London is the largest city and the capital of England as well as the United Kingdom. Located on the River Thames, the historic city has been settled for over 2,000 years. It is the cultural center of the country with a diverse population who speak over 300 languages. The city is also a favorite tourist attraction.
With 170 museums, you can find many that are free to visit as well as art galleries, memorials, and parks. Many of the famous buildings are also free to visit and deserve at least a walk-by photo. But leave your large bags in a suitcase storage locker in London first because you cannot bring them in most places.
The British Museum
Established in 1753, the British Museum has two million years of history to see for free. Some of the most important items include the Rosetta Stone of Egypt and the Elgin Marbles of Greece. The oldest is the Mummy of Ginger and five others from 3400 BC Gebelein.
The Museum of London
This museum has six million objects, which is the largest urban history collection in the world. See Paleolithic artifacts from Swanscombe including a bear skull and tools as well as pieces from the 3rd century AD Roman London. Find out how Londinium came to be and what life was like 2,000 years ago.
The Science Museum
At the Science Museum, you can see more than 3,000 items, from the oldest steam locomotive in the world and the Apollo 10 command module. The Flight Exhibit has several helicopters and airplanes as well as two fighter planes and the Information Age Exhibit features six communications networks.
Natural History Museum
For a more natural look at history, see 80 million items in five areas including zoology, paleontology, mineralogy, entomology, and botany. Some of the items were collected by Charles Darwin. The most popular features are the skeletons like the Diplodocus, giant squid, and the 82-foot blue whale.
The National Gallery
The National Gallery was founded in 1824 and is home to more than 2,300 paintings dating back to the 13th century. Some of the most famous include The Entombment by Michelangelo, The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci, and Bathers at La Grenouillère by Claude Monet.
This modern art gallery is part of the Tate group and is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world. The most popular paintings include the 1909 La guitare by Georges Braque, the 1909 Figure dans un Fauteuil by Pablo Picasso, and the 1916 Water Lilies by Claude Monet.
Victoria & Albert Museum
Victoria & Albert Museum is the world’s leading museum of performance, design, and art with more than 2.2 million items. Established in 1852, you can see sculptures from the 1600s, Chinese furniture from 1425, a huge Gothic art collection, and metalwork from the 1800s.
National Portrait Gallery
Founded in 1856, this gallery has almost 200,000 portraits of famous Brits dating back to the 1600s. William Shakespeare by Chandos was the first in the collection and is the most famous as well. Also see Edward VI by William Scrots and busts of the Earl of Clarendon, Sir Francis Chantrey, and many more.
Greenwich Park started out as a private hunting park and is now one of the biggest green spaces in southeast London. Enclosed in 1433, it has 180 acres with much of it along the River Thames. See the Royal Observatory, Maritime Museum, burial mounds, a large duck pond, and the Queen’s house.
This is the largest of the Royal Parks, starting at Kensington Palace, past Buckingham Palace, and divided by the Long Water and Serpentine Lakes. Henry VIII established the park in 1536 and it was opened to the public in 1637. See the Wellington Arch, the Princess Diana memorial, and the Standing Stone monolith.
St. James Park
St James Park has 57 acres and has been home to thousands of pelicans for more than 400 years. You can visit the Queen Victoria Memorial, the Duke of York Statue, and the Buckingham Palace Flower Beds, which has over 22,500 plants. Don’t miss the Blue Bridge for some spectacular views.
Another royal park, this one is linked to the Hampton Court Palace and the Longford River. The bronze Diana fountain designed by Sir Christopher Wren is a great place for a selfie and the woodland gardens are perfect for bird watching. But the main attraction is the group of over 300 deer that live there.
Kensington Gardens was once a private garden of Kensington Palace but is now 265 acres of stunning gardens and green space for everyone to enjoy. Besides the palace, you can also see the Albert Memorial, Serpentine Gallery, and the Peter Pan statue as well as the 150-year-old water garden.
London’s highest public garden, you can see hundreds of miles of the city’s skyline among the flowers. Most of the plants include South African and Mediterranean species like the Bird of Paradise, Red Hot Poker, and the African Lily. You can also enjoy some of the eateries and bars on this 35th-floor retreat.
Queen Mary’s Rose Garden
Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park has London’s largest collection of roses with about 12,000 in 85 varieties. The garden also has over 9,000 begonias, Mediterranean borders, and hundreds of delphiniums. The park also features the Avenue Garden, Allotment Garden, and the Wildlife Garden.
Horniman Garden boasts 16 acres of gardens including several highlights such as a nature trail, butterfly house, bee garden, and prehistoric garden. There is also a conservatory from 1894 and a bandstand from 1912. The sound garden with large musical instruments is popular as is the ornamental garden.
Don’t forget that if you are from another country and planning a road trip in London then you need to get an International Driver’s Permit (IDP).
And if you need to leave your bags somewhere when exploring, consider London locker storage