or tram travel, too.

For example, we noticed that the Metro in Newcastle-upon-Tyne allows up to three children under age 11 to travel for free , again if the adult accompanying them has paid for a ticket.

Your best bet is to check the policy on the website of your local public transport provider.

In Scotland, all children under 5 go free on buses.

In Northern Ireland, under 5s appear to go free on some Translink buses (from what we can tell) – though may be included as ‘part of a party’ in the cost of Family Tickets . It’s worth checking directly.

People boarding bus in Glasgow, Scotland

Free bus travel for under 22s in Scotland

The Young Persons Free Bus Travel Scheme in Scotland is really good news for people aged 21 or younger.

Under 22s are now able to apply for a pass granting them free travel on buses, even beyond their local area.

On , it says: ‘The scheme will give you free travel on any bus in any part of Scotland on registered bus services.

‘You can travel on buses outside the area you live in using your card. Only a few services, such as premium-fare night buses and City Sightseeing buses, will not accept the card.’

Free bus travel for over 60s in Scotland

Anyone aged 60 or over in Scotland can also apply for free bus travel, by visiting the website .

The pass, called the National Entitlement Card, is designed to help people get around their local area, but can also help with travel further afield within Scotland.

Cardiff train station

Free bus and rail travel for under 11s in Wales

According to Transport for Wales , under 11s travel for free on buses and trains, when accompanied by an adult ticket holder.

Under 16s can also enjoy free off-peak travel.

Free bus travel (and some rail) in Wales for over 60s

Anyone over 60 can apply for a bus pass enabling free travel in Wales, called a Concessionary Travel Pass.

As with England, you can apply via your local authority, which you can find by entering your postcode on .

This Concessionary Travel Pass also allows for some free rail travel, including on routes from Wrexham to Hawarden Bridge, Shrewsbury to Swansea, or Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

However, some routes come with stipulations – such as only being able to travel for free from October to March. You also still need to get a ticket, even if you’re not paying.

There’s more information on Transport for Wales’ website .

Belfast Translink bus

Free bus travel for over 60s in Northern Ireland

People aged 60 or over in Northern Ireland are able to get free bus travel on the country’s Translink services.

You can read the fine print and start your application on the NI Direct government website .

Free bus, train and LUAS tram travel for over 65s across Ireland

Older people in Northern Ireland may also be able to travel across the whole Emerald Isle for free.

The All Ireland Free Travel Scheme allows for free bus and rail travel in both Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland – including on Dublin’s LUAS trams (with a few exceptions, of course).

To qualify, you must be a resident of Northern Ireland, aged 65 or older, or a resident of the Republic of Ireland, aged 66 or over. There may also be a few other people who can qualify.

Find out more on NI Direct and on Ireland’s government website, .

Dublin's LUAS tram

Free bus travel for disabled people across the UK

People across the UK who have a disability will (mostly) find they are eligible to receive free travel on public transport, mainly buses.

In England, you can apply for a bus pass via your local council’s website, which you can reach by visiting .

Residents of Scotland with disabilities can apply for the National Entitlement Card . There is also the Welsh Disabled Concessionary Travel Card, which you can apply for via Transport for Wales .

In Northern Ireland, people who are registered blind or are war disablement pensioners are eligible for free bus travel.

People with learning disabilities, who are partially-sighted, unable to drive on medical grounds, or get the mobility part of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) can get half price travel.

You can find out more and apply for the relevant SmartPass via NI Direct .

Finally, though not free, it’s worth knowing about the Disabled Persons’ Railcard , which can help save up to 1/3 on train fares in the UK (as when it comes to train prices, every little really does help…)

Woman in wheelchair waits for the bus

Free school transport for some children across the UK

Last but not least: some UK children are able to get free travel to and from schoo.

If you are eligible to receive this, it will depend on a few things, such as your child’s age and their proximity to school – plus if the nearest school is a few miles away from them.

Children who have no safe walking route home, or who have special educational needs, may also qualify.

To find out if you can get free school transport for your child/ren, visit (for England and Wales), (for Scotland) and EANI (for Northern Ireland).

One final note

The above is a guide to what kind of free public transport is available in the UK, but doesn’t cover every individual operator.

Things may change over time, there may be stipulations to the free travel, or things may differ slightly depending on who provides public transport in your area.

Always check the website, and read the T&Cs when applying for travel passes.

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How to Get Around London: A Guide to Public Transport in London

Last updated: March 20, 2024 . Written by Laurence Norah - 25 Comments

So you’ve decided to visit London! Fantastic idea, it’s an excellent city, with enough activities to keep you busy for however long you choose to stay. Today though, I’m not going to give you advice on what to see in London. Instead, I’m going to share with you my advice for how to get around London.

London is a city with an absolutely fantastic public transport network, but the plethora of choice can be a bit overwhelming for the first-time visitor.

This information on getting around London comes from my experience living in London for 2 years, our subsequent visits as a tourist, and some online research (there are so many options!).

London trains

In this guide, I’m going to share with you the various options you have for getting around London, from the tube, to taxis, to the bicycle! Let’s get started.

How To Get Around London

London is divided into nine fare zones, with zones 1 & 2 being central London, and then increasing in number the further outside the city you get. Heathrow Airport for example is in Zone 6. The below transport options will cover all the zones.

Transport in London is operated is by TfL , which stands for “Transport for London”. TfL are the government body responsible for all aspects of the transport system in London, from roads to rails and ticketing to maintenance.

There are a number of ways to pay for transport inside London, including buying an individual ticket, using a contactless card, using an Oyster card , using a visitor Oyster Card or purchasing a travelcard.

I have written a whole post on the best way to pay for transport in London , which you can read, as a summary though, currently in most cases if you have a contactless card that works in the UK then this is the best way to go, followed by the Oyster card.

Using Oyster Card by_

1. Underground – “The Tube”

The London Underground, or “Tube” as its nicknamed, is the oldest underground metro network in the world, with parts operating since 1863. Today, the London Underground carries over a billion passengers a year, across 270 stations and 250 miles of track. Interestingly, less than 50% of the track is actually underground, despite the name.

In the majority of London, you will usually find that there is an underground stop within easy walking distance, and a train arriving within 10 minutes or less. Because the underground doesn’t have to worry about traffic and streets, it is one of the most efficient ways to get around, and usually the best choice.

For the most part, services operate from 5am through to midnight, and as of August 2016, there will be a 24 hour service offered on some lines as well. You can check times and plan your journey here .

London Underground

Tube stations are easily recognizable with the distinctive London Underground logo, a red circle with the text “Underground” featured in a blue box.

The Underground operates in fare zones 1 – 6, which cover London in expanding concentric circles, with zone 1 in the centre and zone 6 at the outside. Generally, the more zones you cross on your journey, the more expensive it will be.

Most tube stations have a barrier for entry and exit, and you can purchase tickets from machines or ticket offices at the station.

As a tip, if you’re a visitor to London, try to avoid the Underground during rush hour on weekdays as it gets very crowded with commuters. Generally, this is between around 7:30am and 8:30am in the morning, and from 4:30pm to around 7:00pm in the evening from Monday through Friday.

Also, the tube is the most cost-effective way to get from Heathrow Airport to central London, with a direct link from all the Heathrow terminals to the centre of London. See more on getting to central London from London’s airports here .

Underground tube in London

2. Overground

The Overground is similar to the Underground, except its above ground. I know – a lot of the Underground is also above ground. That’s just how it is. The Overground is a lot newer than the Underground though, created in 2007, and helps to fill in a number of coverage gaps that the Underground has.

In terms of pricing, the Overground has the same fare pricing as Underground, and follows the same zone-based rules.

In most cases, you also don’t need to touch in and out if you’re using Oyster or contactless payment when switching from Overground to Underground services as they fall inside the same fare zone, although there are some stations where this is required.

The Overground logo is very similar to the Underground logo, except the circle is orange, and of course the title is different.

Overground sign London

3. DLR (Docklands Light Railway)

Oh, London. So many transport options, and we’re only on number three! The Docklands Light Railway , or DLR as most people call it, is an automated rail system that specifically covers the docklands area of London, which is the area directly east and south east of central London. The main difference between this train system and the those above is that the DLR is fully automated, which means no drivers.

The DLR links London City Airport to the rest of the tube network, and you will likely find yourself using it if you are taking trips around east and south east London. For instance it is the best way to get to the ExCeL , which hosts a number of large trade shows and events.

In terms of fares, the DLR is the same as the Overground and Underground, part of the overall London fare zone, and in fact some tube stations also contain DLR stations.

If you’re using an Oyster or contactless payment you don’t need to touch in and out when switching from tube to DLR, but you should be aware that many DLR stations do not have barriers, so you mustn’t forget to touch in and out (or have a valid ticket) at the start and end of your journey in order to ensure you pay the correct fare.

4. Rail Services

Yes, I’ve already discussed three rail-like services, but, just in case that wasn’t enough, London also has actual railways too, both suburban rail that links central London to its suburbs, and fast trains that link London to the rest of the country (and the world).

There are also direct rail links to London’s three major airports, namely Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead. See more on getting to and from London’s airports here .

mind the gap-01

In the majority of cases, trains in and out of London are separate from the Transport for London system, so for example you can’t use your Oyster card on most national rail services, and would have to buy a separate fare.

There are some exceptions, with all suburban trains in zones 1-9 for example, and to select destinations, covered. Trains to Gatwick, including the Gatwick Express, as well as trains to Heathrow, including the Elizabeth Line and Heathrow Express, are also covered by the Oyster system – you can see more about what’s covered here .

If you asked someone what the most used form of public transport in London was, they might guess Underground. And, with over a billion users a year, that’s not a bad guess. It would be wrong though, because the number of journeys taken on London buses is over two billion a year.

London Bus

This is likely because there are just so many bus routes in London, serving a huge area – you can basically get anywhere in London by bus. Bus fares are also cheaper, at a fixed price of £1.75 (as of March 2024) for a single journey for Oyster users, regardless of distance.

You can also take advantage of the “ hopper ” fare with Oyster and contactless cards, whereby every bus journey that you take within the first hour of touching in is included in the price. So you can change buses and not have to pay any more – although you must still touch in to the new bus in order to have a valid ticket.

To use the public buses in London, all you have to do is touch your Oyster or contactless card on the big yellow card reader when you board the bus – there’s no need to do it when you get off the bus as fares are fixed. There are also many bus services that operate round the clock, meaning you can still get home after a night out on public transport in many instances.

Buses are generally a little slower than rail services because they have to contend with traffic, which in London is pretty terrible most of the time. However, an advantage is that normally there are no steps involved and no lengthy walks around the Underground system.

As well as public buses, there is also the option to take a Hop on Hop off buses . Whilst these aren’t a form of public transport, for a visitor to London they can be a good way to travel as they visit the main visitor attractions and also include commentary. However, they are priced separately, and are of course more expensive than a standard bus.

You can buy Hop on Hop off bus tickets here . They are also included with city-sightseeing passes like the London Pass .

In south London, and specifically from Wimbledon, through to Croydon and Beckenham, there’s a tram service, known as London Tramlink . The tram has four lines and 17 miles of track, so this definitely isn’t a huge network, but it’s a well used one in the region.

The tram works the same as the bus in terms of payment – it’s a fixed fee per journey, and you just have to touch-in with your Oyster card or contactless card when you board to validate your ticket. You do not need to touch out when you disembark. Trams are also a part of the Hopper fare system.

7. IFS Cloud Cable Car

Now, for something a little bit different. Did you know that London has a cable car service ? It’s the only urban cable car in the UK, and it’s there to get you across the River Thames, from Greenwich to the Royal Victoria Dock.

As well as being a handy way to get to the ExCeL exhibition centre and the O2 Arena from the south side of the river, it also offers panoramic views of this part of the city as you cross.

The Cable Car is part of the TfL system, so you can pay with your Oyster card or contactless card. There are only two stations, one at each end, so it’s also one of the easiest modes of public transport to navigate in London!

8. River Boat

London has a big old river running through it, so it makes sense that this waterway is also used as a public transport system. And so it is, with Thames Clippers operating a service under license from TfL.

There are four “routes”, starting all the way to the west of the city in Putney, and going as far as Woolwich in the east. Essentially this gets you from one end of London to the other.

City wonders london walking tour boat ride

On board the Thames Clipper in London. 

It’s a fun, scenic way to travel and tends to be a little less busy that many of the other routes. It is used by commuters though, so rush hours can be a little busier. As with other TfL services, the easiest way to pay is by Contactless card or by Oyster card, touching in and out as you board and disembark.

Alternatively you can buy tickets online and print them out, or you can buy tickets in person at the pier. The last option is the most expensive – contactless, Oyster and online ticket purchases are the most cost-effective.

Note that Thames Clipper is a little more expensive than services like the tube or buses, but the point to point service and relatively fast speed, plus the views of London from the river, can make it worth it.

A 24 hour pass is also included on the London Pass (you can buy that here ), if you invest in that money saving attraction pass for your time in London.

London 2023 by Laurence Norah

London definitely has some iconic modes of transport, from the famous red bus through to the tube. But perhaps most famous of all is the black cab.

With a history dating back to 1662, London’s Hackney Carriages have been carrying people around the city for over 350 years, with drivers having to learn the infamous “Knowledge” – basically a detailed map of London meaning they can navigate the city efficiently, without relying on maps or technology.

Taking a black cab in London is definitely an experience. All you have to do is flag one down by waving at them (the taxi light will be illuminated if it is available), and the driver will stop to pick you up.

Black taxis are certainly more expensive than any of the other forms of transport regulated by TfL, but for the convenience of getting from one part of the city to another, they sometimes can’t be beaten, and if you’re travelling in a group they can work out to be fairly cost effective.

Note that taxis don’t accept Oyster cards, so fares need to be paid by cash or credit card. Fares are paid on completion of the journey, and are set based on distance and time using the meter in the cab.

Inside London taxi

10. Bicycles

In 2010 London rolled out a new public transport option – the bicycle! There are public cycle points all around the city, and with the increase in cycle lanes, these are becoming a popular way to take short trips.

Hiring a bicycle is relatively easy – it costs £1.65 for 24 hours access to the system, which includes 30 minutes of actual ride time. After your first 30 minutes, each additional 30-minute segment costs you £1.65.

If you think you will use the cycles a lot, then a £20 membership will give you a month of access with unlimited rides of up to 60 minutes each, after which each additional 60 minutes costs £1.65.

To use the cycle hire system you just need a credit or debit card. Because of the need to guard against theft, the system doesn’t accept Oyster cards. You pay your activation fee by card, and then you can access bicycles at points all across the city – there are literally hundreds of them to choose from.

Note that the above pricing is for standard bicycles only. E-Bikes are also available, but for a higher price and for registered users only.

Find out more about the London cycle system here .

Bicycles in london

11. Walking

Not exactly a public transport option, but don’t discount walking as a way to get around London! Many visitors don’t realise that many parts of London are very pedestrian friendly, and in fact in central London you can get to most of the attractions just by walking.

As a rule of thumb, if somewhere is less than two tube stops away, it’s likely going to be quicker to walk (although worth checking on a map to be sure there’s not an inconvenient river in the way!). Walking is by far the cheapest way to travel around London, and a personal favourite of ours.

London from millenuim bridge

Accessibility on Public Transport in London

Given the range of public transport options in London, the accessibility situation is definitely varied. Buses for example are pretty good, with every route serviced by low-floor vehicles and offering a wheelchair space.

The tube on the other hand isn’t so great for step-free access, with only around a quarter of stations offering step free access. An aging network, built well before accessibility was something to consider, has not helped efforts to improve the situation, although certainly efforts are being made. Some stations do have platform to street step free access, but you will need to plan your tube journey carefully.

For a full map and information to help you plan your trip around your needs, take a look at the official accessibility section  of the TfL website.

Which is the best way to get around London?

There’s no really easy way to answer this question. If you’re getting around the majority of central London, the Underground will likely be the most convenient. It’s fast, regular, and doesn’t have to contend with traffic.

Before riding the tube though, it’s worth checking the actual walking distance because the tube map isn’t geographically accurate. So sometimes walking can actually be quicker. This map shows the walking time between stations as a reference point.

For parts of London that aren’t served by the Underground, DLR or Overground services, then the bus is the next most convenient option. There are services all over the city, often running through the night.

London eye blue hour long exposure landscape

If you don’t mind a bit of exercising, then either cycling or walking are both great ways to get around.

If you want to try something a bit different, then the Emirates Air Line or the Thames Clippers will provide that.

The former is certainly excellent for one specific route, and the latter can be a good way to get across London, with water views to boot – although in my mind it’s more of a one-off experience than something to regularly use as a visitor.

London transport by_-3

Further Reading for Visiting London

We have plenty of further reading to help you plan your trip to London, both content we’ve created based on our experiences, and third-party content we think you’ll find useful.

  • The official TfL website , which will give you information on tickets, routes and any updates to services in the forms of delays or cancellations
  • If you’re coming into London by air, check out our detailed guide to getting into central London from the airport , which covers all six of London’s airports.
  • We have a complete guide to where to stay in London , with over 60 recommendations across all the main areas in London we recommend.
  • Jess’s detailed guide to the London pass , which will help you decide if this is a good way for you to save money on your London sight-seeing. The London currently includes Hop-on, Hop-off bus passes, which can be a great transport option.
  • We have detailed guides to visiting the Tower of London and the London Eye which includes information on planning your visit and how to save money on these popular attractions
  • Our detailed itineraries for one day in London as well as two days in London , three days in London and six days in London
  • Harry Potter fans will want to check out our guide to the key Harry Potter filming locations in London
  • Jess’s guide to 1-day walking tour of the highlights of London .
  • How about heading to Paris from London? We have a detailed guide to the best way to get from London to Paris to help you plan
  • The Eyewitness Travel Guide to London , which has all sorts of information within, including more itineraries and ideas for your trip
  • Rick Steve’s London  guide, the #1 bestseller on Amazon for UK travel guides, and always an excellent source of relevant information

Guide to 11 of the most popular public transport options in London, including the tube, trains, buses, bikes and more!

And that’s it for out guide to public transport options in London! What’s your favourite way to get around in London? Any tips to share? Pop them in our comments below!

Enjoyed this post? Why not share it!

There are 25 comments on this post

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Mr. Christopher Twining says

17th February 2023 at 7:13 pm

This is the first, and most likely last and only article I will need to read. Thank you so much for the thorough information. I was last in London in 1972 and I am looking forward to seeing it all again.

Laurence Norah says

18th February 2023 at 7:50 am

My pleasure Christopher, have a lovely time in London. I imagine it will have changed a bit but many sights will surely be familiar 🙂 Safe travels!

6th June 2022 at 5:46 pm

Hi, Thanks for this extremely useful information for a newbie like myself! We are arriving late Saturday evening and plan to take a sightseeing bus on Sunday to get the lay of the land. I see that most attractions are closed on Sundays. Is there anything you can recommend? I’m thinking the market might be a good option? I’ve also heard of Covent Gardens? We will be closest to Paddington Station and will research what areas we should visit first. We are also off to Paris for only 1.5 days. I’ll read your guide on Paris as well! Any feedback is appreciated. Warmly, Pam

6th June 2022 at 5:55 pm

It’s my pleasure, thanks for stopping by! So I would say that a lot of attractions in London are definitely open on a Sunday, such as the Tower of London, however it will depend somewhat on what you are interested in seeing and doing. If you give me some direction in terms of your interests, I’d be happy to advise!

samanta says

17th May 2022 at 4:28 pm

Hi there! Very interessting, thanks for sharing Did I correct understand you have to buy a new ticket if you change the tube line? Even when you are going in one direction (I mean from A to B with no intermadiate stops) and have no other option but to change the line? Many thanks

17th May 2022 at 4:37 pm

Hi Samanta,

My pleasure! No, you don’t have to buy a new ticket when you change tube lines, as long as you stay in the same station. So for example, Oxford Circus tube station has the Central Line, Victoria Line and Bakerloo line. If you get off a Central Line tube and get on a Victoria Line tube, there’s no charge. Tube lines are well signposted inside the stations.

The only time a fee would apply is if you left the station, or went through the ticket gates. You have to scan in and out of the gates when entering or exiting a tube station, so this would not be something you would do by mistake.

Hopefully this answers your question, if you have any more questions do let me know!

Ginge Robinson says

31st March 2022 at 8:19 pm

I have been reading a lot of blogs like this in anticipation of my July 2022 trip to London. Your articles are well written for the unfamiliar traveler and your sight is easy to navigate. Thank you for the time you put in.

1st April 2022 at 10:19 am

Hey Ginge, thank you so much for taking the time to leave this comment. It means a lot to get such nice feedback! Have a wonderful time in London and do let us know if you have any questions!

11th September 2019 at 5:02 pm

Thank you so much for the articles! Exact, relevant, full, helps really!

11th September 2019 at 5:47 pm

Thanks Irina, my pleasure!

23rd May 2019 at 9:28 am

Really good and comprehensive article. I have been living in London for almost a year now but still used to find myself confused with different types of train services. But not anymore! 🙂

23rd May 2019 at 10:52 am

Thanks very much Sonia 🙂

Pedro Zamuner says

2nd April 2019 at 9:17 am

Thanks for the article. Funny, well written and complete! Just got in London last night and now I feel ready to discover the city.

Cheers guys!! 🙂

2nd April 2019 at 10:06 am

Our pleasure Pedro – have a great time in London!

