Top 7 free workspaces in London

From libraries to cafes, we look into the best free office spaces for entrepreneurs and freelancers in Central London.

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For years, entrepreneurs and freelancers who can’t yet afford to pay for workspace have flocked to noisy coffee chains. And these haven’t exactly been ideal, thanks to their many distractions, unreliable WiFi, and requests that you buy a new drink every hour.

But we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to settle for the local Starbucks. There are, in fact, plenty of London workspaces designed specifically for startups, entrepreneurs and freelancers that are completely free to use. From the inspiring environments of cultural centre workspaces to modern coworking collectives with free options, we've identified some great locations for no-cost or low-cost workspaces in London.

We’ve collated the below guide to the seven best free workplaces in London, based on our expert experience with SMEs built over the past two decades. Read on to learn more about the options available and to find the best space for you.

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Location(s):
Membership cost:

The Coffice: Eagle House

Southbank Centre

Camden Collective

Reading Room at Wellcome Collection

The British Library

The Barbican Centre

The Hoxton 

Shoreditch

Waterloo

Camden; Kings Cross

Bloomsbury

Euston

Finsbury

Holborn

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£69 per annum

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Free

£80 per annum

£59 per annum

N/A

They say nothing in life comes free – and this seems especially true when it comes to finding a productive working environment in our bustling capital city. While the spaces listed above have plenty of merits, you may find yourself craving better facilities and unlimited timeframes. Ad-hoc workspaces are great if you’re just starting out, but you’ll need an official address if you’re truly looking to grow your business.

For something more official (but still low-cost), you can use our simple online tool to compare and get quotes from the best providers for flexible office working. It’s free, quick to use, and designed to do all the work for you.

Compare quotes from the UK's top office providers Are you currently in an office space? It only takes a minute.

The Coffice at Eagle House

Opening hours: 8am to 5:30pm, Monday to Friday
Closest stations: Old Street

The Coffice Eagle Brew

What’s on offer at The Coffice?

  • Free superfast WiFi
  • Breakfasts and a range of hot and cold drinks available to buy

A merger between free office space and an artisan coffee shop, the aptly named Coffice was launched to provide an attractive, relaxing and free place to work if you’re not yet an established business – without the distractions that come with a typical high street cafe.

Run by workspace provider The Brew – which also operates paid coworking space and offices at Eagle House – the French-style space has both indoor and outdoor areas, and is home to a collaborative community of entrepreneurs, freelancers and creatives.

How do I join The Coffice?

There’s no formal membership at The Coffice, so you’re welcome to just turn up – however, The Brew does ask that visitors buy something from the cafe while accessing the free WiFi and electricity. Because you don’t need to book to attend, it is an excellent hybrid solution for those who want to come and go whenever.

How has COVID-19 affected The Brew?

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, The Brew, like all public sites, was forced to close for three months during the UK’s first national lockdown. It spent that time designing a protection plan, which used government advice as well as member feedback to come up with a safety plan which, amongst other policies, uses air sterilisation to reduce virus transmissibility and ensures all products and spaces are properly disinfected by cleaners before use.

The Brew explains on its website: “During lockdown, we all faced an unprecedented, never-experienced-before crisis. We knew that we didn’t want to add to our members’ growing list of problems and concerns. We hope our role during that time was a positive one, including sharing business advice, lobbying and signposting how members too could lobby (which many of them did and achieved success) and most of all, applying relief to help our members through what was a difficult and challenging time.”

While free workspaces can be perfect when you’re running a brand new business, they’re not sustainable in the long term. As you grow, you’ll need to find a coworking space with a more scalable, reliable offering.

To explore your options here, read our ultimate guide to the best coworking spaces in London. Or, if you want to save time, take a minute to fill out our free online form, and receive tailored quotes for the top flexible office providers that suit your needs best.

Southbank Centre

Opening hours: 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday
Closest stations: Waterloo underground, Waterloo rail station

Southbank Royal Festival Hall

What’s on offer at Southbank Centre?

Southbank Centre is not an official workspace, but it has become famous amongst London’s freelancer community as a haven for individual working. It’s also one of the more picturesque locations on this list, providing some truly stunning and creative spaces to inspire you as you work.

As well as the centre’s main Hayward Gallery Cafe, you can also take advantage of free WiFi in the historic Royal Festival Hall, which played host to the Festival of Britain in 1951. Alternatively, you can choose to work in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a music venue which opened in 1967 with a concert conducted by Benjamin Britten. This is a more practical workspace with windowside stools and plug points.

