Top 10 Free Attractions in London

Once the center of the British Empire, London remains the largest city in Europe and is home to an incredibly diverse population, as well as countless historical and cultural gems.

Unfortunately for the millions of tourists who come to visit London each year, however, the United Kingdom's capital is also one of the most expensive cities in the world. Luckily, an enjoyable trip to London does not have to break the bank. recommends 10 of the best free attractions to check out while in the city.

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1. The Changing of the Guard

One of London's classic tourist attractions and it doesn't cost a dime. At 11:30 a.m. on the dot, every day during the summer and every other day in the winter, passersby can watch through the gates of Buckingham Palace as the queen's guards, dressed in full uniform, carry out their intricate ceremony, called "Guard Mounting," set to music. Get there early for an optimal viewing position. If you love it and want to see more, check out the Guard Mounting again at Windsor Castle at 11:00 a.m.

2. Trafalgar Square

While it may seem like just another one of London's many squares, Trafalgar Square has special significance. Since 1830 it has served as a cultural space, open to the public. The square is full of and surrounded by monuments, statues and buildings of both historical and contemporary significance. Among the most significant are a monument to the Battle of Trafalgar called Nelson's Column, and the National Gallery, which houses Western European paintings from 13th to 19th centuries.

Besides its fixed attractions, Trafalgar Square hosts cultural, educational, artistic and sporting events, as well as ceremonies and festivals throughout the year. Look up what's going on in advance, or just show up and take a picture on top of one of the giant brass lions surrounding Nelson's Column.

3. Covent Garden Market and Piazza

Covent Garden hosts a bustling, Italian-style piazza, replete with restaurants, pubs, boutiques, arts and crafts stands, antique and gift shops, and plenty of free entertainment.

At its center is a large, glass-covered market, originally designed in 1632, which, alone, draws in 30 million tourists a year. As the only area of London licensed for street entertainment, the piazza attracts musicians, jugglers, mime artists, and variety acts from around the globe, who perform 365 days a year. Spend a day browsing the market and then step outside for some quality, free entertainment. But be prepared, the street performers love audience involvement.

4. Houses of Parliament

Parliament, housed in the Palace of Westminster, is a hallmark of British culture, history and current affairs. Both legislative bodies, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, are open for free public viewing, no reservations required. Any visitor can go to the public galleries in both houses and attend a debate or watch a committee or judicial hearing.

For some extra-juicy material, go to the House of Commons any Wednesday at noon to catch the prime minister's questions, which is an opportunity for members of Parliament to grill the prime minister. If you can't make it to observe a session, the Palace of Westminster is worth a visit just for its architecture.

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