I love visiting London with kids! As an ex-Londoner I love returning to the city however it isn’t a cheap place to visit. In this guide we round up the best free things to do in London with kids so you can still have a great time in the city without worrying about the prices attached.
Best free museums for kids in London(the best things to do for free in London)
If you are asking “Where can I take my kids for free in London”? the number one answer has to be one of the national London museums. Back in 2001 the UK Government made all the national museums in the country universally free to visit making these one of the best things to do for free in London.
Here we round up the best free museums in London with kids to visit. An added bonus to all these museums is they are great things to do in London on a rainy day.
Best South Kensington free museums to visit in London with kids
In this guide we round up the best free museums to visit in London with kids to visit. If you are looking for the best place to visit free museums in London then you need to head to South Kensington. South Kensington or South Ken as locals such as myself refer to them. In South Ken there are three free museums that you should consider visiting. The three free museums in South Ken are
- Science Museum
- Natural History Museum
- Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)
Here’s why you should visit each with kds
The Science Museum is my favourite museum in the whole of London. I am an alum of this museum but that’s not why I love it! The Science Museum has loads on offer no matter what age your children are. My favourite exhibits in the museums including the Making the Modern World Exhibition will charts the history of the modern world and includes great objects such as an Apollo capsule, Stephenson’s Rocket and a great car collection. The new mathematics gallery and Information Age exhibits are also great and I am very excited to visit their new medical exhibit.
If you are traveling with a toddler then the Science Museum is one of the best museums in London’s for toddlers. Downstairs in the basement there is The Garden space which is a hands on science space for kids. In my opinion The Garden is a great exhibition and one of the best free things to do with toddlers in London.
Please note: there is a lot of water play in this space. There are aprons here for kids to use but if you kids are like mine they will require a change of clothes at the end of the visit.
For older children there is another hands on space – Wonderlab. It is a completely interactivespace that offers interactivity for older children that teaches them about Scientific concepts! It is an absolutely fantastic space and my nieces and nephews love visiting however please not this is not FREE. There is a small charge to visit and you need to book your time slot as they do have space limits to make sure all children have a great experience.
If you don’t want to go into Wonderlab because of the charge there is still plenty to do in the Science Museum and children from toddlers to teenagers will love visiting the Science Museum.
The next museum that should be on your list in South Kensington is the
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in London is absolutely my favourite natural history museum in the world (Sorry New York)! The number one draw for kids in London visiting the Natural History Museum is the Dinosaur Exhibition. Be warned though at one point there is an animatronix dinosaur which terrified my now teenager nephew when I first took him as toddler.
But dinosaurs are not the only family friendly exhibits in the museum. Children are always impressed at seeing the full sized blue whale skeleton in the exhibition hall. This was slightly contentious as there used to be a diplodocus skeleton called dippy in there but the public have really taken to whale skeleton and I a sure will be as memorable for kids visiting.
Another kid friendly in the museum has to be the volcano exhibition. Whatever you decide to do your kids will enjoy this museum.
Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)
The Victoria and Albert Museum locally known as the V&A Museum is actually one of my favorites in the city if not the world. There usually host a fantastic selection of temporary exhibitions such as Dior, David Bowie and Hollywood Costume to name a few of my favourites. They also have some great permanent exhibitions relating to fashion and sculpture.
Having worked in museums I like to take my toddler to museums and think all museums can be accessible to kids. Having said that if you have a toddler I guarantee they will enjoy the science museum or the Natural History museum more. However the Victoria and Albert is a great things to do in London with teenagers.
Tips for Visiting South Kensington Museums in London with kids:
- Only attempt one of these in a day otherwise your kids and maybe even you might get museum fatigue – it’s a thing.
- Couple a visit to museums with a trip to Hyde Park or Diana Princess Memorial Garden. For a great family friendly London itinerary that takes in these check out our post!
How to Get To South Kensington: Take the District, Piccadilly or Circle Line to South Kensington Station and then a short walk. If it is raining be sure to use the underground passage to the museums.
Note: South Kensington is one of my favourite places to stay in London with kids. For our Where to Stay in London Guide click here.
Other Great Family Friendly Free Museums In London with kids
The National Maritime Museum is another great free things to do with kids in London. This museum is located in Greenwich out in East London but there are plenty of things to do in the area to spend a whole day there.
