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50+ FREE THINGS TO DO IN LONDON WITH KIDS AT THE WEEKEND OR DURING THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS (2024)

London is an expensive place to live and an expensive place to visit, especially if you have kids. But it is also one of the best cities in the world – I might be biased; I am a Londoner.

So is it possible for families to enjoy all that London has to offer at the weekend or during the school holidays without spending a fortune?

Yes, it is! You just have to know how.

Here is an insider’s guide to making the most of London with kids for free.

It’s a big list of 50+ places to go, things to do and spaces to visit that are all totally free.

London has some amazing free attractions, such as its seven world-class museums, which are popular family destinations. However, they often become hugely crowded during weekends and school holidays.

Plus, travelling to and from the major attractions in Central London can be as hectic as commuting during rush hour; who wants to do that with kids in tow?!

So, though I do mention some of the major free attractions, I’m putting the focus of this guide firmly on how you can enjoy London with kids without always having to battle crowds or spending a fortune.

This list is full of the hidden gems in London that will give you and the kids maximum enjoyment for minimum spend.

The things that local London families and kids love to do, based on my own experiences of being a parent in London and those of my local friends and family.

Related: Berlin short break guide for families

These are things to do that work all year round, whether you’re a London parent with kids to entertain and you want to explore a new part of London or you’re in town for a visit.

One thing to remember is that although these sites are free, they nearly all depend on donations, and right now, many are struggling.

So if you can afford a small donation, it will help them to keep them free for those who can’t.

Regent Street, London King's Coronation 2023 copyright Luci McQuitty Hindmarsh
Your introduction to free London with kids

FREE THINGS FOR FAMILIES WITH KIDS TO DO IN LONDON

LONDON HISTORY

Let’s start by taking a look at the places you can visit for free if you want to immerse your kids in history.

Things you can enjoy without having to queue for ages or work your way around at a snail’s pace because of the hundreds of other families doing the same!

Much as I love the British Museum – I used to live opposite it, so it has a special place in my heart – it is one to avoid at peak times of the year.

The smaller museums on this list are likely to be much quieter and way more child-friendly.

1. SIR JOHN SOANE’S MUSEUM

The front of the Sir John Soanes Museum London
The Sir John Soanes Museum

The John Soanes Museum is a magical old house with moving walls, twisty turny stairways and a spooky crypt. It is also crammed full of antiquities.

On average, it takes less than an hour to walk around the whole museum.

Once you’ve seen everything there is to see at the museum, you can scoot up Red Lion Street to Coram’s Fields playground. 

  • Nearest tube: Holborn (Central and Picadilly lines)
  • Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm (last admission 4:30)

2. PETRIE MUSEUM

Pay a visit to the Petrie Museum for hieroglyphics and everything Egyptian without the crush.

The Museum houses around 80,000 objects, making it one of the greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology in the world.

Combine a visit to the Petrie Museum with a walk in Regent’s Park or a visit to the playground in Coram’s Fields. 

  • Nearest tube: Euston Square (Hammersmith and City, Metropolitan and Circle lines), Warren Street (Northern and Victoria lines), Euston (Northern and Victoria lines) and Russell Square (Piccadilly line).
  • Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday, 1 pm-5 pm. Saturday 11 am-5 pm

3. MUSEUM OF LONDON DOCKLANDS

Museum of London, Docklands

The Museum of London Docklands is a brilliant museum that I have visited with my daughter many times over the years.

The Museum is full of exhibits that bring to life the story of London and Londoners through the years, including an exhibition on the Great Fire of London, women’s history in London and London’s black history.

Docklands itself is a fun place to visit with kids. There are plenty of barges and houseboats for kids to see as you make your way over the docks to the museum.

Combine a visit to the Museum with a walk and scoot along the river Thames or a trip to the wonderful Mudchute Park and Farm on the Isle of Dogs (see more info on the farm in the wildlife and outdoors section).

  • Nearest station: Limehouse (National Rail), Canary Wharf. (Jubilee line), West India Quay (DLR)
  • Opening hours: 10 am to 5 pm, seven days per week

NB: MUSEUM OF LONDON (LONDON WALL)

Sadly, one of my favourite museums to visit with kids is currently closed. The Museum of London has officially closed its doors at the London Wall site.

On the upside, this is the start of moving the museum to its new home at West Smithfield, where it will reopen in 2026 as the London Museum. Find out more on the Museum of London website.

NATURAL HISTORY AND SCIENCE

Next up, let’s look at some great alternatives to the Natural History Museum.

Whilst the dinosaurs (and much more) at the Natural History Museum are amazing for kids of all ages, the crowds are horrid.

For a quieter time, pay a visit to one of these brilliant places instead.

