30+ Fabulous FREE Things To Do In London With Kids
Visiting London with kids is an insanely cool thing to do, but it can also be expensive if you visit all the top paid London attractions for families like the London Eye, Madame Tussauds or the Tower of London.
The good news is that there are also plenty of fun free things to do in London with kids.
During our 20 years living and working in London before we had kids we enjoyed trying various London food tours and checking out the newest restaurant openings. Our London bucket list was long but it wasn’t particularly family-friendly (or free).
Once the kids came along, we had to re-think our London life and we discovered that there were a lot of great things to do in London with children. The best part was that most of them were completely free.
Now you’re wondering what to do in London with kids that is free right? You could spend your days walking around the most iconic London sights and discovering the prettiest streets in London as this is completely free but that’s probably not what you’re here for.
Whether you are looking for inspiration for great days out with kids in London on a budget or you are staying longer in London on a UK staycation, we’ve come up with a list of over 20 of our favourite free things to do with kids in London.
This guide to free kids’ activities in London will help you plan your days well and keep your daily sightseeing spend to a minimum.
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Money saving tips for visiting London with kids
Before we go into the top free things to do in London with kids – are you looking to combine visiting some of the free London attractions with some paid ones?
This post is to show you how you can have fun in London for free but is also to help you save money in London if you want to visit some of the big London sights.
Here are a couple of London money saving tips:
Booking your tickets in advance will save you money. Also, take a look at the London Explorer Pass. It includes a large number of top London attractions. Add 2,3,4,5,6 or 7 attractions and make huge savings. See how it all works here.
For exampe: If you want to do the O2Climb (ticket price £40) and Tower of London (ticket price £29.90) – it would cost you £69.90 per person. The Explorer Pass costs £50 per adult (saving £19.90).
Read all about one of our favourite attractions for families – the Tower of London.
You can also save money buying combo tickets for the top London sights by Merlin Entertainments here.
- London Eye
- Madame Tussauds (read our review of Madame Tussauds)
- Shrek’s Adventure (read our full review of Shrek’s Adventure)
- London Dungeon
- SEA LIFE
See also our guide to what’s going on at Christmas at the Merlin attractions.
Big City Saver is a new pass created for the Merlin attractions and can save you money if you plan to visit more than one of their attractions.
Or take a look at the Merlin Annual Pass if you are wanting to visit any of the above or Legoland, Chessington, Warwick Castle, Alton Towers and more in a year.
Also, whilst this is also not a free thing to do in London, TreasureMapTrails are super cheap and are a fantastic way for families to get to know London (or any city). Use code FLASHPACKING for 10% off.
Finally, some of our favourite things to do with kids in London over the years have been:
We also love the immersive experiences from Fever. They have some really fun immersive experiences for families, including Jurassic World for little dinosaur lovers and one of our favourites, Dopamineland.
We find it is good to be prepared for the downtimes (such as meal times or back in the hotel room or on the train) by taking London Top Trumps, a London colouring book and pens. We also love these kids’ travel guides to London, a London sticker book and things to spot in London book.
Finally, check our bumper post on family days out from London once you are done with London (although you can never really be done with London)!
**NOTE that for many free attractions in London, you will still need to pre-book time slots**
The best free things to do in London with kids…
So – where can I take kids for free in London? Here are our favourite things to do in London with kids for free..
1. British Museum
You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy a visit to the British Museum. The entrance hall (the Great Court) is worth a visit in its own right as it’s magnificent.
They have an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts, including mummies, which is always the area our kids want to visit.
They have made the visit more child-friendly by introducing digital exploration of the museum and there are free workshops like ‘Building Roman Britain in Minecraft’ and making mosaic masks.
It’s such a fun and educational place to visit and one of our top recommendations for free things to do in London with kids.
They do a lovely afternoon tea (not free!) in case you are looking to try a very British tradition.
COST: FREE (donation welcome).
Closest Tube: Tottenham Court Road or Holborn.
Want to really get to know the British Museum? See here for a super informative 2 hour guided tour.
