I love London and although I have been lucky enough to have travelled to several cities over the years, London for me, remains up there with the best.
Why do I love it so much? Okay so I might be slightly biased with it being my home capital but it truly is a beautiful city and there is an endless supply of things to do no matter what your interests are. Although many think it’s an expensive city, it’s no more expensive than other European capitals and there are plenty of things to see and do for free. If you only have 24 hours in London, here’s a quick guide to seeing the best of this British city for free.
24 Hours in London
9am – 10am. Big Ben / Houses of Parliament
Everyone has heard of Big Ben but did you know that the name refers to the bell and not the clock itself. You’re in time to listen to the chimes of this famous clock. Start your walking tour at this iconic building and marvel at the Houses of Parliament which date back to the Nineteenth Century. Apparently it is the largest Gothic building in the world.
- Find it at: London SW1A 0AA
- Opens at: 9am – 5pm. Closed on weekends
- Costs: Free to take pictures from the outside. You can arrange tours for approx £25
- Website: Houses of Parliament
10.15am – 10.15am. Westminster Abbey
Walk past Parliament Square to Westminster Abbey. You may remember the abbey as being where the funeral for Princess Diana took place. You can see the plaques of those buried here including Mary Queen of Scotts.
- Find it at: 20 Deans Yd, London SW1P 3PA
- Opens at: 9.30am – 12.00pm (each section has different opening times)
- Costs: You have to pay to enter but taking a snapshot of the building outside is free.
- Website: Westminster Abbey
11.30am – 1pm. Buckingham Palace
Finish your morning at the home of the Queen. Buckingham Palace should be at the top of any London bucket list. Built in 1703, you can’t actually go into the Palace but you can watch the Changing of the Guard at 11.30am. If the flag is raised the Queen is at home!
- Find it at: London SW1A 1AA
- Opens at: The Changing of the Guard takes place every summer morning and every other day in winter.
- Costs: Free to watch the guards.
- Website: Buckingham Palace
1.15pm – 2.30pm. Henry’s Cafe Bar
Depending on what time you get peckish, you can either enjoy a bagel or full English breakfast at Henry’s Cafe Bar in Green Park or grab a sandwich from a different food outlet around Green Park and sit in St James Park, and watch the pelicans being fed at 2.30pm each day.
- Find it at: 80 Piccadilly, London W1J 8HX
- Opens at: 8am – 11pm (from 10am to 10.30pm on weekends)
- Costs: Bagels cost from £5.89 (also have veggie options)
- Website: Henry’s Cafe Bar
Ready for the afternoon?
2.30pm – 3.30pm. Piccadilly Circus
It’s time for some retail therapy (of the window shopping kind). Piccadilly Circus is worth a look even if it’s just to take a selfie with the background neon lights. Don’t forget to look at the Statue of Eros at the junction too.
- Find it at: Piccadilly Circus, London, W1D 7ET
- Opens at: All hours as it’s a public space (shops close at night)
- Costs: Free
- Website: Piccadilly Circus
3.30pm – 4.30pm. Trafalgar Square
One of the iconic squares in London, Trafalgar Square can also be known for its attraction to pigeons but here you’ll find the giant stone lions, and Nelson’s Column. Plus if you visit at Christmas, there’s a Christmas tree here too.
- Find it at: Trafalgar Square, Westminster, London WC2N 5DN
- Opens at: All hours as it’s a public space
- Costs: Free
- Website: Trafalgar Square
Early Evening – 2 x Options
5pm – 6pm. Somerset House
One of the famous cultural centres in the city, Somerset House is in a Neoclassical style with 450 years of history. Visit here for the timeless architecture and the Fountain Court. The 18th-century courtyard also doubles up as an outdoor skating rink in the winter. Perfect for those visiting over the Christmas period.
- Find it at: Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
- Opens at: 10am – 6pm (the Fountain Court is open until 11pm)
- Costs: Free except for the galleries.
- Website: Somerset House
5pm – 6pm National Gallery
If you’ve ever wanted to see a Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, or a piece of Botticelli art, the National Gallery houses all three plus many more inspiring artworks. This galley is artistic inspiration for the creative solos and you can find out more on the free tour.