4. HORNIMAN MUSEUM

The Horniman Museum is a wonderful museum to visit. It is home to a fabulous jumble of weird and wonderful natural history and ethnography. The natural history gallery is a must.

There is plenty to do in the grounds of the Museum as well. There’s the Animal Walk, and the gardens themselves are wonderful to walk around or for kids to play in. There’s a natural trail.

You can also choose to pay to visit the aquarium or butterfly house.

After your visit, head over the road to Sydenham Hill Woods for den building and woodland fun.

  • Nearest station: Forest Hill (National Rail)
  • Opening hours: 10:30 am to 5:30 pm, seven days per week

5. WELLCOME COLLECTION

Wellcome Collection – great for tweens and teens

The Wellcome Collection houses a super cool medical collection (including body parts!).

The contemporary art exhibits at the Wellcome Collection appeal more to older kids, but it also has young explorer activities for those under 10.

Pop down to Regents Park after your visit, where the Japanese Garden Island, with its beautiful waterfall, makes for a scenic pitstop.

  • Nearest tube: Euston Square (Hammersmith and City, Metropolitan and Circle lines), Warren Street (Northern and Victoria lines), Euston (Northern, Victoria lines and National Rail) and Russell Square (Piccadilly line).
  • Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays.

6 GRANT MUSEUM OF ZOOLOGY

NB: The museum is closed whilst an improvement programme is in progress; it is due to reopen in Autumn 2023.

The Grant Museum is small but brilliant. It houses a collection of bones and specimens from just about every species on the planet crammed into its rooms. 

Head down to Regents Park or Coram’s Fields after your visit.

  • Nearest tube: Euston Square (Hammersmith and City, Metropolitan and Circle lines), Warren Street (Northern and Victoria lines), Euston (Northern, Victoria lines and National Rail) and Russell Square (Piccadilly line).
  • Opening hours: 1 pm to 5 pm Wednesday to Friday. 11 am to 5 pm Saturday. Closed Sunday to Tuesdays.

TRANSPORT

The London Transport Museum is fabulous but unfortunately not free and often has big queues. For alternative free transport fun, visit:

7. NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM

National Maritime Musem Greenwich

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is a great place to enjoy looking at boats and naval exploits.

There are hands-on galleries for under seven-year-olds and a giant floor map that we spent ages sailing around.

Unfortunately, Greenwich’s other museums aren’t free, but a visit to the Maritime Museum is a good way to while away a few hours of fun and is surrounded by beautiful parkland.

Admittedly, the museum isn’t exactly in Central London, it’s South of the river in Greenwich, but it’s actually really easy to get there.

  • Nearest tube: London Bridge (National Rail), Cutty Sark (DLR – which connects with the London Underground at Bank, Tower Gateway and Stratford)
  • Opening hours: 10 am to 5 pm, seven days per week

HOW WE USED TO LIVE

Stories of how we used to live always seem to capture kids’ imagination, and luckily, London has a whole host of small museums that are perfect for short visits.

8. MUSEUM OF THE HOME (FORMERLY THE GEFFRYE MUSEM)

The Museum of the Home is set in beautiful old almshouses on Kingsland Road right by Hoxton Overground station.

The Museum lets kids explore historic interiors on a more child-friendly scale than the V&A.

Alongside exhibitions and installations that change every few months, there are the wonderful Rooms Through Time galleries, including a 1970s room complete with lurid 70s decor and a parlour room from a hundred years earlier, in 1870.

There are also the Gardens Through Time in the grounds of the museum.

The museum also runs a number of events, including free events for kids.

It is easy to get around the museum and gardens in about an hour. You could then hot-foot it to Hackney City Farm

Or, on Sundays, head to the East London institution that is Columbia Road Flower Market. The market does get extremely busy, but it is an education in itself.

  • Nearest tube: Hoxton Overground
  • Opening hours: 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Mondays.

9. WILLIAM MORRIS GALLERY

William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow

For beautiful interiors on a child-friendly scale, head out to the William Morris Gallery in the designer William Morris’s old house in Walthamstow. There’s fabric, furniture, art and more.

The house is surrounded by Lloyd Park, which is perfect for a picnic and has a really great skatepark (verified as awesome by my daughter and her friends).

Walthamstow is a way out of town, but it is easy to get to on the Victoria Line from Central London to Walthamstow Central or Blackhorse Road.

  • Nearest tube: Walthamstow or Blackhorse Road (Victoria line)
  • Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
Lloyd Park Skatepark

10. VESTRY HOUSE

Vestry House Museum

The Vestry House Museum is an old workhouse now full of old toys, costumes, interiors and the famous Bremer car, which was Britain’s first petrol-driven car.

The Museum is walkable from the William Morris Gallery (see above), so you could easily combine the two. If you’re feeling energetic, you could also combine a visit with the Walthamstow Marsh nature reserve.

