Piggy bank

Top 18 free things to do in Waltham Forest

Published: 27 January 2022
Filed under: Choose Local

We asked for your favourite free things to do in Waltham Forest - here's what you told us.

1. “Cycling around nature, from the Marshes to the Wetlands!”

Cycling through the Wetlands

As everyone knows, the Walthamstow Wetlands are the largest urban wetlands in the whole of Europe, and they’ve been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Londoners since they opened for free visits in October 2017. They join seamlessly with the Walthamstow marshes and River Lea canal, forming one of London’s most serene cycle routes. Don’t have a bike? You can hire one for free (just a deposit required) from the Council.

2. “Exale do a family disco 1-3pm one Sunday per month”

We Can Be Heroes sign

‘We Can Be Heroes’ is a roving family friendly daytime disco, run by two DJs Theodora Goes Wild and DJ dADRock. Having once filled dancehalls in London and far beyond, they now present family-friendly disco days ‘where parents and kids can dress up, dance to classic rock and pop, and get their geek on’. They host monthly events  at low price throughout the borough.

Exale Brewery have also started putting on monthly open mic nights featuring up-and-coming musicians, on the third Thursday of each month at 7pm. Keep an eye on their channels for more info.

Please note: since first publishing, these events are no longer free.

3. “I do parkrun every Saturday – it’s amazing and totally free + run by volunteers”

Parkrun finish line

Waltham Forest’s Parkrun is a free weekly 5k event which takes place every Saturday at 9am in the grounds of the Peter May Sports Centre, tucked away above the North Circular in between Walthamstow and Chingford. All parkruns are managed by a tireless team of volunteers (usually runners taking a break), and the Walthamstow parkrun is renowned for being a particularly welcoming community, with most runners staying on afterwards to chat. And you don’t have to be an experienced runner – you can walk, jog or run. We featured them on our Instagram channel last year. Find out more on their website, and don’t forget your barcode!

4. “Walk around the marshes and watch the parakeets”


The distinct flash of lime green from a ring-necked parakeet, long the preserve of west and south Londoners, has become an increasingly frequent delight for Waltham Forest. The exotic and noisy birds number in the tens of thousands across London after being introduced in the 20th century. Lucky birdwatchers could come across a whole flock of them in the borough. Read the East London Guardian’s first reporting of the birds in Waltham Forest in 2012.

5. “If you’ve never actually been in Gods Own Junkyard to see the neon – honestly the hype is real”


Gallery, café, workshop and cult favourite Gods Own Junkyard is arguably the tourist hotspot of Waltham Forest, with its wall-to-wall coverings of lushly colourful neon signs marking it out as a must-see, particularly among an Instagram generation. The neon has been salvaged from late owner Chris Bracey’s extraordinary career as a neon artist in Hollywood (his neon creations have co-starred with Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and many more). Around it a mini-village of breweries and businesses have sprung up, creating a real weekend destination. Free to visit, and you can pay to buy or rent neon signs or visit the gallery café. Visit their website for more info.

6. “Going to see the horses at Lea Valley Riding School”


At the bottom of the Walthamstow Marshes you can usually spot some of the magnificent horses of the Lee Valley Riding School relaxing in their paddocks – and if you time it right you can watch some riding and training in action. You can also pay to enter the centre itself and take part in their activities, such as meeting their very cute mini ponies. Check out the horses on the Riding School website.

7. "Salaam Peace friendly group walks"

Salaam Peace

"Weekly friendly group walks by Salaam Peace. Learn about Walthamstow history and increase your step count."

Salaam Peace is a community engagement programme using sports and social education to bring people together from diverse backgrounds. 

Occasionally they run Adult Group Walking sessions in Waltham Forest which includes some local history.

Get in touch via their website to find out more.

8. “Our Parks run free bootcamps!”

Our Parks

The wonderful Our Parks team run four different free fitness bootcamps across the borough – in Langthorne Park (Leytonstone), Leyton Jubilee Park, Lloyd Park (Walthamstow) and Ridgeway Park (Chingford). They take place on weekend mornings – make sure to book a place beforehand as they’re very popular!

9. “Visit the green spaces”


Waltham Forest includes huge swathes of greenery, with part of Epping Forest stretching along its eastern border all the way from Chingford to Leytonstone, not to mention the Wetlands and Marshes to the west and the huge new Leyton Jubilee Park across much of the south of the borough. Whether you’re by the Hollow Pond, Larks Wood, the Reservoirs, Highams Park lake, Chingford Plains, the River Lea, or one of the many parks, there are plenty of peaceful spots to visit.

