19 (MOSTLY FREE) THINGS TO DO IN LONDON ON YOUR OWN
BY JO MCCARTHY
WE KNOW HOW BENEFICIAL A MINI-BREAK CAN BE; A WEEKEND AWAY CAN BE THE PERFECT TIME TO RELAX AND UNWIND.
In the real world, it can feel like a mammoth task to get away from the daily grind.
So even if you’ve only got an hour or so to spare, we’ve put together a guide to 19 (mostly free) things you can do in London on your own.
If you’re a Londoner, think of these suggestions as micro-adventures; a great way to feel like a tourist in your own town when you don’t have a lot of time to spare.
If you’re visiting London solo, you’re about to discover some hidden gems that sometimes even we Londoners pass by in our daily routine.
GO TO BOROUGH MARKET
In our opinion, a trip to Borough Market is best done solo so you can truly savour each and every stall.
We love to go for some truly great bread at Bread Ahead, to stock up on cheese and Parma ham, to scoff a pork roll and to enjoy coffee from (one of the best coffee shops in London) Monmouth.
TAKE IN SOME STREET ART
Walking underground through dark tunnels might sound like a terrible thing to do alone but lots of people will be doing it solo with you (and there’s usually a commuter or two simply taking a short cut).
The Leake Street graffiti tunnels under Waterloo Station are the largest legal street art area and are home to original Banksy pieces.
Or walk through Shoreditch for some colourful art on walls.
If you’re a Potter fan, can you really come to London without going on a Harry Potter Tour?
On this behind the scenes walking tour, you’ll get to take a stroll through Privet Drive, wander down cobbled Diagon Alley and hop on Hagrid’s bike and see the props and costumes from the Harry Potter films.
WATCH A MOVIE IN STYLE
Independent movie house Electric Cinema is an indulgent way to catch the latest arthouse release or movie blockbuster.
We’re particularly keen on the Notting Hill venue. If you’re musical, join one of their riotous sing-along screenings.
SEE LONDON FROM UP HIGH
When you want to see London from on high (and from multiple directions) you can’t beat a slow circuit in the London Eye.
If you’re feeling indulgent, hire a private capsule otherwise go in with whoever is next to you in the queue and kindly ask them to take your picture while London serves as your stunning backdrop.
GET STUFFED ON STREET FOOD
London is home to some amazing street food, our favourites include Maltby Street Market, Camden Market (extra points if you see the resident punks and the canal) and the East End’s famous Broadway Market (also good for street art).
CROSS TOWER BRIDGE
If you’re a fan of heights, get a lift up to the glass walkway and look down at the Thames. If you’re not, take a slow walk across Tower Bridge and ask someone to take your picture with the Thames in the background.
GO TO COVENT GARDEN
There’s no actual garden in Covent Garden but there is a menagerie of clothing shops (from luxury to high street), street performers, fabulous food, interesting people (just grab a coffee and enjoy some people watching).
And if you’re really lucky, some world-class live music (we’ve heard buskers and classical opera singers – you never know who/what you’re going to hear!)
GET LOST IN THE NATIONAL GALLERY
Who needs company when you’re looking at world-famous art? Free to enter, the National Gallery is home to famous works by Van Gogh, Rembrandt and da Vinci.
Put on some headphones and get lost in the culture.
WALK AROUND THE CITY ON A SUNDAY
An empty city means you can get a close up view of the amazing architecture in this part of town.
Whilst you walk around, research the history of streets such as Bleeding Heart Yard and meander around the Inns of Court at your leisure.
USE INSTAGRAM AS A TRAVEL GUIDE
Dedicate just 60 minutes to exploring a famous neighbourhood (Chelsea, Primrose Hill, Greenwich) using Instagram as your guide. Creative photographers tend to notice the small details that many of us don’t.
Use the geotags to see other people’s photos of where you are, and use specific hashtags such as #doorsoflondon to seek out photogenic areas to discover.
Geocaching is a free treasure hunt. To play, you will need to use the free Geocaching app or a GPS device to navigate to ‘geocache’ containers that have been cleverly hidden somewhere.
WANDER AROUND A FLOWER MARKET
Take an hour to meander around one of London’s beautiful flower markets. The New Covent Garden Market in Vauxhall is for serious early-birds – doors open at 4am, and you’ll see the most talented florists gather their blooms for the day.
If you are here on a Sunday, head to the East End for the Columbia Road flower market. It is every Instagrammers dream!
VISIT A FREE GARDEN
The Barbican Conservatory is open on selected Sundays and on Bank Holidays and has one of the most beautiful oases in London.
Community gardens such as the Phoenix Garden in the West End (which has the West End’s only frogs!) are lovely escapes.
WALK AROUND A PARK ON YOUR OWN
London is one of the greenest capital cities in the world. Walking around one of the city’s 1,700 parks is a great way to spend an hour of your day and will give you that relaxing holiday buzz in no time.
Did you know that there are secret tunnels under Greenwich Park?
Have you ever stood at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park and told the world how you really feel?
Or maybe try walking the three miles from the Houses of Parliament to Olympia through parkland – you will pass through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James Park in an unbroken line of greenery.
After your walk, reward yourself with coffee and a good book.
VISIT AN URBAN FARM
Surrey Docks Farm in Rotherhithe is a fantastic example of an urban farm in the capital and entrance is free. It’s open every day, so it could become a regular part of your routine.
Spitalfields City Farm also has free entry, and hosts interesting events such as the Kid’s Kitchen. The tea room is also worth a visit!
TAKE IN A FREE LUNCHTIME CONCERT
London is overflowing with free musical events. The Royal College of Music hosts lunchtime (and rush-hour) free concerts which will no doubt transport you into holiday mode, at least for an hour.
The Royal Opera House and The Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre also host free music events.
VISIT A TOURIST SPOT
Take a tour of a part of London that is new to you, and try to see the city with excited, tourist’s eyes.
Watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, take photos in the Tate Modern; outside the blue door in Notting Hill, pose on the South Bank.
Trek to Little Venice and discover a new café or go celebrity-spotting in Primrose Hill.
GO TO A MUSEUM
London is home to some of the best museums in the world and you can spend as long or as little as you’d like. Even if you only have an hour spare, still go.
Many museums and galleries stay open later on a Friday night - The British Museum is open until 8.30 pm, Tate Modern is open until 10 pm and Lates at the Natural History Museum ends at 10 pm.
What’s your favourite thing to do in London on your own?