11th November 2018 at 8:12 pm

A minor edit is needed, you list that bicycles cost “30 minutes” for each “30 minutes” past the first 30 minutes.

11th November 2018 at 8:15 pm

Thank you for the feedback – I’ve fixed that now 😀

19th October 2018 at 8:27 am

This is cool. Super helpful and detail! Thank you 🙂

19th October 2018 at 2:44 pm

Our pleasure Mike 🙂

Vikram Badshah says

25th September 2018 at 1:05 pm

Wonderful insight on how to get around in London.

26th September 2018 at 4:17 am

Thanks Vikram!

Anil Palan says

19th September 2018 at 5:26 pm

Thanks for sharing such a nice article on London transport system. It will be very useful to me as I am visiting London for the first time very shortly.

19th September 2018 at 9:11 pm

My pleasure Anil! We have lots more content on the site about London – hopefully you found it. Have a great trip to London!

3rd September 2018 at 1:18 am

This whole post is incredibly useful!! Thank you

3rd September 2018 at 1:20 am

Our pleasure Joana 😀

wassah saw says

23rd June 2018 at 6:52 am

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Nomadic Matt's Travel Site

Travel Better, Cheaper, Longer

70+ Free Things to Do in London

View of Big Ben and Parliament across the river Thames with cherry blossoms in bloom in London, England

London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. There’s no way to sugar coat it. London destroys budgets.

While there are many ways to visit London on a budget , one of the best ways to save money in the city is to take advantage of the plethora of free things to see and do in the city.

When you’re spending so much on food, drink, or accommodation , every penny saved helps. Thankfully, you can spend weeks here without ever spending a penny on attractions. Here is a list of over 70 free things to do in London:

Table of Contents

Visit the Free Museums

Stroll through the markets, lounge in the parks, take a free walking tour, visit a church, enjoy some free entertainment, other free activities, get your in-depth budget guide to europe.

The National Gallery of Art in London with people walking outside in summer at Trafalgar Square

All public museums in the United Kingdom are free to visit — which is great because London has over twenty free museums in the city that can provide you with endless days of free exploration and learning! 

Many of the museums allow you to pre-book your free ticket in advance. I strongly recommend this so you can save yourself the hassle of waiting in line, otherwise you risk not getting in if they’re sold out for that day).

Here are some of the most popular free museums in London:

  • The Museum of London – This incredible museum has a detailed history of the city of London and a detailed exhibit on the great fire of 1666 that destroyed much of the city. Note: closed for relocation until 2026.
  • The British History Museum – One of the top museums in the world, you could spend days visiting this place. Opened in the 18th century, this museum is home to over 8 million works, including the famed Rosetta Stone. I have spent hours and hours here. Open daily from 10am-5pm (8:30pm on Fridays).
  • The Natural History Museum – There are over 80 million items in this comprehensive museum, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin. It’s a really good museum for kids too. Open daily from 10am-5:30pm.
  • The Science Museum – Founded in 1857, you’ll find some neat interactive galleries on aviation, space exploration, and cool sciency stuff in general. It’s a fun museum to geek out in. Open daily from 10am-6pm.
  • The National Gallery – This art museum was founded in 1824 and houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to around 1900. There are works by Johannes Vermeer, Sandro Botticelli, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo. Open daily from 10am-6pm (Friday until 9pm).
  • The Tate Modern – Housed in a former power plant, I think this is one of the best art museums in the city and is home to lots of contemporary and modern art. It’s a beautiful space and is filled with some really interesting pieces. Open daily from 10am to 6pm.
  • The Victoria and Albert Museum – Named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, this museum is home to over 2,000 works of art covering 3,000+ years of human history. Open daily from 10am-5:45pm (10pm on Fridays).
  • The Imperial War Museum – This museum covers British conflicts from WWI to the present. For those really interested, they also have an archive here where you can read real documents from various wars. Open daily from 10am-6pm.
  • The National Maritime Museum – This is one of the largest maritime museums in the world, with over 2 million items in its collection, including ancient maps, ship models, and manuscripts. Open daily from 10am-5pm.
  • The National Portrait Gallery – This was the very first portrait gallery in the world when it opened in 1856, and to this day is still one of the largest — there are almost 200,000 portraits here! Open daily from 10am-6pm (until 9pm on Friday and Saturday).
  • The Tate Britain – Not to be confused with the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain is a gorgeous museum home to an expansive collection of British artwork from the 16th century to the present. It’s not as big as the Modern, but it arguably has more famous works of art, including works by Francis Bacon, Richard Dadd, and William Blake. Open daily from 10am-6pm.
  • The British Library – Established in the 1970s, this is generally considered to be the largest national library in the world, with a catalog of over 200 million items. You could spend a lifetime here and not even see every book, let alone read them all! Don’t miss the Treasures Gallery, which displays important original manuscripts, maps, and books. Hours vary by building, gallery, and room.

Here are some of the smaller and lesser known free museums in London:

  • The Horniman Museum and Gardens – This museum has a comprehensive collection of historical musical instruments, cultural artifacts, and impressive natural history displays, including its famous collection of taxidermied animals. It also has a huge garden you can explore as well. Open daily from 10am-5:30pm (Garden is open 7:15am-7:30pm. Opens at 8am on Sundays and Bank Holidays.)
  • Young V&A (formerly the V&A Museum of Childhood) – This interactive museum geared towards children is a branch of the Victoria and Albert museum. Newly reopened in 2023 with a new name and design, it has three main galleries (Imagine, Play, and Design) with a focus on art and objects made for (and by) children. Open daily from 10am-5:45pm.
  • The Sir John Soane’s Museum – This small museum is located in the former home of Sir John Soane, a neo-classical architect. It’s home to many of his drawings and models making it a noteworthy stop for anyone interested in architecture. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am-5pm.
  • The Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre – This gallery is home to the art collection of the city of London. It was built in 1999 to replace an earlier building destroyed in the Blitz. There are usually a few hundred pieces on display at any given time. Open daily from 10:30am-4pm.
  • The Wallace Collection – This art collection contains pieces from the 15th to 19th centuries, spread out over 30 separate galleries. You’ll find paintings, armor, furniture, decorative art, and everything in between here. Open daily from 10am-5pm.
  • The Royal Air Force Museum – Opened in 1972, this museum is spread out over a few different airplane hangars. There are dozens of aircraft here, with displays covering the history of aviation and the Royal Air Force’s role in Britain’s history. Open daily from 10am-5pm.
  • The Wellcome Collection – This is a quirky museum and library centered on health and human experience, with all sorts of unusual displays, covering biology, medicine, science, and art. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm (8pm on Thursdays).
  • The Whitechapel Gallery – This gallery is home to contemporary works of art, and often displays temporary retrospective exhibits. Opened in 1901, it was also one of the first publicly funded galleries in London. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-6pm (9pm on Thursdays).
  • The National Army Museum – This museum focuses on the role of the British army and the experiences of the British soldier, from the English civil war to the present day. Established in the 1960s, it has since undergone a massive renovation, with thousands of books, archives, photographs, maps, uniforms, and other military equipment now presented across five galleries. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5:30pm.
  • The Serpentine Galleries – Located in Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park, these two galleries are home to modern and contemporary art. Each summer, a different international architect is invited to build a temporary pavilion on the lawn, which are always interesting works of art in and of themselves. Open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-6pm.
  • Grant Zoology Museum – This neat collection opened in 1828 and has several extinct animal skeletons including dodos, a Tasmanian tiger, and a quagga. Note: temporarily closed for renovations; expected reopening is January 2024.
  • White Cube Gallery – A contemporary art gallery with sister spaces in other major cities around the world, including Hong Kong, Paris, Seoul, and NYC. There are two locations in London, both hosting rotating exhibitions. Check the website to see what’s on display during your visit. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm.
  • Bank of England Museum – Here you can learn about the role of England’s central bank, examine historic coins and notes, and even hold a real bar of gold! Open Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm (until 8pm the third Thursday of the month).

People walking through Borough Market in London, England

  • Camden Market – This place is home to 1,000+ shops, stalls, cafes, restaurants, bars, buskers, and everything in between. It’s probably one of the most famous markets in the city and great for quirky things. Open daily from 10am until late.
  • Portobello Market – This market has a ton of different sections, but is best known for being the world’s largest antique market, with over 1,000 sellers offering every sort of antique imaginable. It’s open Monday-Saturday, but Saturday is the best day to go as it has the busiest market activity and the most streetside vendors.
  • Brick Lane Market – This market is home to all sorts of odds and ends from antiques to books to old electronics. Additionally, you’ll find a ton of food vendors lining the street. While the shops that line the street are open every day, Sunday is the main market day when the street fills with sellers and food vendors and people browsing the market.
  • The Truman Markets – The Old Truman Brewery complex and its surroundings, also on Brick Lane, is home to six different markets, all with a different theme: Backyard Market, Brick Lane Vintage Market, Ely’s Yard Food Trucks, Rinse Showrooms, Upmarket, and the Tea Rooms.
  • Borough Market – This marketplace dates back to the 1100’s, though the current incarnation dates back to 1851. You’ll find all sorts of restaurants, food vendors, and places to buy your groceries. It’s my favorite food market in the city. Open Tues-Friday from 10am-5pm, Saturdays from 9am-5pm, and Sundays from 10am-4pm.
  • Columbia Road Flower Market – This market features mostly flowers and other gardening items. Not much for the traveler, but it’s fun to look at and people watch. Open on Sundays from 8am-3pm.
  • Covent Garden Market –  Opened in 1845, this is another good market to grab a bite to eat at as well as shop at some of the artisan craft stalls here. Open Monday-Saturday from 8am-6pm, Sunday from 11am-4pm.
  • Greenwich Market – This indoor market dates back to the 18th century and is home to all sorts of items, from jewelry to antiques to crafts to food. Open daily from 10am-5:30pm.
  • Old Spitalfield Market – Open daily (10am-5pm), this market has 70 retail stalls and street food traders. Every Thursday (8am-5pm) there’s an antique market and a vinyl market on the first and third Friday of the month (10am-5pm).
  • Maltby Street Market – This market opened in 2010 and is a bustling place where you can find gourmet street food and fresh produce, as well as a few bars where you can grab a refreshing pint. Open Fridays, 5:30-9pm, Saturdays from 10am-5pm and Sundays from 11am-4pm.
  • Southbank Centre – This food and drink market has a ton of stalls serving up delicious street food from all over the globe. Open Fridays from 12pm-9pm, Saturdays from 11am-9pm, and Sundays from 12pm-6pm.
  • Flea at Flat Iron Square – This weekend vintage and independent makers market features eclectic clothing, plenty of records, books, crafts, and furniture. There are now two locations: the original London Bridge location is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-5pm, while the new location in Hackney Wick is open every Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

View of Buckingham Palace through the trees and behind a tranquil pond in St James Park in London, England

London has some beautiful parks, and when the sun comes out (which isn’t too often), Londoners flock outside. With wide spacious parks filled with flowers, walkways, ponds, ducks, geese, and beautifully manicured lawns, the parks in the city are the place to be! Some of the best parks are:

  • St. James’s Park – Covering over 23 hectares (57-acre), this is the oldest royal park in the city. It’s bordered by three royal palaces and is home to a variety of paths and trails, a lake, and plenty of birds (including pelicans!).
  • Green Park – Green Park was first established in the 1500s, though unlike almost every other park in the city it doesn’t have any buildings or lakes in it.
  • Regent’s Park – This massive park is one of the Royal Parks of London. Established in 1811, it’s also home to the London Zoo and Regent’s University.
  • Kensington Gardens – Another Royal Garden of London, this once-private garden is home to the Serpentine Galleries as well as Kensington Palace.
  • Hyde Park – This is perhaps the most famous park in London. Originally the private hunting grounds of Henry VII, it opened to the public is 1637 is is a great place to stroll, picnic, or catch one of the many events that are hosted here throughout the year.
  • Holland Park – This park has an eclectic mix of attractions, from Japanese gardens to a giant chess set to the ruins of the Holland House that was bombed in WWII.
  • Battersea Park – Battersea used to be a very popular area for dueling. Nowadays it’s used for running, playing sports, having picnics, and music performances.

People crossing the street in front of Westminster Abbey in London, England

Here is a list of my favorite free walking tour companies:

  • Free Tours by Foot – I’ve taken this company’s NYC tours so when I found out they had a London version I was thrilled to take a couple more. The tours are just as good as they are in NYC, covering the major highlights, well written, presented, and very insightful. Some of their really good tours are: Royal Westminster tour, Harry Potter Walking Tour, Dark Side of London Ghost Tour, and Graffiti & Street Art tour. Most walks last 2-3 hours.
  • Free London Walking Tours – This tiny company offers free walks from a few older British chaps that have the air of university professor. They tell silly jokes but are super knowledgeable about the most arcane facts of London history. They tend to cover a lot of ground — physically and factually — so it’s a whirlwind! Be sure to check out their Fire, Pestilence and Plague and Debauched London tours. Tours last two hours.
  • Strawberry Tours – This tour company is a more “hip” tour company for young travelers. The guides and the attendees are younger. They run a number of free tours, specialty tours, and paid pub crawls (that might explain the young audience). You’ll see them advertised a lot. While I didn’t love their pub crawl, their Harry Potter tour, Jack the Ripper tour, and London Landmarks tours are fun and informative.
  • New Europe Walking Tours – This free walking tour company has walking tours all over Europe. They are sort of the “backpacker” tour as most hostels always promote them and you see mostly young travelers on their tours. They are good for a large historic overview of the city.

For other recommended walking tours in London, check out this post .

If you’re willing to spend some money for exclusive experiences, my absolute favorite (paid) walking tour company is Take Walks . They have expert guides and can get you behind the scenes at the city’s best attractions (like the Tower of London ).

For more in-depth paid tours, check out Get Your Guide . They have a ton of different paid tours for all interests and budgets!  

wide angle shot of the nave, altar and apse at Southwark Cathedral in London, England

London is full of free churches that you can visit. Most aren’t terribly old (the majority of the city’s churches were bombed out during World War II) but many do date back to the 1600s! Here are some of the best:

  • Westminster Abbey – See below!
  • Southwark Cathedral – Another Anglican cathedral, Southwark Cathedral was built in the 19th century from an existing church, though that particular site has been used by Christians for worship for over 1,000 years.
  • St Mary-le-Bow – This church was rebuilt after WWII, having also previously been rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666. Tradition says that the only true Cockneys are those who are born within earshot of St Mary’s bells.
  • St Olave Hart Street – This is one of the smaller churches in the city, and one of the few that survived the Great Fire of 1666. The present building dates from around the 15th century, though it too was heavily damaged in WWII. They also offer free classical lunchtime recitals on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 1pm.
  • St Magnus the Martyr – This Baroque church was one of the first to go up in flames during the Great Fire, eventually being rebuilt by architect Christoper Wren (who also designed St Paul’s). Like most of London, it was heavily damaged during the Blitz and has since been restored.
  • St Bride’s – This is another church designed by Christopher Wren, who spent 7 years building it. It too was destroyed during the Blitz and has since been rebuilt.

A guitarist and a violinist performing at the Columbia Road Flower Market in London, England

Here are some places to start:

Learn Some Stuff – Want to learn some stuff? Attend a free lecture at some of the best universities in the world! The following schools offer free lectures:

  • London School of Economics – Upcoming lectures are posted on the website (including dates, times, and locations.) You can also download previous lectures to watch or listen to.
  • Gresham College – Lectures are usually held in the evening and cover a wide variety of topics including history, business, music, economics, science, and more. Seats are first come, first served.
  • UCL Lunch Hour Lectures – This lecture series is usually held from 1-2pm with seating on a first come, first served basis. Check the website for topics and locations. Other free lectures at UCL can be found here .

See a Free Comedy Show – Laugh your butt off at one of these spots that offer free comedy shows:

  • Angel Comedy Club – Stand-up, sketch comedy, and improv with two different locations in the city, offering free shows every night of the week.
  • Comedy Bandits – Free shows on Wednesdays and Thursdays at The Railway Tavern in Clapham. You must reserve in advance.
  • Poster Comedy Club – Your classic basement bar/comedy cellar with stand-up that you can get with a side of pizza from the restaurant upstairs. Plus, happy hour is every night from 5-8pm.

Get your Groove On – Listen to free music at some of these places:

  • Royal Academy of Music – The RAM has regular free student performances as well as occasional free ticketed events. Check their calendar for dates and locations.
  • Southbank Centre – Free lectures, poetry readings, musical events, and more! Check their calendar for up-to-date information and locations.
  • “Ain’t Nothing But…” Blues Bar – They host regular free blues jams as well as ticketed blues concerts.

The changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace in London, England

See the Changing of the Guard – Watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace at 11am daily in June and July and then Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. The horse guards at Whitehall change at 11:00am from Monday-Saturday and 10am on Sundays.

Wander Epping Forest – Just one hour from the city is Epping Forest, an ancient woodland that spans almost 6,000 acres. There are hiking and biking trails, sports fields, and over 100 lakes and ponds. It makes for a nice half-day or full-day escape from the city if you want to stretch your legs.

Stroll Around the City – London is a huge city and has many unique and interesting neighborhoods. For a more organized self-guided tour, Visit London has a free app that lets you create personalized maps and itineraries.

Visit Westminster Abbey – Consecrated in 1269, this iconic church is one of the city’s most famous buildings. Construction began under order from King Henry III and, since 1066, every coronation of the British monarchy has been held here. Sixteen royal weddings have been held here as well.

Admission is 27 GBP but you can get into Westminster for free during hours of worship. If you want to visit and not pay the entrance fee, go for one of the services and you’ll get in for free.

Attend a Couchsurfing Meet-up & Meet Some Locals – Couchsurfing is a platform that connects locals and travelers. You can stay with local hosts for free but what I love about the platform is the number of meet-ups and events you can attend. This is a great way to meet people, find quirky stuff, and get to really know the city. If you download the app, you can even see who is nearby in the city and free to hang out!

For tips and tricks on how to succeed on Couchsurfing, you can check out this blog post.

See Some East London Street Art – Shoreditch, side streets around Brick Lane, Middlesex, and Sclater streets always tend to have some really interesting street art worth exploring.

Take the London Wall Walk – This walk takes you from the Tower of London around what is left of the ancient Roman wall that surrounded Roman London. You can walk along the wall, read some historical panels, and even download a booklet about the route.

Visit the Harry Potter Platform – Harry Potter took his train to Hogwarts from platform 9 3/4 at London’s King’s Cross Station. Head here, get your picture taken with a luggage cart looking like it’s going through the wall, and live out your Harry Potter dreams.

Crossbones Cemetery – This unconsecrated cemetery is dedicated to sex workers of London and is a hauntingly beautiful cemetery with plaques, music, and information about its history and that of the neighborhood. It closed in 1853 with the remains of an estimated 15,000 paupers, more than half of them children, who lived, worked in the area.

Interesting fact: a law was proposed by a virulent anti-prostitution member of Parliament dictating that nothing should ever be built on the area. A few years back, they tried to put a railway on the land and the neighborhood used the law to prevent it from being built.

With so many free things to see and do in London , you’ll be able to fill your days and nights of your visit without ever having to spend a pence! The city may be expensive but with so many free things to do, you’ll be able to make up for all those pints by not spending any money during your day.

Get Your In-Depth Budget Guide to Europe!

My detailed 200+ page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel while in Europe. It has suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, bars, safety tips, and much more! Click here to learn more and get your copy today.

Book Your Trip to London: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:

  • St. Christopher’s Inn
  • Astor Hyde Park Hostel

For more suggested places to stay, check out this longer list of hostels . If you’re wondering what part of town to stay in, here’s my neighborhood breakdown of London.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • Safety Wing (best for everyone)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
  • Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want a Guide? London has some really interesting tours. My favorite company is Take Walks . They have expert guides and can get you behind the scenes at the city’s best attractions. They’re my go-to walking tour company!

Want More Information on London? Be sure to visit our robust destination guide to London  for even more planning tips!

Got a comment on this article? Join the conversation on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter and share your thoughts!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free.

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Happy to Wander

40+ London Travel Tips for First Timers & Must Knows Before You Go

Last Updated: March 20, 2024

*FYI - this post may contain affiliate links, which means we earn a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase from them. Also, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Check out our Privacy Policy and Disclosure. for more info.

Whenever people say they dislike London, I get weirdly defensive.

I mean… Not like London? How dare you?!

In a city with attractions, shows and restaurants catered to every whim, I find the prospect outrageous. Which is why I’ve come to the following conclusion: most of those who ‘dislike London’ simply fail to prepare for it properly… an easy failure, given the many, many mistakes tourists can make here.

… But that won’t be you. You’re going to love London, because I’m arming you with every London tip and must-know you could ever possibly need, accumulated over a dozen visits ranging from two days to two months.

So, read on for a truly maniacal range of London travel tips for first timers, from London planning tips and culture shocks to niche, practical must-knows upon arrival.

Soon, you too shall be a violently defensive London fangirl. See you on the other side.

how to travel for free in london

Save this List of London Travel Tips for Later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

1. Avoid visiting London in peak season

First, in terms of when to visit London… my number one rule is to avoid London in peak peak season, meaning July and August.

Sure, the city draws tourists year-round, but summer time is next level in terms of crowds, and there’s a bonus villain that comes in to guest star: muggy London heat , an absolute menace if you use public transport.