- Find it at: Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN
- Opens at: 10am – 6pm (open until 9pm on Fridays)
- Costs: Entrance is free but you need to pay extra for any exhibitions.
- Website: The National Gallery
6.30pm – 7.30pm. Head to Covent Garden
Convent Garden is a great spot for hanging out in the evening. Most of the shops and stalls are open here until early evening and you can spend a while here watching the quirky street entertainers.
Battersea Pie Station – Enjoy some traditional British food at Battersea Pie which serves modern pie and mash from £5.00 (without the mash). A cheap eat in Covent Garden with a variety of flavoured pies including a veggie option.
- Find it at: Lower ground floor, 28 The Market, London. WC2E 8RA
- Opens at: 11am – 9pm Monday to Saturday (Only open until 8pm on a Sunday)
- Costs: From £5.00 upwards.
- Website: Battersea Pie Station
India Club – Found at the Strand Continental Hotel this Indian restaurant has been serving Indian food for 70 years so it knows a thing or two about making a good curry. Buy a cheeky bottle of wine before you go in as there is no drinks licence here and no charge for corkage.
- Find it at: Hotel Strand Continental, 143 Strand, London WC2R 1JA
- Opens at: 6pm – 10.45pm (also open for lunch)
- Costs: Curries from £4.50 (includes a veggie option too)
- Website: India Club
7.30pm – 10pm. Go to a Museum
Museums here aren’t just open until afternoon teatime. Many have late night openings on weekends which are perfect for solos who want to swop the party scene for the cultural scene. After all the walking during the day, you can hop on The Tube to Bankside and visit the Tate Modern, a former power station along the banks of the River Thames. It’s definitely worth a visit for modern and contemporary art, and is lit up at night plus you can take a stroll along the South Bank too.
- Find it at: Bankside, London, SE1 9TG
- Opens at: 10am – 10pm Fridays and Saturdays (open until 6pm other days of the week).
- Costs: It’s free to enter and you can make a donation if you love it.
- Website: Tate Modern
8pm – 10.30pm. Laugh at a Comedy Show
Head further afield to the area of Islington. Here you’ll find free comedy shows at Angel Comedy. The great advantage about watching comedy is that you don’t need a partner to do it, plus you get a chance to watch diverse new acts before they make it big.
- Find it at: 2 Camden Walk, London, N1 8DY.
- Opens at: 8pm – 10.30pm (you can start queuing from 7pm to make sure you can get in)
- Costs: Free
- Website: Angel Comedy
If you can’t find any local events on for the time that you’re there find a killer happy hour at Leicester Square and sit at the bar chatting to the barman. You may even get to see stars on the red carpet if there is a film premiere on during your stay.
Longer than 24 Hours in London
With only 24 hours in the city, you’ll be pushed to see everything. This itinerary shows you the best of the city but there literally is too many “bests” to include. If you have 48 hours, spend longer walking along the South Bank, get inspired at the Victoria and Albert Museum, then head to Camden Market for some bohemian shopping by the canal. Music buffs can follow in The Beatle’s footsteps (literally) at the zebra crossing at Abbey Road.
Travel Tips for London
If you are planning on visiting more than one paid attraction in London, consider a London Pass which allows you access to over 60 attractions.
Getting Around London
London is a picturesque city to explore on foot but it does have an extensive travel network with regular buses, Tube, trains and even river buses. Get an Oyster card if you’re here for longer than 24 hours or a day pass instead of paying for separate journeys on the bus, tube and trains.
If you prefer to travel around London on a bus, Big Bus London is a hop-on, hop-off bus with 3 different tour routes. The ticket includes a Thames river cruise and a voucher book to save money off different attractions. Plus you get an extra 24 hours free when you buy a 24 or 48 hour ticket.
Accommodation in London
Accommodation in London isn’t cheap but you can find budget options as well as hostels. From luxury to boutique, you’ll find plenty of hotels in London in various locations across the city.
What are your tips for free things to do in London?
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