England’s capital is not only home to fine food, world-class art and ancient history—it’s also a super fun place for children.
London has an amazing reputation for a lot of things, but being cheap is not one of them. But we’re here to tell you that even with kids in tow, it doesn’t have to be this way!
We’ve rounded up some wallet-friendly ideas to make your family holiday go off with a bang. From museums and activities to thoroughly decent snacks, here’s everything you need to know about visiting London with kids.
Kid-friendly London museums (with free entry!)
1. Natural History Museum
From the gigantic blue whale skeleton welcoming you in, to the animatronic dinosaur exhibits and the escalator ride through the moon, this museum is a place to let your child’s imagination run wild as they discover natural history at its very best.
Tube stop: South Kensington
2. Science Museum
Right next to the Natural History Museum, you’ll find the finest establishment in the UK dedicated to science. At the Science Museum, space, aviation, psychology, household technology, biology and so much more are all presented in a kid-friendly way that even adults will enjoy and learn from. Win-win!
Tube stop: South Kensington
3. Museum of London
As the crowds head off to the British Museum, join the locals in the know at the Museum of London. Your family will embark on a chronological adventure through the city’s history from early human settlements to the present day with interactive displays and an impressive range of optional paid exhibits on the Vikings and Tudors. Check out the view down to the ancient Roman wall, too!
Tube stop: Barbican
4. Museum of Childhood
Though closed right now for renovations, the Museum of Childhood is definitely worth checking out when they reopen later in 2020. With toys and games from many eras of history, this is not just a fun trip for young ones, but a seriously nostalgic journey back in time for the grown-up “kids,” too.
Tube stop: Bethnal Green
Free activities for kids in London
1. Mudchute Farm and Kitchen
One of the largest city farms in Europe, this is the place to come for some country feels in London. Packed full of more than 100 types of farm animals, from chickens and pigs to donkeys and llamas, they even have an amazing kitchen open until 3 p.m. serving properly sourced full English breakfasts and toasted sandwiches complete with eggs freshly laid on the farm itself. Get there on the Docklands Light Railway which, as a driverless train, is an experience in itself if you sit at the front.
Tube stop: Crossharbour DLR
2. Princess Diana’s Memorial Playground
Set near the gardens opened in honor of the late Princess of Wales, this playground—complete with a Peter Pan pirate ship theme—has a sensory trail, swings, climbing frames and various other places to let off steam with local kids.
Tube stop: Queensway
3. Rent a bicycle
With the London bike rental program, you can find bikes dotted all around the city to take you off on journeys through parks and on cycle superhighways. No advance booking is necessary; just pay at the docking station and remember, the first 30 minutes are free! This is an excellent way to see the city at your own pace with your family… just remember that here in the UK, we drive on the “wrong” side!
One of the largest and oldest toy shops in the world, Hamleys on Regent Street is six floors of pure play heaven with toy demonstrators and performers all over the shop. Be wary, though—what started as a free excursion could get rather expensive by the second floor if you’re not careful!
Tube stop: Oxford Circus
5. Platform 9 ¾
Fear not: there’s no need to spend oodles of money on the Warner Bros experience for your little Hufflepuff. At King’s Cross Station, you can reenact Harry’s first and bumpy arrival on the famous platform for free! Go early before the crowds get there to have it to yourself—and don’t forget your Hogwarts scarf for the action shot!
Tube stop: King’s Cross St. Pancras
Where to eat with kids in London
1. Chin Chin
An ice cream shop powered by liquid nitrogen which gives the classic treat an unbelievable texture, Chin Chin has three branches in London. They offer diverse tastes like burnt caramel and Parma violet, and even have vegan options!
Tube stop: Camden, Tottenham Court or Shoreditch High Street
2. Borough Market
One of the most iconic markets in the world, Borough Market is a fantastic place for kids to try an entire world of snacks. Be it tastes of British venison salami, a roast pork sandwich, applesauce, insanely good doughnuts from Bread Ahead, vegan and gluten free chocolate brownies, Scotch eggs, curries or pasta, this market is sure to have something to please everyone… even the pickiest of eaters.
Tube stop: London Bridge
3. Cereal Killer Cafe
Yep, an entire cafe dedicated to cereals from across the world. While it definitely first opened to fill the daytime cereal cravings of Brick Lane’s hipsters, Cereal Killer Café is a place where the kids will still feel at home with the 120 types of cereal to choose from
Tube stop: Shoreditch High Street
4. Voodoo Ray’s
Based on NYC-style pizzerias, Voodoo Ray’s use the very best Italian ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes, Caputo flour and excellent buffalo mozzarella—all baked together in 22-inch pies and sold by the gargantuan slice. Nestled in Shoreditch’s Boxpark, this is an excellent quick snack if visiting Brick Lane and Spitalfields market.
Tube stop: Shoreditch High Street
With branches in Camden and Shoreditch, Poppies is the ultimate in kitsch fish-and-chips restaurants. Staff are dressed in vintage uniforms, the battered fish or haddock is spot on, the mushy peas are perfect, the jukebox is second to none—and hey, they even have a very reasonably priced kids menu. Enjoy the classic British candy they bring you with the bill.
Tube stop: Camden or Shoreditch High Street
For those with gastronomically adventurous little folk, look no further than Tredwells from Gordon Ramsay alum Marcus Wareing. A high-end experience at an accessible price, they offer the “Culinary Kids” menu with six courses including a non-alcoholic cocktail; an antipasto; a starter; a main of hake, salsa verde and purple sprouting broccoli; and two—yes, two!—desserts at a mere £17. Bargain.
Tube stop: Covent Garden
7. Meat Liquor
Meat Liquor is a grungy street food outfit specializing in “dirty” fries, burgers, meat- or plant-based hot dogs that has spread to various outposts in London. With a well-priced kids menu, the coolest thing about this place is the crazy, punky decor. We recommend the King’s Cross branch where the kitchen and bar are housed in a graffiti-covered old train carriage. They also have an amazing booze menu for parents should the mood take you… and it will.
Tube stop: London-wide, but go for King’s Cross St. Pancras