Overall, there’s a compelling reason for every season (you know it’s true because it rhymes), just avoid summer if you can, and also try to avoid school and bank holidays because London is a super popular family destination.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what every (other) season can offer:

  • Spring: Flowers in bloom, May for wisteria hysteria, plenty of fun events like the Chelsea Flower Show/Chelsea in Bloom
  • Fall: Gorgeous foliage and comfortable temperatures, fun events like the London Film Festival
  • Winter: The sheer magic of London at Christmas (though this can be crowded too – plan for weekdays/earlier in the season for a slightly quieter experience). Winter can otherwise be a bit gloomy, but the relatively thinner crowds and lower prices help compensate

how to travel for free in london

2. Plan to be in London for minimum four days

One of the best ways to hate London is to rush through it.

This is a city best enjoyed somewhat slowly – otherwise burnout is guaranteed.

I personally think first time visitors need at least four days to get a good feel for the city. You definitely won’t see everything in this time, but it’ll give you a good grasp of the main must-sees. I’d advise adding a few more days if you want to do some cool day trips too.

how to travel for free in london

3. Research your airport to accommodation commute in advance

First time visiting London? Great news – the confusion starts before you even arrive!

When booking flights, you may find that there are actually six airports that service the Greater London area: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead, Luton, London City Airport, and London Southend Airport.

For most visitors coming from overseas, Heathrow and Gatwick will likely be your main point of entry, whereas the others are popular for shorter flights, typically from elsewhere in Europe (often with budget airlines like Ryanair , easyJet and Wizz Air , especially with Stanstead and Luton ).

When planning, you should remember to factor in costs getting from these airports to central London, as it’s often not cheap.

While the options vary by airport, the most convenient (and most expensive) is of course by taxi or private transfer. Welcome Pickups can be a good option for pre-booking, if you are prioritizing convenience and ease.

There are also public transport options for all of them which are much more cost-effective.

One general word of warning though: regardless of which airport you arrive at, make sure you research different ways to get to the city centre. Often times, the most popular and most advertised options aren’t the best solution.

For instance, with Heathrow, often visitors will hop on the Heathrow Express, a ride notorious for being the UK’s most expensive train journey per mile (though a new train from Luton is set to dethrone it) … only to find out they need to complete their journey with further means because their hotel is nowhere near Paddington Station.

So, definitely explore different options for getting into the city!

how to travel for free in london

4. Prioritize comfort when booking accommodation

In terms of places to stay, there are thousands of hotels and accommodation options to choose from in London. Unfortunately, their prices will make you want to cry, regardless of quality.

As I discuss in my guide on how to book the best accommodation every time , often sacrifices must be made depending on whether you’re prioritizing price, quality or location.

For London, I would advise prioritizing quality or price.

Whereas in other cities, I’m more inclined to prioritize location, the truth is London and its attractions are very spread out, so booking a hotel close to one attraction won’t necessarily put you at an advantage when it comes to seeing other places.

Plus, staying in touristy areas can mean noise, crazy prices, and a lack of good-value places to eat nearby. Rather, in London, I think it’s smarter to prioritize an area with good food options nearby and proximity to a Tube station (preferably in more central zones like Zone 1 and Zone 2).

Apart from that, to make your decision, I think you should be looking more at the specifics of the hotel and whether they suit your needs in terms of amenities and comfort. At the end of a long day of sightseeing, you’ll want somewhere nice to come home to!

An affordable luxury hotel in London? YES it's possible! The citizenM Tower of London hotel might just be one of London's best deals. Click through for a detailed review with photos to see what the buzz is all about. Deciding where to stay in London just got easier!

5. Thoroughly research your accommodation before booking

Related to the London planning tip above is the simple fact that many of London’s hotels are terrible value for money.

You’d assume (based on prices) that you’re getting a great place to stay, but oftentimes hotels will lack the amenities you typically expect.

This is because many (smaller) London hotels weren’t purposely built to be hotels, and are converted from old buildings, which may mean a lack of elevator and/or ‘quirky’ plumbing and temperature control issues.

So, be extra careful when you’re vetting hotels. Read the descriptions, comb through reviews, scroll through all the photos, and if amenities like Air Conditioning are important to you, triple check the hotel has it because many older ones do not.

Don’t automatically assume every hotel will have standard amenities (especially if the price seems too good to be true!)

how to travel for free in london

6. Make sure you have a data plan

Another important London tip is to get a local SIM card or make sure you have an international data plan because having access to Internet in London is pretty crucial these days, with many restaurants/pubs offering their menus on QR code or confusingly stumbling around using Google Maps.

Three has really cheap data plans and you can pick up a card straight at the airport! You can also find their SIM cards on Amazon. An unlimited one costs less than my 5GB data plan back home in Canada. It simply doesn’t make sense.

how to travel for free in london

7. Make sure you have a travel-friendly credit card

Another important London travel tip? Make sure you have a good credit card that travels well.

London these days is becoming very much a cashless city and you’ll be relying on card a lot more than cash, which is why it’s important to have a travel-friendly credit card like Wise , which doesn’t charge you foreign transaction fees or overinflated currency conversion fees.

how to travel for free in london

8. Do not rent a car for your London trip

When in London, I wouldn’t advise renting a car. Driving in the city is a horrific pain, with copious weird fees that tourists aren’t used to.

Public transport is definitely the way to go. Renting a car may make sense for further trips out in to the countryside, but just know that when you’re in London itself, public transport or taxis should be your pick.

how to travel for free in london

9. Learn how to book taxis quickly and easily

On the topic of taxis, I’d recommend downloading an app called FreeNow which is basically Uber but with licensed taxis.

This is way easier than flagging down a taxi on the street, plus you can see how much the fare will be, which helps you avoid getting scammed.

how to travel for free in london

10. Avoid hop on/hop off buses to get around

Another London tip for getting around: I wouldn’t advise using those ubiquitous hop on/hop off buses as a means of transport.

Not only are they wildly expensive compared to local buses, their schedules also aren’t as consistent or reliable as regular public transport, so it’s really a lose-lose situation.

Instead, just use the vast public transport network that serves millions of locals everyday! Sure it’s stuffier and you might get lost or meet some characters, but it’s all part of the experience.

NOTE: I do think the open top buses are fun, but I’d advise doing a tour for the experience, rather than use it as a way of getting from Point A to Point B. Local transport will cost you far less, and will make you feeling more like a Londoner, if that’s what you’re after.

how to travel for free in london

11. Make sure you have a contactless card for public transport

If you DO end up using public transport in London, the good news is it’s quite easy. Both buses and the Underground (AKA the Tube) rely on a card tap system that automatically charges you.

As a tourist, the easiest option is to just use a contactless card for all payments. You tap in on the bus as you board, then you can just get off at your stop without worrying again. Or, you tap in at Tube stations at the gates on your way in, and at the gates on your way out. Easy!

There is a reloadable card called an Oyster Card that you can buy to tap in/out easily, like a gift card you fill up with travel credit, but the prices and caps are the same for both contactless cards and Oyster cards.

Plus there’s a 5GBP activation fee for Oyster cards, so it’s not worth it for a short trip, unless you’re dealing with some specific scenarios which I’ll outline below, after this cute photo of a tap in/tap out machine.

how to travel for free in london

12. Get an Oyster Card (in some situations)

There are only two situations where I think getting an Oyster card makes sense if you’re a tourist.

First, if you plan to buy a RailCard, this saves you 1/3 on all journeys, including on the Tube so you will need to get an Oyster Card and link the two to take advantage of that. Of course this only makes sense for visitors staying longer or who plan to come back often.

Second, you should maybe consider an Oyster card if you don’t have a travel friendly credit card and get charged individually for foreign transactions, as those costs might add up.

In most cases though, just using a contactless card is the simplest solution because it deducts amounts automatically. You can even use this to get far out to popular day trip destinations like Hampton Court Palace.

Just make sure you use the same card all day though because there are daily caps on how much they can charge you!

how to travel for free in london

13. Understand when to take buses vs. the Tube

In terms of public transport in London, there’s Underground trains AKA the Tube, buses, and overground trains which connect to suburbs and neighbourhoods that are farther out.

As a tourist, you’ll most likely be relying just on the Underground and buses. 

Both have their pros and cons.

I do think buses are fun for tourists because they’re above ground so you see a lot more, especially if you ride at the front of a double decker (which is a mandatory must-do in my opinion), plus you can get phone service on them and they are cheaper as well, especially because it’s one price across zones.

The downside is they’re not as punctual (the time tables on Google Maps are notoriously inaccurate, so focus on the digital estimates at the stops themselves whenever possible)… and you can get stuck in traffic.

So, keep these pros/cons in mind when choosing how to plan your journey. If traffic a mess, the Tube may be a better choice. If you need phone service, want views, or are prioritizing low cost, then the bus may be better.

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the Tube does not run 24/7. It actually stops running surprisingly early, so check times before you head out, or prepare to get comfy on the night bus.

how to travel for free in london

14. Always plan for lots of buffer time in case there’s delays with public transport

Regardless of which option you choose, be sure to plan things with buffer time in between obligations, especially if you need to be somewhere at a specific time.

The Tube may not get caught in traffic like buses do, but there’s still often random delays and unexpected failures.

So, if you have a tour, show or attraction booked, be sure to add in 30 minutes or more of wiggle room, just in case.

how to travel for free in london

15. Walk as much as possible

Truthfully though, while I’m a big fan of London public transport, my preferred way to get around is walking as much as possible within neighbourhoods, then taking the Tube or bus to cover huge distances.

In busier tourist areas, there’s often signs you can follow to find big attractions so don’t worry too much about navigating on foot, and walking can sometimes even be faster than the Tube depending on how far you’re going.

how to travel for free in london

16. Learn to ride the Tube like a pro

If you want to navigate the Tube system like a slick, terrifyingly efficient professional, then there are some basics to keep in mind.

First, I would never ride the Tube by choice between 7:30-9am and 5-7pm. It’s more expensive at this time so it’s a lose-lose, plus it’s rush hour when everyone and their mom’s landlord is trying to get to/from work. Don’t get caught in this as a tourist. Remember, you’re here to escape that kind of minutia!

how to travel for free in london

Second, remember, when riding the Tube, you need to tap out to leave, so have your card ready to tap out upon exit, and don’t block everyone’s way as you shuffle through the deepest depths of your chaotic tote bag.

Also make sure you have your full journey loaded on your phone or written down before you head out. There’s usually no service so you won’t be able to Google directions when you’re down there, hence why you may want to bring a book or some form of entertainment.

One random hack I have for finding the right exit to take from a Tube station is to plot your journey on Google Maps, and then rotate your map to make it look like your train is headed straight North. This way, you have a sense of which direction you need to move towards once you get off the train, and which exit makes the most sense.

In this example for instance, as you exit the train, you will know your end destination is behind and to the left of you:

how to travel for free in london

Some busier stations will also have an exit guide:

how to travel for free in london

Lastly, be sure to exercise proper Tube etiquette:

  • Let people off the train before you try to get on
  • If there’s a crowded train, take off your bag or have it on your front so you’re not in everyone’s way
  • Don’t stand on the left side of the escalator – this is meant to be left empty for people who choose to walk up

how to travel for free in london

17. Consider a BritRail Pass if travelling farther

If you’re staying a while in London and plan to do many day trips or side trips, one potential pass worth considering is the London Plus BritRail Pass .

With it, you can get unlimited train journeys for a set period (either a consecutive few days or a set number of days within a month).

The London Plus Pass is especially good value because it covers the Greater London area, plus many of London’s most popular day trip destinations like Bath , Winchester , Windsor, Salisbury, Brighton , and Bournemouth.

This is a great option if you need a bit more flexibility and don’t want to buy tickets in advance, but overall if you plan to only do a handful of day trips, buying tickets well in advance will probably be cheaper. 

how to travel for free in london

18. Don’t overload your London itinerary

Now let’s move onto some London itinerary planning tips. The first and most important one? Resist the urge to overload your itinerary!

London is a gargantuan city packed with fun attractions, so many in fact that even people born and raised there haven’t seen it all.

Which stands to reason that you, as a first time visitor, will not be able to see it all in one go either.

I would recommend limiting big paid attractions to 1-2 per day, then dedicating the rest of the day to just wandering, enjoying food, and pursuing more relaxed activities.

how to travel for free in london

19. Plan your days by neighbourhood

Another important London must-know is that you should be organizing your itinerary based on strategic neighbourhood hopping.

London is really spread apart so planning things by neighbourhood is crucial for avoiding the inefficiency of doubling back. If you need help, I have a 3 Days in London itinerary you can steal.

Needless to say, it’s really worth getting out of Central London to explore other neighbourhoods during your visit. Notting Hill, Camden, and Shoreditch are super popular ones for instance, but if you want something quieter, Hampstead Heath or Greenwich are also great.

how to travel for free in london

20. Consider the London Pass for potential savings

London is expensive, so I highly recommend you cap your paid attractions to only a few that you desperately want to do, then devote the rest of your time to free attractions.

That said, if you do intend on seeing lots of paid sights I can highly recommend the London Pass , especially if you can grab one on sale.

It’s essentially one card you pay for that then gets you into tons of paid attractions. If you plan correctly, this can save you SO much money. I bought a ten day one recently so that I could test out all of London’s paid attractions in one go. It was busy but I ended up saving a crazy amount of money.

Again, this would only be worth it if you planned to see a bunch of paid sights anyway, but it’s worth looking into if you’re a ‘see it all!’ type of visitor.

how to travel for free in london

21. Prioritize uniquely ‘London’ attractions

We’ve already established that there’s a ton to see in London… so how can you decide which sights to prioritize above the rest?

Well, my advice would be to prioritize uniquely London attractions. There are many big name attractions in the city now that are fairly random and completely unrelated to the city, for instance Shrek’s 4D Adventure or Madame Tussauds.

And… Unless you are travelling with kids and need to entertain them, I think there’s way better attractions to be prioritizing, so try to pick ‘Londony’ attractions whenever possible.

how to travel for free in london

22. Time your attraction visits strategically

Of course, it’s worth emphasizing how busy London can be when it comes to tourist sights, so if you want to enjoy attractions with minimal selfie sticks in your eyes, then avoid going to big attractions in the middle of the day.

Early morning or (even better) just before closing time is often way less busy.

how to travel for free in london

23. Familiarize yourself with all the free things to do in London

I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s worth noting again just how many great free things there are to do in London!

You can visit parks, go to free museums, or simply absorb London’s most wonderful sights on a (very free) walk.

In terms of free/by donation museums, the V&A is my personal favourite – it’s full of amazing decorative art and also located very close to other free museums like the Science Museum and Natural History Museum.

There’s also the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the Imperial War Museum, the British Museum and more. So if you’re looking to save money, prioritize these sights over others.

how to travel for free in london

There are some great free viewpoints as well, like at…

  • Tate Modern – the views over the Thames from the viewing level terrace are too good to pass up
  • Primrose Hill – a farther away view of the skyline in a very pretty park/colourful neighbourhood
  • Greenwich Observatory  – the perfect place to see the London skyline at sunset

how to travel for free in london

24. Learn when to book London’s most exclusive free/almost free tickets

While London is swimming with free things to do, some are harder to pursue than others due to limited tickets that are pre-released at set times before quickly being gobbled up by the eager freebie goblins.

SO, to help you prepare, here are some cool experiences in London that are free or almost free, but need to be booked in advance:

  • Barbican Conservatory: Really beautiful and free green space in the heart of the City! Tickets released for next week Thursdays at 10am here
  • Sky Garden: Free and stunning viewpoint, but you need to book in advance and the tickets go QUICKLY. Usually tickets are released every Monday up to a week in advance. Click here to book.
  • Mithraeum: Cool ancient Roman temple underneath all the huge skyscrapers in the City of London. Tickets can be booked up to four months in advance here although they do accept walk-ins depending on availability.
  • Ceremony of the Keys: Secret, centuries-old ceremony at the Tower of London where they lock up for the night. SUPER cool. Not free, but only costs 5 GBP. Tickets need to be booked in advance on the 1st working day of the month at noon, for the next month. You can book it here.

NOTE: If you don’t manage to book Sky Garden  for free, another fun way to see it which I prefer is to book it for breakfast to see it without crowds. It does cost 8.50 per person but you get a drink and a pastry so it’s not a bad deal!

how to travel for free in london

24. Book important must-dos well in advance

From West End shows to reservations for popular restaurants, planning ahead is key in London, especially during peak season.

Some key attractions that tend to book out months in advance include the Harry Potter Studio Tour and tickets for shows at the Globe .

So, remember: preparation is key to avoiding disappointment! If you know what attractions you want to see, book in advance online and get a skip the line ticket. If there’s a special restaurant you want to visit, book a table. If there’s a non-negotiable show that you need to see, book those tickets.

… You can always book cancellable ones to secure your spot, then decide later!

how to travel for free in london

25. Learn how to get the best deals on West End shows

On that note, if you’re hoping to get West End show tickets during your time in London, then here are some tips for saving money:

  • If you’re flexible with what show you watch, get the TodayTix app – they always have great sales and deals and within that app you can enter different ticket lotteries and do day-of rush tickets
  • In advance of your trip, enter different ticket lotteries – they have ones for Hamilton, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and other popular shows. This is how I got these seats in Hamilton for only 10 GBP!
  • And in a pinch, you can also visit the TKTS booth in Leicester Square for discounted day-of tickets

how to travel for free in london

26. Read local blogs/websites to find special events

Another VERY underrated London travel tip is to scour local blogs and websites for fun events/pop-ups.

In a city like London, there’s always cool things happening, so if you want to spice up your itinerary beyond the tourist must-sees, there’s plenty of opportunities. London is home to millions of locals after all!

Some good local websites to check out include London x London , Time Out London , Londonist , Secret London.

how to travel for free in london

27. Be sure to try plenty of English classics

Ahh, now for London food and drink tips!

I know most visitors will flock to London to try fish and chips, but besides this English classic, there are many other great British foods to try (alongside excellent international options, but more on that later).

If you’re craving local food, be sure to try some…

  • Savoury pies
  • A full English breakfast
  • Sausage rolls
  • Sticky toffee pudding

Those visiting on a Sunday should also make sure they try a Sunday roast, which tends to be eaten as a heavy lunch or early dinner, although booking for this in advance is strongly advised. 

how to travel for free in london

28. Visit food markets if you have trouble with decisions

Beyond English classics, be sure to head out to some food markets in London as well (the city is famous for them!)

These vibrant foodie hubs offer a taste of London’s incredibly diverse food scene, all in a ‘grab and go’ manner that’s ideal for those who are indecisive, or simply bottomless pits of sustenance like me.

Borough Market is a foodie favourite that’s always busy but fun. Other markets I love for food include Greenwich Market, Brick Lane Market, nearby Old Spitalfields Market and (the much smaller) Maltby St Market… although these all have their own specific opening days, so be sure to research before you head out!

how to travel for free in london

29. Learn where to grab a quick, cheap bite

If you’re in a rush, on a budget, or both, the most cost-effective and quick lunch you can get for yourself in London is a Meal Deal. These are set combos that include a main, a snack, and a drink for a set small price like 4 or 5 pounds. Most major supermarket chains do them.

Another place to get cheap snacks is bakeries or chains like Greggs, where you can get pastries and sausage rolls for less than 2 pound each.

I know how savage London can be on one’s budget, so keep these money saving tips in mind do help ease the pain a bit on some days.

how to travel for free in london

30. Learn proper pub etiquette

Now, let’s have a quick chat about pub etiquette.

Going to a pub in London is an essential activity, even if you don’t drink. Pubs can be a great place to grab food, socialize or even listen to live music if you plan properly, so don’t write off the experience just because you’re not a drinker!

Of course, visiting a London pub for the first time can be an awkward experience for first timers, full of random little culture shocks, so here are some must-knows to help you prepare.

First – not all pubs in London have table service, so the most typical way to order (especially if you’re just getting drinks) is to go up to the bar and order from there. You can usually place food orders at the bar as well. If you plan to do this, take note of your table number (usually somewhere on the table) so that they know where to bring your food!

When ordering at the bar, you tend to pay on the spot, and not after the meal is over.

These days, it’s also common for pubs, especially chain ones, to have a QR code or app where you can order directly from your table using your Table number. If you’re feeling a bit anti-social, this can be an easy option.

Lastly, in terms of what to order, beers are most commonly ordered as pints which in the UK are 20 fluid ounces, but if you want something smaller, ordering a half pint (AKA just a half) is also possible, although not too common.

Bear in mind pubs don’t tend to have as wide a selection for drinks as in bars, so you’re probably best sticking to beer, wine, cider or whatever simple cocktails they list on their menu. Don’t go asking for anything too fancy or they may look at you like you’re an alien.

how to travel for free in london

31. Learn how tipping in London works

Now, in regards to tipping, you’ll find that many restaurants in London these days add on a Discretionary Service Charge of about 12.5% which is automatically tacked onto your bill.

This isn’t a mandatory fee and you can ask them to remove it if you don’t think the service deserves that amount.

Otherwise, if you pay it, don’t worry – you’re not usually expected to pay an additional tip on top of that, unless you found the service to be really exceptional.

how to travel for free in london

32. Be careful when crossing the street

Now, for some London safety tips.

Please, for the love of Peppa Pig, make sure you look the right way when crossing the street.

