Traveling with your family can be such a memorable experience, but if you have young kids you’re no doubt aware that they can present challenges. Working around nap times, eating, bathroom breaks every 20 minutes, and the high costs of travel can leave you asking yourself, is this trip really worth it?… In short, YES!
While not always the case, in most cities you visit there will be free and/or kid-friendly activities you can do that allow you to enjoy the city as a family — and London is no exception! London offers a vast list of free museums and other activities that everyone can enjoy.
And as much as you might want to cram in a full itinerary, that’s not always practical with little ones. In my experience, you can have just as memorable of a trip seeing fewer things while not overextending yourself (or your kids), and usually be happier in the end!
Below is a list of great, free attractions London has to offer that both you and your children will enjoy!
Changing of the Guard
Visit the mall in front of Buckingham Palace on any Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday (or daily during summer months) starting at 11am. Not only is this fun for adults, but kids love seeing the parade of guards go marching by and the horses trot past.
Tip: If you stay close to the palace, at the end of the ceremony the guards may let you pet the horses! To find out more about the ceremony, you can download the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace app here.
There are so many wonderful neighborhood parks with playgrounds — a nice getaway from the touristy areas that can get exhausting. Sometimes kids just need to run! There are some great playgrounds in Hyde Park near Kensington Palace. Also, just strolling through the neighborhood you’re in you’re bound to find one nearby!
This is a little farther away from the city center, located in East London, but well worth the visit! Toys and games from every decade dating back to Victorian times are displayed. Adults will feel excited with nostalgia seeing the toys they played with when they were growing up and kids can play non-stop at the numerous interactive stations.
The Natural History Museum is a wonderful and free museum to visit in London! It is a great place to visit for kids of all ages and adults too! They have many hands-on exhibits that children can explore and learn at their own pace, ranging from great big dinosaurs to tiny little insects, and everything in between.
Tip: Get there early as lines can get long!
If your kids love airplanes, tanks, guns, and history, this is another must see. This museum is unique, as not only are the displays super detailed with history, but also kids can interact with them. They can actually climb in real tanks and airplanes and feel the controls!
London Eye from Jubilee Gardens
Another fun activity is visiting the London Eye — a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames. While this is not a free activity, it is free to sit back and watch it from up close. Jubilee Gardens is a small park at the base of the London Eye and is a great spot for a picnic lunch or a snack. Kids love seeing the London Eye go round and round and there is no better place than Jubilee Gardens.
If you’re looking for a place to grab a bite to eat, Covent Gardens is a fun place for kids to see street entertainers and even sometimes a Punch and Judy Show. Around lunchtime and weekends however, this place can get pretty crowded.
This is a hands-on educational museum located in South London that is filled with interactive exhibits for children to learn about and experience animals, music, and culture. The outdoor garden has wonderful views of the city and more areas for children to play. Some extra exhibits at this museum are not free and require tickets.
This award-winning museum is filled with ingenuity of futuristic proportions and the kids will love it! Exhibits are interactive and hands-on with an engaging staff willing to answer any questions! The IMAX theatre requires a ticket at an extra cost.
Although this museum may take a while to get to — about 30 minutes on the tube from the city center to North London — if you or your kids like planes this is the place to visit! This museum has everything aviation has to offer. You can really explore the equipment and the insides of helicopters and planes from different times in history.
General entrance is free for this museum, though many of the special exhibits require a ticket. There is a free ship simulator here where kids can feel what it’s like to control a ship at sea. Tuesday playtime for kids under 5 years old for a small fee of 3£.
No matter the time of year, there are always free fairs, festivals, and other events going on. Check out the family friendly events page to know what’s going on!
If one afternoon you just want a slower pace, check out the local library. Very often they have story time and other activities for kids and they are free! Step into any library and ask for the schedule.
The BusKids under 10 years old ride for free (though adults will need to pay). The bus is not only a great way to get around, but kids love it because they can see so much more than when taking the tube (which is also free for kids under 10 years old).
*Tip for Finding Toilets*
When you need a bathroom break between your sightseeing, the best places to find public toilets are in museums, hotels, department stores, chain or fast food places (like Starbucks), or restaurants/pubs. Many of these places will let you use the bathroom free of charge. Even some with signs stating “WC for Customers Only” will let your young ones use it. If these options don’t work, there are automated pay toilets located throughout the city and in tube stations.
There are an unlimited number of things to do and see in London, and you can visit so much without breaking the bank. Even when traveling with kids, you can enjoy a fun, educational, and cost-effective family vacation in a big city like London! Have fun and enjoy!