Plus, if you can’t find a suitable spot at the Southbank, you can also paddle downstream to the BFI (British Film Institute) which has tons of cafes, restaurants and bars nearby.

How can I join Southbank Centre?

Access to the Southbank Centre’s communal areas – such as the Royal Festival Hall or Hayward Gallery Cafe – is completely free, so you can turn up and set up quickly.

However, if you’re looking for something a bit more exclusive, you can purchase a Southbank Centre membership for just £69 a year and get access to the Southbank’s Members' Lounge. This space gives you a gorgeous panoramic view of the Thames, plus some quieter workspace to get your ideas down without distraction.

Alongside a snazzy location, membership benefits also include free entry to exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery, as well as a sizeable discount at the centre’s main shop and the Skylon cafe.

How has COVID-19 affected Southbank Centre?

Southbank Centre was hit heavily by the pandemic, with most of the centre’s 600 employees furloughed and almost 400 facing redundancy in July 2020.

However, the centre’s various sites reopened slowly between the end of the first lockdown and the full lifting of coronavirus restrictions. Following a stringent Covid-19 risk assessment, all buildings are now open with face masks encouraged, hand sanitising stations added, and all visitors asked to take part in the NHS Test and Trace scheme.

Camden Collective

Opening hours: 24/7
Closest stations: Camden Town and Camden Road

Camden Collective

What’s on offer at Camden Collective?

  • Free WiFi
  • Free meeting rooms and a boardroom
  • Event space
  • Kitchen facilities
  • Subsidised private offices

Providing 24/7 hot desking, this collaborative work environment is the most official workspace on this list, and offers flexibility alongside an option to book – so you’re guaranteed a space.

It’s run by Collective, a regeneration charity that turns abandoned, disused buildings into fun, free workspaces for creative startups and entrepreneurs. Since its beginnings, Collective has nurtured 917 new businesses that have raised a combined total of £25m and created 214 new jobs.

While Camden Collective – also known as Auction Rooms – is based in the heart of Camden Town, Collective also runs BaseKX near King’s Cross, which is located right by the beautiful Regents Canal.

How can I join Camden Collective?

You’ll need to apply for membership before you can work at either space. You can do this via the Camden Collective website. Remember, there are entry criteria to consider.

Auction Rooms only accepts startups that are pre-trade or within their first six months of trading, while those joining BaseKX cannot have been trading for more than five years.

However, rather than charging money, Collective instead asks that its members spend two hours per month contributing to the growth and development of the charity.

How has COVID-19 affected Camden Collective?

The coronavirus pandemic had a devastating impact on the UK high street, and has served to accelerate the Collective’s mission to regenerate abandoned locations. This means they’ve taken on many more properties across London, to turn into pop-up work and event spaces.

During the UK’s three national lockdowns, the Business Improvement District for Camden did not turn its back on the area’s businesses and has kept locations open, with the appropriate COVID-19 safety measures, for entrepreneurs to make use of. The Collective also intermittently opened a Learning Centre for after-hours schooling during lockdowns, for students missing out on teaching hours following the closure of schools.

Compare quotes from the UK's top office providers Are you currently in an office space? It only takes a minute.

The British Library’s Reading Rooms

Opening hours: 09:30am to 8:00pm*
Closest stations: Kings Cross, St Pancras International, Euston, Euston Square

*These vary depending on the day and library section.

The British Library

What’s on offer at the British Library?

  • Free WiFi
  • A choice of different reading rooms
  • Access to helpful resources and services
  • A programme of events

As the largest national library in the world by number of items catalogued, the British Library and its Reading Rooms immediately come to the fore as inspiring, quiet places to get work done.

Specifically, the library’s Business & IP Centre is a reading room designed for entrepreneurs and business owners. It's packed with free resources, including market reports, company data, startup books, business directories and patents. The Business & IP Centre also runs a programme of workshops, talks and one-to-one advice sessions.

How do I join the British Library’s reading rooms?

In order to access the reading rooms – including the Business & IP Centre – and all the resources they contain, you’ll need to register for a free Reader Pass and book a space online on the British Library’s website.

You can also choose to purchase a membership for £80 per year, which gives you access to the library’s exclusive Member’s Room – a shared environment, available for meetings, study, relaxing and eating and drinking. One guest per member is permitted, so you can also hold meetings here if you wish.

How has COVID-19 affected the British Library?

Due to the popularity of the British Library as a tourist attraction, the site was closed during COVID-19 and has only recently begun welcoming back visitors. However, the Reading Rooms, Member’s Room, and public desks are all fully reopened and available to use.