The first time I visited London, I almost died about five times. Brits drive on the left, which sounds cute enough until you realize it turns every street crossing into an auto-fuelled death trap.

This has become such a problem that most crosswalks in touristy areas literally have “LOOK LEFT” and “LOOK RIGHT” painted on the pavement in aggressive white block letters, so read them.

how to travel for free in london

33. Keep your phone close at all times

While pickpockets do exist everywhere, the more common crime these days in in London is phone snatching. 

What thieves will often do is come by you on a bike or scooter, then snatch the phone from your hand and escape so be sure to avoid having your phone out when you’re in a busy area, especially next to the road.

… And review my guide on how to avoid pickpockets too.

how to travel for free in london

34. Beware of commonly mispronounced words and names

If you’re a first time visitor to London, you may be shocked to find that many of the names you’ve been reading in your head actually sound nothing like how you’ve been pronouncing them.

That’s because British English is filled with fun little traps!

So, let’s review some of the most commonly mispronounced names in London:

  • Thames is pronounced like “temz”, not THEY-mz
  • Leicester Square is pronounced like “LEST-ER Square”, not like LAY-SESS-TER Square
  • Greenwich is pronounced like ‘GREN-itch”, not green witch
  • Clapham and Fulham are pronounced like Clap-mm Full-mm, not Clap-HAM or Full-HAM
  • Southwark is pronounced like “Suth-irk” not South Wark

And trust me, that’s barely scraping the surface. SO, when in doubt, keep an ear out on the announcements at train stations and tube stations for the proper pronunciation of things. I still learn new pronunciation traps all the time!

how to travel for free in london

35. Beware of differing words in British English

On a related note, remember there are quite a few day to day words that are different in England compared to North America, so remember…

  • Bathroom = the toilet or loo
  • Elevator = lift
  • Garbage can = bin
  • Line-up = queue
  • Sidewalk = pavement

… Just to name a few examples.

how to travel for free in london

36. Learn some basic London etiquette

Of course, norms vary from destination to destination. Here are a few to bear in mind for London specifically:

  • Never jump a queue – this might as well be a punishable crime in England
  • Avoid talking too loudly – North Americans have a reputation for being obnoxiously loud in public
  • Don’t take up a seat on the bus or train with your bag if it’s busy
  • And most importantly: don’t put on a fake English accent! You might think it’s funny or convincing, it’s probably not

how to travel for free in london

37. Don’t bring too much cash out

I mentioned before how London is mostly a cashless city these days… but it’s an important must-know so I’ll mention it again!

Remember: there are now some places in London that are “card only” so you won’t be needing cash too often, hence why I’d recommend carrying very little with you at all times.

A good rule of thumb is to never bring more cash out than you could stand to lose. I usually just walk around with £20 juuust in case, but I’ve rarely had to use it.

how to travel for free in london

38. Learn where to find free public toilets

If you need to find a public toilet while exploring London, either look for big train stations, McDonalds, Starbucks and department stores OR in a pinch, duck into a pub and order a drink.

how to travel for free in london

39. A hooded jacket > an umbrella

If you’re running low on space and can’t decide what to pack, I would recommend packing a hooded jacket over an umbrella for your trip to London.

London’s rain can often come unexpectedly, and honestly the wind can be pretty vicious too, so having a hooded jacket is a better defense.

Because yes, it does rain a lot quite randomly in London, so make sure you’re prepared!

how to travel for free in london

40. Remember to be respectful

Getting to the end of our list of London travel tips, please remember the importance of being a kind and respectful tourist!

Some examples of what NOT to do include…

  • Trespassing private property to get a fake candid in front of a colourful wall
  • Being loud and disruptive if you’re wandering around a cute residential neighbourhood
  • Blocking the escalator/sidewalk/train door with huge suitcases and bags
  • Stopping suddenly on the sidewalk to look at directions/take a photo

At the end of the day, there are a lot of tourists in London, sure, but there’s even more locals who call this city home… so let’s make sure we don’t ruin their day to day lives with our tourist debauchery.

how to travel for free in london

41. Binge watch movies/shows set in London before your visit

Finally – last but not least, a very dorky tip: watch lots of movies and shows in advance of your visit which showcase London as the backdrop.

This will make your trip 1000x more delightful… trust me!

There’s way too many to choose from, but here’s a list to get you started:

  • About Time (one of my favourite movies ever – please watch it)
  • Paddington 1 & 2 (not just for kids. These are great and showcase London well)
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary or Notting Hill (if you want a good rom com)
  • Anything Sherlock Holmes related
  • Love Actually (at Christmas time – a must!)
  • The Harry Potter series (not a TON of London scenes, but still magical)

how to travel for free in london

I hope this list of London Travel Tips was helpful!

I appreciate you trudging your way through this lengthy list of tips for London, my London fangirl in training. Hopefully this post answered most of your questions, but if you have any more, let me know in the comments. Safe and happy travels!

My Go-To Travel Favourites:

🧳 Eagle Creek: My favourite packing cubes

💳 Wise: For FREE travel friendly credit cards

🍯 Airalo: My go-to eSIM

🏨 For searching hotels

📷 Sony A7IV: My (amazing) camera

✈️ Google Flights : For finding flight deals

🌎 WorldNomads: For travel insurance

🎉 GetYourGuide: For booking activities

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How to get around London: from tubes and trains to bikes and buses

Mar 17, 2024 • 10 min read

how to travel for free in london

With a bus, Tube, boat or bike? We'll help you discover the best ways to get around in London © Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

London is a sprawling city of over nine million people. With its combination of Roman walls, Victorian development, post-WWII rebuilding and pockets of ongoing regeneration, it's a jumble of roads, Tube and train lines, and definitely not the most intuitive city to navigate.

However, with apps, good mapping, signage and a bit of patience, it's possible to visit almost all of the city via public transport. From train companies to Transport for London, here's everything you need to know about each mode of transport and the all-important ticketing system.

A woman exiting the London Tube holding her phone

The Tube (the London Underground) is the quickest and easiest

The London Underground, or "the Tube," is the city's subway running across 11 different color-coded lines, with only about 45% of the Underground network actually operating underground. Despite the never-ending upgrades and engineering works requiring weekend closures and escalators out of action, the Tube is overall the quickest and easiest way of getting around the city. It is also usually the warmest place to wait for your transport in winter, except on those rare above-ground Tube stations. 

Be aware though: some stations, most famously Leicester Square and Covent Garden, are much closer in reality than they appear on the Tube map, and going underground to travel between them will take much longer than simply walking between them.

Tip for using the Tube for sight-seeing: The Piccadilly Line stops at some of London’s key sights and neighborhoods – Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge – and it runs from Heathrow's airport terminals. It's a good Tube line to base yourself near. 

Catch the Night Tube on Friday and Saturday nights

The Tube runs roughly 5am to 1am, although when your last train departs does vary by line and the day of the week. 

Several lines (the Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines) run all night on Friday and Saturday to get revelers home (on what is called the "Night Tube"), with trains every ten minutes or so (and off-peak fares). 

London's red buses (and the best sight-seeing bus route)

London's ubiquitous red double-decker buses afford great views of the city, but the going can be slow thanks to traffic jams and dozens of commuters getting on and off at every stop.

There are excellent bus maps at every stop detailing all routes and destinations served from that particular area (generally a few bus stops within a two- to three-minute walk, shown on a local map).

Bus services normally operate from 5am to 11:30pm. Many bus stops have LED displays listing bus arrival times, although downloading an app such as Citymapper to your smartphone is the most effective way to keep track of when your next bus is due. 

Top tip for taking the bus: Bus Route 15 is no longer served by heritage Routemaster buses but is still a useful route for tourists, connecting the Tower of London, St Paul's, the Strand and Trafalgar Square.

: Railway sign for the Elizabeth Line at Canary Wharf in London just before sunset

The Elizabeth Line

London’s shiny new "purple" line, connecting towns as far west as Reading and as far east as Shenfield to central London via hubs like Paddington, Liverpool Street Station and Tottenham Court Road,  is now open for business .

The line also offers a quicker (although more expensive!) route between Heathrow airport and central London.

Getting around London by foot

London is too large to realistically cover on foot, but once you're in an area of interest, you can't beat walking for proper neighborhood exploration. A good map or GPS is recommended, as London's winding streets can quickly disorientate. Bridges cross the Thames at regular intervals, and there are two pedestrian tunnels beneath the river: one at Greenwich and one at Woolwich. 

If you're exploring London in winter, wrap up with a warm hat, gloves and scarf. In central London, an umbrella is a liability on narrow footpaths; you're better off wearing a waterproof coat with a hood. Ice and snow are not uncommon in the depths of winter, so watch for slippery streets in the mornings.

Another key hazard for walkers in London can be cyclists, or rather pedestrians are a worry for them. Looking out for cars when you cross the road goes without saying, but in London, many streets allow cyclists to ride against a one-way driving system on "contra-flow" lanes. This means you need to look both ways before crossing roads, especially as you won't hear a bike coming! 

MBNA Thames Clippers departing The London Eye Waterloo Pier at night.

Better on a boat on the Thames

Several companies operate along the River Thames; only Uber Boat by Thames Clippers really offers commuter services, however. It’s fast and pleasant, and you’re almost always guaranteed a seat and a view. Thames Clippers boats run regular services between Embankment, Waterloo (London Eye), Blackfriars, Bankside (Shakespeare's Globe), London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, Greenwich, North Greenwich and Woolwich piers. Tickets can be bought at the piers, or pay-as-you-go with your Oyster or Contactless card (see   below for more information on paying fares).

Cycling is a surprisingly quick way to cross London

Cycling is generally a great way to get around the city , although city traffic can be intimidating for less-confident cyclists – it is important to keep your wits about you. The city has tried hard to improve the cycling infrastructure, by opening new "cycle superhighways" for commuters and "quietways" which are back street cycle lanes for leisure cyclists. The public bike-hire scheme Santander Cycles is particularly useful for visitors with bike-hire docks throughout the city. It costs £2 for unlimited journeys up to 30 minutes and £2 for each additional 30 minutes. Download the app to find the closest bikes and where there are spots available to drop off your bike near your destination. Cycling is also an excellent option for exploring parks and along the Thames.

London's iconic black cabs wait at lights in front of a double-decker red bus

London's black cabs and other taxi options

Licensed black cab drivers have "The Knowledge", acquired over three-to-five years of rigorous training and a series of exams. They are supposed to know 25,000 streets within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square and the 100 most-visited spots of the moment, including clubs and restaurants.

Cabs are available for hire when the yellow sign above the windshield is lit; just stick your arm out to signal one. Fares are metered, with the initial charge of £3.80 rising by increments of 20p over distance traveled or time taken, which varies depending on the tariff being used. You can pay for your journey with a credit or debit card or cash.

Minicabs (private hire cars) are cheaper alternatives to getting a black cab, but they must be booked in advance through a cab office or an app and cannot be hailed on the street. Fares are set in advance rather than metered.

Ride-share apps are also in operation in London, although their introduction and impact on the city, from undercutting traditional black cabs to accusations of increased car congestion, is still hotly debated by locals. 

Top tip for taking a black cab: Despite the name, not all of London's black cabs are black! They are broadly all shaped the same, though, and will have a yellow sign above the windshield that says "Taxi."

Driving a car in London

As a visitor, it’s very unlikely you’ll need to drive in London. Much has been done to encourage Londoners to get out of their cars and onto public transport (or on their bikes), and the same disincentives should keep you firmly off the road: the additional Congestion Charge (CC) and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) fees, extortionate parking costs, the high price of fuel, fiendishly-efficient traffic wardens, and ubiquitous CCTV cameras recording cars parked (even momentarily) on double yellow lines or not giving way when they should... it's probably not worth it. 

Riding above the Thames on a cable car

The Emirates Air Line is a cable car linking the Royal Docks in East London with North Greenwich some 90m above the Thames. The journey is brief and rather pricey, but the views are stunning. The Air Line is step-free, and the cable cars can accommodate most motorized wheelchairs.

The DLR (Docklands Light Rail)

The DLR, or Docklands Light Railway, is a driverless train network operating in the eastern part of the city. It's likely you'll take a ride on it if you're heading to the Emirates Air Line cable car or arriving/departing via London City Airport. It's a winner for travelers with children, who like to pretend they're driving the train from the front carriage. 

London Overground and the suburban train network

The Overground train network is part of Transport for London and operates mainly beyond the center of London (although some lines do pass through Zone 1 so pay attention if you're trying to avoid Zone 1 fares). In February 2024 the sprawling Overground network was rebranded into six separate lines, named to celebrate the capital’s modern history and diversity. Not all Londoners were impressed by the names.

There are various private companies operating trains in London that run out to the suburbs. The train network is particularly good for any day trips out of London , but pay attention to which operator you've booked train tickets with as more than one company will depart from the same station. 

The "mind the gap" warning sign that is painted in yellow on the platforms of most London underground stations

Accessible transportation in London

London is a frustrating mix of inconsistent user-friendliness for travelers with access needs . All tram stops, the Emirates Air Line (cable car) and DLR stations have step-free access, as do all Thames Clippers and most piers (the exceptions are Cadogan Pier, Wandsworth Riverside Quarter Pier and London Bridge City Pier). However, only around a quarter of Tube stations and half of Overground stations have step-free access. This means that if you need to go through an interchange on the Tube network, you may find yourself facing an unexpected flight of stairs. There is often a gap between the train and the platform to contend with, as well. Careful planning and notification of a staff member are recommended before you board a train.

Buses are a much better bet: all can be lowered to street level when they stop, and wheelchair users travel free. Wheelchair users enter through the middle doors and have priority use of the wheelchair space over stroller users. All black cabs are meant to be wheelchair-accessible, but power wheelchair users should note that the space is tight, and headroom can be insufficient.

Guide dogs are universally welcome on public transport. Pavements are generally in good repair, pedestrian crossings relatively frequent and well-placed, and curb cuts sufficient not to leave you stranded. The further you get from the center of London, the more likely it is that you'll have the occasional issue with a missing curb cut.

Female hand holding a blue Oyster card, touching yellow pad on automatic ticket barriers

Transport passes, tickets and fares

Transport for London operates the integrated transport network in the city and is the best source for up-to-date travel information, including timetables and fares. Children under five travel free with a fare-paying adult. Use the larger automatic gates to pass through with children, strollers, wheelchairs or luggage.

You can buy tickets for single journeys at ticket offices and self-service machines at most stations, but it's cheaper and much more convenient to either use Contactless, an Oyster card, or a mobile payment with a smartphone (unless you're paying overseas transaction fees). 

Contactless: This is any credit or debit card that allows for contactless payment. You hold it near the yellow card readers at ticket barriers for the Underground and rail systems to mark the start (and end) of your journey. This is referred to as "touch in, touch out." The cost of the journey will automatically be deducted from your account.

Oyster cards:  These are pre-paid reusable cards that can be topped up with funds either at a ticket machine or online. They are sold at most Tube/train stations and many newsagents (£5 charge) and follow the same "touch in, touch out" system.

Bus journeys: Buses are all cash-free, meaning you must either have a ticket in advance or pay with Contactless or an Oyster card when you board. You only need to "touch in" at the start of your journey. You will pay a flat fee no matter how long you are on board.

Travel zones for Tube and rail

The city's Tube and rail systems are divided into zones, radiating outwards from Zone 1 in the very center to Zone 9 as the outer section in Greater London to the north (it goes as far as Zone 6 to the south). Fares are capped, so providing you use the same card/device throughout your day and travel within the zones system, you'll pay a reduced Travelcard rate.

If you're taking a train beyond the London zones, perhaps for a day trip to the coast or farther afield, you will need to buy a separate train ticket.

This article was first published March 2021 and updated March 2024

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The Globetrotting Teacher

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Your First Trip to London

Are you planning your first trip to London?  

This global city is endlessly popular with travelers from all over the world. With its famous landmarks and iconic sights, the number of things to see and do in London can easily excite and overwhelm first-time visitors.

In this post, you’ll find a cheat sheet compiled over 3 separate visits to London packed with information about how to get to London from the airport, where to stay in London, how to get around once you arrive, and best of all,  mapped-out London itinerary planning tips .

Are you ready to make your first trip to London a success? 

How to Plan a Trip to London

Tower Bridge in London, UK

It can seem daunting to get started on your London trip plan. It’s a huge city with lots of iconic sights and experiences. In fact, I think it’s often underestimated by travelers who often write to tell me what a great time they had in London and that the city was such a surprise…in a good way!

So, as any good teacher will tell you, start with an outline. In this case, you want to break down each step you’ll need to do to plan a trip to London and then work on filling in all the details.

Start with deciding when you want to visit London and how many days you’ll stay. (I recommend at least 3-4 days.)

Once you know this, you can work on booking your London accommodations. (I recommend staying in a central-ish area within walking distance of a Tube station. Keep reading for more below) The further out you book your London hotel, the more available options you’ll have with competitive pricing.

ProTip: If you have flexibility, you might even look at London flights and hotels first to find the cheapest combination of dates and rates. In this way, you’re letting the deals decide when you travel versus looking for a deal on the dates you need/want to travel.

Once you’ve got the major logistics set, it’s time to work on your London itinerary. (I’ve got specific itinerary ideas below so keep reading!)

At this point in your planning a trip to London, you’ll want to make a list of the London sights and attractions that are your must sees and dos. Then, using the maps below (or Google Maps), start grouping them by area.

One really important thing to know as you plan your London trip is that the city is huge. The distances between places can be far, and with limited days, you don’t want to backtrack or plan activities on opposite ends of the city on the same day.

From here, figure out what can be booked ahead…and actually book it ahead! London is a popular destination. It’s normal for there to be lines at top sights and restaurants that are completely booked.

You can use sightseeing passes like The London Pass (my complete review) to pre-plan and save money. Or you can book individual tickets through a platform like Get Your Guide .

Once you know where you’re staying and what you’ll be doing each day, you can round out your London trip planning by looking at the Tube Map to orient yourself and decide how you’ll get from the airport to the city center. (More tips on this below!)

What to See and Do on Your First Trip to London

This London trip planner is set up in different sections to help you plan a trip to London from start to finish. The first part helps you get ideas about how to plan your days in London with landmarks, attractions, museums, markets, and activities in a logistically sensible way.

You want to maximize your time in London without backtracking or zigzagging around the city. These ideas can also help you piece together a complete day because not all of them require a full day.

You also note that I’ve included the Tube stops for individual attractions. This is to help you in case you visit these places outside of the order I’ve suggested in the Google Map for each itinerary idea.

After these itinerary ideas for planning your trip to London, you’ll find tips and helpful information so you can navigate the city confidently.

Are you ready to plan your trip to London?

London Itinerary Planning Idea #1 – History Buffs and Foodies

Tower of London – Tower Hill Tube Stop – Circle and District Lines

The  Tower of London  with its crown jewels is an absolute must with its thick, ominous walls, dark past, resident black ravens, and informative Beefeaters. The Tower and the nearby Tower Bridge sit stalwartly as a link to the past when Kings and Queens sent prisoners to “think” about their choices and to wait for the inevitable… execution.

The Tower of London was the inhospitable home to infamous gangsters, spies, Dukes, Bishops, Princes, and even Queens!

First Trip to London Tower of London as seen from the River Thames

Undoubtedly the most famous Queen of them all was the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. The Tower of London is where Henry the VIII’s executioner beheaded her on charges of adultery and conspiracy, however, Henry actually blamed her for not producing a male heir.

Today, visiting the Tower of London is like stepping back in time. The daily traditions involving this historic castle have continued for hundreds of years. The resident Beefeaters live at the Tower of London and maintain the rituals and routines of the past. But they also offer free tours (once inside) and comically share their vast Tower of London knowledge.

These tours begin every 30 minutes starting at 10:00 a.m. and finishing with the last tour at 2:30 p.m.

Pro Tip:  Arrive in the morning when the Tower first opens. It becomes quite crowded later in the day. Use your  London Pass  to get Fast Track Entry and bundled savings when compared to buying attraction tickets individually.

Tower Bridge & Borough Market – London Bridge Tube Stop – Northern and Jubilee Lines

After a morning at the Tower of London, time your escape for lunch at  Borough Market . It’ll be easiest to walk from the Tower of London. Walk across Tower Bridge instead of London Bridge as shown on the map above. The walk is a bit longer than crossing London Bridge, but historic Tower Bridge is a sight in its own right.

You can tour the Victorian-era engine rooms, as well as climb to the bridge’s upper walkways for gorgeous views over London and the River Thames. Get your Tower Bridge ticket in advance or use The London Pass to visit the bridge.

You can also cross the River Thames with a river bus using your Tube Oyster Card (more on these below) from Tower Pier to London Bridge City Pier.

Once at Borough Market, the market lanes are lined with food and grocers selling every imaginable food item. It’s a great place to sample a variety of foods from all types of global cuisines. Not to mention, no London trip is complete without taking advantage of the city’s amazing international food scene!

Borough Market London

From famous falafel to perfectly spiced Indian food, huge skillets of paella, and savory British pies from Pieminster, you’ll be thankful to visit with an empty stomach on your first trip to London and every time you return like I do!

Restaurants and cafes fill the upstairs level and the surrounding streets (in case you’d prefer to sit rather than sample and roam) making this Southwark neighborhood a foodie’s delight.

ProTip: From Borough Market, you’re just a 5-minute walk to The Shard , London’s tallest glass skyscraper to see the highest views over the city. If you have it, you can use your London Pass for access. Be sure to follow the pass instructions to pre-reserve a time.

