100 free things to do in London with the family

Who says London is an expensive city? We've found 100 brilliant things to do with the family that won't cost you a penny, from farms and facials to skating and science

mum and child looking at the thames as one of the free things to do in London

Free things to do in London can be the holy grail for any parent when it comes to school holidays - just the ice cream budget alone can make your eyes water.

Parenting can be chaos and oh-so-draining, both mentally; thinking up things to do at home (opens in new tab), and financially; great days out with the family (opens in new tab) are the dream but the total price of a family-friendly event can be in excess of £100.

We've found the best free things to do in London. Now all you need to do is agree that ice cream budget.

100 free things to do in London

Free things to do in London: Museums and galleries

1. Enjoy scientific exploration and interactive galleries for all ages at The Science Museum. Nearest Tube: South Kensington

2. Visit the William Morris Gallery. in Walthamstow, which houses his famed intricate print and furniture designs. Nearest tube: Walthamstow

3. The Wallace Collection houses The Laughing Cavalier painting, as well as armour, porcelain and furniture. Nearest tube: Baker Street or Bond Street

4. At the National Maritime Museum, you can fire a cannon, and the giant floor world map is brilliant for babies and kids alike. Nearest tube: Cutty Sark DLR

5. With four million exhibits across four floors and 145 galleries the Victoria & Albert Museum is well worth a visit. Nearest tube: South Kensington

6. The Tate Modern has works by artists including Picasso, Dali and Bacon, and a great view of London from the top floor café. Nearest tube: Southwark

7. The Photographers Gallery exhibitions feature award-winning images; perfect for older children. Nearest tube: Oxford Circus

9. The Horniman Museum and Gardens has over 3,000 items in its anthropology collections, including a sharks’ teeth sword. Nearest tube: Forest Hill

10. The incurably curious will love The Wellcome Collection with exhibits about the history of illness and medicine, and videos of surgery. Nearest tube: Euston

11. Explore the fascinating arty world at Tate Britain - top tip; allow half a day for each gallery. Nearest Tube: Pimlico

Image of the tate modern from the milennium bridge as a free thing to do in London

Credit: Getty / Future

12. There are 8 million objects in The British Museum - start with a 40-minute tour to see highlights including Egyptian mummies. Nearest tube: Tottenham court Road

13. The Sir John Soane Museum, home of architect John Soane, houses an Egyptian hieroglyphic sarcophagus and slaves’ chains. Nearest tube: Holborn

14. The Museum of London tells the story of London from prehistoric times to the present day. Nearest tube: Barbican or St Paul's

15. The National Portrait Gallery is a great place for celeb spotting… on canvas. See portraits of the Queen and J.K Rowling. Nearest tube: Leicester Square

16. Animal lovers will enjoy the Natural History Museum with its Dinosaurs Gallery showcasing life size dinos with sound-effects. Nearest tube: South Kensington

17. At the RAF Museum you can view over 100 aircraft, from very early designs to the latest jets, as well as sound and light shows. Nearest tube: Colindale

18. The National Army Museum brings war to life with maps, medals and a saw used to amputate a Lieutenant General’s leg. Nearest tube: Sloane Square

19. As well as amazing paintings, the National Gallery runs great free events such as art workshops and walks. Nearest tube: Charing Cross

Free things to do in London: Children’s activities

20. The Museum of London: Docklands' Mudlarks play area gives the chance to weigh cargo, float boats, or crawl around soft play. Nearest tube: Canary Wharf or West India Quay

21. London’s libraries (opens in new tab) aren’t just for borrowing books: many of them run free activities, such as storytelling and face painting. Nearest tube: Various

22. For older kids, the best parks are Highgate Wood, for climbing and zip wire, and Regents Park, with its timber treehouse. Nearest tubes: Highgate for Highgate Wood and Mornington Crescent for Regents Park