  • Nearest tube:  Walthamstow or Blackhorse Road (Victoria line)
  • Opening hours: 10 am to 5 pm, Wednesday to Friday. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

11. YOUNG V&A (FORMERLY THE MUSEUM OF CHILDHOOD)

The Young V&A Museum, Bethnal Green, London.
Young V&A

The Young V&A in Bethnal Green is always going to be close to my heart because it is a short walk from where we lived in Victoria Park. So my daughter spent many hours of her early years enjoying this wonderfully interactive and experiential museum.

The Museum formally reopened as the newly rebranded Young V&A on 1 July 2023.

It has been completely reimagined and designed to showcase the power of creativity in children’s lives as they build new skills and develop the creative confidence needed to thrive in our fast-changing world.

The Museum is just a short walk from beautiful Victoria Park, with its two destination playgrounds and skatepark.

We last took friends here a couple of months ago and then makeover the museum has had is wonderful. It has retained its essence, but the museum is now very much 21st century.

It’s easy to get to the museum on the Central Line to Bethnal Green Tube or the Overground to Cambridge Heath. Buses 8, 106, 254, 388 and D6 stop nearby.

  • Nearest station: Bethnal Green (Central line), Cambridge Heath Overground
  • Opening hours: Check the website from 1 July 20-23 for up-to-date opening hours.
YouTube video
Introducing the newly reimagined Young V&A

12. FORTY HALL MUSEUM

Forty Hall is a beautiful 17th Century mansion tucked away in gorgeous grounds in the London Borough of Enfield. It has to be one of the least known free things to do in London with kids.

It doesn’t have a big collection of stuff, but it is very family-focused and has all sorts of activities to help kids explore how we used to live. There is also a rare breeds organic farm.

Admittedly it’s a bit of a trek from Central London, but if you’re in North London, it is well worth a visit.

  • Address: Turkey Street Overground
  • Opening hours: 11 am to 5 pm, Thursday to Sunday. Closed Monday to Wednesday. The Farm is open from 10 am to 4 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

13. BURGH HOUSE

Burgh House is a lovely old house in Hampstead with local history and 20th Century Art collections. It has regular family activities.

Burgh House is located close to Hampstead Heath with its wonderful heathland and swimming ponds and a walk from the Parliament Hill area of the Heath, with its kids’ playground and paddling pool.

  • Nearest tube: Hampstead (Northern line)
  • Opening times: 10 am to 4 pm, Wednesday to Friday and Sunday. Closed Mondays and Saturdays.

PICTURES AND ART

If the sheer size and crowds of the National Gallery and Tate Galleries send you and the kids into some strange combination of panicked torpor, try these alternatives, which are easily digested in an hour or less:

14. KENWOOD HOUSE

Up at the top of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House has Rembrandts, Vermeers, Turners and more to enjoy before you hit the truly beautiful wilderness that is the Heath.

Kenwood House is run by English Heritage, but miraculously – thanks to the Iveagh Bequest Act – is free to visit.

You can get to Kenwood House on the Northern Line to Gospel Oak or Hampstead stations. It’s also on the 210 bus route from Archway or take the Overground to Hampstead Heath station.

  • Nearest tube: Archway (Northern line followed by 210 bus), Gospel Oak or Hampstead Heath Overground Stations followed by a 30-minute walk over Hampstead Heath.
  • Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday, 1 pm-5 pm. Saturday 11 am-5 pm

15. WHITECHAPEL GALLERY

Whitechapel Gallery – conveniently situated next to Aldgate East Tube Station!

 In my experience, younger kids like modern art in small doses, so the Whitechapel Gallery is a perfect 30-minute pitstop before a 10-minute scoot to Spitalfields City Farm

The Whitechapel Gallery is housed in a beautiful historic building in the heart of the East End.

It is billed as ‘the artists’ gallery for everyone’, which I think is a wonderful and inclusive sentiment when modern art can sometimes feel so exclusive and elitist.

The Gallery is home to a collection of art and ideas from the UK and the rest of the world, and many modern masters have premiered their work at the Gallery, including Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Cindy Sherman.

The gallery is also committed to art education and runs free events and workshops for adults and kids throughout the year.

  • Nearest tube: Aldgate East or Whitechapel (Hammersmith & City, District lines), Liverpool Street (National Rail), Shoreditch High Street Overground.
  • Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11 am-6 pm

HISTORIC SITES

If, like us, you don’t fancy forking out £50 for the family to visit St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, it’s good to know there are free things to do in London with kids that are oozing with history.

16. SOUTHWARK CATHEDRAL

Southwark Cathedral may not be as grand as St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, but it is big, beautiful, seriously old and free. Plus, it had a Dr Who episode filmed in it!!

The Cathedral is right by London Bridge mainline or tube stations, so you can stop in at the mouthwateringly brilliant Borough Market to window shop or actually pitstop for some delicious street food.