London Itinerary Planning Idea #2 – Royalty and High Tea

Westminster Abbey – Westminster Tube Stop – Jubilee Line

Coming out of Westminster Station, you’ll immediately be in the shadow of Big Ben and London’s iconic Parliament Building. You can walk back onto the Westminster Bridge to capture fuller photos of these London landmarks. If you’re lucky, you just might get a classic shot with a red doubledecker bus!

Continue on to  Westminster Abbey , just a couple of minutes walking from Big Ben. Westminster Abbey is open to visitors Monday-Saturday from 9:30 a.m until 3:30 p.m. The Abbey is closed on Sundays so keep this in mind when planning your London trip.

Use your  London Pass  to gain access to Westminster. Once inside, admire the architecture and the Abbey’s gorgeous choir room. Westminster is also the final resting place of numerous kings, queens, and dignitaries. You can see the monuments in their honor, as well as learn about their place in history.

If you’re a fan of the Royals, you’ll be visiting the spot where Kate and William were married.

Pro Tip:  If you want to take a ride on the London Eye , it can be included with the stops you make in and around Big Ben because it’s just a short walk over the bridge you see in the photo below. Avoid the lines by choosing the fast-track ticket option. It’s also quite popular to depart from the Westminster Pier for a cruise along the River Thames to take in the sights of London from the water.

History buffs won’t want to miss the Churchill War Rooms. They’re not far from Westminster Abbey, along the edge of St. James’s Park. These rooms served as the secret headquarters for Churchill during WW2. The rooms have been preserved just as they were during the war and give a fascinating look at how Churchill operated and made decisions during this dark time in history.

If your trip to London is 3 days or less and it’s your first visit, this WW2 museum may not be a top priority. But if you or a travel companion is interested in visiting WW2 sights and museums in Europe, The Churchill War Rooms are a great way to divert from the typical first time in London sights.

Buckingham Palace-Green Park Tube Stop-Jubilee, Victoria, & Piccadilly Lines

Next, make your way to  Buckingham Palace  where the  Changing of the Guards  happens.

The ceremony is all pomp and fanfare. The King’s Guard outside the castle has been on watch for hours and the new guard comes to take over in grand style! A marching brigade of guards along with a mounted cavalry and a marching band head up The Mall and through the palace gates.

This ceremony draws a crowd so it’s best to arrive ahead of time so that you can get yourself in a position to see the fanfare. I’ve watched from both the gates of Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria Monument directly opposite the palace gates.

First Trip to London Changing of the Guard

You’ll have to choose the location you want because it’s typically too crowded to move from place to place. To get a spot along the fence at Buckingham Palace, be prepared to arrive up to an hour early and wait.

If this is the case, you also may need to reverse the order and visit Westminster Abbey after so that you can stake out your Changing of the Guard spot in the morning.

Pro Tip:  Check the  Changing of the Guard schedule  before you go to make sure the ceremony is planned for the day you intend to visit.

Hyde Park – Hyde Park Corner Tube Stop – Piccadilly Line

When the ceremony is finished, keep those royal juices flowing for a stroll around  Hyde Park . It’s one of the largest parks in London, as well as one of the Royal Parks. Enjoy its monuments, bridges, fountains, gardens, and lake, including the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.

Finish up with a classic afternoon tea experience at  The Dorchester Hotel .

No doubt, it’s a luxurious splurge, but after having experienced life as a royal, it’s the perfect way to properly finish the experience. From finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, sweets, and of course, tea, you’ll have had a quintessential London outing.

First trip to London Afternoon Tea

Alternatively, if you plan afternoon tea for another day, you might want to visit London’s Natural History Museum or Kensington Palace on the other end of Hyde Park.

The latter has been a royal residence for hundreds of years and was where Princess Diana lived with Princes William and Harry. Today, you can tour the apartments and staterooms and see the sunken gardens where there is a statue of Princess Diana commemorating the 20th anniversary of her death.

While the Natural History Museum displays animal specimens, dinosaurs, and exhibitions about the history of the natural world and the people who evolved in it.

If you intend to walk into Hyde Park and casually make your way towards Kensington Palace or the Natural History Museum, the walk will be broken up by the time spent in the park.

Otherwise, if your aim is to get to either of these sights without a long walk, use the London underground. The Queensway stop along the Central line is the closest to Kensington Palace and the South Kensington stop along the Circle and District lines is near to the Natural History Museum.

London Itinerary Planning Idea #3 – Architecture, Theatre, & Art

St. Paul’s Cathedral – St. Paul’s Tube Stop – Central Line

Start off at  St. Paul’s Cathedral  to admire this Anglican Church’s architecture. You can explore the crypt or head in the opposite direction and climb the dome’s 528 steps for spectacular panoramic London views.

If you have it, entry is included with your London Pass .

Take your time crossing the pedestrian-only Millennium Bridge on your way to the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This is a great spot to watch boat traffic along the River Thames.

First Trip to London Millenium Bridge with view of St. Paul's

Tate Modern & The Globe Theatre-Blackfriars Tube Stop-Circle & District Lines

These 2 London attractions are just next to one another.

The  Tate Modern  has a vast permanent collection of modern art by the likes of Henri Matisse and Jackson Pollock, as well as temporary exhibitions. There are beautiful views looking back on St. Paul’s Cathedral and the River Thames, as well.

It’s free to enter the museum and there’s no need to book ahead, unless there is a specific exhibit you’d like to see that requires a reserved space.

The nearby  Globe Theatre  is a replica of Shakespeare’s original which burned in a fire many years ago after the thatched roof was ignited during a production of Henry VIII.

For your first trip to London, you’ll want to use your  London Pass  to tour the theater during the day and hear about its historic past. The Globe also has evening performances during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. The ambiance of the open-air theater makes for a fantastic night out!

First Trip to London Shakespeares Globe Theatre

Pro Tip:  Check times to coordinate visits to both the Tate Modern and The Globe in a way that lets you see one after the other. The Globe performance tickets sell out so purchase them in advance, especially if you want to see a play on a specific date.

London Itinerary Planning Idea #4 – Artifacts, Landmarks, and Shopping

The British Museum – Tottenham Court Tube Stop – Central & Northern Lines

No trip to London is complete without a stop at The   British Museum . The art and artifacts on display are open free to the public beginning at 10:00 a.m. each day. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, sculptures from the Parthenon, and a vast Egyptian collection including mummies.

It’s worth checking for any special, limited-time exhibits during your stay. If there’s one you’d like to see, it’s worth buying tickets online or at the museum when you first arrive.

London British Museum

After the museum, spend the afternoon strolling through  Covent Garden  or head over to  Soho  and  Oxford Street  for a shopper’s paradise. Covent Garden is in London’s West End, home to theaters, restaurants, and shops. You’re sure to find anything you’d want to buy from the numerous chain stores, boutiques, and markets.

Pro Tip:  There are many classic London pubs in these neighborhoods. If you haven’t had a plate of fish and chips yet, now’s the time. You can also join a historical pub walking tour to visit some of London’s most iconic pubs.

Fish and Chips London

Leicester Square – Leicester Square Tube Stop – Piccadilly & Northern Lines

Make your way to  Leicester Square  and the heart of London’s Theatre District. It’s super touristy here. Think Times Square-esque…a place where you take a few photos before moving on.

But if you plan to see a musical or a play later (and you certainly should!),  get your discounted tickets at the TKTS booth right in the square for performances that day or night.

There’s crossover between shows in London and New York’s Broadway district. Sometimes, you can even catch a performance in London before it heads to New York City.

Trafalgar Square – Charing Cross Tube Stop – Bakerloo & Northern Lines

Finish your walk at  Trafalgar Square . This iconic London crossroads has monuments, historic buildings, museums, and street performers. It’s an absolute beehive of activity and perfect for taking more classic London photos complete with red double-decker buses passing by on the streets in and around the square.

First Trip to London Trafalgar Square

With any luck, you’ll have time to check out the  National Gallery  right in Trafalgar Square which houses famous paintings by the likes of Vermeer, Monet, Rembrandt, Cezanne, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Best of all, it’s free to visit, and you can use your  London Pass  Hop On Hop Off double-decker bus ticket to reposition yourself closer to your hotel when you’re done.

London Itinerary Planning Idea #5 – Harry Potter Fans

Harry Potter Studio Tour Meeting Point – Victoria Station – Circle, District & Victoria Lines

Are you traveling with a wannabe wizard dying for a Hogwarts adventure?

Plan a visit to the  Harry Potter and Warner Brothers Studio . Buses leave from Central London and travel to the magical sets of the famed movie and book series. The closest tube stop to the meeting point is Victoria Station. From there, it’s just a few minutes on foot.

You’ll have 4 hours to see places like the Great Hall, Dumbledore’s Office, Diagon Alley, and more! Plus, get to see some of the most famous props and the costumes worn by Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

If you’ve wanted to visit Platform 9 ¾, ride the Hogwarts Express, and attempt to ride a broomstick, then you definitely don’t want to miss escaping the world of Muggles for just a bit on your visit to London!

ProTip: If you want to sprinkle some Harry Potter into your London trip but don’t want to commit a full day to the experience, this Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour is a popular alternative.

Out-of-Town Must-Sees on your First Trip to London

From London, many parts of Britain and the U.K. are easily reachable by train. This makes it possible to visit a couple of popular sites with even just a half day’s worth of time.

Trains run from London to both  Windsor Castle  and  Hampton Court Palace . From their respective train stations, it’s just a few minutes on foot to reach the entry points.

The exquisite staterooms at Windsor Castle are open to the public when the King is not in residence. These rooms are some of the most spectacular castle rooms you’ll see anywhere in the world.

St. George’s Chapel, within the grounds of Windsor Castle, is the final resting spot of Henry VIII and several other Kings and Queens. It’s also where Meghan and Harry were married and the final resting place of Queen Elizabeth II.

First Trip to London Windsor Castle

Hampton Court Palace is full of Tudor history, as it was a regular stop for Henry VIII and his royal court. The palace creates a historical experience by revealing the inner workings of how the palace operated in its heyday. It’s undoubtedly one of the most interesting and well-preserved looks at Tudor history, as well as what life was like during this period.

Look out for King Henry VIII himself, as visitors can watch the King interact with Anne Boleyn or flirt with his soon-to-be next wife, Jane Seymour. Leave some time for the palace’s gardens and maze.

Pro Tip:  Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace are both included with the  London Pass . Get Fast Track Entry at Hampton Court to maximize your time and avoid any entry line.

If you have extra days in your itinerary, consider a London day trip to:

  • Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath
  • The Cotswolds
  • Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) & the Filming Locations

If you’re planning a trip to England, rent a car and drive into the English countryside when your time in London is done. I’ve done this to spend time exploring places like Stratford-Upon-Avon , the Cotswolds villages , and Warwick Castle .

It’s a perfect way to add on to an England itinerary and explore more of what the country has to offer beyond London.

Best Area to Stay in London

Where to stay in London is one of the most frequently asked questions for anyone planning a trip. It’s understandable. You want to be somewhere conveniently located, safe, and within your travel budget.

London’s neighborhoods and districts each have their own unique charm and flavor. And while some might say you should absolutely stay in the heart of the most touristy areas of the city, I think the most important thing when choosing where to stay in London is to  stay somewhere with convenient access to the Tube. 

You shouldn’t be hesitant to book a hotel or rental accommodation that’s a few Tube stops away from popular attractions. You can truly get nearly anywhere in London very quickly by using the underground train system.

That being said, you don’t want to stay too far from the heart of London, either. The city is big and the Tube rides from London’s outer neighborhoods can take upwards of an hour back to the center.

Ideally, you want to find a London hotel that matches your travel budget, close to a Tube station, in a relatively center-ish location. Example neighborhoods include Seven Dials, Covent Garden, Westminster, Soho, and near Southwark along the south bank.

Below, I’ve shared a couple of hotels where I’ve stayed. They’re in different budget categories and neighborhoods, and they have convenient Tube access.

Interior of a hotel room the house-keeper of a class

I’ve had excellent hotel points and paid stays at several London hotels including the ones listed below.

Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel  – The hotel is located in the Seven Dials neighborhood near Covent Garden, the West End’s Theatre district, pubs, and my favorite Indian restaurant, Dishoom. Rooms are a classic modern boutique style for which Radisson Blu hotels are known.

Holiday Inn Express London-Southwark  – Just a 10-minute walk to Borough Market, the Tate Modern, or the Globe Theatre, with a Tube station nearby. This hotel is on the south bank of the city not far from the Southwark Tube station.

London Rental Accommodations

During my travels, I’ve also opted for apartment and home rentals. You feel more like a local and oftentimes can save money because you’re able to prepare your own breakfast or share the overall cost with family members or friends. Not to mention, you can find truly unique places to stay with awesome views or even discover a new neighborhood!

London is the perfect destination to consider a rental accommodation over a hotel because hotels aren’t cheap(!) and London is well-connected with its underground trains.

My go-to place to search for rental accommodations is Plum Guide . They vet the properties on their site using “Home Critics” and only select the best properties in a variety of price brackets. Plum Guide even offers phone support 24/7 should you need any help or have questions.

How Many Days to Spend in London

As with most places, you can spend an extended period of time and still not see and do everything a fantastic city like London has to offer.

If it’s your first time in London, you likely will focus on the most popular attractions and experiences that interest you. For this, you’ll need 3-4 days to explore and make use of the London itinerary ideas in this guide.

With 4+ days in London, you can also use a day to visit a popular sight just outside of London or even  get off the beaten path .

London is a great city to explore. It’s also the perfect jumping-off point for future trips to Europe. It’s not complicated to add a couple of days in London as a stopover before continuing on to another destination in Europe.

Arrival into London

The  Heathrow Express  is a quick and efficient way to get into the city from London Heathrow Airport. The train leaves every 15 minutes and arrives in just about the same time to Paddington Station.

You can book your tickets online or using the Heathrow Express App. Not only will this save you any hassle at the airport, but you’ll also save money. Heathrow Express prices are lower the further you book in advance.

Gatwick Airport also has an  express train  which arrives at Victoria Station. Trains run every 15 minutes and take a half-hour to reach London.

Similarly, the express train from Gatwick offers considerable discounts for booking online and ahead of time.

First Trip to London Trains at Paddington Station

The airports also have commuter trains, buses, and taxis to get you into London. Except for the taxis, these options are less expensive than the express trains mentioned above but do take more time.

You can check prices and schedules for  Southern Railways  from Gatwick to compare.

In addition, from London Heathrow, you can take the Tube. Trains along the Picadilly and Elizabeth lines connect terminals 2, 3, 4, and 5. The ride takes between 45-50 minutes to reach central London but is less expensive than the Heathrow Express.

From Paddington and Victoria Stations in London, you’ll have access to the  London Tube  with lines spreading across the city, as well as a taxi queue at ground level. Most taxis take credit cards but be aware of the occasional cash-only sign in a taxi’s window.

Pro Tip:  My recommendation is to use an express train or the Tube (from/to Heathrow), for a quick and easy trip to London’s city center or even directly to your hotel. Avoid London traffic and expensive taxi rides.

If you’d prefer to arrange transportation and/or avoid taking the trains, consider booking a car with Welcome Pickups  to transfer to the city. Although I’ve only used the trains to get from Heathrow to London, I’ve used Welcome Pickups in several other European cities and always had a great experience.

This will be a much more affordable option compared to a London taxi. The price will be a flat rate, as opposed to paying based on the taxi’s metered fare which can get quite high with even the smallest amount of traffic

How to get around London

First Trip to London Tube Station near Big Ben

London is very pedestrian-friendly and you’re bound to do a good amount of walking during your London trip. Remember, cars are on the opposite side of the road compared to the U.S., so you need to LOOK RIGHT when crossing the road. When in doubt, just look both ways before crossing.

Along the Thames, the riverwalk is a clear path connected with several bridges to help you cross to the other side as frequently as you need.

In addition, London’s Tube (subway) is reliable, easy to navigate, and stretches across the city. The announcements are clear and the lines are identified with colors and names, like Central, District, and Piccadilly. Given how big London is, you’ll need to rely on public transportation to maximize the time you have rather than always walking long distances.

As with getting to London from the airport, taxis are expensive in London and get even pricier when traffic is heavy. It’s best to go underground to save time, money, and patience.

Visitors staying for a few days can get an Oyster Card for easy use and refills in the Tube. Your Oyster Card is good for your first trip to London and every return trip thereafter!

London Pass  purchases come with the option to add a visitor’s Oyster Card. I would skip this option because the card takes several weeks to be physically mailed to you. You can also save more money by simply using a regular Oyster Card or the Tube’s contactless payment system because it will cap how much you’ll pay each day automatically.

Use a contactless credit card to pay to enter the Tube, as well as a mobile device like a smartphone with Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay. Just be sure you’re using a card with no foreign transaction fees.

A few things to keep in mind when paying to access the Tube.

  • Use the same card or device when you touch in and out at the yellow card readers. The London Tube caps how much you’ll pay. So, you can ride as much as you want in a day or a week and you’ll never pay more than the capped price.
  • If you don’t use the same card or device, the Tube card readers won’t be able to accurately cap the amount you pay.
  • If you’re using a device like a smartphone, be sure you have enough battery power. You need to touch in and out of the Tube. You also need to use your phone all day otherwise the system can’t cap the amount you pay.
  • You can pay for another person if you are traveling together. (They will need to touch out of the Tube and can’t do it without your card or device.) You’ll need to pay for yourself with a separate card or device.

London Tips for Your First Trip

View of the River Thames in London across from the London Eye

As you plan things to do in London and where to stay in London, also take into consideration the tips below. They’ve come from 3 separate trips to London and a lot of travel experience overall.

The best time to visit London is during spring and fall.

Visiting London in the shoulder/winter season months, April-June and September-November, are the perfect combination of moderate to cool temperatures and fewer visitors. January to March can also be a good time to visit if you’re not bothered by colder temperatures and prefer to visit during the least busy time of year.

Summer can be very busy, making the next London travel tip even that much more important.

Book as many things as possible in advance.

Not only will things like the London Pass or advance fast-track tickets help you save time and money, but it’ll eliminate indecisiveness about what to do while you’re in London and who to trust when you eventually buy the tickets, tours, and passes you want.

Use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.

London isn’t a budget destination. The last thing you want to add to the currency exchange are fees from your credit card once you get your bill back home.

Credit cards are widely accepted throughout London and also remove the necessity to convert and carry large amounts of dollars to British pounds.

ProTip: When paying by credit card or using your debit card to withdraw money at an ATM, always pay in the local currency (Pounds) and/or decline the currency conversion. This is a sneaky way to convert your money at a less-than-desirable rate.

Wear comfortable walking shoes.

I know this seems obvious but it truly can’t be understated. As someone who lives in New York City, I can always recognize a visitor who’s regretting his/her shoe choice.

These are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. I wear them walking around New York City and they’re a staple I pack for nearly every trip I take. You can walk miles without any irritation or blisters.

Check for service charges.

Tipping isn’t obligatory in London. In fact, service charges are often added to bills at restaurants and pubs. That being said, if you’re happy with your service, you always leave a small amount as a gesture of appreciation.

Pack the right electrical converters.

Most commonly, you’ll need a Type G converter to plug into the outlets throughout the U.K. I’ve encountered one place where this wasn’t the case. So, it’s smart to also have a universal adapter with USB ports, too.

London Trip Planner FAQs

How do i start planning a trip to london.

To plan a trip to London, first, decide how many days you’ll spend in the city. Then, book your hotel. You’ll find more options and competitive pricing the further in advance you book. After this, plan your London itinerary. Make a list of the sights and activities you want to see and do. Then, group them by area to logically plan what to do without backtracking. Be sure to book ahead as many things as possible to save time and to ensure you can visit places on the days that make sense for your London itinerary.

How many days should I plan for London?

As you plan a trip to London, you’ll need at least 3-4 days to comfortably see the city’s top sights and attractions. London is a very large city with an endless number of things to see and do. You can easily plan a trip to London for a week and have plenty to fill your itinerary.

What time of year is best to go to London?

The absolute best months for a perfect combination of weather and number of visitors is from April to June and September through November. January to March can also be a good time to visit London because fewer people are visiting during this time. Summers come with big crowds and long lines.

What is the best area to stay in London?

The best area to stay in London is in the heart of the city, especially if you’re visiting London for the first time, and within walking distance of a Tube station. These include neighborhoods like Seven Dials, Covent Garden, Westminster, Soho, and along the south bank near the Southwark area.

Where should I go on my first trip to London?

For your first London trip, plan to see the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the British Museum, Covent Garden, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, and the iconic view of Big Ben and Parliament from Westminster Bridge. You should also plan to have afternoon tea, eat at Borough Market, go to a play or musical, and glimpse London from above at the London Eye or the Shard.

First Trip to London – Bottom Line

You have chosen a fantastic city to visit, full of important landmarks, historic sights, good food, and fun experiences. With some advance planning, you’ll arrive in London prepared with your itinerary and know-how to navigate the city confidently for an unforgettable trip.

So, what questions do you have about your first trip to London or about planning a London itinerary?

Like this post? Please share it on social media using the share buttons below!