23. The Imagine Festival at The Southbank Centre, every February, offers over 100 free and ticketed events, like opera for babies. Nearest tube: London Waterloo

24. Tie in busy museum visits with a refreshing trip to Coram’s Fields, a 7-acre playground and park. Nearest tube: King’s Cross and Holborn

Image of teepees at Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground as part of free things to do in London

Credit: Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground

25. Kensington Gardens is home to the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground, with teepees and climbing apparatus. Nearest tube: Queensway

Free things to do in London: Outdoor activities

26. Join in with the Sunday Stroll, by London Friday Night Skate; a marshalled skate that leaves from Hyde Park. Nearest tube: Knightsbridge

27. There are free 5km Park Runs all over the capital. You have to register before you can run, but it’s free. Nearest tube: Various

28. London parks and commons have free circuit training equipment, like Wandsworth Common with its wooden structures. Nearest tube: Clapham Junction or Wandsworth Common Rail

29. Fly a kite on the open plains of Blackheath – a large grassy area with views to Greenwich and the river. Nearest tube: Cutty Sark, or Blackheath rail

30. Go fishing (with a rod license) along the peaceful Regent’s Canal, running from the Paddington Basin up to north London. Nearest tube: Paddington

31. London has 35,000 acres of green space - 40% of its surface area; so take a walk or enjoy a game of football or Frisbee. Nearest tube: Various

32. Local swimming pools often offer free swim promotions, and for just £2.43 a child can swim at Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds. Nearest tube: Hampstead Heath or Highgate

33. The Southbank Skatepark is regarded as the birthplace of British skateboarding; good for older kids interested in skating. Nearest tube: London Waterloo

34. Planespot from around the terminals at Heathrow Airport, or visit the Heathrow Academy (opens in new tab) for non-passengers for great views. Nearest tube: Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3

Free things to do in London: Houses and gardens

35. London’s second largest Royal Park, Bushy Park, has 320 red and fallow deer, which roam free. Nearest stations: Teddington/Hampton Wick/Hampton Court from London Waterloo

36. Somerset House’s dancing courtyard fountains are great for kids to play in. Nearest tube: Temple

37. Many of London’s parks and gardens have beautiful flowers. For a small charge, you can visit some private gardens via The National Gardens Scheme. Nearest tube: Various

38. Waterlow Park's meadow areas are part of an RSPB project to encourage sparrows back into the city. Nearest tube: Archway

39. There’s a bird hide for keen birdwatchers at Tudor Mansion, Hall Place. Nearest train: Bexley or Crayford National Rail

Free things to do in London: Park walks

40. The Thames River Walkway from Westminster Bridge to London Bridge takes in sights including Big Ben and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Nearest tube: London Waterloo

41. There are monthly walks for budding photographers in a different part of the capital, every month, at London Photo Walks.

42. Take in views of famous London statues, (opens in new tab) from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens to Eros at Piccadilly. Nearest tube: Various

43. Go for a walk, and sightsee, at the Peace Pagoda (opens in new tab) in Battersea Park, the dinosaur pond in Crystal Palace Park and the deer in Richmond Park. Nearest tube: Various

44. Enjoy free views over the City from places like Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, or 300 steps up at The Monument. Nearest tube: Various

45. The peaceful Japanese Kyoto garden at Holland Park is home to peacocks and rabbits. Nearest tube: Holland Park

46. Some of the best river views are from London bridges (opens in new tab). Waterloo Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. Nearest tube: Various

47. Take your picnic to one of London’s parks, (opens in new tab) heaths or commons to let off steam and have a play about. Nearest tube: Various

48. Stroll along Regent’s Canal towpath from Maida Vale, with its colourful narrowboats, past London Zoo and through Camden. Nearest tube: Maida Vale

Free things to do in London: Historical must-sees

49. UK residents can contact their MP to try to arrange a free tour of the House of Commons or Big Ben. Nearest tube: Westminster

