Visit a host of free London attractions this spring - from blooming parks and lively city farms, to quirky galleries and vast museums - with our penny-saving guide to the UK's bustling capital.
For a dose of rural charm in the big city, visit one of London‘s free city farms. Spend a sunny south London afternoon at Vauxhall City Farm; its 0.6 hectares (1.5 acres) are home to over 80 animals – from ferrets to alpacas – as well as textile artisans who make natural dyes from the plants in the community garden. Over in east London, Hackney City Farm is a lively affair, with pigs, donkeys, cows, goats and sheep living alongside smaller animals, such as squeaky guinea pigs and fluffy chinchillas. After saying hello to Hackney Farm’s assortment of residents, take a turn around the pretty garden area, which features herb beds, an orchard and a bog garden.
A mind-boggling array of contemporary art can be enjoyed free of charge at London’s Tate Modern. The innovative gallery, situated on the South Bank, features a kaleidoscope of artwork – from sublime Picassos to quirky installations by today’s cutting-edge artists. After exploring the creative and colourful exhibitions, clear your head with a stroll over nearby Millennium Bridge. Art fiends can also find small independent London galleries good for a free browze; Olyvia Fine Art in Westminster is showing a collection of Andy Warhol pieces until 6 June, including works that have never been shown in public.
London’s historic markets are the city’s most buzzing free attractions, and the call of the market trader echoes through many a cobbled nook and ancient cranny. For foodie heaven, head to London Bridge’s Borough Market and indulge your senses in the sights and smells of cuisine from around the globe; many traders offer visitors little tasters of their goods for free. Free street theatre and live music is guaranteed at Covent Garden Market, with a variety of acts – from fire jugglers to classical musicians – performing their craft both inside the market buildings, and outside in the bustling square.
London boasts some of the world’s most comprehensive museums, jam-packed with intruiging objects to entertain you and your brood for days. One of the most popular is the striking Natural History Museum, whose soaring and ornate sandy facade is a dominating feature of upmarket South Kensington. From dinosaur bones and stuffed animals to exotic plantlife, the museum offers plenty of natural wonder for all ages. Another renowned free museum is the British Museum, which houses a vast catalogue of artefacts from human history, spanning centuries and continents.
London’s Royal Parks are bursting with blooms and fresh greenery this time of year. A firm World Travel Guide favourite is well-tended Regents Park in north London, which features the beautifully manicured Queen Mary’s Gardens, striking stone fountains, and the quiet refuge of secluded St John’s Lodge Gardens. On a clear day, stroll up through Regents Park to Primrose Hill for glorious views across the city. Those who find themselves south of the river, will find pretty Greenwich Park offers great vistas of the Thames, a charming rose garden, and even glimpses some prancing wildlife in the Wilderness Deer Park – home to Red and Fallow deer.
Witness age-old London traditions come to life, with the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and the ceremony of the keys at the Tower of London. Every morning (alternate days between August and March), the changing of the Buckingham Palace guard sees the New Guard take over duty from the Old Guard, accompanied by a live band. Every evening at 2153, visitors to the Tower of London can watch the Chief Warder, in full Tudor dress, ceremonially lock the tower gates and exchange formal dialogue with a sentry, in a tradition that has been going on for nearly 700 years. Tickets are free, but have to be reserved in advance: See here.
Insider tip: For a free and informative overview of London’s hightlights try this free walking tour.
Free attractions around the world:
If you’re heading to the sizzling Spanish city, cool down with the spray of the Font Magica de Montjuic (Magic Fountain), which becomes a dazzling and free show, with evening light and music displays.
After going football crazy in South Africa this summer, relax in coastal Cape Town’s tranquil Company’s Garden – a grassy city-centre relaxation area, with flower displays and a pond.
While supporting Commonwealth Games athletes in Delhi this October, pop into the Baha’i House of Worship, better known as the Lotus Temple: a stunning structure designed by Iranian-Canadian architect Fariburz Sahba as a tribute to the revered lotus flower.
If you’re heading to the Big Apple for a Sex in the City 2-inspired mini-break, inject some culture in between boutiques and cocktails, with Central Park’s free Shakespeare in the Park performances.
Long weekend in Paris? Go the first Sunday of the month for free entry to the world-famous Musée d’Orsay (Museum of Orsay): a converted railway station by the banks of the Seine.