Planning a trip to London? This is a complete London Guide with itinerary ideas and tips, things to do in London, where to stay in London, how to get around and save money in London, as well as great day trips from London. Plus, get a FREE London Cheat Sheet to take with you on your trip! | #London #UK #Travel #Bucketlist #Europe #greatbritain #england #thingstodoinlondon #londonguide #londontrip #londonitinerary #europetravel #wheretostayinlondon #londondaytrips

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76 thoughts on “the ultimate cheat sheet for your first trip to london”.

how to travel for free in london

I have been to London several times, but I found your guide and itineraries very helpful!

how to travel for free in london

I’m so glad, Chrysoula! Thanks for reading. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Such a great guide! I’ve been to nearly 50 countries and still not the UK, so I’ll have to remember to come back to this article when I finally make it to London 🙂

Thanks, Tamara! 50 countries is quite an accomplishment! Awesome. Glad the guide will be useful when you make it to London. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Somehow I wish I’ve read this post before my first trip to London. Then I wouldn’t have skipped many experiences listed here) Thank you for putting this up! I’ve pinned it as well (maybe I’ll visit London again, then I’ll need it for sure)

Thanks for reading and sharing on Pinterest, Natalia. 🙂 Here’s to hoping you make it back to London soon!

how to travel for free in london

Love the Pro Tops plus how you broke each day down into categories. What a great way to see London! I also like how you included things to see if it is your first time there. Going anywhere for the first time can be so overwhelming!

Especially in a big place like London, Bryanna. It’s nice to break it up and make the most of your time.

how to travel for free in london

You made me want to visit London again! Love the way you divided the itinerary with themes and suggestions for good food. London is such a huge city and planning a trip there for the first time can be overwhelming, you just make it so easy! Cheers,

Thanks, Natalie! Sometimes, it’s just easier to work on trip planning in small chunks. 😉

how to travel for free in london

I’ve been to London a few times, but I’ve never made it to the Windsor Castle or the Hampton Court Palace. There is just so much to do in the city and its surroundings, but you’ve highlighted the must-sees in a very comprehensive and informative post. I’d love to go back and take more advantage of the free museums, especially the National Gallery!

Next trip, Erika, take some time for Windsor Castle and/or Hampton Court Palace. They’re well worth your time. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Wish I had your cheat-sheet on m first trip to London! You certainly covered all the hot spots and then some. I can’t wait to go back and hit the places I missed.

Thanks, Sue. A return trip to London is always a good idea. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Loved your tips! I’ve pinned and will reference during my London trip planning. Can you share a bit more about the oyster card?

Thanks, Amanda! I’m so glad the post is helpful for planning your London trip. The oyster card is a plastic card you can use for quick and easy entry to the London’s metro, buses, and many commuter trains. The card is 5 pounds to buy, after which you load some money onto it. The fare you’ll pay for a metro ride with the oyster card will be cheaper than if you had simply purchased a single ticket for the ride. The Oyster card also caps off what you’d pay in a day making sure you never pay more than had you bought a day pass travel card. Hope that helps! 🙂

how to travel for free in london

I love the addition of the pro tips, especially times of day best to visit. I do love London, but timed a few things wrong, ending up in bigger crowds than I like.

Thanks, Rhonda. I certainly know that feeling of being in a crowd and wanting to be anyplace but there! Glad the pro tips will help for your next London trip. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Hi Jackie! Any tips for going to London with a toddler? Going to London this Wednesday and I’m going to use your cheat sheet! Thanks!

Hi Jen! So exciting to hear about your trip. 🙂 I’d definitely do the London Eye, but book tickets ahead of time online to skip the line. The Changing of the Guard with its parade, music, and horses are also toddler-friendly. He’ll get in free to the London underground, but if you don’t want to do that, go for the Hop on Hop off Bus Tour. The pirate-themed Princess Diana Playground in Hyde Park is also supposed to be a big hit. Not sure if he’s too young, but the I’d also look at the Natural History Museum, the National Maritime and/or Transport Museum, and maybe a show like Lion King. If that show is too long, how about The Gruffalo? It’s based on the kids book and is less than an hour long. Let me know if you have any more questions and have a great trip!! 🙂

Awesome, thank you for this! I printed out your cheat sheet & 8′ using it for our guide! Thanks!

Great! Hope you have a fantastic trip, Jen!

how to travel for free in london

I’m actually from London, yes all these places are great, but you haven’t mentioned how expensive they can be. Most museums and art galleries are free and fantastic but eating at fancy hotels is only for the rich! Try to go to restaurants and pubs that are not in the tourist areas and you’ll be much better value for your money. As for traditional fish and chips, there is a great place in Waterloo road called Superfish. It’s the best around and very reasonable. Lots of London Taxi drivers eat there, so you know it’s good!

Hi, Joanne and thanks for the tip about Superfish! It’s so great to get that from a local. Totally agreed about eating in hotels, too expensive. I only splurged on the Dorchester Tea because we wanted to have a fancy afternoon. Thanks again for reading. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Hi, thank you for your tips. We’re going to London ne te may, my husband and I. Do you recommend Stonehenge ?

Hi Helene, Thanks for reading and commenting. You know, as many times as I have been to London, I have not made it to Stonehenge. To help you, I’m linking to another blog post all about visiting Stonehenge written by a blogger friend of mine. She’s got some great tips. Hope that helps! 🙂

how to travel for free in london

There are some great tips here. I’m planning a trip to London during the high season with a variety of ages from grandmother, 4x 30 year olds, 4 kids between the ages of 8-3, and 2 newborns. Aiaiai. Just trying to get a place to eat together will be challenging. I loved your tips about the Oyster card, and pre-booking tickets, It saves lots of time to book in advance so that you are not waiting in line for tickets, and then waiting in another line for entry. Depending on how early you book it also puts that block of tickets on separate credit card bill instead of all at once. Just a tip from how I travel with all the children and trying to be budget concsious, I usually stop in a local grocery store and grab the 3 (pound, I don’t have the symbol on my keyboard) meal deal, Its filling and usually healthy. If you have any more kid friendly tips I’d love to hear them. Thanks for the guide, I found you on Pintrest, and will make sure to repin.

Thanks for reading, Erin, and for repinning on Pinterest. I appreciate it. 🙂 Sounds like your trip is set to make some amazing multi-generational memories. Thanks for sharing your food tip. London has great parks to make use of when the kids need a break. Hyde Park has paddle boats for rent and a great playground and fountain. St. James Park also has a popular playground. Enjoy your trip!

how to travel for free in london

Do you have more ideas? We will be in London for 10 days. We will do all you mention but we need more?

Hi June, Thanks so much for reading and so exciting about your upcoming trip to London! 🙂 A couple other sites/places I’d recommend is Kensington Palace and if you’re at all a history buff, the Churchill War Rooms. If you’re doing all of that plus these last 2, check out the London Pass to save some money. Also, check out Free Tours by Foot and Sandeman’s free walking tours. If you’re interested in street art and/or learning more about London’s ethnic food scene check out a tour in the Shoreditch neighborhood. With 10 days, you can also plan day trips out of the city if you want. The Cotswolds Warwick Castle , and/or Stratford upon Avon are just a couple of hours drive, as are Stonehenge and Bath. Even Paris is a doable day trip with the Chunnel train taking just 2ish hours. Good luck and enjoy your trip!

how to travel for free in london

Thanks for the tip about the London Pass! We went last year and no one told us about it, and we are going back in October and still want to do many of the activities included in the pass. Sounds like a great value!

Fantastic, Dana. I hope your trip is fantastic and enjoy the London Pass! Thanks so much for reading. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

The best North Indian food is in southall (West London), trains run from Paddington. Brilliant Restaurant highly recommended..

Thanks Preetvan for the tip! 🙂

how to travel for free in london

It’s ravens that you find at the Tower of London, not crows!

Thanks for that! I have no bird ID skills! 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Thanks for your post; definitely adding it to my Pinterest board. I’m heading there for Spring Break with my husband and three teenage girls. We have eight days (flying into Gatwick and out of Paris-CDG). How do you suggest we split the days between London and Paris? And what would your top recommendations be?

Thanks for reading, Sheath. So exciting about your upcoming family trip to London and Paris. Both cities have so much to see and do, it all depends on your interests. You can easily split your time in half, although the Francophile in me says to give yourself an extra day in Paris. Not sure if you’re into theatre, but a night out to see a show in London’s West End is unforgettable. Tower of London, Shakespeares Globe, Borough Market, high tea are all at the top of my London first time list. For Paris, visit the top of Notre Dame in the morning, Arc de Triomphe at dusk, Sainte-Chappelle, Musee de l’Orangerie, and wander through 4th, 5th, and 6th arrondissements for tucked away shops and cafes as a start to your Paris visit. Hope that helps and have soo much fun! 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Thank you for this cheat sheet. Great tips and ideas. My best friend and I are traveling to Europe for our 40th birthdays in March. We are spending about 2 1/2 days in London. It seems you were recommended traveling by way of the tube for most everything. I had been looking at the Hop On and Off Bus before reading your cheat sheet. Would you recommend skipping the bus and just using the tube?

Hi Heather, Thanks for reading. London is such a great city for a friends birthday trip! I would still recommend the Tube. The traffic in London can be horrible and Hop on Hop off buses can get stuck in it with the rest of the vehicles. With 2 1/2 days, getting underground will help you maximize your time getting from place to place. Enjoy your trip! -Jackie

how to travel for free in london

Do you have any recommendations for visiting in December (just prior to Christmastime)? My family and I will be arriving on a Monday and departing on Thursday (for Germany), flying in and out of Stansted. It will be myself, my husband, and our 2 kids, ages 20 and (will turn while we’re in London) 17 year old (boy and girl). My husband is normally into things like the museums, but he’s the type that would need several days in any one museum (he literally reads each and every plaque, and doesn’t miss a display, LOL). So, because we’re limited on time, we’ll probably skip museums until another time. My husband and I are doing Harry Potter/WB Studios on Tuesday (I’m a big fan, kids not so much) and we’re letting them go off on their own. Will definitely be getting Oyster Cards.

Any other recommendations, especially since will will be cold weather? Thanks!

Thanks for reading, Cammi. I’d definitely try and see a show, be it one in the west end or a special Christmas themed show or concert. I’d also like to see the seasonal attractions like the winter wonderland in Hyde Park and all the lights around the city. I’m a cold weather gal so I love to get outside. But just in case of super cold weather, I’d have 1 museum in mind just as a back up if you need to warm up. Not sure if your hubby has seen the Churchill War rooms not far from Westminster, but I highly recommend. Enjoy your trip!

how to travel for free in london

My husband and I leave for our first ever trip abroad, London, in less than a week! The ironic and very strange thing is that as soon as I read the title of our article was that the authors last name is Sills. That is MY maiden name and some of my father’s family still lives in England! Dad himself, Charles Sills, was actually born in London! We will be visiting some Sills relatives in Suffolk on our trip!

Anyway, thanks for the great articles!

Sincerely, Elizabeth (Sills) Hurd

Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for reading and omg! My maiden name is Sills as well! I have done a ton of family research but always run into a dead end trying to figure out more about the George Sills who came over from England to the U.S. back in the 1800s. That’s so amazing you’ll be combining your tip with some ancestry travel. I hope you have a great trip and enjoy meeting your relatives! Thanks again for reading the blog. 🙂 Jackie

how to travel for free in london

Nice tips overall. Anyway, thanks for the great articles!

Thanks for reading, Brandy. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

I must say this is an ultimate post for travelers who are looking for trip to London at affordable cost. You have covered everything in your post such as best places to stay, which is really helpful.

Thanks for reading, Sandeep. Happy travels to London!

how to travel for free in london

Your blog is amazing – thanks for all the incredible ideas. We are considering going to London for Spring Break (March 8-17, 2019). Would you recommend going at his time ….will the weather be agreeable? Thanks, Stacey

Thanks for reading, Stacey, and for your kind words. So, it’ll likely still be chilly, but I’d say yes, go! Take this with the knowledge that I live in NYC and walk around in all kinds of weather and that I love visiting Europe in the off-season. I’d rather have cooler temps and fewer crowds. Plus, with London’s Underground/Subway, you can so easily pop underground and get around if you needed to escape the weather for a bit. Not to mention with delicious tea, scones, English pies, and Indian food, there’s plenty to warm you up! 🙂 Thanks again for reading.

very informative blog love to read it. i got so many new ideas about London. Thanks for sharing and it will help me during my visit to London. [LINK EDITED OUT]

Thanks for reading, Mickey. Enjoy London. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Love this guide and the one for Portugal also. Now if I could print it and store it in my travel file folder for easier access when I go to London. Thanks for writing these detailed trip reports – they are extremely helpful

Thanks do much for reading, Jane. You can download the London cheat sheet to help with your travels. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Going to the Harry Potter Studios by bus from Central London is the silliest thing to do. It takes too long AND you can only stay at the studios until the time your bus would take you back (about 4 hours) – not enough time for a true Harry Potter fan. It is fastest and easiest to go by train from Euston Station to Watford Junction (Oyster can be used) and takes about 30minutes. The studio has buses at Watford Junction to take you there – it takes just about 10 minutes. We stayed over 7 hours at the studios – my kids would start a riot if we had to leave after some 4 hours only!

Thanks for reading, Deesi! And great tips! Appreciate you sharing. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Your blog is amazing. How do I download the cheat sheet??

Thank you ~Alison

Thanks so much for reading, Alison. All you need to do is fill in the fields on the cheat sheet sign up box. It’ll get sent to you. 🙂 So glad the blog has been helpful for you.

how to travel for free in london

If you have enough time you should certainly consider Kew Gardens and Greenwich. You can take the clipper down the river to Greenwich. Also Kenwood is free to visit and set in beautiful grounds on Hampstead Heath. Don’t pay to go up the Shard. Book the free tickets for Skygarden three weeks ahead. Or go up the tower at Tate Modern. Children like all these places but as other people have said the parks are lovely and all different. It’s lovely to see this thread still working and growing after such a long time. Well done!!!

Thanks for reading and sharing your London tips, Marian! I didn’t know that about the Shard!

how to travel for free in london

The Dorchester is indeed a great hotel, but the very best Afternoon Tea has to be the Ritz.

Thanks for reading and sharing, David. I have heard great things about the afternoon tea at the Ritz. I’ll have to try it next time I’m in London. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Thank you for sharing this info about London. I am planning to visit in a neaxt month.

Thanks for reading, Alina. Have fun in London. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Amazing. you have told very easy and splendid ways for exploring London. London is my favourite place to travel and for food too. I love the food Enjoy!

Thanks for reading, Amy. Glad you had great travels to London. 🙂

how to travel for free in london

My niece and I want to go to London. We’ve considered a tour group, but the itinerary is limited, I enjoyed reading your cheat sheet. It was interesting, and we got very excited at the thought of actually visiting the sites, Have you ever traveled there in December? I am a teacher and my big break is in the month of December, I don’t want to go and freeze! The travel dates would be between December 14th and December 24th. Any tips would be appreciated. Thank you.

Rebecca and Brooke

Thanks for reading, Rebecca and Brooke. I haven’t been to London in the winter but I’ve been to many other cities in Europe in winter like Paris, Prague, Budapest, Munich, and more, also during my winter school breaks! I’m probably not the most objective person on this as I live in NYC and walk around outside all winter long. But I love European cities around Christmas. Yes, it’s chilly. But if you dress right the charm and the ambiance is unforgettable. I’d highly recommend a London Christmas visit! If you want some freedom to explore mixed with a few organized activities, plan a couple of day tours instead of something more comprehensive. The London Pass is also a great way to see what’s popular while saving money by bundling sightseeing costs. Hope this helps and you have a great trip! 😉

Thank you so much. We are moving ahead with our plans. I agree, if you dress appropriately, the weather will not be a factor.. Again, I really learned a lot from your cheat sheet and have read it many times.

Thanks for reading, Rebecca and Brooke. 🙂 So glad to hear the cheat sheet was helpful. I hope you have a wonderful trip to London.

how to travel for free in london

Heathrow express!! Saved me so much time! So glad I read this.

Thanks for reading, Scott. Yep, the Heathrow Express makes things super easy! 🙂

how to travel for free in london

Thanks for informative sharing. I must say that your shared information is very useful for me as well as other readers.

Glad to hear it, William. Thanks for reading.

how to travel for free in london

Hello Jackie, I am at the beginning of planning a second Girls Trip to London, and the country side of England. The first was with a group of high school girls friends,(tons of fun) and this one will be with all my sister in laws. Both groups are in their early 60’s. I appreciated the link to the GO transportation site. I like the idea of a van to haul us all to the hotel from Heathrow. There will be six of us in this up coming trip. There were only four on the high school trip. We all squeezed into one cab, and shared the cost. I don’t think we can squeeze six ladies and luggage into a cab, so the van idea sounds good. I suggested a cab for the HS group, knowing it is the more expensive way to get from the airport. I knew we would be sharing the cost AND also with the age of the group, didn’t think we (or I ) would want to be dragging our luggage in and out of tube trains. They were all ok with the idea of a cab. Also one thing I tell anyone I know who is on their way over, WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES!!! I know they aren’t always the most fashionable, but gee, your feet will thank you at the end of the day. No new shoes that haven’t been wore in yet either. One last thought– the HS trip was a full week in London, so we all decided that the London Pass would be a good idea– and it was! The Shard visit alone would have cost 50 pounds for one person to enter. The payable sites do add up. All worth seeing, but can get pricy. Not so sure it will be worth it for this sister in law trip, we won’t be spending as much time in London. Thanks for the time and research you put into this travel blog. Very enjoyable read. 🙂

Thanks so much for reading, Deborah! So exciting to be planning another trip (and a Girls Trip, even better!) to London. Thanks for sharing your experiences, too. Totally agree on comfortable shoes! My go-to’s for lots of walking (live in NYC) and traveling (one pair is with me on every trip) are Allbirds . In fact, I just bought 2 new pairs (Tree Runner & Wool Runner) since I’ve worn my others out. If anyone in your group or you are looking for something comfy, definitely give these shoes a look. Enjoy your trip to London and come back if there are any questions I can answer. Thanks again for reading. 🙂

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19 Best Free Things to Do in London

A trip to the U.K.’s capital doesn’t have to break the bank.

how to travel for free in london

Kira Turnbull/Travel+Leisure

London is one of the most dynamic and exciting urban playgrounds on the planet. The only drawback is that you typically have to pay — steeply — to play. Home hotel high-minded mixology, five-star hotels, Heston Blumenthal (and, oh yeah, Buckingham Palace and the Parliament), the U.K.’s capital isn’t just evocative of aristocracy, it basically helped coin the phrase. And that sort of living comes at a cost, of course. 

But this landscape is nothing if not varied. You actually don’t have to drop too much quid to really enjoy yourself here. In fact, you can do and see so much without spending any pence at all.

"There are a wealth of free attractions in London," Rose Wangen-Jones, the managing director of Visit London , told Travel + Leisure . "London was recently ranked as having the best and most free attractions in the world – with over 1,300 attractions."

An added bonus is that London is extremely walkable with public transport options. "When in London, rely on walking to get around – private cars and taxis can increase the cost of your trip significantly because fuel and city taxes are high," Nicola Butler, a  T+L A-List advisor  and owner of  Noteworthy , told T+L.

Wangen-Jones also advocates for walking around the city as much as possible. "Walking makes a day out in London feel that much more spontaneous as you can stumble across lots of little boutique shops and independent cafes along the way. This is the best way to enjoy the architecture, the contrast between the old and the new and get a real understanding of the city, which isn’t as easy to do when you’re underground," she said. "Taking a public bus could be a great alternative too for those who don’t want to walk."

Butler's best tip for free things to do in London is to visit lesser-known neighborhoods. "Leave everyone else to head into the West End’s museums and Royal palaces and head north to Marylebone village to be immersed in local London life as you walk the high street and take a picnic in nearby Regents Park," she said.

Meanwhile, Wangen-Jones' favorite thing to do is to take a walk: "My personal favorite walks around the city include along the canal from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to Victoria Street, and wandering around the city, uncovering its many hidden streets packed with history like 'Wardrobe Place' near St Paul’s Cathedral, where King Edward III would store his best outfits."

We’ve queried frequent visitors and longtime locals to compile this list of the best free things to do in London. Just remember to pack your own umbrella so you won’t need money for that, either. 

Take a tour of a different St. Paul.

Kira Turnbull/Travel+Leisure

St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the city’s most-visited attractions. And it is definitely not free. But St. Paul’s Church in the West End is another story. Dubbed the “Actor’s Church” because of its proximity to — and association with — the neighboring theater district, this nearly 400-year-old edifice is steeped in history. The first-ever “Punch and Judy” puppet show took place on its front steps in 1662. Inside, you’ll find memorials to prominent players on the stage, including Charlie Chaplin, Vivien Leigh, and Boris Karloff. "Unknown to many, it has a wide variety of concerts and services each year," said Butler.

Explore East London street art. 

As a global hub of graffiti art, the entire London landscape is scattered with masterful murals. But much of it is concentrated in East End neighborhoods such as Shoreditch and Spitalfields. You might get lost if you stroll alone, so it helps to have a guide. Strawberry Tours , in partnership with London With a Local, has got you covered. The company operates two-hour walking tours alongside masterful pieces from names no less notable than Banksy, El Mac, and Space Invader. The trips convene twice a day from the Shoreditch High Street overground station at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tips are welcome. 

Catch a West End show.