50. Watch people lecture the crowd on politics, religion, the economic situation at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park on a Sunday. Nearest tube: Marble Arch

51. All aboard the TFL London bus routes (opens in new tab). If you have a travelcard, you can hop on a Number 11 bus, which runs past St Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, 10 Downing Street and Westminster. Nearest tube: Various

image of the Old Bailey agains blue sky

Credit: Getty / Future

52. The public gallery at the Old Bailey is open to everyone over 14 and gives you a look at the way our legal system works. Nearest tube: St Pauls

53. London’s old Routemaster buses still run: the Number 15 runs past the Tower of London, Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace. Nearest tube: Various

54. The Museum of the Home traces the history of 'the home’; giving children the chance to see what life was like in the days before TV and central heating. Nearest tube: Hoxton

55. Many of London’s cemeteries feature some interesting tombstones and are also a good place to see birds and wildlife. Nearest tube: Various

56. Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace at 11.00am - daily in the summer; every other day in winter. Nearest tube: Green Park

57. Many of the city’s churches are free to visit, including the magnificent Southwark Cathedral (opens in new tab). Nearest tube: London Bridge

58. The Royal Courts of Justice, home of the Supreme Court, is open for visitors to watch lawyers in their robes and wigs battle it out in court. Nearest tube: Temple or Holborn

59. Take a sightseeing stroll along Whitehall, past Downing Street and No 10, down to Buckingham Palace and Green Park. Nearest tube: Various

60. Even those who are not into engineering will be impressed when they see hydraulics in action as Tower Bridge opens for ships. Nearest tube: Tower Hill

Free things to do in London: Food and drink

61. London Farmers’ Markets often offer sample tasters of things like cakes, sausages, cheese and juices. Nearest tube: Various

62. Smithfield Market, London’s biggest meat-trading market since 1868. Open from 3am, visit before 7am for a view of market life. Nearest tube: Farringdon or Barbican

63. Visit bustling Chinatown in London’s Soho, with its exotic Asian produce and restaurants offering the best dim sum in the capital. Nearest tube: Leicester Square

64. Harrods Food Hall (opens in new tab) is full of beautiful murals as well as food from all over the world, beautifully arranged. Nearest tube: Knightsbridge

Free things to do in London: Markets and music

65. Enjoy the atmosphere of Brick Lane or Columbia Road flower market. Food fans will love Borough Market and Hackney Hand Made. Nearest tube: Various

66. Southall market offers colourful Indian saris, bhangla music, spicy samosas, sweet desserts and plenty of curry houses Nearest train: Southall rail

Image of Camden Lock for Free things to do in London

Credit: Camden Market/Future
(Image credit: Stephanie Lowe)

67. Covent Garden runs two markets: the Jubilee market and the Apple market. Both offer music, clothes, trinkets and more. Nearest tube: Covent Garden

68. Spot punks at Camden Market, as well as street art, funky jewellery and joss sticks, indy fashion and new design. Nearest tube: Camden

69. Notting Hill Carnival, annually in August, is a street festival with reggae music and floats. Go during the day with children. Nearest tube: Notting Hill Gate

Free things to do in London: Musical must-sees

70. You can find free recitals, concerts and rehearsals at the Royal College of Music. Churches also have free music events. Nearest tube: South Kensington

71. Visit the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall for free lunchtime concerts of classical, jazz, Blues or singing.

Nearest tube: London Waterloo

72. The church of St Martin in the Fields, near Trafalgar Square, has a long tradition of free lunchtime concerts. Nearest tube: Charing Cross or Leicester Square

73. Watch a free performance in Covent Garden, where singers from the Royal Opera House perform in the piazza. Nearest tube: Covent Garden

74. The Music Gallery at The Horniman Museum has the largest number of instruments on display in the UK, as well as play space. Nearest tube: Forest Hill

75. Imitate the picture on the Beatles’ album cover at the famous pedestrian crossing in Abbey Road. Nearest tube: St John’s Wood

