Whilst you have to pay for many things in London, some of the best attractions in London are actually free! Human nature means we can often end up associating price with quality of experience, but it would be a real shame if you visited and missed these free London attractions. So you can put your wallet away and let us guide you through our favourite free activities in London.
Free Entrance to The Imperial War Museum in London
Whilst you’re probably aware that all major museums in London are free, the Imperial War Museum can easily be missed. Just a short walk from Waterloo Station, the museum is one of our favourite free attractions in London. The building is on the site of a former mental asylum, but the hospital and its patients have made way for one of the best historical presentations of World War 1 and 2.
You certainly don’t need to be a hardened historian to appreciate the full-size aircraft and rockets on display in the central atrium. However, for those of you who thrive on details, the WW1 gallery takes you chronologically through the conflict, leaving little to your imagination.
The replica trench is a great example of this, giving you an insight into the life of soldiers on the frontline. The Holocaust floor serves as a poignant, yet disturbing, reminder of events that took place during the largest conflict of modern times, World War 2.
If you’re determined to spend some money, the museum has an excellent gift shop that serves as a brilliant resource for books about WW1&2 as well as more recent conflicts.
If the museum has left you looking to find out more about WW2 in London, and in particular Winston Churchill, have a look at our WW2 London Tour.
The Best View in London for Free
Every city has some special spots that offer fantastic views, and London is no different. Our favourite view in London is completely free and sort of a secret, so don’t go telling everyone!
Situated just behind St Paul’s Cathedral, you can find a shopping centre called “One New Change”. The Centre has roof access offering not only the perfect vantage point for views of the Cathedral, but also the surrounding London skyline. However, that’s not all, the views start on the ground floor before you even make it up to the roof. The 2 buildings offer completely different architectural styles, but they almost merge as St Paul’s is beautifully reflected in the modern glass exterior of One New Change.
Head into the shopping centre to the elevators, press number 6 for a ride to our favourite view in London. Once out on the roof you’re rewarded with fantastic panorama of St Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London. You can enjoy the view for as long as you like, safe in the knowledge that its cost you nothing apart from some research!
If the view has got you thinking about visiting the Church, have a look at our Tour of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Visit the Free London Mithraeum – Ancient Roman Temple in London
Don’t worry, we haven’t gone crazy, there really is a Roman Temple here in London and, you guessed it, it’s free and not to be missed! Located under the UK headquarters of Bloomberg, this free London attraction offers a fantastic insight into both Roman culture and early London life.
London was bombed heavily during WW2, the damage uncovered many remains of Roman London, known as Londinium. The Mithraeum was one such site found in 1954; the marble head of a statue of Mithras was found on the last day of scheduled excavation.
Who was Mithras though and why was he worshipped? Legend has it he was born from a rock in a cave, he used his impressive strength to kill a sacred bull and bring about new life. An obvious character for worship, in the 1st Century AD Roman soldiers formed a secretive cult and built many Mithraeum Temples to honour Mithras. The cult is shrouded in mystery, but it’s believed that the cave-like temples were used by members for both initiation ceremonies and great feasts, until the eventual demise of the cult around the 4th Century AD.
The Mithraeum is presented today over 3 levels. The first 2 floors house many Roman artefacts, as well as information about how the temple was reconstructed. The bottom floor is the temple itself; be prepared to be whisked back in time for rare insight into this secretive Roman cult.
We really enjoy this free experience here in London, hopefully you will now, too!
Visit the British Library for Free
Just like the museums that we talked about earlier, visiting the British Library costs absolutely nothing. This relatively modern building is the national library of the UK and we think it’s one of the best free attractions in London.
You’ll find the Library on Euston Road and, once you get close, it’s pretty hard to miss. As you pass into the Library forecourt you’re greeted by a large bronze statue of Sir Isaac Newton. Newton can be seen bending forwards with his compass in hand. The sculpture is meant to embody the purpose of the Library, as a place to serve man’s endless search for truth.
The building was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1998, and its collection of some 200 million books and items is still growing. This is thanks in part, to its status of Legal Deposit Library. This means that a copy of every book published in the UK is provided to the Library, to be made available on the premises and preserved for future generations.
Our top tip for you to explore is the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, which is open daily and, of course, free of charge. Over 200 amazing treasures from the library can be found here, from manuscripts and documents to sacred texts and great works of literature and music. As an example, items on display include: Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s “First Folio”, Lindisfarne Gospels, and much more.
So there we go, just a few ideas covering what we think are the best free attractions in London. Hopefully you can now see why we say that you can’t necessarily equate the entrance price of an attraction with the experience that it provides you.
We’re very proud that there’s so many amazing places you can visit in the UK free of charge, far more than we can cover here. However we do have some more inspiration for your vacation, so have a look at some of our other insights throughout our London Travel Guide. And feel free to contact us for help booking your London tours!