Other free museums in London that are great for families and ideal if you are looking for budget days out in London with kids are:
Natural History Museum (see #11 below)
Science Museum (see #12 below)
And these are all of our favourite London museums for kids.
2. Take a London bus
One of the things we like to do when visiting a big city for the first time is to take a bus tour to get our bearings.
The great thing about London is that you can see a lot of the iconic London sights from the top deck of the good old London bus on certain routes.
Our boys love riding on the top (at the front) of a double-decker bus which is where you get the best views from.
You will need a travel card or a credit card as they don’t take cash on the buses anymore.
Kids under 11 travel for free with an accompanying paying adult. It’s a much cheaper alternative to taking an expensive open-top bus tour.
Just make sure you have your guide book with you for your DIY bus tour of London.
This is one of the best things to do in London with children on a budget because you can see so much. It also saves little legs from getting tired!
The best London bus routes for sightseeing are:
Starts: Liverpool Street Station.
Sights: St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament/Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.
Ends: Victoria Station.
Starts: Victoria Station.
Sights: Buckingham Palace gardens, Wellington Arch, Hyde Park, Marble Arch, Oxford Street.
Ends: Stoke Newington.
Starts: Hampstead Heath.
Sights: Camden, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square (for the Houses of Parliament/Big Ben and Westminster Abbey).
COST: FREE (for children under 11 with a paying adult).
Of course, if you would like a proper guided bus tour, these are available. We recommend the Hop On Hop Off Bus London Sightseeing Tour.
3. Cool off in the fountains at Granary Square
If you’re visiting London on a hot day, head to Granary Square by Kings Cross where kids can have a play in the water feature.
Ideally, you will have brought their swimmers and a towel but if not, then you can let them run around in their pants as we do!
This newly developed area also has lots of bars and restaurants and is always buzzing with activity.
Closest Tube: Kings Cross
Other places to cool off in London splash parks can be found here:
If you’re looking to escape the heat of the city, why not check out one of these great beaches near London?!
Or head down to Southbank at low tide and try some beachcombing. With London’s incredible history, something amazing is just waiting to be found.
See also our guide to exploring the Southbank and Waterloo areas with kids.
4. Harry Potter Platform 9 ¾
If you’re a Harry Potter fan visiting London, visiting the Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station should be on your London bucket list for families.
You can visit Platform 9 3/4 and join the queue outside of the Harry Potter shop in Kings Cross station to have your photo taken with your chosen Hogwarts house scarf, pushing a trolley through the wall.
It will cost you if you want to buy the professional photo but you’re allowed to take your own photos too.
TOP TIP!!!! Every year on 1st September at 11am there is the Back to Hogwarts Day announcement of the Hogwarts Express.
If you’re a huge Harry Potter fan, it’s worth checking out the Harry Potter studio tour on a day trip from London. It’s one of the best Harry Potter experiences in the UK. There is a cost for this and it needs to be booked in advance as it is a very popular attraction.
If you are visiting the studios but would prefer to stay close to them, we have a list of the family-friendly hotels near the Harry Potter Studios.
Also at Platform 9 3/4 is the Harry Potter shop. You don’t want to miss out on picking up some Harry Potter gifts here.
(Note you can also take free Harry Potter walking tours or, if you prefer, you can take one of these Magical Harry Potter Guided Walking Tours).
Closest Tube: Kings Cross.
5. Watch Tower Bridge open
Tower Bridge is an iconic London landmark (and not to be confused with London Bridge as you will probably be quite disappointed if you go to London Bridge by mistake!).
At certain times of the day, the bridge opens to let large boats through. You can check the lift times to see when this happens.
You can also pay to climb up the bridge and walk over it, stopping for photos in the glass-floored gallery. We did this and thought it was amazing value.
Closest Tube: Tower Hill.
6. Visit the Tate Modern
There’s always something child-friendly going on at the Tate Modern. We usually approach it by crossing the Millennium Bridge from St Paul’s Cathedral.
From there you get a great view along the Thames towards the Shard (purchase your Shard tickets here) and Tower Bridge.
