Seven unusual places to visit in London for free

Seven unusual places to visit in London for free thumbnail

With the cost of living crisis continuing to affect us all, it’s no surprise that people are looking for more and more opportunities to cut costs on days out and other activities.

The good news, if you live in or near London, is that there’s no shortage of things to do for nothing – with many of the capital’s biggest museums, galleries and parks free of charge – while taking in many of the famous sights on a walk won’t cost you a penny.

But if you fancy something a little more off the beaten track, there are plenty of hidden gems in London you might not have come across before, from more unusual museums and stately homes to gorgeous parks further afield in the city.

And many of those are also completely free to visit – meaning it won’t cost you any more than the price of a Tube fare.

So if you’re looking for somewhere a bit different for a day out, consider giving some of these a go. The trip out of the centre will be worth it…

Richmond Park/Isabella Plantation

One of London’s eight Royal Parks, Richmond Park is often overlooked in favour of the more centrally located parks – but it’s a must-visit for fans of unusual wildlife as well as those looking for a haven away from the centre of town.

As well as being home to rare species of flowers, fungi, deer and other wildlife, for true tranquillity head straight to the Isabella Plantation, a stunning 40-acre woodland garden tucked away in a corner of the park that houses all manner of unusual trees and shrubs.

It’s particularly known for its rare Kurume azaleas, which were introduced to the UK from Japan in the 1920s and which still blossom every spring.

Tube: Richmond (District Line/Overground/National Rail)

London Mithraeum

If you’re fascinated by ancient history then get yourself to the City Of London to check out this cultural hub, situated on the site of the ancient Roman temple of Mithras.

The site lies over the Walbrook, one of the city’s lost rivers, dating back to the 3rd Century AD and dedicated to the cult of Mithras, which was founded in ancient Rome and spread across the Empire over the next couple of centuries.

Its remains were discovered during an archaeological dig in London in 1954, and have since been turned into a multi-sensory experience featuring artefacts, immersive installations and more.

12 Walbrook, London, EC4N 8AA

Nearest Tube: Bank (Central Line, Northern Line, DLR), St Paul’s (Central Line), Mansion House (Circle and District Line)

The Horniman Museum

It’s worth making the trip out to South London for this quirky museum, which houses a huge collection of natural history, anthropology and other unusual exhibits.

The majority of the museum, and the gardens, are free – which means you can gaze all you want at the giant stuffed walrus which takes pride of place in its midst – but there is a charge for the aquarium, the butterfly house and some of the exhibitions – check the website for more details of the cost.

As an added bonus if you go on a Sunday you can visit the Horniman Market and pick up some local produce, organic fruit and veg or artisan cheese – or visit one of the many craft, design and body care stalls there.

100 London Road, Forest Hill London SE23 3PQ

Overground: Forest Hill

Aldenham Country Park/Winnie The Pooh trail

This one’s all the way out near Elstree, but if you have young kids who love Winnie The Pooh then it’s well worth the effort.

The park is a not-for-profit venture based across 100 acres of land, featuring nature trails, wide open green spaces and 100 Aker Wood – where you can explore Winnie The Pooh’s world, locate his and his friend’s houses and even play a game of Pooh Sticks on the bridge.

Other attractions include a farm and adventure playground, for which there is a small charge – you can even go camping in the park grounds.

Aldenham Road,  Elstree,  Hertfordshire , WD6 3BA

Thameslink: Elstree and Borehamwood

RAF Museum

Tucked away in a corner of north-west London, discover the history of the RAF, from its formation in 1918 through to its involvement in conflicts over the past century, and how it’s adapting to the technological changes of the future.

The displays of planes and marine craft, as well as other artefacts, are free to visit but there’s a small charge for the museum’s 4D theatre, allowing audiences to experience a pilot’s eye view of soaring through the skies, and its flight simulator.

Grahame Park Way, London, NW9 5LL

Tube: Colindale (Northern Line)

God’s Own Junkyard

A gallery with a difference, it’s worth venturing out to Walthamstow to visit this warehouse filled to the brim with neon signs.

The brainchild of Chris Bracey, who’s made props and signs for Hollywood movies and worked with the likes of Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan, it features everything from old movie props to those specially created for other events – and it’s visually stunning, not to mention highly Instagrammable.

You can even rent or buy some of the signs on display – although be warned that doesn’t come cheap.

Unit 12 Ravenswood Ind Estate, Shernhall Street, London, E17 9HQ

Overground: Wood Street

Hackney City Farm

You might not expect to find a farm in the midst of the city, but if you want to escape from life for a bit and spend it petting goats and donkeys you don’t have to go too far to find it.

Hackney City Farm offers the chance for you to get up close to the animals and see them in their habitat – as well as visit the orchard and vegetable gardens and learn more about how to lower your environmental impact.

It’s free to enter but you can make a donation in lieu of an entry fee – while the farm also offers paid-for classes in pottery, woodworking, using herbs and bike maintenance, among others – you can find out more at the website.

1a Goldsmiths Row, London E2 8QA

Overground: Cambridge Heath

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Aka the ‘Neasden temple’, this stunning place of Hindu worship offers a haven of peace and tranquility just a stone’s throw from the North Circular – and it’s completely free to visit.

The interior is just as spectacular as the outside, with its intricate carvings, marble columns and the Cantilever dome at the heart of the building. Depending on when you go you might also get the chance to see a traditional arti ceremony, involving waving lighted wicks before sacred images as a form of greeting and thanksgiving.

The temple also houses a permanent exhibition explaining the traditions and values of Hinduism, as well as offering visitors the chance for meditation and reflection while under the dome.

Pramukh Swami Rd, Neasden, London NW10 8HW

Tube: Neasden (Jubilee Line)

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