A Tale of Two Free Cities: London and Paris
A lot of people like to experience London and Paris in the same trip due to the proximity of the capital cities, and both cities are known for being quite expensive. However, that’s not always the case. Both cities also have a tonne of things to do that are absolutely free, so you can enjoy your vacation on a budget and not sacrifice the quality of your visit.
Please note that the lists below include free entry fees, not anything that you would walk by and see. Walking around a city and seeing its sights are great ways to explore and get to know a place, but there’d be way too much to list if this article included those walk-bys.
Even though London is considered one of the most expensive cities in the world, there’s a sizable amount to do for free, and a lot of the great attractions don’t have a charge. You can easily make your vacation completely free of event charges by visiting the places below.
Get your tour fix with a free* walking tour group, many of which have fun themes such as Harry Potter and Jack the Ripper tours. *Free tours usually expect a little bit of payment so as not to be rude. Expect to donate about £4 per person, which is still much cheaper than any other tour you would get.
Get your art fix with one of London’s many free art museums:
- The British Museum is hands-down one of my favourite museums, and it is free. There’s so much to see there.
- The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) is another one of my favourites, and it is also free.
- The National Gallery is always free.
- The National Portrait Gallery is always free, as well.
- The Tate Museums both have free collections. You can visit the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, or both! You can also get a great city view from the Tate Modern.
- Sir John Soane’s Museum is an art collection in a beautiful home, and it’s also free.
- The Queen’s House is a small art museum which is free.
- The Wallace Collection is another fine art museum that can be accessed for free.
- The Serpentine Galleries are free modern art displays.
- The Whitechapel Gallery is a free space to view current artists’ work.
Get your museum fix with one of London’s many free museums on other topics:
- I consider the Museum of London a must-see for those visiting London, and it is free.
- The Natural History Museum of London is a famous museum and it’s also free.
- The Imperial War Museum is also free.
- The Wellcome Collection is a free museum for medicine and health.
- The Science Museum is a high-rated museum that is free of charge.
- You can see a Roman temple at the London Mithraeum for free, though advance reservations are requested.
- The aforementioned V&A also has a Museum of Childhood that is free of charge.
- It’s not technically a museum, but the British Library has a lot of interesting artefacts you can view – and it’s free.
Get your culture fix with different free activities the city has to offer:
- Watch debates in Parliament. Yes, this is an actual thing you can do for free!
- Go to a ceremony, which England prides itself on. You can go to the Changing of the Keys at London Tower, the Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard, or any other Changing of the Guard event – they’re free!
- You can attend a service at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral for free, but note that you can’t meander from the services to go see the rest of those buildings during those times.
- You can attend a free event at one of London’s several parks.
- While at Hyde Park, you can check out Speaker’s Corner to see some speeches and possibly give one of your own.
- This is different: Gresham College has free lectures on a variety of subjects. Great for peoople who have some more free time in the city and a lot to learn!
- St. Martin in the Fields has a lot of free performances.
- The Southbank Centre is another place that offers free events and performances.
Paris is filled with lots of things to do, and many are available at no cost to you if you know when to go. Though it may be less free than London, many of Paris’s main attractions are on the list below. Of course, the biggest appeal to Paris is its several sights, which can all be seen by walking by.
Get your tour fix with a free* tour of Paris. *Note that many free tours expect a tip so as not to be rude, and 2€ per person should be enough. This is still drastically cheaper than other tours.
The city is absolutely filled with art museums that are always or often free.
- The Musée de Cluny is free the first Sunday of the month, and it’s an excellent place to see art from the middle ages.
- The Musée d’Orsday is one of my favourites and is also free the first Sunday of the month.
- The world’s most famous art museum, the Louvre, won’t cost you anything if you go the first Sunday of the month, October-March. The same goes for the Musée Rodin.
- The Petit Palais is a small art museum which is free.
- The Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris is always free, though donations are requested.
- The Centre Georges Pompidou, Orangerie Museum and Musée de Quai-Branly are three more art museums free the first Sunday of every month.
Sounds like a good time to get your calendars out and plan your trip accordingly!
You can also get in more of Paris by visiting these free sights:
It’s free to go inside Notre-Dame Cathedral, one of the most iconic buildings in Paris, and one of my personal favourites. There is a fee to go up in the towers but not directly inside the cathedral. You can also see the Crown of Thorns for free the first Sunday of every month.
- Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre is also free, though there is a fee to go into the tower. However, the entrance boasts of great views north of Paris, and the basilica is gorgeous and unique nonetheless.
- Go to one of Paris’s several famous cemeteries. You can go to Père-Lachaise, Montparnasse, Montmartre, or Passy to see the graves of many famous people. It’s also a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
- See Paris’s Roman amphitheatre at Arènes de Lutèce, which is off the beaten track and free.
There is also a page on Paris’s tourist website dedicated to free cultural events in Paris, which was very helpful when I studied abroad there.
I hope this guide helped you discover the free things to do in two of Europe’s top cities, and it makes your vacation budget a lot.
What’s your favourite free thing to do in London/Paris?
Posted on Thursday, June 13, 2019 in Destinations
Tags: england, europe, france, london, paris