6 Affordable Ways to See London

by  Steve Larese | Updated on May 1, 2023

Even with the dollar gaining strength, visiting London can still be expensive for Americans. However, this capital city is no less an easy and memorable trip. While we certainly recommend popular paid attractions like the London Eye and London Aquarium for first-timers, there are also plenty of free things to do for hours so that a trip here won't cost a fortune. With multi-generational travel on the rise and London being a popular extended vacation — perfect for those school breaks — here's an affordable guide to the city for all ages.

Read more: The Greatest Trips for Your Europe Bucket List

1. A Treasure Trove of Free Museums


Many London museums are free of charge. If the National Portrait Gallery feels stuffy, try the Egyptian mummies, Viking swords, and Celtic jewelry at the British Museum. That's also the home of the famed Rosetta Stone and other priceless artifacts representing multitudes of cultures across human history. Plus, free gallery backpacks for kids (available on weekends, school breaks, and during special tours and events) are explicitly designed to engage younger museum-goers. Love all things science? Make sure to get a peek at the dinosaur skeletons in The Natural History Museum and spend hours learning and playing at the interactive Science Museum —both free as well.

2. Whimsical Window-Shopping 

Connect with your inner child (and let the grandkids roam happily) at Hamleys, the world’s oldest and largest toy store. This amazing seven-story building showcases seemingly every toy imaginable and is, of course, free to visit. William Hamley opened his first toyshop in 1760, and it became a London landmark soon after. Its current location at 188-196 Regent Street (since 1881) was bombed five times during the Blitz, but the helmet-wearing staff reopened every time and helped keep the British spirits high.

Plan for at least an hour of exploration here. It's fun for all, especially since the ever-exuberant staff lets you play with the displays. Store highlights include the life-sized LEGO Queen (and corgi) on the seventh floor. 

3. A Dive Into Aviation History

For history buffs of all ages, The Royal Air Force Museum is a free must-see, explaining the role that men and women of the RAF played in keeping the kingdom free during the Battle of Britain. More than 100 aircrafts — from World War I biplanes to modern jets — are displayed here, including the iconic RAF Spitfire fighter of World War II. Make sure to check out the flight simulator and explore the free HMS Belfast, a light cruiser moored in the Thames that saw action during World War II and the Korean War. 

4. A Stately Spectacle

Ceri Breeze/iStock

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is a spectacular, classic London experience (and free). The 45-minute-long ceremony takes place outside Buckingham Palace and is entirely free to watch. A photo of the entire family posing with one of the famously statuesque guards is a must-do for any visit to London.

5. Scenic Walks

You’ll probably log some distance walking throughout this pedestrian-friendly city, but a stroll through one of London's many parks is a must. Hyde Park, the most famous of them all, covers 350 acres and is home to Serpentine Lake, Speakers' Corner, and Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.

Read more: How to Plan a Trip to Europe

6. Prepaid Tickets & Transportation

If you're already planning on visiting the attractions it covers — including the Tower of London, the London Zoo, and Thames River Boat Cruises — London Pass is an excellent way to skip lines and potentially save a few hundred dollars. With the pass, you can even pay for public transportation in advance. For transportation, consider purchasing a Visitor Oyster Card, in which travelers can prepay and receive special children’s discounts.

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