London on a Budget: 12 Free Attractions Worth Visiting (Part One)

London is one of the great capitals of Europe. Its history is astounding. No other city in the world has shown the same resiliency in antiquity. It survived a plague that wiped out most of the continent, a great fire that devastated most of what is now the City of London, and several bombardments during the world wars, and yet, here it is, continuing to thrive as one of the most dynamic cities in the 21st century.  It also happens to be one of the most expensive cities in the world. An average cup of regular coffee or tea will run you about 2.50 quid (a whopping $4) and a one-way fare on the Tube will run you 2.10 quid ($3.50).  Thankfully, for us tourists, there are plenty of sights and attractions that will not break the bank. Most of the museums do not charge an entrance fee and most of its famous sights are best viewed from afar.

The list of London on a budget attractions enumerated below each have their own appeal and it is very likely that you will not get through them all in just one visit (unless you plan on staying in London for several months).  Nonetheless, take advantage of as many of them as you can.

London on a Budget: Big Ben
Big Ben

British Museum

This jewel of archeology contains some of the most significant artifacts of the ancient world. Its collection spans seven continents and several thousand years of human history. The Egyptian collection is a major draw, particularly the mummies and the remnants of royal tombs. In addition, it houses the Rosetta stone, one of the world’s most important discoveries. It changed the way we understood life in Ancient Egypt.

  • Location: Great Russell Street
  • Hours: Daily 10:00-17:30, Fridays up to 20:30
  • Closed on: 1 January, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day
  • Nearest tube stop: Russell Square, Tottenham Court Road, Holborn
London on a Budget: The Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone

National Gallery

Located on the famed Trafalgar Square, this museum is home to some of the art world’s most coveted pieces. The venue itself is a work of art, tastefully designed in neo-classical style architecture and is classified as a Grade I building for its national and cultural importance. Scour the galleries and derive inspiration from the hangings on the wall.

  • Location: Trafalgar Square
  • Hours: Daily 10:00-18:00, Fridays up to 21:00
  • Closed on: 1 January, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day
  • Nearest tube stop: Charing Cross, Leicester Square, Piccadilly, Embankment, Westminster

Victoria & Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum, or V&A, is the largest museum dedicated to decorative arts and design. Everything that is not oil on canvas, but considered art will likely be displayed here: fashion, woodwork, ceramics, textiles, photography and moving image just to name a few. The museum also has a fantastic garden with magnificent views of the building’s architecture. It is a popular relaxation spot especially on a warm summer’s day.

  • Location: Cromwell Road
  • Hours: Daily 10:00-17:45, Fridays up to 22:00
  • Closed on: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day
  • Nearest tube stop: South Kensington
London on a Budget: The garden at The Victoria and Albert Museum
The garden at The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Embankments

This two and half mile walk along the banks of the River Thames has some of the best views of London. In addition, you also get to see plenty of significant sites such as the Palace of Westminster, The London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The Victoria Embankment is the larger of the two, located on the north side of the Thames, linking the cities of Westminster and London. The Albert Embankment, located on the south side of the river, is slightly smaller, but for me, more enjoyable. It has significantly fewer tourists.

  • Location: Along the River Thames, from Vauxhall to Millennium Bridges
  • Nearest tube stop: Waterloo, Westminster, Embankment, Southwark
London on a Budget: The City of London view of Victoria and Albert Embankment
The City of London view of Victoria and Albert Embankment

Imperial War Museum (Re-opening on 19 July 2014)

This is perhaps my favorite museum in all of London. I have always been interested in war history and this place indulges me on it. In addition to the vast collection of World War I and II memorabilia, it also has a permanent exhibit on the histories of the British Security Services and Special Forces, as well as the only exhibit dedicated to the Holocaust within the United Kingdom.

  • Location: Lambeth Road
  • Hours: Daily 10:00-17:00 Fridays up to 20:00
  • Closed on: 1 January, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day
  • Nearest tube stop: Lambeth North
London on a Budget: The Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum

Museum of London

The most comprehensive history of London can be found here and the museum is located adjacent to some of the best-preserved parts of the Roman wall that once surrounded the city. The museum exhibits its history and archeology in five major parts, setting them in chronological order, from its inhabitants hundreds of thousands of years ago, through the social configuration in today’s world.

  • Location: 150 London Wall
  • Hours: Daily 10:00-18:00
  • Closed on: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day
  • Nearest tube stop: Barbican, St. Paul’s

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About Iris A


Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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