Free things to do in London: Theatre, comedy and more…

76. Covent Garden is the place to go for street performers from ‘statues’ to ventriloquists, escapologists, fire eaters and jugglers. Nearest tube: Covent Garden

77. Scoop at More London is an outdoor sunken amphitheatre, outside City Hall, that hosts free events and activities. Nearest tube: London Bridge

78. The Barbican Centre has gardens and the Curve Gallery. You’ll often find free music or performance in the foyers. Nearest tube: Barbican

79. The Comedy Cafe Theatre hosts a free-to-watch open mic night on Wednesdays, where many big names start out. Nearest tube: Shoreditch

80. The British Film Institute’s Mediatheque has widescreen computer booths to watch archived TV shows and films. Nearest tube: London Waterloo

81. The Royal Festival Hall has a singing glass lift to the fifth floor, where there’s a balcony area with impressive views of the Thames. Nearest tube: London Waterloo

82. You can apply for freebie tickets to many TV shows. Book in advance at the BBC comedy department Nearest tube: Various

83. Join in with religious and cultural celebrations, from Chinese New Year to Easter and Diwali. Find out specifics at Visit London. Nearest tube: Various

Padipa temple

Credit: Padipa Temple / Future

84. Visitors are welcome to explore the temple grounds at the Buddhist temple in Wimbledon, Buddha Padipa temple. Nearest tube: Wimbledon

Free things to do in London: Nature lovers

85. Crystal Palace Park Farm offers something a bit out of the ordinary with its chinchillas, parakeets, snakes, and amphibians. Nearest tube: Crystal Palace

86. On Wandsworth Common, a local bird expert runs morning walks, to see loads of bird species from green parakeets to blue tits. Nearest tube: Clapham South

87. Most London parks have ponds but check the local rules about feeding ducks. Bread can go mouldy, or choke the birds. Nearest tube: Various

88. The Horniman Museum Nature Trail offers free pond-dipping in the summer holidays to check out water boatmen and dragonflies. Nearest tube: Forest Hill

89. At The Horniman Museum and Gardens' Nature Base you can see live bees, feel a mole’s fur, and look closely at insect wings. Nearest tube: Forest Hill

90. Deen City Farm in Wimbledon has sheep, goats, cows, alpacas and pigs, some of which you can feed or stroke. Nearest tube: Colliers Wood and South Wimbledon

Free things to do in London: Fashion and beauty spots

91. The beauty departments of London’s top department stores, such as Harrods or Selfridges, offer free make-up demos - great for teens. Nearest tube: Various

92. Bond Street is a fun place to window shop the world’s leading fashion designers; and you may even spot a celebrity or two. Nearest tube: Bond Street.

93. Disney Stores (opens in new tab) have free, fun activities for kids, such as colouring, interactive games and group activities bring Disney to life. Nearest tube: Bond Street

94. London’s major department stores have a personal shopping service, so why not let them release your inner fashion diva? Nearest tube: Various

95. The capital’s major department stores put on a visual show all year round; check out Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason. Nearest tube: Various

96. Regents Park has breath taking views with it's Rose Garden, with few people finding the beautiful Queen Mary's Gardens at the heart of the Inner Circle. Nearest tube: Baker Street

97. The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetary Park (opens in new tab) has plenty on with nature and events galore; such as Forest School and a wildlife club.Nearest tube: Bow Road

98. Epping Forest (opens in new tab) straddles London’s north-eastern border. The vast site contains ancient woodland, grassland, lakes and lots of wildlife. It's a walker’s dream. Nearest tube: Epping

99. Railway Fields (opens in new tab) was originally a freight station on the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway. Now a local nature reserve and open space area where children can learn directly about nature. Nearest tube: Green Lanes

100. The Wandle Trail (opens in new tab) 14 miles following the route of the River Wandle from Croydon to the Thames at Wandsworth. Nearest tube: Belgrave Walk

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