10. “Walthamstow wellbeing festival!”

Wellbeing Festival

Last year’s Walthamstow Wellbeing Festival was a hugely popular set of community events focusing on mental health and self-care, and taking place at CRATE St James Street and nearby venues. 30 free events were put on around Walthamstow. When the organisers wrapped up the festival last year they said they hoped to return this year – keep an eye on their channels to see what’s next.

11. “Walking round Lloyd Park every morning with all the dogs!”


As dog spotting opportunities go, Lloyd Park is up there with the best. It’s got a dedicated dog area full of happy pups, which often draws crowds of admiring residents.

12. and 13. “I love going to the William Morris gallery. Particularly on a Saturday when the market is on.”


Also in Lloyd Park, the William Morris gallery is a renowned venue displaying the life and work of the radical Arts and Crafts designer, who grew up in the very same Georgian building. Come for innovative exhibitions and fascinating info about the famous son of Waltham Forest – so much more than a designer of wallpaper prints! And on Saturdays, make sure to mosey around the Lloyd Park market for delicious food from local traders.

See the William Morris website and the Lloyd Park Market website for more info.

2023 Update: 14. Wanstead Flats Parkrun

Parkrun Wanstead Flats

"There's more than one park run in Waltham forest - the one on Wanstead flats is fab too!"

Although Wanstead Flats is technically out of our jurisdiction, it is literally a stone's throw - and since this is the closest parkrun for half of the borough, we're happy to include it!

Find more info on the Wanstead Flats parkrun.

2023 Update: 15. "Free storytelling at the park cafe at Higham Hill Park"

Home Made Community Cafe

The Home Made Community Cafe is "your neighbourhood Cafe located in the heart of Higham Hill, Walthamstow". 

Their busy weekly programme of events includes Music and Rhyme sessions, storytime, crafty sessions and more. 

Their website says "Are you specialised in something amazing that you would like to share with
the community? Our Cafe its the place to do it. We offer the space free of charge to anybody who would like to make a difference."

Isn't that lovely! 

See their website for more information and to contact the owners.

2023 Update: 16. "Free activities for children and adults at our libraries"

Lea Bridge Library

Promise we didn't add this ourselves! We do have so much going on every day across our eight libraries, from Computer Clubs to Lego and Duplo Clubs, Film Screenings (for adults and children), board games, new parents groups, toy sessions, coffee mornings, Rhyme times, craft sessions, breastfeeding support groups, Draughts and Dominoes games, meditation sessions, mindfulness colouring sessions, puzzle clubs, knitting clubs, colouring sessions, English conversation sessions, Family History sessions, Seniors tea club, storytelling sessions, and even a football club!

That's not to mention all the book readings and signings and author talks arranged by the libraries, as well as all the free material you get access to with a (free) library account.

Use our Events section to find what's happening in your area.

2023 Update: 17. "Admire the art in our parks. "

Art in Parks

Waltham Forest's public spaces are covered in art - some in broad daylight, and some hidden gems. One resident sent particularly admires the Giant's Head Sculpture in Acacia Road Playground in Leytonstone - it was created by Peter Hill, also known for his work in Cornwall's Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan. It's made of wood, metal, stone, fibreglass, grass, and concrete.

Regular art trails take place in Walthamstow, Leytonstone and Chingford (search to find the next one). Or make your own trail using Art UK's list of 43 pieces of public art in the borough.

Wood Street Walls are a local group who help arrange murals on walls across the borough. Check their Instagram for new work.

Photo credit: @childfriendly_spots_eastlondon

2023 Update: 18. "Wave to the London underground trains going between leyton and Leytonstone. "

Train between Leyton and Leytonstone

The Langthorn Road bridge crosses the A12 and Central Line, connecting central and south Waltham Forest. The keenest trainspotters and train-wavers will catch 35 trains per hour at peak times!

With two overground lines, an overground stretch of the Central Line and a train line crossing our borough, there are plenty of bridges where you can wave at trains to your heart's delight, from North Chingford to south Leytonstone.

If transport is your thing, you also might be interested in our Planes, Bikes and Automobiles self-guided walking tour, which takes in the very rich history of transport innovation in Waltham Forest. Find the tour on our Walking page.

Photo credit: @childfriendly_spots_eastlondon

More free events

For more free events in Waltham Forest, check out our Events page - many of the event listed are free to attend.

What are we missing?

Are we missing your favourite free thing to do in Waltham Forest? Let us know on our Facebook or Twitter posts.