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Best free things to do in London this weekend

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Megan Murray
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Want to get out and about this weekend, but feeling a little strapped for cash after Christmas? We’ve found great things to do in London that won’t cost you a thing. 

Is there anywhere better than London? Each weekend brings with it a whole host of new exhibitions to see, brunch spots to try out and buzzing food markets to swing by. There are feminist exhibitions to attend, pub gardens to cosy up in and festivals to enjoy.

But those things cost money. And after the festive season of drinking, eating to excess and present buying, our budgets are already tight. That doesn’t mean you need to retire indoors, though, because London is also host to some of the best free events, galleries and pop-ups in the world. 

We’ve rounded up of all the best of those things, from museums to hit up and  - all with no spend required. 

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Free things to do in London: The Sky Garden

Although the cafe, bar and restaurant at the Sky Garden are relatively expensive, booking a time slot to go and enjoy the space is not. You can reserve your place online for free and enjoy the incredible views and tropical garden, for up to an hour. 

Where: Bank

Free things to do in London: Barbican Conservatory

This cultural hub not only has not only a world-class programme of art exhibitions, theatre performances and film screenings, but it’s also home to a glorious glass-roofed, leafy sanctuary with tropical plants and trees, birdlife and exotic fish.

Open on select Sundays every month, come in and wander around enjoying the peace and quiet. 

Where: Barbican 

Free things to do in London: Hampstead Heath

Is there anything better than going for a long walk on a Sunday? Not only does being surrounded by nature help to clear your mind but it also allows you to squeeze in some exercise, too. 

London may have plenty of parks to pick from, but there’s something about Hampstead Heath that makes you feel like you’ve left city life behind for a few hours.

Where: located just six kilometres from Trafalgar Square

Free things to do in London: Kensington Gardens

Situated in Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens offers more than just a wide open green space. From its striking Albert Memorial to the Serpentine Gallery, it’s a peaceful place away from the hustle and bustle.

Not forgetting the beautiful Italian Gardens and, of course, Kensington Palace – the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

If you fancy, you could always take a picnic along with you and find a nice spot on the grass for a few hours.

Where: Kensington, to the west of Hyde Park

Home to over 70 million items, the Natural History Museum is a great place to spend a Saturday afternoon. Split into five sections – botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology – it is full of fascinating facts and wonderful things to see. Not to mention an impressive exhibition of dinosaur skeletons and beautiful architecture, too.

In short, it’s impossible not to be impressed by it.

Where: Cromwell Road, South Kensington 

Free things to do in London: God's Own Junkyard

Found in a cool industrial estate in Walthamstow, God Own’s Junkyard is home to an impressive collection of work by late neon artist Chris Bracey. From signs featured in Hollywood films to giant glittering disco balls and flashing inspirational quotes, it’s certainly worth a stop by.

You can also pop into the in-house café for some tea and cake, too.

Where: Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Walthamstow 

With an estimated six million visitors dropping by each year, the British Museum is an ideal place to spend an idle Sunday afternoon.

Home to some world-famous objects – from Rosetta Stone to Parthenon sculptures – it not only provides an educational experience but a fascinating one, too.

With a collection of around eight million objects (and counting) it’s the perfect place to find out more about human history, art and culture.

Where: Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London

Free things to do in London: Tate Modern

As the UK’s national gallery of modern art, it comes of no surprise that the Tate Modern welcomes around six million visitors per year.

The gallery’s permanent collections may boast big names such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Barbara Hepworth, but its ever-changing contemporary displays never fail to amaze every passing crowd.

And we’re glad to report that the Tate has tackled the gender debate in an impressive way by making sure all solo displays are split 50/50 between male and female artists.

You can find out what’s on here.

Where: located on the south bank of the River Thames 

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After enjoying the beautiful fountains at Trafalgar Square, why not pop into the National Gallery? With an impressive collection of paintings (around 2,300 in total), it’s a quiet spot to go in the centre of London.

From Caravaggio to Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner and Botticelli, the gallery is home to some of the most famous works in the world.

Where: Trafalgar Square 

Free things to do in London: V&A

As the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is definitely worth dedicating a weekend afternoon to. Housing a permanent collection of nearly three million objects, it’s an impressive ode to creativity.

From fashion to furniture and sculptures, we’re certain there will be something that’ll take your fancy.

You can see what’s on here.

Where: Cromwell Road, Knightsbridge 

Free things to do in London: Houses of Parliament

If you want an educational tour of the Houses of Parliament then you’ll have to pay, but you can gain an insight into the inner on goings for free.

Debates in the Commons or Lords have public viewing galleries, so you can sit and watch what’s happening from the sideline.

Be prepared to queue and expect strict security checks (no liquids).

Where: Westminster 

Free things to do in London: Hackney City Farm

Sometimes life in London means we don’t get to see much wildlife or farm animals. But, fear not, as Hackney City Farm allows you to pop by and pet the animals for free. It may be a day out aimed at kids, but who wouldn’t want to see a new born lamb in spring?

You can also stop by the café for a bite to eat, too.

Donations are welcomed. 

Where: 1a Goldsmiths Row 

Free things to do in London: Notting Hill's Portobello Road.

If you don’t mind facing a crowd, then head to Portobello Road Market on a Saturday morning for antiques trading day. Not only will you see some unique antiques but you’ll also get to soak up a great atmosphere, too.

From its multi-coloured-painted houses to its quaint shops and cafes, it’s easy to see why it’s such an iconic street.

Where: Notting Hill 

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Images: Unsplash / Getty

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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