Totally Free Things To Do In London

Content originally published for The Merit Club

We’ve been indulging and splashing out in the lead up to Christmas. The January guilt creeps in and there’s an air of reigning it in and being less frivolous. But why should we deprive ourselves and hibernate for all of January? Here’s a round up of free things to do in London - if you want to get those bank balances back in check, while getting out and about and keeping stress levels down.

Flower Markets & Farm Yards

Every Sunday, the Columbia Road in East London comes alive with a gorgeous array of flowers and plants and the hustle and bustle of crowds taking their pick of the best blooms in the city. Buying a bunch for yourself is always tempting, but you’re free to browse and lap up the atmosphere without. Don't miss out on the Hackney City Farm nearby, either. It has no set entry cost but encourages donations, and for a fun half hour you feel like you’re stepping back in time with all the farmyard animals. Then, round the corner you’ll discover part of the meandering Regent’s Canal, where you can take a stroll for however far your legs will take you.


Some of the most renowned artwork and artefacts in the world can be seen for free in London. The British Museum, the Science Museum, Tate Britain, the National Gallery, the National History Museum, the V&A... their doors are all open to the general public so you can roam through their permanent exhibitions whenever the mood takes you. For free exhibitions this New Year that are a bit different, look to Votes for Women at the Museum of London (until 10th March), Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany: 1919 - 1933 at the Tate Modern (until 14th July), Living with Buildings at the Wellcome Collection (until 3rd March), ARTIST ROOMS: Jenny Holzer at the Tate Modern (until 31st July), Hitting the Right Note: Amazing Women of the Royal Academy of Music at the Royal Academy of Music (until 18th April), and Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2018 at South London Gallery (until 24th February).


From central city vantage-points to more rural parks and hill-tops, London offers some spectacular views and gardens - all for free. If architecture’s your thing, venture up to the top of the One New Change building in the city of London for the best view of St Paul’s. Or, if you’re looking for more open green spaces, head to Alexandra Palace, Richmond Park Hill, or Primrose Hill for stunning views. If you’re into your gardens, take a trip to the Phoenix Garden near Covent Garden if you’re central or Barnsbury Wood in Islington if you have longer to explore. The beautiful Kyoto Garden in Holland Park is perfect if you’re looking for a moment of tranquility - the waterfalls, sculptures, and its overwhelming serenity will take you completely by surprise.

Kyoto Garden.JPG


Take a stroll round some of London’s best markets for amazing food and discoveries. Borough Market is arguably one of London’s best-known (and oldest) food markets, dating back to the thirteenth century. Gorge on samples as much as you dare, from the delicious selection of breads, cheeses, cured meats, and pastries all on offer. As well as boasting it’s fabulous views, Alexandra Palace also hosts The City and Country Farmers Market most Sundays for amazing fresh produce every week. Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey, Kerb in Camden, Old Spitalfields Market in Shoreditch are all other options for taking a wander and for feasting your eyes on delicious treats, and other goodies. If you’re heading to Portobello market, be sure to persevere through the crowds at the beginning to get out of the tourist-trap. The real vintage gems are to be found nearer the end, where you can then head on up to Camden Lock to continue your exploring.

January might not be the most inspiring month for getting out and about in London. The January Blues aren’t just our post-Christmas-back-to-work-back-to-reality slump, either - we’re lacking in sunlight and the days are short and colder which can all take their toll on our energy levels. As the NHS reports on Seasonal Affective Disorder, “It's thought that SAD sufferers are affected by shorter daylight hours in the winter. They produce higher melatonin, causing lethargy and symptoms of depression.” The winter blues may affect us all at some point or another, so if you’re staying in the city for the next couple of months, make sure you can get out and about for natural sunlight, some exercise and fresh air.

Charlotte Franklin