Alternatively, you can wander along the South Bank from Black Friars.

  • Nearest tube: London Bridge (Jubilee, Northern Lines and National Rail)
  • Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 8 am-6 pm. Saturday – Sunday, 8:30 am – 6pm.

17. WALTHAM ABBEY

Waltham Abbey is just about in London – Greater London –  is a massive Norman church set by the river Lee in the ruins of the old Abbey.

It was first built by King Harold (who is reputedly buried here) and rebuilt by Henry II in penance for murdering Becket before being dissolved by Henry VIII.

Follow the path under the road at the bottom of the Abbey Gardens to explore the lovely Corn Mill Meadows, which forms part of Epping Forest (there’s a child-friendly loop walk past a cool bird-watching hide).

To get to the abbey, get a train to Waltham Cross (from Liverpool St or Seven Sisters) and the 66 or 255 bus to the Abbey.

  • Nearest station: Waltham Cross (National Rail)
  • Opening hours: Closed Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesday, 11 am – 4pm, Friday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm, Sunday, 12 noon to 4 pm.

MILITARY MEMORABILIA

Our last trip to the Imperial War Museum was on a wet bank holiday – it was heaving! For kids interested in finding out about soldiers and battles, try these less busy options:

18. ROYAL AIRFORCE MUSEUM

With over 100 planes on display, the RAF Museum in Hendon, North London, will keep kids of all ages happy for a good few hours.

  • Nearest tube: Colindale (Northern line)
  • Opening times: 10 am – 5 pm every day

19. WALLACE COLLECTION

The Wallace Collection is chock full of enough weapons and armour from centuries past to satisfy the imagination of any wannabe medieval knight. It is also home to collections of paintings, sculptures, furniture and porcelain.

The Wallace Collection is in Manchester Square, close to Marylebone in Central London. It is also equidistant between Regents and Hyde Parks, so it can easily be combined with a picnic in the park.

  • Nearest tube: Oxford Circus (Victoria, Central and Bakerloo lines), Bond Street (Central and Jubilee lines), Marble Arch (Central Line)
  • Opening times: 10 am – 5pm every day

20. NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM

National Army Museum, Chelsea

The National Army Museum in Chelsea houses all sorts of interesting items from wars past, from a saw used to amputate limbs at Waterloo to Florence Nightingale’s lamp and everything in between.

  • Nearest tube: Sloane Square (District and Circle lines)
  • Opening times: 10 am – 5pm Tuesday to Sunday

ANIMALS AND WILDLIFE

London Zoo is amazing but definitely not cheap, so if the kids want to get up close to animals, check out these lovely free options.

21. MUDCHUTE PARK AND FARM

Mudchute Park & Farm

Mudchute Park and Farm on the Isle of Dogs is by far my favourite City Farm, not least because I spent many a happy hour there with my husband, daughter and our friends when our daughter was a little girl.

Muchute is larger (32 acres) than most of the other city farms. One of the things I love most about it, other than the animals, is the spectacular juxtaposition of the farm against the skyline backdrop of Canary Wharf.

The farm area is quite tightly packed in, but lots of the animals get to roam in the fields. There’s also a petting zoo with guinea pigs and rabbits.

Fun fact: There are two guinea pigs who live there who were named after my daughter and her friend.

Plus there is a riding school. You can also bring a picnic to eat in one of the lovely green fields, where you can sit and stare at the view and marvel at how you can be slap bang in East London whilst feeling like you’re in the heart of the countryside.

There isn’t officially any parking; we always tended to park in the Asda car park and then follow the footpath through from the back of the car park to the farm.

  • Nearest station: Mudchute (DLR)
  • Opening times: 9 am – 5 pm every day

22. HACKNEY CITY FARM

 Hackney City Farm was another one of our regular haunts when my daughter was little. It was right around the corner from her nursery and a lovely place to grab a coffee (or amazing breakfast) – at its café, Frizzante – alongside taking a wander around the farm yard.

It’s not the largest City farm by a long shot, in fact it might be one of the most compact, but it is run with love and plays a big role as a community hub in Hackney.

The Farm is close to the Museum of the Home (mentioned earlier) on Kingsland Road and Columbia Road Flower Market (the market is only open on Sundays, but the 60 independent shops and food places sprawl out from Columbia Road and some open on Saturdays and other days of the week, it’s worth checking the Columbia Road website for more information.

Or there is Broadway Market in the other direction. Market day is Saturday, but there are plenty of lovely places to eat and a few independent shops worth a visit.

Oh, and London Fields, with its open space and playgrounds, is at the other end of Broadway Market.

It’s also only a 15 minute walk from the Farm to the newly reopened and rebranded Young V&A on Cambridge Heath Road.