When you enter the museum kids go crazy for the giant map on the floor. When I first saw the map I wasn’t sure how popular this atrium feature would be but I’ll be honest it is so popular and you will be there for a while if you have toddlers in particular.
There are also plenty of exhibits here particular the model boats that kids will love.
The museum is also surrounded by green space which is perfect for letting kids blow off steam.
How to Get There: Greenwich Station or Greenwich Pier
Museum of London
Another of my favourite museums in Londn is the Museum of London. Whenever I travel somewhere I love learning about that place in particular. The Museum of London is the best place in London to learn about London and has some fantastic exhibits relating to the city. My favourite object on display is the Golden Carriage of the London Mayor.
There also do great interpretation for kids making the exhibits really accessible for London family travellers.
The V&A Museum of childhood is dedicated to growing up in Britain. This fabulous museum is a great place for a multigenerational museum visit as it will show you the evolution how children have been cared for, dressed and what they have played with over time.
On top of that there are some great hands on and interactive elements to this museum including Make Believe and Sensory Pod which even babies and toddlers will love.
How to Get There: Central Line to Bethnal Green Station
The Horniman museum is an enthnograhic museum and has lots of weird and wonderful collections but a favourite exhibition of mine is the musical instrument collection.
The museum also has a small aquarium which has a series of tanks showcasing aquatic life from around the world which younger children in particular will adore.
The museum also has a lovely cafe and has some of the best views over London. There are also plenty of gardens and grounds for children that need to blow off some steam after there time in the museum.
How to Get There: Forest Hill Train Station is nearest stop
How to Get There: Greenwich Station or Greenwich Pier
Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum (IWM) has been recently refurbished. The museum has family friendly guides and is a great place in particular to learn about the two world wars.
Note: if you young children or sensitive children think if you want to go to a museum with the main topic of war.
The British Museum is perhaps the most famous museum in London and don’t get me wrong it has some of the best collections of any museum in the world however it is not the most accessible museum in London for kids. My advice if you only have time for a couple of museums in London is to leave this one until you are travelling to the city with teenagers as they will get more out of it than toddlers.
There is lots of walking involved in this museum and doesn’t have the most family friendly interpretation.
If you decide to visit with young kids then my biggest tip is be sure to only pick a couple of galleries – don’t attempt to do the whole museum. Smaller children will probably get the most out of the Egyptian Galleries.
Stations Close to the British Museum:Holborn, Goodge Street, Russel Square and Tottenham Court Road are all in easy walking distance.
Where can I take my kids for free in London other than Museums? Best parks in London for Kids
When I lived in London one of my favoute things about the city was the amount of green spaces it had. An added bonus is that these are some of the best things to do in London for free. Here are my favourite green spaces and parks that you can visit in London
Princess Diana Memorial Playground -one of the best things to do in London for free
In the grounds of Hyde Park is the amazing Princess Diana Memorial Playground. This is perhaps the best play space in the whole of London. If oyu can go in the morning the park will be less crowded and if at all possible avoid going in holidays or weekends but lets face it you are travelling with kids so likelihood is you will travel during peak times.
A favourite among kids is the amazing pirate ship but the sensory trail is also great.
Please note: The park opens at 10am each day (closed on Christmas Day). The park is supervised however children must be accompanied by an adult.
How to Get There: High Street Kensington or Notting Hill Station
Corams Fields Park
This park in the centre of London is only for people with children which make it a very safe place in London with kids.
Richmond Park was my local London park and it is a great family friendly place and also a great place to get away from the crowds of Central London.
Kids will love spotting the deers that roam the park, playing on the many playgrounds and my personal favourite thing to do is to look at the protected view towards St Pauls Cathedral on Henry’s Mound.
St James Park
Both me and my daughter LOVE this park. Our favourite thing to see here are the white pelicans that live in the park.
There is also a great playground just opposite Wellington Barracks and we always stop here after we have watched the Changing of the guard (more on this below).
A great park in North London. One of the main reasons to go to Hampstead Heath is because of the views of the city are phenonmenal from here. There are also playgrounds kids will love here
Regents Park is one of the best parks in North London for kids. The park is also home to London Zoo but this is not free. However Regents Park has a wealth of playgrounds to keep kids occupied.
