If you love it, London is one of those places that you can never get enough of. That’s how I felt after my first trip over a decade ago, and I’ve been traveling back almost every year since – plus I moved to London for a year at one point because I enjoyed spending time in the city so much. One of the reasons I like London so much? It’s a truly beautiful city, no matter the weather.
Your eyes will drink it all in as you explore London, from the cobbled streets and mews to darkly lit alleys and pubs to towering, prismatic skyscrapers. I’ve already shared a huge list of the best viewpoints across London, but many of those require a fee to enjoy – and I don’t necessarily think you should have to pay to see London’s beauty. For that reason, I’ve put together this list specifically of the best free views in London.
So open your eyes wide – but leave your wallet closed; here are the best free London views from Central London and The City to the outskirts of Greater London.
Alexandra Park is an 80-hectare green space, a scenic park in North London, whose rolling lands and wilder areas have earned it numerous awards. You can get one of the best free views in London at Alexandra Park. In the heart of the park is Alexandra Palace, or ‘Ally Pally’ as locals affectionately call it.
Besides being a popular entertainment and sports venue, the historic building has a lovely terrace overlooking the sprawling city, thanks to its privileged hilltop location. From the terrace, you can take in gorgeous views of the City with the Shard in the distance.
One New Change
At first sight, One New Change looks like another fancy mall in the financial district. Now, while the shopping centre is perfectly pleasant to grab lunch or to splurge, the real reason for visiting is that you can get some of the best free London views here. It’s also an excellent spot to escape the tourist crowds as mostly locals are familiar with this spot. You can take the glass elevators up to the roof for panoramic views of the city.
While you can appreciate the vast city, the shopping center is famous for its truly iconic views of St Paul’s; it’s one of my favorite views in the city.
Located on top of Hampstead Heath Park, Parliament Hill is one of the most popular spots to get free views in London, sitting 322 feet high. Hampstead Heath Park is an enormous lung in the city, governing 932 acres. You’ll find lovely scenic walking routes all around and ponds where locals go for a swim on warmer days.
Many people visit Parliament Hill close to sunset to steal a quick glimpse of the skyline through the foliage as the sun goes down and the city lights up. If sunset views sound like a good plan, you can do as the locals and bring a picnic to complement your experience.
Primrose Hill has always been worth visiting. However, the posh area rose to popularity during the 90s when a group of British celebrities chose Primrose Hill to call home. The area has a namesake hilltop park, sitting at 256 feet. The hilltop overlooks central London and part of Regent’s Park toward the heart of London, given its proximity.
As you can imagine, Primrose Hill is an insanely popular spot. You’ll find plenty of locals and fellow travelers swooning over the London skyline views, especially during sunny days. After your viewing session, take time to explore the park’s surroundings. It is home to an outdoor workout space, a walking trail, and a children’s playground for visitors year-round.
Royal Greenwich Observatory
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Royal Greenwich Observatory has some of the best free views in London. The fantastic observatory sits on top of the hill at Greenwich Park, overlooking Canary Wharf across the River Thames. It’s easy to find a spot to see the London skyline from around the grounds.
While you are here for the skyline views, don’t miss the chance to visit the Observatory. The venue has played a vital role in astronomy’s history and has paved the way for significant discoveries in the field. You can visit the Prime Meridian (which has fantastic views of the city, but the way), the planetary observatory, shops, and a space-themed cafe.
Sitting on top of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building, the Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden. The views you get from the Sky Garden are just breathtaking– from the Shard and the Gherkin to the Tower of London and St Paul’s. The venue offers 360-degree views of the city and features two destination bars and two beautiful restaurants for those who want to enjoy dinner with a view.
While it’s free to visit, you should reserve in advance on the Sky Garden website if you want to go to the top of the building and enjoy the amazing views.
It goes without a say that visiting the Tate Modern should be on your list of must-visit destinations. The Tate Modern is one of the four Tate museums and holds the UK’s collection of modern art from 1900 to the present day. It turns out beautiful works of art aren’t the only thing you can admire in the building. Since we’re here to talk about the views, you can visit the Switch House, the museum’s newest extension.
Opened in 2016, the pyramid-shaped tower serves as a new exhibition space and interpretive learning center. It has a lovely terrace on top offering 360-degree views over the city, thanks to it being 64.5 meters high.
The Garden at 120 (Fenchurch Street)
I know it might seem as I’m repeating a section, but no. “Sky Garden” and “The Garden” are two completely different areas, although both do have one thing in common: astounding views of London.
The Garden at 120 is the City of London’s largest rooftop public space. It sits on the 15th floor of the office development “120 Fenchurch Avenue.” You can experience unobstructed views of the “Walkie Talkie”, the “Gherkin” and the “Shard” from here. Architecturally, the Garden is also beautiful, with a pergola structure that has wisteria trunks to offset the urban landscape. You can visit the Garden for free to visit and you don’t need advanced reservations.
In the Front Carriage Bank-bound on the DLR
Most people associate good views with tall buildings. However, riding the front carriage bank-bound on the DLR offers just as beautiful city views.
So, this option isn’t technically free since you’ll need to pay a fare to get onto the DLR. Unless you have a 7-day travelcard – then you’re not paying any extra. Believe it or not, the DLR front seats are one of the most beloved (and coveted) spots in London. Since the DLR trains are automatically-operated, passengers can sit in the driver’s seat and enjoy panoramic views of the city, including iconic sights like Canary Wharf, the Thames Barrier, the Olympic Stadium, and London City Airport.
In the Front Row atop a Double-Decker Bus
Similar to the DLR, the views from the front row of double-decker buses are second to none. The front seats enjoy unobstructed views of the city since there’s no one sitting in front of you, and there’s usually a large window (sometimes with no pillar) to take in uninterrupted viewing of the road.
Another perk of hopping on a double-decker bus to view the city is that you can choose many routes to explore all of London’s nooks and crannies. Once again, riding a double-decker bus isn’t free unless you have a 7-day travel card. Otherwise, you’ll need an Oyster card or a different payment method.
There you have it – 10 of my favorite free views of London, or almost free at least! Have any questions about these free London views? Let me know in the comments or join the conversation in my London travel tips community on Facebook.