Hackney City Farm is a short walk from Hoxton Overground Station, 15 minutes from Bethnal Green tube station on the Central Line, and there are plenty of buses, including the 55, that go along Hackney Road.

  • Nearest station: Hoxton Overground, Bethnal Green (Central line)
  • Opening times: 10 am – 4:30 pm, Tuesday to Sunday

23. SPITALFIELDS CITY FARM

Spitafields City Farm is another lovely inner City farm; it gives country meets the City vibes. There are donkeys, goats and more, plus lovely vegetable, herb and wildflower gardens.

The Farm is a stone’s throw from Brick Lane, which has vintage markets on Friday and Saturday and an ever-increasing array of independent boutiques and stores along it and the streets that intersect it and across the North side of Bethnal Green Road at the top onto Redchurch Street. It’s also close to Spitalfields Market, another hipster shopping and dining mecca.

In fact, it is worth heading through to Spitalfields to see the wonderful Herd of Hope elephant sculptures (and use the QR code on the Herd of Hope sign to make a small donation if you are able.

It would be very easy to combine a visit to Spitalfields City Farm with a cultural stop off at the Whitechapel Gallery, a short walk away.

Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street Overground, Bethnal Green (Central line), Whitechapel and Aldgate East (Hammersmith & City, District line), Liverpool Street (National Rail)

Opening times: 10 am – 4 pm, Tuesday to Sunday

Herd of Hope elephant sculptures, Spitalfields

24. CAMLEY STREET NATURE PARK

Camley Street Nature Park is a lovely wildlife reserve along the side of the Regents Canal, hidden away behind King’s Cross Station. It is perfect for a family outing to immerse the kids in the wonders of nature and wildlife.

The park has a mixture of different wildlife habitats, including woodland, grassland and wetlands that are both wonderful habitats for birds such as kingfishers, reed buntings and moorhens; butterflies; amphibians and an array of plant life. There is also a visitors’ centre with a cafe.

I would suggest combining a trip to Camley Street with a stop off at Granary Square, the regenerated heart of Kings Cross, where kids can enjoy splashing around in the fountains and the whole family can the many events that run through the year and grabbing a bite at one of the cafes or restaurants.

Nearest station: Kingscross St Pancras (National Rail, Victoria, Picadilly, Norther, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan lines), Caledonian Road & Barnsbury Overground.

25. DEEN CITY FARM

Deen City Farm is a lovely little farm near Morden Hall in Wimbledon. It has cows, goats, ferrets, alpacas and owls.

  • Nearest station: Colliers Wood and South Wimbledon (Northern line)
  • Opening times: 10 am – 4:30 pm Tuesday – Sunday

26. KENTISH TOWN CITY FARM

Kentish Town City Farm is tucked away and yet in the heart of Camden. It’s nestled in and around the railway line and was the first City Farm in the UK. There are sheep, goats, donkeys, chickens and other farm animals to see and learn about.

Plus there are a number of free weekend workshops for kids.

  • Nearest tube: Gospel Oak Overground or Kentish Town (Northern line)
  • Opening times: 9 am – 5 pm every day

LONDON WOODS AND WILDERNESS

27. EPPING FOREST

The woodlands of Epping Forest are perfect for a whole day of den building, stream fording, blackberrying and wildlife spotting. The forest is over 6 miles long, so don’t plan on covering it all!

We got the central line to Theydon Bois and explored near the deer sanctuary. Or get the Overground from Liverpool St to Chingford, which is 10 minutes walk from the visitors centre. If you’ve got energetic kids, you could go to Waltham Abbey first, then get the 66 or 255 bus to Wakes Arms in the middle of the forest.

28. HAMPSTEAD HEATH

 The woods and grassland of the Heath take some beating. If you make a day of it and start at Kenwood House at the top of the Heath.

You can maraud your way down the 1.5 miles to Hampstead Heath or Gospel Oak stations on the Overground, picnicking wherever takes your fancy on the way. Both routes are brilliant, but my personal fave is striking west to Hampstead Heath.

29. RICHMOND PARK

Another of London’s great open spaces that needs little introduction is Richmond Park. Everyone can run wild for an afternoon whilst admiring the 600+ deer who live in the park. 

Richmond is on the overground.

30. WALTHAMSTOW MARSH

The Walthamstow Marsh nature reserve is one of the few surviving areas of London’s old marshland meadows and is full of birds and rare flowers.

You can reach via Clapton overground, and the energy could combine with Vestry House Museum.

31. SYDENHAM WOODS

Sydenham Wood, is part of the old North Wood that stretches over South East London. Perfect for den building & blackberrying, it’s just over the road from the Horniman Museum.

Get the overground to Forest Hill.