During one of our visits there was a special floor in the turbine hall which allowed kids in socks to slide like ice skaters.
We spent a good 30 minutes sliding around. On another visit, they could graffiti all over the floor of the main hall.
To see any special exhibitions, there is a cost for these but under 12’s are free.
If you go up to the top floor of the Blavatnik building, you can step out onto the terrace and you get wonderful panoramic views of London. You can also enjoy a drink and a snack here.
This offers one of the best free views of London.
The Tate Modern is one of our favorite family days out in London and definitely should be on your list when visiting London on a budget with kids.
COST: FREE (donation welcome)
Closest Tube: St Paul’s or Southwark
Note – if it’s views of London you’re looking for, here are some more great places for free views of London:
Royal Observatory Greenwich (see also #14 below)
7. Watch the street performers at Covent Garden
Covent Garden has long been a place for street performers to entertain a crowd. They usually hang out at the West end of the plaza.
You will see the human statues which get more ingenious each year, magicians, musicians and comedians.
They are free to watch but they will welcome donations at the end of the performance. If you hang out near the front of the crowd, you may even be picked to perform in the show.
Covent Garden is also a great place to eat with loads of family-friendly restaurants. While you’re in the area, make sure to check out Neal’s Yard.
It is a hidden gem in London and one of the most colourful places in London with lots of cute shops and restaurants.
COST: FREE (tips welcome).
Closest Tube: Covent Garden.
8. Visit Hamleys
We’ve put Hamleys in here because it’s free to go in and browse but whether or not you will get away without spending any money in there is another matter.
It is every little child’s dream. A whopping seven floors jam-packed with the latest toy or your favourite classic toy.
There will no doubt be toy demonstrations going on, puppet shows, parades and for the older kids, a NERF blaster testing zone!
We spent a long time watching a radio-controlled helicopter and then obviously there were protests when we decided it was time to go without buying it.
Warning: it’s a bit of a sensory overload for kids but according to our boys, it is one of the best things to do in London with kids!
COST: FREE (although you might need a second mortgage to pay for the toys).
Closest Tube: Oxford Circus.
9. Park Playgrounds
If you’re looking for somewhere for the kids to let off steam after visiting Hamleys, then you may want to take them to one of the many great parks in London.
Our favourite London Park is Regent’s Park because it has a selection of playgrounds to choose from.
Visiting a park is perfect if you’re looking for cheap family days out in London, especially if you pack a picnic.
Other London park playgrounds you can visit are South Carriage Playground in Hyde Park and the Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens (with a great splash play area).
If you go to St James’s Park at 2.30, you can watch the pelicans being fed.
Closest tube: Regent’s Park (Regent’s Park), South Carriage Drive (Hyde Park Corner), Diana Memorial (Queensway), St James’s Park (St James’s Park)
10. Watch the Changing of the Guard
The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place outside Buckingham Palace at 10.45 am every day (except in bad weather).
The handover takes place at 11 am and the whole ceremony takes about 45 minutes.
There are 5 regiments that make up the Queen’s Guard. Although at first glance they appear to all be wearing the same iconic red uniform with bearskin hat, there are subtle differences in their uniform. See if you can spot them.
Closest Tube: Hyde Park Corner / Green Park / St James’s Park.
You can also take a London Changing of the Guard walking tour (not free).
11. Natural History Museum
London’s Natural History Museum is one of the best museums in the world. It was once famous for the large dinosaur skeleton in the main entrance hall, but that has been replaced recently by a skeleton of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling.
There are all sorts of interesting exhibits and free activities but for our children, it’s always about the dinosaurs.
They have additional paid exhibitions which are well worth checking out. We love the Wildlife Photographer of the Year because we love wildlife and are always so inspired by the beautiful photos.
It’s a great choice if you are looking for rainy day activities in London with kids. Make sure to get there early as it is very popular, especially with school groups from all over the world.
If you can’t get there in person, make sure to check out their online shop which is packed with lovely NHM themed gifts.
