Picture London’s icons, and you’ll think of Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey and bustling Soho. You’ll probably also think of rain, which hits London an average of 106 days a year.
When rain or cold weather strikes the city, take shelter undercover with one of the many activities that can be enjoyed indoors within the capital. The best news? These 12 activities are all free so after a day of cheap exploration, you can splash out on a well-earned meal at one of the restaurants near Paddington station.
1) Start the day sunny side up
Start your day by tucking into a Park Grand Paddington Court breakfast which will fill you up for a day of exploring. It won’t cost you a penny if you stay with us at our hotel in Paddington; we provide all our guests with a complimentary full English breakfast.
2) Mooch around a museum
Many of London’s major museums grant visitors free admission to their permanent galleries. Open your mind to learn about the heritage of London at the Museum of London and encounter ancient artefacts from around the world, such as the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum. Don’t miss the 25.2-metre-long blue whale skeleton at the Natural History Museum.
3) Admire priceless works of art
Likewise, many London art galleries are free. Visit original works of Warhol and Picasso at Tate Modern and enjoy panoramas of London’s skyline from the cafe on the 6th floor. Whether you supplement the view with coffee and cake is up to you! Tate Britain, the National Gallery and Somerset House are also free to visit and easy to reach from your room at the Park Grand Paddington Court.
4) Observe a debate at the Houses of Parliament
Residents of the UK and overseas visitors are permitted to enter the Houses of Parliament to watch debates and committee hearings in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Check the Parliament website for schedules, and arrive in plenty of time to take your seat in the viewing chamber.
5) Experience Evensong at Westminster Abbey
Since 1066, Westminster Abbey has been the setting for every coronation as well as 16 royal weddings. There is an admission fee to visit this iconic church, but you can experience it for free during their evening services of Evensong. Performed by the choir of the Abbey, these run at 5pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and at 3pm on weekends.
6) Find solitude at St Paul’s Cathedral
Designed by Christopher Wren, you can’t miss the dome of St Paul’s. The Cathedral operates early morning services which run from 7.30am Monday to Saturday and 8am on Sundays. Their Choral Evensong runs 5pm Monday to Saturday and at 3.15pm on Sundays. These services are free to attend, and everyone is welcome. They take place on the floor of the cathedral; please note you won’t be able to visit the upper galleries without purchasing a visitor ticket.
7) Step back into Victorian London
London is a treasure trove of historic covered markets, so take a meander through a covered market where you can soak up the atmosphere of modern-day London against a traditional backdrop. Leadenhall Market is housed under a 19th-century roof and was used to film some scenes from Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. Visit first thing or linger after the shops close to admire the ornate arches, then head back towards the Park Grand Paddington Court for dinner in one of the restaurants near Paddington station.
8) Pose at platform 9 3/4
If you are a Harry Potter fan, don’t miss a visit to King’s Cross Station where you can pose for a photograph with the luggage trolley and replica of Hedwig the owl at Platform 9 3/4. We only wish there was a train which would whisk us away to Hogwarts.
9) Get a birdseye view
Perched 525 feet above the streets of London, the botanical garden atop 20 Fenchurch Street is the city’s highest public garden and provides unbeatable views of the city – for free. Be sure to book in advance as tickets are limited and are generally allocated three weeks in advance. The skyscraper is known as the Walkie Talkie for its distinctive shape, so don’t forget to crane your neck before you go up.
10) Photograph the London Underground stations
London’s public transport system comprises of 270 underground stations and 330 rail stations, each with their own distinctive quirks so pack your camera and experiment with your photography skills. Snap the profiles of Sherlock Holmes at Baker Street and find perspective on the 200ft escalator at Angel.
Moments from your hotel in Paddington Station where you can visit the Paddington Bear statue. This was also the destination of the first train journey taken by Queen Victoria, who arrived into Paddington from Slough in 1842 after the road journey proved too dusty.
11) Visit underground street art at Waterloo
Venture beneath the streets of Waterloo and enjoy 300m of graffiti in the Leake Street tunnel – the largest legal street art space in the capital. Bristol-based street artist Bansky initiated the transformation of this formerly dark and dingy tunnel into what is now a key player in the London art scene. The tunnel is professionally lit and usually, walkers will spot an artist adding to the walls.
12) Ride on a famous red bus
Not technically free, but if you have already loaded your Oyster card, hopping on a bus for a scenic ride through the capital is at such a minimal cost it essentially counts as free! A single journey on any London bus will deduct £1.50 from your Oyster card. It is capped at a maximum of £4.50 per day. Bus number 24 from Pimlico to Hampstead Heath is a scenic ride through the city centre and out to the green haven of Hampstead Heath.
Tuck into your free Park Grand Paddington Court breakfast first, then bon voyage!