Crystal Palace Park
Another free park in the city but the main draw here is the statues of dinosaurs are the main draw and something dinosaur loving kids will really enjoy. If you are looking for what to see in London for free relating to dinosaurs this is a must!
Other Best Free Things to Do with Kids in London
Changing of the Guard – one of the best free things in London
The changing of the guard is a London institution and is something that should be on every London bucket list and is one of the best free things to do with kids in London. If you are travelling to London in peak season with kids be sure to check out our tips on watching the changing of the guards with kids to find local advice on best palces to watch it and nearby playgrounds.
Sky Garden – one of the best free activities in London
Seeing London from above is definitely something that any visitor to London should do. While London Eye and going to the observation deck at the Shard might be high on your list then are definitely very pricey. If you would like a free way to see London from above then you should definitely head to the Sky Garden as this is one of the best free activities in London for any type of traveller.
Top Tip: Even though the Sky Garden is free advance booking is absolutely essential. Click here to book online for free!
Covent Garden – one of the best places to visit in London for free
Having worked in Covent Garden for years it is in my opinion one of the best places to visit in London for free and definitely one of the best free things in London to do with children.
The piazza is always filled with street performers from magicians to musicians to jugglers. Kids will absolutely love visiting Covent Garden.
For more tips check out our Covent Garden Area Guide.
I have ummed and ahhed about including this but I love Borough Market but I am going to mark this with a warning. The Market can get very busy. I like to go early and definitely avoid lunhtime if you are travelling to London with a stroller and young kids but you will be fine going at lunchtime if you are travelling to London with teenagers.
Walk the Southbank
For me the best way to see London is on foot. One of my favourite places in London to see with kids is the Southbank as you just get to see so many icons of the city and should be on every London itinerary. Walking along the Southbank you will pass the Tate (Another free museum but not one of favourites for visting with kids), the Clink – the historic London prison, the Golden Hinde, the Globe Theatre and the Millenium Bridge to name just a few sites you will see on this walk.
Take a Photo at Platform 9 and ¾
If you are travelling to London with teenagers or older children then there is a strong chance you will have a Harry Potter fan in your group. Harry Potter stuff in London is expensive especially if you decide to do a day trip from London to Harry Potter Studio Tour. However one Harry Potter London thing to do that is free is to have your photo taken on Platform 9 and 3/4s.
Top Tip: Make this your first stop of a day as later in the day there can be a long queue (I mean over an hour for a photo).
Where: Kings Cross Station.
London is one of the world’s shopping capitals. There are lots of department stores such as Harrods that even kids will enjoy going round but probably the top shopping destination for children in London is Hamley’s toy store. It is in a word AMAZING however while this is free it could get expensive if your kids want to make purchases.
If you are travelling to London with teenagers then Camden Market is a great place to visit. It is great for vintage shopping and street art.
While great for teenagers I would avoid with toddlers and younger kids as it can get very busy.
Another place that is likely to be on your London bucket list. Trafalgar Square is a must in London and kids will love seeing the lion statues and the scultpture o the fourth plinth.
If you are there in Winter/ Christmas Trafalgar Square should be on your London Winter itinerary as the Christmas tree is fab.
Trafalgar Square is also home to the National Portrait Gallery or National Gallery. These are fantastic art museums. The childrens offer is probably more suited to older children and teenagers however my little girl enjoys walking around art museums and likes to spend a hour there. IF you are travelling during the holidays or at the weekend there are usually some great hands on activities based as kids.
Jump the Greenwich Meridan Time Line (GMT)
This is one of the most unique things to do in London. Greenwich has been the centre of world time since 1884. When you go to Greenwich you can actually straddle the GMT line. It is a quirky thing to do in London and something teens especially might enjoy doing.
London City Farms – one of the best free London attractions for families
Did you know there are loads of city farms in London? In my opinion this is one of the best free London attractions for families. Some of the best city farms in London are:
- Vauxhall City Farm
- Spitalfields Farm
- Hackney City Farm
- Mudchute Farm and Park
- Hounslow Urban Farm
- Kentish Town City Farm.
I love visiting farms when in London as I think they are a great tonic to the business of the city when visiting with toddlers or young kids.
What are your favourite free things to do in London with kids? I’d love to hear all about them in the comments below