"Catching a West End show is essential for any trip to London," said Wangen-Jones. "Try visiting the TKTS booth in Leicester Square for half-price and discounted tickets, or find the latest deals on the Visit London app. Official London Theatre also runs promotions like Kids Week in July and August, where theatergoers aged 17 and under can go free with an adult to an impressive range of shows."

Enjoy Instagram ops at the House of Parliament. 

This is an obvious one because you simply cannot come to London without snapping a photo of the iconic Palace of Westminster. And since you’ve come all this way, you might as well do it right. For the perfect snap, you’ll want to include the Thames at its feet and Elizabeth Tower — often referred to by the nickname of the 13-ton bell it houses, Big Ben — overhead. Walk to the south side of Westminster Bridge and you’ll enjoy the ideal vantage point. 

Stroll the canals.

Forget Amsterdam — many visitors to London have no idea the city is home to its own enviable collection of canals. The star of the show is undoubtedly Regent’s Canal — an 8.6-mile artery that runs from its namesake park near Paddington station eastward and then south into the River Thames. "Regent’s Canal starts at Little Venice, a tranquil area filled with independent shops, waterside bars, and restaurants, as well as the Puppet Barge, a traveling puppet theater," said Wangen-Jones. "Also along the canal is Primrose Hill, a celebrity village home to rock stars, actresses, and quaint bookshops, perfume shops, and gastro pubs."

Narrowboats line its idyllic waters, where ducks and other assorted fowl come to frolic. Free of any vehicular traffic, it’s also a preferred pathway for joggers and bikers.  

"I personally love taking in the beautiful views of the city from Primrose Hill — and right around the corner is London Zoo, a fantastic choice for a fun day out," said Wangen-Jones.

Visit Portobello Road market. 

London is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to open-air fairs, but Portobello Market on a Saturday is the crown jewel. It’s actually several markets in one, brandishing antiques, vintage clothing, furniture, food, and a smattering of bric-a-brac all in an easy day’s stroll. And you’ll be entertained all the while by buskers and street performers.

Book a view from the Sky Garden. 

London’s highest public garden occupies the top three stories of a Rafael Viñoly-designed skyscraper affectionately known as the Walkie Talkie. Peering out and over the Thames from the heart of the city, the Sky Garden affords breathtaking views inside and out.

"Sky Garden is the perfect place to relax amongst nature and enjoy stunning views of the city skyline," said Wangen-Jones, who said it's a perfect activity in colder seasons. "It’s completely free to enjoy, but highly recommended to book in advance as it’s popular amongst both locals and tourists."

Check out The National Gallery.

Gautier Houba/Travel+Leisure

Looking for free museums? Well, London has plenty of them . Whatever your specific interest, there’s seemingly an entire edifice devoted to it. "Most of London’s museums are completely free to enter," said Wangen-Jones. "It’s definitely a must to visit one or two during a trip to London, from popular choices like the Victoria & Albert and The British Museum to hidden gems like the Grant Museum of Zoology and the Wellcome Collection ."

The National Gallery , however, offers a cross-section of everything in one locale. With an art collection spanning the Middle Ages to the 20th century, you can admire works from Da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Van Gogh within minutes of one another. Also, marvel at how the British pronounce the Dutch master’s name, Van Goff. 

Join candlelight tours of Sir John Soane’s Museum.

A visit to Sir John Soane’s Museum will be memorable on any occasion. Soane was named the professor of architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806 and amassed an enviable collection of art and artifacts, all of which you can now marvel at while exploring his home. On the first Tuesday of every month, the premises stay open until 9 p.m., and you can explore all the nooks and crannies by candlelight.

See the changing of the guard.  

Royal pageantry can pop up anywhere and any time in London, home to the British monarchy. But the changing of the guard is an example you can set your watch to. "The Changing of the Guard is one of the most popular free events on any visitor’s ‘must-see’ list in London," said Wangen-Jones. "The ceremony takes place outside Buckingham Palace every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from 10:45 – and it’s recommended to arrive early to secure a spot with a good view."

Visitors can see soldiers in red coats and bearskin hats march from St. James’s Palace to Buckingham Palace accompanied by a live soundtrack. Forty-five minutes later, they relieve the previous guard in a traditional ceremony that has stood for centuries. Arrive early to claim the best view. 

See live music at Wembley Park.

Wembley Stadium is the second-largest venue in all of Europe, capable of holding up to 90,000 concertgoers. For a far more intimate affair, check out the adjoining Wembley Park, a green space that hosts a live music program between April and September every year. Supported by the mayor of London, the series encourages up-and-coming talent to take to the stage, showcasing their work in front of a warm and receptive crowd. 

Head to Brompton Cemetery.

Established by an act of Parliament in 1839, this historic park and garden is still a working cemetery today. It houses 35,000 gravestones and monuments, but people don’t just come here to pay their respects to the departed. It’s also a popular setting for viewing wildlife and serves as a serene — if not somewhat spooky — side tour while exploring the surrounding Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Laugh at Angel Comedy Club nights.

Laughter is the best medicine, and Angel Comedy Club hosts free showcases every night at 8 p.m. It all started in 2010 by the suitably charming Barry Ferns. Today, rarely does a night pass without Ferns getting in front of the mic as the resident emcee or hanging in a back corner to ensure the evening runs smoothly. From improv to open mic nights to established comedians testing their material, there’s always a laugh to be had.

Relax at the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park.

Holland Park is a great place to unwind in central London, with 22.5 hectares of green space that includes tennis courts and a children’s play area. But what really makes this spot stand out is the Kyoto Garden , an authentic Japanese garden created and donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991. 

Watch the pelicans feed at St. James’s Park.

With incredible flora and fauna, plus an exquisite variety of birds, St. James’s Park is a wonderful city escape. But what sets this central bed of green apart and makes it worth a visit happens every day at 2:30 and 3 p.m. when the well-loved resident pelicans are fed a feast of fresh fish.

Wangen-Jones noted that London is "home to an astonishing 3,000 public green spaces" and "became the world’s first National Park City in 2019."

Ogle at Olympic Park.

You might not witness baton passing at turbo speeds or cyclists spinning around the perimeter track as you could at the 2012 Olympics, but the purpose-built Olympic Park is working hard to remain relevant. There’s a series of poems inscribed at landmarks around the park; walk around and find Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” Carol Ann Duffy’s “Eton Manor,” or Jo Shapcott’s “Wild Swimmer,” among others. 

Spend time at Spitalfields City Farm.

Rory Fuller/Travel+Leisure

There’s nothing more grounding or comforting than taking a moment from the daily urban grind to be around animals and wildlife.

"London is home to an array of free-to-enter city farms, from Mudchute Farm and Park in the Isle of Dogs, to one of London’s oldest farms Deen City Farm, and Spitalfields City Farm," said Wangen-Jones. "Spitalfields City Farm is particularly great thanks to its central location, less than a mile from the heart of the city and just down the road from Old Spitalfields Market, where you can find the best of East London’s street food, suitable for all budgets."

Originally set up by volunteers in 1978, Spitalfields City Farm still relies on volunteers to run its day-to-day operations and care for its furry and feathered creatures. With donkeys, sheep, ponies, goats, and cows, it’s the city’s most central farm. 

Experience the Bank of England Museum.

Review 300 years of English history and the backstory of the country’s currency at the Bank of England’s on-site museum . There’s everything from cartoons to tools to the banknotes themselves, all of which tell the tale of England’s economy. Who knew one could have so much fun handling, but not spending money?

Go window shopping on Pimlico Road.

It’s lined with shops and cafes, but Pimlico Road is also dappled with the most delightful design, commercial galleries, and furniture stores in the city, all of which are worth exploring for an afternoon. Make sure to check out Humphrey Carrasco, which offers an enviable stock of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century furnishings.

how to travel for free in london

The 34 Best Things to Do in London, According to a Local

Top things to do in london.

L ondon ranks high among the best places to travel in the world, attracting millions of visitors from all corners of the globe every year. It may not be one of the cheap places to travel, but there are so many things to do in London that it's definitely worth a visit. So, once you've figured out the best time to visit London and the best time to book a flight —and you've watched King Charles's coronation to get in the mood—where to start?

If you've never been to London, you'll want to make sure to see the most important sights, but also some hidden gems we locals enjoy. I have been living in London for more than five years. I planned to just stay for a few weeks, but I fell in love with the city at first sight—and I still schedule in regular time for exploring my adopted home. I love to share my favorite spots as a travel writer, and I am on speed dial for friends, family and friends of friends who are visiting. It's impossible to fit everything London has to offer into one trip (or even one lifetime!), but it's easy to make the most of your time if you just know how.

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Big Ben is London's most famous landmark, so it's a must-see for all travelers. The name refers to the huge bell inside the clock tower, which first chimed on May 31, 1859, but the whole building at the north end of the Houses of Parliament goes by this nickname. Big Ben was renamed Elizabeth Tower in honor of Queen Elizabeth II 's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, but most people don't call it that.

The tower underwent extensive renovations from summer 2017, and there was much excitement when the bells first rang again in November 2022. It's still not possible to climb up Big Ben quite yet, but the big reopening for visitors is scheduled for later in 2023. Your best bet for a picture-perfect view of the tower and the Houses of Parliament is from Westminster Bridge.

Pro tip: If you want to take a selfie with Big Ben, the best spot is just behind the landmark, on Great George Street. When coming from Westminster Bridge, walk past the tower and the tube station (Westminster) toward St. James's Park, Westminster Abbey to your left. While it might be a bit cliché to pose next to a red phone box, the photo will still look great on your Instagram—and many Londoners snap this shot too.

  • Westminster Abbey

If you followed King Charles 's coronation (or other festive royal events such as Prince William  and Kate Middleton 's wedding) you're probably already familiar with Westminster Abbey . But London's most iconic church is even more impressive when you step foot inside yourself. Westminster Abbey was founded in 960 AD and has been the coronation church since 1066. It is also the final resting place of no fewer than 17 monarchs (the late Queen Elizabeth is buried in Windsor Castle), scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton and world-famous writers including Charles Dickens.

Westminster Abbey is both one of London's top tourist attractions and a working church with daily services—so be prepared for crowds and parts of the abbey closed. The church is busiest in the mornings, so visit after lunchtime if you can book a time slot.

Pro tip: While it's perfectly possible to explore the abbey with an audio guide (included in the ticket price), their guided tours are worth a bit of extra money. You will get to see parts of Westminster Abbey that are normally closed to the public, including royal tombs, the Poets' Corner and Lady Chapel—and you'll get to hear lots of interesting facts and anecdotes.

The London Eye

The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the Thames River, and it's been a London landmark of its own for over 20 years, so no list of the things to do in London would be complete without mentioning it. But is it really worth it? Let's face it, the 30-minute-ride comes with a big price tag and potentially long queuing times on top. However, on a sunny day (or at night!) the views are truly stunning. If you're lucky, you'll not only see all the London sights including Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the Tower Bridge but all the way up to Windsor Castle too. So if you are new to London and don't mind spending some cash, go for it. Fun fact, the London Eye is also one of the top places in the U.K. for people on romantic getaways —and, in fact, to get engaged. They even offer special proposal packages with private pods and champagne.

Pro tip: Technically, you can just show up and buy your ticket on-site, but booking online saves you time and money. There are also discounted combination tickets including a river cruise or entry to Madame Tussaud's.

The Tate Modern

Museums rank high among the most popular attractions in London—and not just because you can visit them regardless of the weather. If you only have time for one, make it the Tate Modern , which is one of the most popular museums in the world . The massive art space with its iconic tower is housed in the former Bankside Power Station and sits right near the Thames, across from St Paul's Cathedral.

The exhibition spaces spread over seven floors and include original works by the likes of Picasso, Matisse and Warhol. Like most museums in London, the Tate Modern is free to visit, unless you want to see a special exhibition (book well in advance in that case). Should you be keen to see the Tate's sister gallery Tate Britain as well, hop on the Tate Boat right in front of the building and travel door to door in style. Boats run every 20 to 30 minutes during museum open hours.

Pro tip: Fancy turning your Tate Modern visit into a fun night out? Keep an eye on the monthly Tate Lates , a mix of art workshops and talks, DJs, bars and live music.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of the British monarchs since 1837, and even though all the royal family currently live at other royal estates , it remains the place most associated with the crown. A highlight not to be missed is the Changing of the Guard, a traditional ceremony that sees one detachment of troops taking over from the other, marching along The Mall to Buckingham Palace with musical accompaniment (expect both traditional tunes and pop songs). It takes place on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and daily during the summer, at 11 A.M. It's one of the best free tourist attractions in London. For a prime spot, arrive at least one hour in advance, as the area gets packed year-round.

Pro tip: The State Rooms inside Buckingham Palace are open to visitors on selected dates during winter and spring, as well as for 10 weeks in summer. Tour tickets sell out quickly, so check dates and book as early as you can.

The Tower Bridge

Walking across the Tower Bridge is a must-do when in London. But nothing beats watching the landmark lift for tall vessels, including cruise ships , to pass through. River traffic has priority on this stretch of the Thames by law, meaning ships can request a lift any time of the day, bringing the traffic on the bridge to a complete halt. On average, the Tower Bridge opens twice a day. But what's the secret behind being at the right place at the right time? Luckily, it's pretty simple, as you can check online  to see when the bridge next lifts.  Then, make sure to arrive on time to watch the spectacle unfold.

Pro tip: For a full view of the lift (and great photo opportunities), position yourself on the river banks or a bridge opposite Tower Bridge. For a more close-up experience, stand on either end of the bridge.

Portobello Road Market

In the 1990s, the movie Notting Hill , starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, made the West London neighborhood of the same name known around the world as a romantic travel destination . But even if you're not a fan of rom-coms , Notting Hill and its famous Portobello Road Market —considered the largest antique market on the planet—have a lot to offer. The stalls, fold-out tables and shops are packed with vintage treasures, from lamps and chairs to paintings, jewelry and secondhand clothing, which makes it a great place for souvenir hunting. The market is open six days a week, but Saturday is the main day when all the sellers, antique hunters and street food vendors are out.

Pro tip: Notting Hill's signature pastel houses are just as famous as the market, and selfies on the steps around the Hillgate Place and Lancaster Road area are high on many visitors' bucket lists. Please keep in mind though that people actually live in these houses, so don't stare into their windows or leave trash behind.

The West End

The West End is London's equivalent to Broadway in New York City and the heart of commercial theater and musical productions in the U.K. More than 16 million people watched performances here in 2022, making tickets one of the hottest holiday gifts . Whether you're into the classics such as Les Miserables (running since 1985) and The Phantom of the Opera (since 1986) or want to see a feel-good musical featuring songs by Tina Turner, ABBA or Queen, this is the place. The Disney musicals are among the most popular things to do in London with kids, but they're just as fun to watch as an adult. For crime fans, Agatha Christie's Mousetrap is a must-see.

Pro tip: If you haven't set your mind on a specific show, you can score excellent last-minute deals on the day using the TodayTix app (look for "rush tickets" at 10 a.m. sharp). I've found myself sitting in some of the best seats in the house for around $30, especially on weeknights. Ticket booths around Leicester Square also sell discounted tickets.

The Tower of London

No list of the best things to do in London would be complete without the Tower of London: an iconic castle, former prison and execution location—as well as the home of the crown jewels . The royals' precious accessories have been stored here since 1661 and only leave the Tower when used on official occasions. Want to see King Charles's and Queen Camilla's crowns ? They are right here!

The Tower of London is more than 900 years old, and you can feel its history in every corner. Keep in mind that the complex is not only impressive but also huge, so plan at least a few hours to see everything. Besides its exhibitions, historic halls and the guards with their signature fur hats, the Tower is famous for its wild ravens. According to legend, the kingdom will fall if the six resident ravens ever decide to leave.

Pro tip: Tickets to the Tower of London come with audio guides. If you'd rather have a human companion, opt for a tour with a Beefeater, a working guard at the fortress.

Borough Market

Dating back to the 13th century, Borough Market , on the south side of the Thames, is London's oldest food market and a great food travel destination with more than 100 stalls and plenty of small restaurants and wine bars where you can enjoy lunch or dinner. While the market originally focused on British produce, you can now get Indian curries, pad Thai, Ethiopian stews, falafel wraps, pasta dishes and, of course, the obligatory fish and chips. There are also plenty of stalls to stock up on bread, veggies, wines and sweets to take home or have later in the day. The market is open Tuesday to Sunday.

Pro tip: Borough Market is a lunch favorite with people working at the nearby offices, so expect long queues around noon. If you can't find a quiet spot to eat, make yourself comfy at the riverbank a few minutes away by foot.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

London is full of locations featured in the Harry Potter movies (think St. Paul's Cathedral, Leadenhall Market, Borough Market or Tower Bridge), which you can explore on your own. But no place gets "muggles" (non-magic people) closer to Harry Potter's world than the Warner Bros. Studio Tour just outside the city. Here you will walk through Diagon Alley, peek into Harry's cupboard under the stairs and explore Hogwarts rooms such as the Great Hall or Dumbledore's office. You can even sample butter beer! The studio decoration changes according to season. I have seen the summer and Christmas versions so far, and Halloween is next on my list.

Pro tip: Advance booking is essential, even during shoulder seasons . Since muggles are, unfortunately, unable to arrive by broom, a shuttle bus from London's Watford Junction is included in the ticket price.

Columbia Road Market

Columbia Road Flower Market may be London's most popular place for flower shopping, and it's a weekend institution in East London. Rain or shine, the whole street gets packed from 8 a.m. every Sunday with dozens of stalls that sell tulips, roses, cacti, spider plants and banana trees. Judging by Instagram posts and people with cameras around their necks, the market might look like a bit of a tourist trap at first glance. But the majority of the visitors are locals who stock up on flowers after coffee or brunch at one of the little cafes in the neighborhood. The flowers are certainly the main selling point on a Sunday, but Columbia Road is dotted with little art shops and galleries too, so take your time to have a look around.

Pro tip: Columbia Road Market tends to be busy year-round, but if you want to avoid the largest crowds, it pays to show up right when it starts. For the best flower deals, come after lunchtime. The stalls close at around 3 p.m.

London's highest public garden, Sky Garden , sits on the 35th floor of the "Walkie Talkie," one of the city's landmark skyscrapers, and it provides spectacular panoramic views. Sky Garden is an oasis of plants, with an observation deck, an open-air terrace and two restaurants. Entry is free, but advance booking is essential. However, once you're in, you're in, so you can technically spend a whole day among the plants.

If you can't get into Sky Garden (or want to shoot more skyline pictures from a different angle), head to The Garden at 120, an open-air rooftop garden on the 15th floor about a five-minute walk away. It might not be as fancy as Sky Garden, but it's usually a lot quieter. I have had the whole garden to myself on weekday mornings more than once.

Pro tip: Tickets for the Sky Garden are released every Monday, and you can book up to three weeks in advance. If you're in the area but don't have a ticket, it's still worth trying your luck at the door, as they sometimes accept walk-ins.

Traditional afternoon tea

While Brits are the champions of tea drinking, afternoon tea is a lot more than just sipping on your favorite blend. The ritual dates back to the 19th century, when the ladies of the high society met for a light meal to shorten the time until dinner was served. Today, it's mainly saved for special occasions, but it also makes one of the most fun things to do in London when on a city break. A traditional afternoon tea menu includes small sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and a selection of pastries and cakes. Earl Grey, Darjeeling and English Breakfast are the classic tea blends. If you really want to treat yourself, book a table at the glamorous salon at Cafe Royal . Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Princess Diana and David Bowie were regulars here. Live piano music and champagne are included too.

Pro tip: Looking for a more casual afternoon tea option that doubles as a sightseeing tour? Hop on the Afternoon Tea Bus for a 90-minute ride.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

While the Globe Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames isn't the original one from Shakespeare's time (that one burned down in 1613), it's still considered the writer's London home and the closest you could ever get to the original experience. The venue was rebuilt in the same shape and layout, using the original type of wood (green oak) and building techniques. Watch world-famous plays such as A Midsummer Night's Dream , Macbeth and The Comedy of Errors and fully immerse yourself in the world of Shakespeare.

Pro tip: The cheapest way to see a play (or get into an otherwise sold-out show) is the " 5£ Rush Tickets ." These are standing tickets right in front of the stage. While you might miss the comfort of a seat, you'll be closer to the action than anyone else (and save a lot of money too!). Tickets are released every Friday at 11 a.m. for the following week.

Little Venice

London is an amazing city to explore on foot, and once you've ticked off all the major sights, it's time to enjoy one of the locals' favorite walks. When I moved to London, I was amazed at how many locals lived on houseboats—it reminded me of The Netherlands, where I spent my college semester abroad. Regent's Canal is dotted with colorful narrowboats, and you can often watch their owners navigate them to and from their mooring spots. The most beautiful stretch is from King's Cross to Little Venice , a beautiful water canal area full of cafés and pubs and framed by willow trees. You will pass Camden and Regent's Park along the way.

Pro tip: Before you head on your two-hour walk, check out Coal Drop's Yard right behind the King's Cross station, with its restaurants, pubs and artsy shops, and Word on the Water, a floating bookstore.

East London's Shoreditch is one of the hippest districts in the city, with little cafes, quirky shops and bars on every corner. It's also the heart of London's street-art scene. Living in Shoreditch, I'm continuously amazed by all the murals and graffiti popping up overnight (and, sadly, often disappearing just as quickly). If you are like me and love taking edgy pictures, you will feel right at home. I always recommend Shoreditch Street Art Tours to friends visiting, a fun and comprehensive introduction to the local street-art scene. If you head out on your own, save Brick Lane, Fashion Street, Hanbury Street, Princelet Street, New Inn Yard, Redchurch Street and Shoreditch Highstreet Station on Google Maps.