Currently, you can still use the library by following a one-way system. Face masks are encouraged unless you're exempt, and interactive elements have been removed from the building to reduce touch points.

The Barbican Centre

Opening hours: 10am to 8pm on Monday to Saturday, 11am to 8pm on Sundays
Closest stations: Barbican, Moorgate, Farringdon, St. Paul’s

Barbican

What’s on offer at the Barbican Centre?

  • Free WiFi
  • A programme of free arts and cultural events

The largest performing arts centre of its kind in Europe, the Barbican Centre is also an excellent place to get work done – with plenty of spots throughout the mammoth complex, including a library and a cafe, in which to get your head down.

Fancy a stimulating break from work? You’ll find free events and installations on offer in the famous Level G section. So, if you’re a fan of the arts and cultural events, the Barbican Centre could be your dream workplace.

How do I join the Barbican Centre?

You don’t need to officially join any scheme to work here – you can simply arrive, sit down and get started. However, like the Southbank Centre, there is a membership scheme available if you wish to access the beautiful Barbican Members Lounge, which is available during show nights. However, as it’s only open from 5pm to 10:30pm, it's really only suitable for a side hustle.

How has COVID-19 affected the Barbican Centre?

As the Barbican Centre is funded and owned by the City of London Corporation, it has been supported through COVID-19, and reopened without issue upon the lifting of restrictions.

According to its website, 96% of Barbican visitors said they felt safe in the building. If you visit the site, face masks and hand sanitising stations are provided. Lateral flow tests are also encouraged to ensure you test negative before arrival.

Reading Room at Wellcome Collection

Opening hours: 24/7
Closest stations: Shoreditch High Street, Old Street, Hoxton

Reading Room - Wellcome Collection

What’s on offer at the Reading Room?

The Wellcome Trust is one of the largest providers of non-governmental funding for scientific research and runs the Wellcome Collection, a public venue based in a 1930s neoclassical building at Euston Road.

Inside is the Reading Room, a tranquil library space with a variety of desks, armchairs, and window stools for visitors to choose from. There is free WiFi, and all spaces are wheelchair accessible. There are also thousands of books to choose from if you’re looking for research materials.

How do I join the Reading Room?

The Reading Room is free to use. It’s not the most flexible arrangement – you can only stay for three hours maximum in the general library space – however, you are welcome to stay as long as you’d like in the Rare Materials Room. There is also a bookable study room if you want to engage in deep-dive work.

How has COVID-19 affected the Reading Room?

As a response to the coronavirus pandemic, the museum now requires you to book a ticket online for free, to minimise the number of people working within the space.

As well as this new process, the museum is also taking steps to improve safety for visitors, with new provisions including extra hand sanitising stations, free masks and visors for staff, and participation in the NHS Test and Trace programme.

The Hoxton

Opening hours: 24/7
Closest stations: Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Covent Garden and Chancery Lane

The Hoxton

What’s on offer at The Hoxton?

  • Free WiFi
  • Hot drinks, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages available to buy
  • Bookable meeting rooms

The Hoxton is a series of hotels based in Holborn, Southwark and Shoreditch. At the brand's boutique Holborn hotel, you’ll find a large open lobby that welcomes local workers. This cosy mid-century-style space is decorated with dark wood, cushioned seating and artwork, and is a great option for startups that are still in the early days of setup and still shopping around for a more permanent workspace.

The hotel also offers six beautifully designed meeting rooms which are available to book at a cost. Those using them are also given access to a fully stocked pantry kitchen, from which visitors can help themselves to drinks and snacks.

How can I join The Hoxton?

No need to book any space – simply turn up and find a space in the lobby!

How has COVID-19 affected The Hoxton?

The Hoxton hotel, and its lobby cafe, successfully navigated the coronavirus pandemic to welcome back visitors earlier this year.

Finding a workspace: what’s next?

The above list gives some great, hybrid solutions for freelancers and startups that might not be fully established yet, and are looking to save money before investing in a permanent office space.

However, as ideal as a free workspace can be when you’re just starting out, it isn’t designed for sustained long-term use.

As your business grows, you will need access to a space where you’ll have room to scale, can tap into resources and amenities designed for growing businesses, and can be sure you’ll get a seat every day. In short, you’ll want to join a paid coworking space or serviced office.

If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered – simply answer a few questions about your business using our custom-built online cost comparison form, and we’ll give you tailored quotes from the coworking spaces that best suit your business’s needs.

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Julia Watts
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