THE BEST LONDON PARKS AND PLAYGROUNDS

32. CORAM FIELDS

One of London’s most famous old playgrounds, Corams Fields can look a bit scruffy, but kids love it (well, ours do!), and it is super handy for the John SoanesGrant and Petrie museums, plus the British Museum.

33. BROCKWELL PARK

 Brockwell Park is a wonderful free place to spend half a day. There’s a great playground, paddling pool, sandpits, duck ponds with a resident heron, a walled garden, BMX track, miniature railway and more. It’s also home to Brockwell Lido (free for under 5s) and the truly amazing Lambeth Country Show.

Take Thameslink to Herne Hill station.

34. VICTORIA PARK

Victoria Park is one of London’s loveliest old parks with playgrounds, a boating lake and loads of room to run around. I should know because my family and I lived in a house overlooking the park for almost nine years.

In that time we saw the park transform from a wide open green space with a couple of basic playgrounds into a wonderfully manicured park with two destination playgrounds, a couple of great cafes, the restoration of the iconic Chinese Pagoda and the introduction of a skateboarding park.

It’s just 10 minute scoot from Bethnal Green tube or easily reached by bus (388 or 38 go up Cambridge Heath Road or 277 from Mile End to Victoria Park).

35. QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK

We have spent so much time in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park over the last decade or so. The Park is part of the legacy left by the London 2012 Olympic Games, it was once brown belt land that has been transformed into one of the most well-imagined, beautiful open spaces in London.

There are various parklands, playgrounds and spaces for cycling and skateboarding. There are plenty of places to eat and grab a drink. Plus it is right next to Westfield Stratford.

36. REGENT’S PARK

Regents Park needs no introduction but worth remembering that Regents Park is just a 10 to 15-minute scoot from the Wallace and Wellcome Collections and the Petrie and Grant Museums. There are 3 playgrounds close by the Marylebone Green, Gloucester Gate and Hanover Gate entrances.

37. MORDEN HALL

An idyllic park tucked away in south London by the river Wandle, Morden Hall has a tiny museum around its water mill and an adventure playground. Deen City Farm is just next to the park. If you take bikes, you can cycle along the Wandle trail by the river.

AND very importantly you can get there on the tram from Wimbledon & Mitcham Junction stations.

38. PARLIAMENT HILL PLAYGROUND

Parliament Hill Playground is at the bottom of Hampstead Heath, just 5 minutes from Gospel Oak overground, and has a sandpit and paddling pool as well as play equipment. Good for exploring after time on the Heath if you’re going home via Gospel Oak, or you could combine with the Burgh Museum.

39. BATTERSEA PARK

Battersea Park is right by the river and with a fab playground. Battersea Park is a good place for a picnic and a run around after you’ve been to the Army Museum over Albert Bridge.

40. KENSINGTON GARDENS

Kensington Gardens is just a 10-15 minute scoot-up Exhibition Road from the Victoria & Albert, Science & Natural History museums. Kensington Gardens has loads of space to run off any big museum blues and is home to the Diana fountain and playground, which, despite my scepticism pre-visiting my daughter loves. 

Routemasters 9 & 10 both run along the bottom of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

41. JUBILEE GARDENS PLAYGROUND

Jubilee Gardens Playground is just over the Golden Jubilee Bridge (which is great fun to walk across) by the London Eye.

The Jubilee Gardens Playground has some seriously tricky climbing frames to keep even big kids engaged for an hour or so.

It’s 15 minutes from the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery & Imperial War Museum, and the only downside is it can get hectic.

42. CRYSTAL PALACE PARK

There are actual dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park. Ok, there are five huge dinosaur sculptures that are scattered around the park. The park is vast and beautiful and well worth a visit.

Get a train to Crystal Palace or Sydenham.

43. PROSPECT PARK PLAYGROUND – BATTERSEA POWER STATION

Prospect Park Playground at Battersea Power Station
Prospect Park Playground – Battersea Power Station

Prospect Park Playground is the new bright and wonderfully creative playground in the grounds of Battersea Power Station. It is a compact but super fun playground, and the magic is that its backdrop is the iconic Power Station.

Battersea Power Station finally opened to the public in October 2022 after a humungous regeneration project that has turned this iconic London landmark into a state-of-the-art shopping mall and business hub. Oh, and there are apartments there, too, should you have a few million to spend!

It is worth taking kids to the Power Station just to see it; it really is magnificent.

There is even a new Northern Line tube extension that takes you to Nine Elms station, which is a two-minute walk from the Power Station.

FREE FUN PIT-STOPS AROUND LONDON

44. THE NOW BUILDING ATRIUM

Outernet London’s NOW Building Atrium is a huge space with LED screens inside and outside.

There is an ever-changing schedule of different art projects on display. It is well worth a pit stop if you are in central London – with kids in tow or without! There is an Outernet App you can download to get screening times and information.