To kill two birds with one stone, visit Shoreditch on a weekend when Brick Lane market (lots of food and some art and clothes stalls) takes place. Truman Brewery on Brick Lane is also home to the biggest indoor vintage market in the U.K., which is open seven days a week.

Pro tip: For a quick and inexpensive snack to go, head to Beigel Bake. The 24-hour shop is the most famous bagel place in London. Attention: They only take cash!

Paddle on the Thames River

Even for people who live in London, the city can feel overwhelming at times. Luckily though, there are plenty of opportunities to escape the hustle and bustle. London might not be the most obvious choice for water sports, but that's exactly how many locals like to spend their summer. Kayaking and canoeing are hugely popular in the city, with paddling clubs dotted along the Thames and the canals. Companies such as London Kayak Co. offer tours, including for beginners, that double as sightseeing trips , taking you past some of London's most iconic landmarks. Personally, I have become a stand-up paddling (SUP) addict, and my current favorite place to go is Richmond Park . Nothing beats sunset paddling after work or on a weekend, then ending the day on the terrace of a riverside pub.

Pro tip: You don't have to be a kayak or SUP pro to enjoy this activity. As long as you are reasonably fit (and not afraid to fall into the water, should you opt for paddleboarding) you are good to go.

Kensington Gardens

One of London's eight royal parks and formerly part of Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens is a popular recreational area where you can take a stroll, have a picnic, check out exhibitions at the Serpentine galleries, visit Kensington Palace or—if you're traveling with kids—make the most of the Diana Memorial Playground (including a wooden pirate ship and sculptures inspired by Peter Pan).

Ring-necked parakeets have spread all over London, but this park is your best bet to see them up close. And while nobody seems to be quite sure how they originally ended up in London, thousands have called it home since the 1990s. Here, the parakeets are so used to people they will land on your outstretched hands (or your shoulders or your head!) when you bring snacks (apples or seeds)—and sometimes even if you don't. Be aware, though, that the cute birds have surprisingly sharp claws, so your arms might end up looking like you've just been scratched by an angry cat.

Pro tip: The parakeets can be found near the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Garden. If you arrive by tube, get off at Lancaster Gate, walk past the lake and follow the squawking.

Summer music festivals

Glastonbury (the British equivalent to Coachella) is the No. 1 festival every music fan in the U.K. wants to attend. But London has a great number of other festivals, too, that are well worth checking out. Plus, there's no camping, so you can leave your sleeping bags and rain boots at home.

The largest event every year is the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park , commonly known as BST. It spreads over multiple dates throughout two weeks from the end of June. This year's headliners include Bruce Springsteen, Guns N'Roses and Pink. Other festivals I've attended that I'd definitely recommend: All Points East (two weekends in August, offering rock, indie and alternative music), Wireless (in July, a mecca for hip-hop fans), Mighty Hoopla (early June, a celebration of cheesy pop and queer culture, with lots of attendees dressed up accordingly) and Hampton Court Palace Festival (multiple days in June, come for both the music and the location).

Pro tip: For environmental reasons and due to the fact that London's summers get hotter by the year, many festivals now allow music fans to take refillable bottles inside, with water stations to be found all around the festival sites.

Barbican Conservatory

The Barbican Centre is London's largest multi-arts venue. Movies, live gigs, plays, exhibitions, restaurants—you name it, the iconic complex has it all. One of the lesser known gems is their indoor garden on Level 3, which houses 2,000 species of plants and trees as well as three small ponds. It's a great place if you need a break from sightseeing or want to spend a relaxing hour or two hiding from the rain. Plus, it's quite romantic—a friend of mine got engaged amidst the plants! Unfortunately, the whole Barbican complex tends to feel like a labyrinth with tons of confusing walkways. Schedule in some extra time just in case you get lost, and don't sweat it, because it regularly happens to pretty much every Londoner.

Pro tip: The Conservatory is only open on select days. Entry is free, but book a time slot in advance to make sure you'll get in. Tickets are released one week in advance on Fridays at 10 a.m., with a limited number of additional ones available at 9:30 a.m. on the day.

Gods Own Junkyard

Gods Own Junkyard is a surreal exhibition place packed with blinking neon signs, old movie props, circus lighting and retro displays. It's the private collection of the late owner Chris Bracey, who made signs for Soho's strip clubs before he went on to work with some of Hollywood's greatest directors, including Tim Burton ( Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ), Christopher Nolan ( Batman ) and Stanley Kubrick ( Eyes Wide Shut ).

The gallery-turned-warehouse isn't exactly close to the city center, but it ranks high among the best things to do in London. Entry is free, however you might end up taking a neon sign home from their small shop. There's also a cafe and fully licensed bar, if you want to linger for a bit.

Pro tip: It might be tempting, but Gods Own Junkyard is, unfortunately, not the place to try out your latest camera gear. You are allowed to take pictures with your phone (for personal use and social media) but not with any cameras or professional equipment.

Cahoots Underground

If you like colorful cocktails and immersive experiences, make sure to check out some of London's hidden bars. One of the coolest places I've been is the 1940s-inspired Cahoots Underground , located in a retired tube station around the corner from Soho's Carnaby Street. The speakeasy bar is decorated with tube signs and maps, the cocktails (with names like "Winston Churchill" and "Judy Garland") are listed in a newspaper instead of a regular menu, and the waiters are dressed up as ticket inspectors. What's more, there's a live piano player taking requests from guests (everything from Frank Sinatra to Miley Cyrus). Be prepared for spontaneous singalongs and people dancing between the tables.

Other hidden bars worth checking out include Nightjar Shoreditch (old-school glamour, candlelit tables and live jazz and swing), Discount Suit Company (in a former suit tailor's storeroom), Opium in Chinatown (a 1920s Shanghai-themed bar tucked away behind red curtains), Purl (1920s theme, live music and cocktail mixing classes) and Ladies & Gents (in a former public washroom).

Pro tip: Better safe than sorry—all the above-mentioned bars are very popular, so book a table just in case.

Dennis Severs' House

If you've ever wondered what everyday London life looked like in the 18th century, Dennis Severs' House gives you a first-hand taste. The building was left exactly as when the original owners, a family of silk weavers, lived there. The rooms are lit by fire and candlelight, and visitors are encouraged to tour them in complete silence to "not disturb the family." You will find yourself wandering around the living room full of faded photographs, old carpets, mugs and books. The kitchen has a fully laid table—bitten apples included! It almost feels like the family is about to return and go on with their daily routine any moment. To make the time-travel experience even more authentic, there are also added scents of food, woodsmoke and chatters of the occupants.

Pro tip: Walk-up tickets are available, but unless you don't mind standing in line for up to an hour or two, I'd recommend booking a time slot.

Talk to any Londoner and they'll probably tell you that Camden is just not what it used to be. And I'm not going to lie, the North London neighborhood has dramatically changed in recent years. Its edgy, alternative vibe is pretty much gone. Many of the charming parts of Camden Market  were replaced by fancy stalls, food courts and colorful hanging umbrellas. However, Camden is still well worth a visit, you just need to do a bit more digging. Ignore the souvenir shops and look for the small creative sellers that have stood their ground. Then head to The Hawley Arms, my go-to Camden pub and a musician's hangout. The late, great Amy Winehouse was a regular.

Camden's music scene is legendary, and many pubs have live gigs and open-mic nights. Some of the most iconic venues to check out for gigs include KOKO (frequented by supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss in their heydays), Electric Ballroom, Spiritual Records, Dingwalls and Jazz Cafe.

Pro tip: The annual Camden Rocks Festival sees hundreds of gigs around Camden Town. Check out updates and ticket information here .

A pub for Sunday roast

Sunday roast is a British meal traditionally consisting of roasted meat of some sort (beef is the most common), mashed and roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, seasonal greens, gravy and apple or mint sauce. It's a big, hearty meal typically enjoyed early or late Sunday afternoon. Classic drinks to go with the foodie feast include local beers and ciders.

Sunday roasts rank high among the top things to do in London, and luckily there are plenty of options all around the city. One of the most popular is Camberwell Arms , which features five options served for two people to share. Other good choices are the trendy Blacklock Shoreditch (located inside a former furniture factory) and Quality Chop House, which has fed hungry guests since 1869. If you're a vegan, like me, or just curious about a meat-free option, head to The Spread Eagle, London's first fully plant-based pub.

Pro tip: All the above pubs (and many others around the city) are packed on Sunday, so booking is essential.

Royal Albert Hall

Opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria (and dedicated to her husband Albert, hence the name), Royal Albert Hall is probably the world's most famous concert hall. Its annual highlight is The Proms , an eight-week series of classical music organized by the BBC. But even if you're not a fan of orchestra performances, the venue is worth a visit. It's stunning inside and out and has the best acoustics you can find in the city.

What's more, the program is a lot more varied than you might expect. They also feature regular pop and rock gigs, and Eric Clapton, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, David Bowie and the Beatles have played here. You can also catch circus performances, movie nights, yoga sessions with live music and the occasional sumo wrestling event. If you go to a live gig, be prepared for the band to leave the stage midconcert for a mandatory interval. When I saw Bryan Adams in 2022, he apologized for the break, then jokingly explained that even rock stars had to follow the Royal Albert Hall's strict house rules.

Pro tip: Many of the events at Royal Albert Hall are instant sell-outs, but it's always worth checking at the box office or their website for last-minute tickets on the day of the event. If you're interested in a peek behind the scenes, book a backstage tour.

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum in posh South Kensington is one of the best things to do in London with kids. It houses more than 80 million animals, plants and rocks spanning 4.5 billion years that are displayed in about 20 galleries. The main eye-catcher upon arrival is a 25.2-metre-long blue whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling. The female animal died in Ireland more than 120 years ago and was given a name when moved to its new home: Hope. Other highlights include dinosaurs, a giant gorilla, a Moon rock sample from the 1972 Apollo 16 mission, meteorites and an earthquake simulator. The Natural History Museum is free to visit except for special exhibitions.

Pro tip: Watch out for museum events such as yoga and tai chi classes, silent disco nights or sleepovers for grown-ups.

Gordon's Wine Bar

Gordon's Wine Bar , conveniently located close to Covent Garden and the West End, is London's oldest wine bar. It opened its doors in 1890, and not much has changed since. The moment you step into this cave-like spot you'll be transported back in time, with most of the original decor still in place. Faded newspaper articles and photos hang on the walls, and there are wine-bottle candle holders and old-fashioned wooden chairs and tables. The low ceiling further adds to the atmosphere. As expected, the bar has an extensive choice of wines, which can be paired with cheese, meat, mezze and sharing boards.

Gordon's is not only a great place for drinks and food but also for people-watching. The bar is one of the most popular spots for people to first meet their dating-app match.

Pro tip: Gordon's Wine Bar is one of the few places in London that do not accept bookings. Arrive early, and be prepared to wait for a bit—it will be worth it.

Greenwich makes a fun day out of the city—without actually leaving the city. Located in the southeast of London, it's home to an artsy market with lots of food stalls, a beautiful park perfect for taking London skyline pictures, the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark, one of the oldest and best known tea clipper ships in the world. There's also the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory, where you can stand with one foot in the western hemisphere and the other foot in the eastern. Greenwich can be reached by tube, bus and train, but the most fun way is to take a boat from central London. Hop on board at Westminster Pier and see famous landmarks such as Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral and Tower Bridge from the water.

Pro tip: While it's possible to buy tickets for the boats from the ticket booths and machines at the pier, the easiest way is to just use your bank or credit card and tap in and out like you would at the bus or tube.

Saatchi Gallery

London has about 200 museums, but Saatchi Gallery is the one place I keep coming back to again and again. A registered charity, the exhibition place is known for its fun and immersive displays of all kinds of subcultures and contemporary photo shows, and it's a supporter of up-and-coming artists from the U.K. and beyond. Highlights I've seen here include a show on the heydays of the British rave scene, exhibitions on Bob Marley and French street artist JR, as well as American photographers documenting social change since the 1960s. Recently, they also had a three-floor display of the U.K.'s graffiti scene.

Pro tip: The gallery regularly hosts artists talks, and they also have "Saatchi Lates," which feature extended exhibition hours, workshops and DJ sets.

Independent cinemas

While London's big-chain movie theaters around Leicester Square all come with XXL screens and the latest technology, the independent ones are where the real magic happens. Just around the corner from Leicester Square toward China Town is Prince Charles Cinema , where both the latest blockbusters and classic movies are shown. They also have movie marathons—from Harry Potter to Terminator and Lord of the Rings— where fans gather for up to 24 hours to watch the whole series. They even encourage singalongs during music-movie marathons by projecting lyrics on the screen for a karaoke vibe.

I am a regular at Genesis Cinema in East London, which has been showing movies since 1912 and comes with bar events such as open-mic and comedy nights on top. They also charge only 5£ Monday to Thursday, which is less than a third of what you'd pay on Leicester Square. Other great places include Electric Cinema, which has leather armchairs and double beds in the front row; Lexi Cinema, a volunteer-run place supporting charities in South Africa); and Everyman Screen on the Green, where wine and pizza are served to your seat.

Pro tip: London hosts tons of small and large film festivals throughout the year, so watch out for premieres, Q&As and other special events.

Highgate Cemetery

Walking around graves might not seem the most obvious choice for a fun day out in London, but Highgate Cemetery is worth making an exception. The Victorian cemetery looks a bit cramped and chaotic, but the sunken headstones, faded engravings and missing names on the tombs make it beautiful and charming at the same time. Highgate is the final resting place of no less than 170,000 people, including many celebrities. The one resident most visitors are looking for is German philosopher Karl Marx. His grave can be found in the east part of the cemetery and is easily recognizable by a giant sculpture of his head.

Pro tip: To enter the cemetery , you need a ticket, which you can buy online or on site. If you want some background info (and to hear morbid anecdotes), you can also book a guided tour.

Hackney City Farm

Big cities and farms might not go together well at first glance, but London does have several working farms close to its busiest districts. One of the loveliest is Hackney City Farm in East London, which has pigs, donkeys, ponies, sheep, ducks, a vegetable garden, a small shop that sells homemade produce and a restaurant. The farm opened in 1984 and regularly welcomes local school kids. They also run workshops in animal handling and arts classes including pottery and woodworking.

Pro tip: Visits are free, but donations are welcome. Don't leave without a drink in their cute backyard garden.

  • Visit London : "London's Big Ben"
  • Visit London : "Natural History Museum"
  • The Royal Collection Trust : "Buckingham Palace"
  • Historic Royal Palaces : "Crown Jewels"
  • Shakespeare's Globe
  • Natural History Museum : "Wild parakeets in the UK: exotic delights or a potential problem?"

The post The 34 Best Things to Do in London, According to a Local appeared first on Reader's Digest .

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Getting around London

Planning to travel in London? Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, let this guide help you make the most of your London experience. Travel from the airport to a hotel using Uber and discover popular routes and destinations. Depending on your city, you can even use the app to get around with public transport, bikes or scooters, and more.

Plus, check out Uber rates for riders and drivers and learn how to use Uber to get paid to drive or deliver in London.

Reserve car service in London with Uber

Arrange your car service needs in advance with Uber in London. Request a ride anytime up to 90 days ahead, whether you need transportation to London City Airport, you have plans to visit your favorite restaurant, or you’re going somewhere else.

Ride Sharing in London

Getting around London without a car is easy with Uber. Find places to visit in the area, then request a ride on any day and at any time of the week. You can request a ride in real-time or request a ride in advance so your ride is ready when you are. Whether you’re traveling in a group or alone, you can use the app to find a ride option for your needs.

Open the Uber app and enter your destination to begin exploring London.

London-area airport car service

When your travel in London takes you to an airport from a neighborhood, or elsewhere, open the app and request a ride at any time of day. Tap below on the name of a nearby airport to learn how to use Uber to get car service to arrivals and departures. On the linked airport page, you’ll find out where to meet your driver for pickup, how much the trip will cost, and more.

London City Airport (LCY)

Gatwick airport (lgw), heathrow airport (lhr), london stansted airport (stn), london luton airport (ltn), choose the best ways to get around london, taxi in london.

Consider Uber as an alternative to taxis when getting around London. With Uber, you can trade flagging down cabs for requesting rides on demand, no matter the time of day. Request a ride from an airport to a hotel, head to a restaurant, or visit another place. The choice is yours. Open the app and enter a destination to get started.

Public transport in London

Getting around with public transport is an affordable way to travel. Depending on the area, you can view nearby bus or subway routes with Uber Transit to help plan your travels. Open the app to see if Uber Transit is available in your neighborhood or visit popular places in London by ridesharing with Uber.

Bike rentals in London

Biking is an eco-friendly way to get around the heart of a city. In select cities, you can find and ride electric bikes with Uber. Open the app to see if bikes are available in London. If bikes are available in London, remember to wear a helmet and follow traffic laws while riding.

Uber does not tolerate the use of alcohol or drugs by drivers using the Uber app. If you believe your driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, please have the driver end the trip immediately.

Commercial vehicles may be subject to additional state government taxes, which would be over and above the toll.

Please note: some trips to and from the airport can also incur a surcharge to cover the minimum cost of parking at airport car parks. If dynamic pricing is in effect, the quoted fare will take the current rates into account.

From 25 January 2016, all trips starting and ending at London airports will be calculated at standard rates (time + distance) instead of a flat rate. A Clean Air Fee of £0.03 per mile will also be charged, including on minimum fare trips. Learn more about Uber’s Clean Air Plan in London. .

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Free And Cheap Things To Do In London This Week: 1-7 April 2024

Budget-friendly things to do in London this week for £5 or less.

Three young children in a garden

Looking for more free things to do in London? Here are 102 of em! We've also compiled this epic map of free stuff in London .

Try your luck at a pub quiz

Try not to make a fool of yourself at the 1 April edition of the weekly pub quiz at The White Horse in Wembley. For just £2 entry per person, take part to be in with a chance of winning a prize.

£2, 1 April.

Do creative things with a Galaxy Tab

The Creative Station pop-up at Waterloo station offers you the chance to get hands-on with a Galaxy Tab S9 Series, with a slew of free workshops in which you can write, draw, dabble in a digital book club, and even take part in a spot of Rush Hour Crush. Book your spot ahead of turning up.

Free, 1-4 April.

Get stuck into free family activities in Croydon

Centrale & Whitgift shopping centres in central Croydon are hosting a range of family-friendly activities for five days this week. Among them is a hip hop silent disco with DJ Bunny, an interactive LED climbing wall, and a bungee trampoline. Many events are free, while some incur a small charge.

Free-£5, 1-5 April.

A 'bunny' wearing headphones

Celebrate nature in a roof garden

Celebrate the start of spring with a free day of family activities at Southbank Centre's roof garden . Drop in throughout the day to enjoy pop-up performances and artist-led activities, all linked to nature. For ages 3+.

Free, 3 April.

Catch a free lunchtime concert

Lauderdale House in Highgate hosts a relaxed, 40-minute lunchtime concert , with musicians showcasing works written for a combination of voice and instruments. It takes place in the Long Gallery, with views over neighbouring Waterlow Park.

Free, 4 April.

People in suits drinking outside an alleyway pub

Explore some of London's best boozers

City Guide Pete Smith gives a free talk about some of London's best pubs, from those with opulent interiors, to spit and sawdust establishments. The talk takes place at Guildhall Library, and you can watch in person or online .

Free, 4 April

Catch the end of this Barbican exhibition

Final few days to see Concrete and Clay , a free exhibition in the Barbican Foyers, centred around a rarely seen, 1:22-scale model of the Centre and Estate. It's also a chance to view architectural plans, drawings, photos, objects and leaflets from Barbican Centre's original designs.

Free, until 5 April.

Visit the Bell House Garden

For a small donation, take a wander around Bell House Garden , the open space belonging to the Georgian Bell House in Dulwich. Visit the Walled Garden, where food for the kitchen is grown, as well as the rose garden and the woodland walk. There's an Easter egg hunt for kids, and tea and coffee is available to buy.

£5 donation, 6 April.

Vaisakhi in Trafalgar Square

Celebrate Vaisakhi in Trafalgar Square

The Sikh and Punjabi festival of Vaisakhi is celebrated in Trafalgar Square with an afternoon of free entertainment that's open to everyone. Watch live performances on the main stage, and demos of the Sikh martial art, Gatka. Attend turban tying workshops, and keep the kids entertained with family-friendly events in the marquee.

Free, 6 April

Visit the Sewing Machine Museum

The monthly opening of London's Sewing Machine Museum in Balham takes place today. Visit a collection of dozens of historic sewing machines — the personal collection of sewing machine salesman Ray Rushton — including one from 1865 which belonged to Queen Victoria's firstborn daughter. Read about our trip to the museum for an idea of what to expect.

Free (though charity donations welcome), 6 April.

Children dancing around a maypole with colourful ribbons

Have a go at ceilidh dancing

Head to the Riverside Terrace at Southbank Centre for a family ceilidh jam , centred around a traditional maypole. Learn the dance routine to live music, mixing traditional maypole dancing with street dance moves.

Free, 7 April.

Last Updated 25 March 2024

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