COST: FREE (donations welcome). If you would like to organise a guided tour, see here for family tours.
Closest Tube: South Kensington.
12. Science Museum
London’s Science Museum is just next door to the Natural History Museum. It is full of gadgetry big and small to capture the imagination of budding scientists.
It’s fun and interactive and one of their most interesting exhibits is the Apollo 10 command capsule. They also have an IMAX theatre and a flight simulator making it another great choice if you are looking for free indoor activities in London or free things to do on a rainy day in London.
Whilst the WonderLab inside the Science Museum is not free, we highly recommend it. Kids will have a blast learning about sound, light and energy in fun, interactive ways.
COST: FREE (donation is welcome).
Closest Tube: South Kensington.
13. Take the River Bus
The river bus is a great alternative to a Thames cruise. It runs between Putney in the west and Woolwich in the east and stops off at the 22 piers along the way.
There is an indoor seating area and outdoor deck in warmer weather. You can also buy refreshments on board.
Whilst it is not free (unless you’re under 5), it’s a slightly cheaper way to see the sights of London than taking one of the official London sightseeing cruises.
COST: FREE (for children under 5 and the half-price child fare applies from 5-15). There is a discount if you already have a TFL travel card. Another option is kids go free with a family river rover ticket which is valid all-day.
If you purchase a GoCity London Explorer Pass, you can include a City Cruises Thames River Pass.
14. Enjoy views of London from Parliament Hill or Greenwich Park
One of the best places in London for a view of London is Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath. It is a bit of a walk to the top, but the views over the whole of London are incredible.
While there you can also visit the Parliament Hill Playground or pop into the Parliament Hill Lido if you’re visiting in the summer and in need of cooling down.
Closest Tube: Hampstead / Belsize Park
Climb to the top of the hill in Greenwich park, just by the Royal Observatory, and you will have fantastic views of London looking north across the River Thames.
While here, you can also walk across the Meridian line in Greenwich Park – Longitude Zero (0° 0′ 0″). The location of every place on this planet is measured from this point. There are also a couple of lovely play parks and the National Maritime Museum is free to visit (re-opening 7th September 2020).
It is a great place to take a picnic on a summer’s day.
Closest Tube: Greenwich.
15. Catch a show at a London theatre
London is home to some of the best theatre productions in the world. Have you ever wanted to see The Lion King, Mathilda or Wicked but the tickets are just too expensive for the whole family?
If you happen to be visiting London during August, you might be able to bag yourself free theatre tickets for the kids (under 16) with Kids Week.
The catch is that you need to have one accompanying paying adult per free child ticket. You can also buy up to two half-price child tickets with one paying adult.
Even though it’s not technically free, we’ve put it in here anyway as a bonus because it’s still a big saving.
You need to be on the ball and know when the tickets are first released. It opens towards the end of June for bookings.
It’s a bit like getting tickets to some of the hottest concerts. Have the items in your basket ready to check out at 10 am sharp and you may just get lucky!
COST: FREE (for children under 16 with an accompanying paying adult).
If you don’t manage to grab one of these tickets, you can pre-book tickets to all London shows on London Theatre Direct.
Map of free things to do in London with kids
As promised, click here for a helpful map of all the key free things to do with kids in London.
We’ve given you more than 30 great ideas of free things to do with kids in London, and hope there is something for everyone whether you’re visiting London in the summer or the winter.
One last tip if you’re visiting London is to download some London-specific apps to help you plan, find your way around and book stuff ahead of time.
Accommodation in London with kids
Looking for the perfect, family-friendly accommodation in London? Our guide to the best family hotels in London to suit every budget has a lot more information – but in brief, we recommend the following:
The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences – Located in Mayfair.
The Ritz – Located on Piccadilly near Hyde Park Corner.
The Rubens at the Palace – Located near Buckingham Palace.
Park Plaza County Hall – Located near the London Eye.
Premier Inn Waterloo – Located by Westminster Bridge near the London Eye.
We hope you enjoy these free activities in London as much as we do. Let us know in the comments if you have any other favourites you would add.
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