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.
ABCNews.com recommends 10 of the best free attractions to check out while in the city.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Still a working place of worship, the current St. Paul's Cathedral is the fourth since 604 A.D. to stand in London. Its dome is an integral part of the London skyline, and the church itself serves as a symbol of London's strength and resilience throughout the centuries.
The ground floor is open to the public and free to enter, and its regular services are free and open as well. For a price you can climb to the upper floors, up to the infamous dome, where you can get a breathtaking view of the city. Make sure to take pictures outside; photography is not permitted within the cathedral.
6. Speakers' Corner
While much of London has changed with the times, some parts stay the same. Speakers' Corner, a living tribute to the British democratic tradition of "soapbox oratory," has been alive and kicking since 1872 and is considered one of the city's more original and theatrical attractions.
Every Sunday, on the corner of Park Lane and Cumberland Gate, near the Marble Arch tube station, people from all walks of life stand on a platform and preach to anyone who will listen about anything and everything. Back in its heyday, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin used the platform to push their political and social agendas. Though the corner has less of a celebrity status now, it is still a popular venue for free speech.
No reservations are necessary, so visitors must just wait for a turn. Whether you go to observe, heckle or even speak your mind, the experience is bound to entertain.
While London may be expensive, its culture comes free. All the major museums and galleries in London have free admission, so any tourists on a bootstrap will never run out of intellectually stimulating material.
Some special exhibits might cost extra, but don't worry if you cannot afford them; most of the museums are large enough that even in one visit you will not have enough time to see everything. Some of London's must-sees are the British Museum, the National Gallery, The Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the Victoria & Albert design museum, the British Library, and the Museum of London.
Once one of Henry VIII's hunting parks, Regent's Park is now the largest of the Royal Parks and the home to some of London's most spectacular gardens and greenery. Walking into the park evokes memories of the Secret Garden and feels like a complete escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Perfectly groomed flower beds, trees, shrubberies, pathways, lawns and athletic fields blanket the park, and Londoners as well as visitors flock there to exercise, study, relax, or wander.
Queen Mary's Gardens are particularly enchanting, and if you feel like spending some money, the London Zoo and the Open Air Theatre, Britain's only permanent professional outdoor theatre, also reside within the park's gates. If you would like to explore more Royal Parks, Hyde Park and St. James Park are worth a visit as well.
London is famous for its markets, and it has quite a few. On any given weekend, and sometimes during the week, one can find new and used clothing, antiques, jewelry and accessories, fresh produce and meats, local crafts, international delicacies, and much more, rain or shine. Some markets have a specialty, and some have a little of everything. Though the markets' inventory is not free, just walking through a traditional London market is enough of a treat. Some of the best markets include Portobello Market, Camden Market, Borough Market, and Brick Lane Market.
Walking is something you can do for free in any city, and London has some particularly special strolls. One of the best is the walk along the South Bank along the river Thames.
A comfortable stroll will take you to some of London's most significant landmarks. Walk across the Millennium Bridge, which joins the original City of London with the South Bank, and proceed down the river path to pass the Tate Modern, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, County Hall, which houses the London Aquarium, and the London Eye, the largest Ferris wheel in the world.
All the while, St. Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben, Westminster Palace, and the London Bridge stay within view. If you get tired or just want to stop and enjoy the scenery, benches line the path, and there are plenty of pubs and restaurants along the way in case you get hungry.