There are endless amounts of free things to do near urbanest Westminster, however this list contains the absolute ‘must visit whilst in London’ places that you simply cannot leave the city without seeing. Most of them are within a mile walk and of course, at no extra cost – ideal for the typical student budget.
St. James’s Park
17-minute walk – 0.8 miles
St. James’s Park is one of many Royal Parks located in London; however, it is extra special as it sits at the center of the city’s ceremonial core with Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards Parade and The Mall at it’s edges. Aside from it’s royal importance, where events and pageants take place all year round; the park is the perfect place to escape the hustle-and-bustle of London’s drone or to sit and study on one of it’s many benches near the fountain, lake or large open public green. No matter what the weather, or season, London’s many green spaces are perfect and often picturesque, ideal for the photography or nature lovers out there.
Houses of Parliament
11-minute walk – 0.4 miles
Debates are free to sit in on at the Houses of Parliament, in both Houses: the Commons and the Lords. Their public galleries are open to public use when the Houses are in a meeting. The debates are held mainly Monday-Thursday across the House of Commons, Westminster Hall and the House of Lords. It’s a great opportunity for those interested in politics and current issues affecting the UK; as ideas, propositions and issues are debated, addressed and resolved throughout the week in Parliament.
10 Downing Street and Horse Guards Parade
17-minute walk – 0.5 miles
As one of the many popular London tourist locations, Number 10 is the official residence and office to the British Prime Minister. Take a photo under the street sign or peer through the tall bars at it’s entrance. If you manage to spot the local cat, Larry, then you’ve definitely achieved London goals. Just around the corner is Horses Guard Parade, where you can watch the ceremonial Changing of the Guard daily at 11am (10am on Sundays).
12-minute walk – 0.5 miles
A tour of Westminster Abbey comes at a hefty cost. However, it is free when attending a service throughout the week or on a Sunday morning. Whilst these are services of worship, anyone is invited to join and pay their respects on a first-come-first-serve basis so get there ahead of time to secure a place inside the Church. The Abbey is truly beautiful inside, and it played host to the most recent Royal wedding, that of Kate and William’s. It’s another slice of British history and is of significant importance.
12-minute walk – 0.5 miles
South Bank is home to the most famous artistic venues of the city, including the South Bank Centre, the National Theatre and the British Film Institute, otherwise known as the BFI. It is packed with things to do, from art to theatre to quirky food and even skateboarding. As a bit of a ‘hipster hub’, one of the best things to do on South Bank is simply wonder the Riverside Walkway as depending on the season there is tons to do from Christmas markets and ice-skating in the festive months to sandpits, frozen yoghurt and cocktails in the summer.
23-minute walk – 0.8 miles
The Mall is a red road located in between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. It’s surrounded with trees and gives the effect of a red carpet leading up to the grand palace and fountain. It is simply a nice walk on a sunny day with St. James’s Park on one side and Green Park to the other.
The National Gallery
21-minute walk – 0.8 miles
Located in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery houses one of the largest art collections in the world. It features works of Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Monet and Titian to name a few. From it’s architecture to it’s art exhibitions, it isn’t something to miss, especially when entry is free all year round
The Supreme Court
10-minute walk – 0.4 miles
For those who are majoring in Law (or similar disciplines) or simply have an interest in the UK Justice System, the Supreme Court building is open to the public. The majority of its exhibition spaces, both temporary and permanent, are free to visit. However, the guided-tours are recommended and at the small price of £5 (for students) you can’t go wrong.
Wild Card: Royal Academy of Music
53-minute walk/20-minute tube ride – 2.2 miles
This is perhaps a little bit off the radar, but nonetheless worth mentioning. The Royal Academy of Music used to host “Free Fridays” where local audiences are invited in to hear the Academy’s performers and be involved within the Academy’s working environment. Due to it’s growing interest, they now charge a small cost to cover the stewarding for the event and you have to pre-book on their website. It’s a modest charge for an incredible full orchestra experience. Whilst, this isn’t strictly ‘free’, I feel it’s worth visiting whilst here in the city. The RAM also has a vast museum showcasing various instruments, original manuscripts and artworks, that is free to visit Monday-Friday.
Or just explore…
I feel like it’s easy to go looking for something to do whilst in London, but in actual fact, the absolute gems are usually found just by wondering about. I will say, try to explore at all times of day: sunrise, throughout daylight hours, sunset and after-dark; you’ll be amazed by what you can find, see and capture.
This article was written by urbanest Westminster Bridge resident, Channon. She is currently studying a BA in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics. In her third year of study, she is always busy but nevertheless, likes to travel, write, take photos and experience all things new. Originally from Cornwall, she loves the seaside life but her favourite thing to do is explore bustling city life.