Outernet is an immersive entertainment district located in the heart of London. It has been created to be a place where communities come together to enjoy culture in new ways, including using the latest immersive technology to create new experiences for music, arts, culture and creators.

Find Outernet at the intersection of Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross next to Centre Point and the Tottenham Court Road London Underground and Elizabeth Line station.

Take a look at the brief video clip I took whilst standing in the Atrium watching The Spaces In-Between screening.

45. THE COVENT GARDEN INFINITY CHAMBER

Covent Garden Infinity Chamber

The Infinity Chamber is located in Conduit Court, just off Long Acre. Its purpose is to encourage everyone to take a few minutes out of their day to indulge in restorative colour therapy. In reality, it is a TikToker’s dream and also has little kids squealing with delight!

THE MAJOR LONDON MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES

I couldn’t write this list without including London’s major museums. They are the jewel in the crown of the city.

They are wonderful, just don’t be tempted to make a massive day of it. Pop in for an hour, then get outside and run around. And unless you’re there early or at the end of the day, you’ll have more fun if you avoid super crowded displays.

44. BRITISH MUSEUM

The Egyptian rooms (especially the Mummies) in the British Museum are always rammed. Our alternative faves are the Saxon and Viking rooms and the Assyrian sculptures, which remind us of The Magicians Nephew. When you’re done, scoot off to Corams Fields or hop on the number 24 Routemaster up Tottenham Court Road and get off at Drummond St or Camden High St for a short walk into Regents Park and the Marylebone Green and Gloucester Gate playgrounds.

45. NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

The dinosaur gallery at the Natural History Museum is usually painfully busy, so be wowed by the blue whale instead and then check out all the interactive fun in the Creepy Crawlies. As soon as the kids start to flag, head out the side entrance on Exhibition Road and scoot up to Kensington Gardens.

46. SCIENCE MUSEUM

So much of the Science Museum is so brilliant – we totally love Launchpad on the 3rd floor, plus the rockets downstairs. Once you’ve all had your fill and need some fresh air, head up to Kensington Gardens. 

47. VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM

Gorgeous stuff in the V&A may be mummy heaven, but let’s be honest doesn’t always float kids – and particularly boys – boat! The museum makes a big effort, though, to be family-friendly, and there are costumes to try on in the Victorian Discovery & Theatre Galleries and other hands-on exhibits throughout the gallery. Again once you’re done, scoot up Exhibition Road to Kensington Gardens.

48. NATIONAL GALLERY

The National Gallery is definitely one of those places where less is much, much more for kids. Pick 4 or 5 rooms at most – it’s an obvious choice, but the French impressionists in rooms 43 to 46 are a good place to start. Afterwards, head across the Mall to St James Park (there’s a small playground up by Buckingham Palace) or across the river to Jubilee Gardens. 

49. NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

We went to the National Portrait Gallery on a drizzly Sunday and thought the BP Exhibition would attract. But with so many people, all my daughter could see were legs, and her choice was to head up to the Tudors, who, to her mind, were much cooler 🙂 Plus, she totally loved being able to grab a pencil and sketch pad (they’re handed out on each floor) and drawing her own. As with the National Gallery, head for St James Park or Jubilee Gardens after for a run around.

50. IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM

As a mum, you might not think the Imperial War Museum would be your thing, but alongside the planes and rockets in the main hall, there’s interesting stuff about the home front. My 5-year-old loved looking at the recreation of a south London house in A Family in Wartime. There’s plenty of space to run around in the surrounding IWM gardens afterwards, or it’s a 15-minute walk to Jubilee Gardens.

51. TATE MODERN

We have this idea that kids like modern art. In my experience, not so much! But the Tate Modern itself and its location are cool, so make getting there part of the trip by catching Routemaster 11 to St Pauls and then walking over the Millenium Bridge. Nip in for a quick 40 minutes or so around one section, e.g. Level 4 Structure & Clarity or Energy & Process, and then enjoy a picnic and a wander on the South Bank entertained by the giant balloon blowers and human statues on the south bank.

52. TATE BRITAIN

The Tate Britain is home to British art from 1500 to the present day. Generally quieter than the other biggies, it’s a lovely place for a quick dip into Henry Moore, Turner or Blake (for slightly older kids who appreciate the weird). To run around after hop on the 87 past Westminster to Horse Guards Parade and walk through to St James Park.

53. SOUTHBANK CENTRE

The Southbank Centre is the largest arts centre in the UK; it actually encompasses several very well-known spaces, including the Hayward Gallery, Royal Festival Hall, Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the National Poetry Library. Plus, there’s the Southbank Centre Food Market.

Over 40% of the events put on by the Southbank Centre are free. You just need to stay on your game to keep track of when events and tickets are launched.

TIPS FOR TRAVELLING AROUND LONDON WITH KIDS

With just a little bit of planning, you really can make getting there and back an exciting part of the trip. These are our quick tips as London mums for making the most of it.

LONDON BUSES AND TRAMS

Every child I know loves travelling on the top deck of an iconic red London bus. The best seats are undoubtedly the two sets of doubles at the front. Even as an adult I find it hard not to duck if I see the bus about to brush under the branch of a tree.

All kids under the age of 11 travel free on London’s buses and trams. They don’t need a ticket and they don’t need to be accompanied by an adult (though clearly all younger child will be accompanied by an adult!).

Once kids reach 11 they can still travel for free on buses and trams, but they will need an Oyster Zip photocard.

LONDON OVERGROUND

London Overground Kids love London Overground because, unlike on the tube, there’s stuff to see out the window almost all the time. It’s a brilliant way to avoid the tube generally and to get to otherwise hard-to-reach places in South and East London. Plan your route using the TFL planner by clicking on Travel Options and unselect Tube to get it to give you Overground options.

It’s worth knowing you can switch between the Liverpool Street branches and the Croydon, Clapham Junction & Crystal Palace branches with a quick 5 to 10 minutes scoot between Whitechapel & Bethnal Green stations. This option never comes up in TFL’s map, but it’s a very handy way for us Southerners to get up to the William Morris Gallery, Vestry Museum, Forty House and Epping Forest and for Northerners to get down to Crystal Palace, the Horniman and Sydenham Woods

DLR  The driverless DLR trains let you sit right at the front or back as if you were a driver. Definitely a must if you’re going to Mudchute Farm or the London Maritime Museum.

South London Tram TWe have very few trams in London, but if you fancy a trip to the lovely Morden Hall Park and Deene City Farm, you can get the tube to Wimbledon or a train to Mitcham Junction from Victoria and hop on the tram at either of these stations.

HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF FREE PLACES IN LONDON 

The trick I have found to getting the best out of these free sites and really enjoying a family day out in London (believe me, I have had some rubbish ones!) is to remember these golden rules:

1. Less is more … kids do enjoy culture but in small bites. All the places on our list are free, so it’s fine to only plan on spending an hour or even less. Better they enjoy themselves and leave wanting more than coming to associate museums with being bored rigid.

2. Kids NEED to run around … so always combine a museum with the promise of outdoor fun after. This list includes suggestions for brilliant parks and playgrounds near every museum we recommend. And remember London’s very own ancient woodlands, heaths and beautiful marshlands.

3. Take a picnic … museum cafes are never cheap. The noise and queues can almost guarantee a collective family meltdown, so take a picnic and enjoy it outside.

4. Kids love transport … trapping a child in a car seat for 30 minutes to stare at your head in traffic is the surefire way to get a trip off to a bad start. I don’t know a kid who doesn’t love trains & trams & buses. Make London’s brilliant Overground and DLR trains and super-cool hop-on-the-back Routemaster buses part of the trip. (Where you can avoid the tube, as kids are less keen on staring at dark tunnels). We’ve included tips on the best stations & Routemaster stops to use for all our suggestions.

5. Take scooters for younger kids … our scooter goes everywhere with us, so we can easily get between museums and parks and public transport even with tired legs. When not needed, it gets carried in our unbelievably brilliant Scooter Bag from ScooterSlingz – designed by fellow London mum Penny Othen; I can’t recommend it enough.

6. Enjoy the streets of London … so much of what’s best about London isn’t tucked away in museums. It’s curious old shops, striking street art and fascinating historical plaques. Take the time to enjoy them rather than hurrying the kids along.

7. Get out and explore … yes there are amazing world-class tourist attractions in Zone 1, but the rest of London is brimming with lesser-known gems. Going out to what might seem like the back of beyond to find King Harold’s grave will fuel your kid’s adventurous spirit much better than trooping around the same old exhibits with everyone else!

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50 Best Free Things to Do in London With Kids

Vineta @ The Handyman's Daughter

Saturday 19th of September 2015

Great list! London is one of the cities on our list to take our six year old son to next. This will be so helpful!

Mudpie Fridays

Sunday 16th of August 2015

Great list, thank you so much for putting this together I am putting it in our days out folder as I writing this! Love that its all free :) #TheList

Rosie @ Little Fish

Saturday 15th of August 2015

Fantastic list! Want to visit London now! I'll pin this for future reference... Such a great tip to do things in small bite size chunks. Much better for little ones - plus when you are going somewhere for free you don't mind only staying an hour! x

Emma's Mamma

Friday 14th of August 2015

Great list! I only knew about half of those! I'll be pinning this :) #TheList

Wander Mum

Friday 14th of August 2015

What an extensive super list! I live in London and haven't heard of half of these places. Thanks for compiling. I shall pin for future reference xx #pocolo