The 13 best London museums for kids (and adults) – and they’re all free!

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When thinking about what to do in London with kids, museums often top the bill.  These are my favourite and best London museums for kids and what makes them even more special is that they are all free admission!  

I’ve also given you some picture book suggestions to make your trips even more special if you have young kids – I hope you like them.

Free museums in London for kids are great if you’re travelling on a budget to the UK but also great if you’re not sure how your family will enjoy the museums.  

It makes for a much less stressed day knowing that if you’re not all enjoying it, or it’s just a bad travel day and you need to decamp to a park to let off steam and have an ice cream, you’ve not just wasted a whole heap of money in the process!

Some of the museums are scattered around London so you’ll have a bit of an adventure and get off the beaten track finding them all. I’m assuming you’ll be travelling by public transport so have listed the nearest tube stop to help you locate them.  

Some are also located in a cluster which can make life easier, especially if you’re having a longer trip and staying in that part of London

For ideas for staying in England’s capital on the cheap, check out my post about budget family accommodation in London

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London is great for museums and galleries especially as many are free. They are a great choice for visiting London with kids and there's so many to choose from! From the Natural History museum to the British Museum - add them on your London Bucket list! #londontravel #uktravel #travelwithkids

Best museums in London for kids

Natural History museum in London
If you have to choose just one museum to visit in London with kids I recommend the Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

Nearest Tube stop: South Kensington

One of the best museums for kids in London is this one. In the South Kensington area, the Natural History Museum is always at the top of many people’s lists.  

Housed in a wonderfully huge and grand building, you’ll be welcomed in the main hallway by the iconic skeleton of ‘Dippy’ the Diplodocus (although he’s going on tour at some point, maybe you’ll be greeted by a blue whale skeleton instead).

The Natural History museum is huge and each and every time we’ve been I’ve been surprised by how much visiting takes it out of me.  There are sections on any type of animal you can think of with notable exhibitions on dinosaurs and the hall of mammals with a ginormous model of a blue whale which takes your breath away with the size!

If you have animal lovers you have to visit this museum!

Science Museum

Nearest Tube stop: South Kensington

Next door to the Natural History Museum is the Science Museum.  I’d say that the both make up the most visited museums for kids in London.  Although we’d visited the NHM many times we only just ever made it to the Science Museum last year.

It’s a brilliant hands on museum with exhibitions about space, about energy and much much more.

Easter Island head at British Museum in London with child

British Museum

Nearest Tube stop: Russell Square

The British Museum is full of artefacts from our historical civilisations past, from all around the world.  If you have an interest in the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks or any number of other cultures, you’ll find something here for you.

When we first visited we loved to find ‘Dum Dum’, one of the Easter Island heads that Alex had seen on the Night of the Museum film!  

Next time we looked at the Ancient Greek section because she’d been reading Percy Jackson and had become a bit obsessed.  My tips for you is to go with your kids excitement in here – there’s so much to see so don’t linger where they are bored.

The British Museum is also home to the Rosetta Stone and we enjoyed learning about it more with this book

Imperial War museum in London
A firm favourite museum in London for my history obsessed kid

Imperial War Museum

Nearest Tube stop: Lambeth North

With one of my children having a big interest in History and specifically World War 2, the Imperial War Museum has been visited many times.  Marcus loves to learn about tanks and military vehicles and they have them all over.  

It’s a very child friendly museum, despite the content, but obviously use your discretion.  Possibly not one for children who might get upset easily over it but a great one if you’re looking for things to do in London for teens.

Museum of London

Nearest Tube stop: Barbican or St Paul’s

The Museum of London concentrates on the history of the city, which I think is a great one if you’re coming from out of the country to enjoy it.  I always like to take time to discover information about the place we’re visiting.  

It covers a lot of history but some of the more well known things are the Great Fire of London and also the Plague.

It’s family friendly with loads of hands on exhibitions that little kids will enjoy too.  It goes through from before Roman times, through medieval all the way to present day.

Museum of London Docklands

Nearest Tube stop: Canary Wharf

If you’re looking for a museum for kids in London’s East End then I recommend taking some time to see the Museum of London Docklands.

A very family friendly place with exhibitions to learn about how the docks transformed London in to what it is today. There’s lots to see and activities designed for kids here. On a nice day it’s a really nice area of London to explore.

Exterior of the National Gallery in London

Nearest Tube stop: Charing Cross

Art galleries don’t often come up on lists of child friendly museums, but if you have kids who are interested in art, or history, or if you’re just trying to broaden their minds and introduce them to some of the great artists of the world then a trip to the National Gallery has to be on your radar.

The reason why I include it is because of what I said earlier on, it’s FREE!  That means you can spend as little or as long as you like discovering the paintings and seeing the big artists work up close.

Nothing kills excitement about a place than feeling you have to get your money’s worth – you don’t have this with this free gallery in London.

Picture books can really help before visiting a gallery.

Some books we’ve loved about artists have been the Katie series – there are a lot in the series but Katie’s Picture Show is about the National Gallery itself.

Also the Laurence Anholt series which includes The Magical Garden of Claude Monet are really good and bring art to life for kids.

Tate Modern

Nearest Tube stop: Southwark

Kids who like art might also be enthralled by some of the very different art on display at the Tate Modern. It can also really open their eyes to what modern art is and perhaps give them some ideas if they are creative themselves.

The gallery often has free activities and events to encourage children to make their own art so that might be worth exploring especially if you’re visiting in school holidays.

There’s also the Tate Britain gallery as well which is also in London and has older art.

Kids at the Faraday Museum at the Royal Institute in London
Inside the Faraday Museum in London

Faraday Museum at the Royal Institue

earest Tube stop: Green Park

This is a small museum, but with a lot of fascinating history.  The Royal Institution was set up in 1799 as a place to teach new technologies and science to the public.  This still goes on to this day with lectures about science taking place for kids and also the general public.

The museum talks about Michael Faraday and his contribution to science.  It’s small, but we loved visiting it and doing something a little different from the big museums.  Science has always been something that interests my kids and I personally love the whole history of it all.

A tip is to get the audio guides which we all enjoyed.

If you fancy a visit here this picture book would complement your trip and introduce your kids to Michael Faraday – Burn – Michael Faraday’s Candle.  Alternatively, for older kids, we’ve loved this audio book about great scientists.

Bank of England

Nearest Tube stop: Bank

This is a great museum that’s a little bit different – it talks about finance, money and how it shapes our world.  You can learn about the history of the bank and about our currency and even pick up a genuine gold bar!  

Lots of hands on things to do with kids and worksheets to complete.

Horniman Museum and Gardens

Nearest Overground station: Forest Hill

The Horniman Museum is based on the collections of a victorian philanthropist Frederick John Horniman.  It has morphed in to a wonderful family friendly museum with all sorts of exhibitions from natural history to cultures around the world.  It’s a special place with a wonderful outside space too.

It’s quite a way outside of central London but worth a trip if you can.

V&A museum of childhood

Nearest Tube stop: Bethnal Green

The V&A museum of childhood has lots of collections of toys from times gone by and it’s a lovely little place to pass an hour or so with some nice hands on kids activities as well as the collections.

They run many events as well so worth checking out if anything interesting is on while you’re there especially if you’re there in school holidays.

National Maritime Museum

Nearest Tube stop: Greenwich DLR

The National Maritime Museum is in Greenwich and is the world’s largest maritime museum!  I know it took us quite a few hours to get round it all when we went a few years ago.  

Lots and lots to learn about from our maritime history with plenty of hands on activities too for the little ones. We could have spent all day there.

Tips for visiting any of these London kids museums:

Go with an open mind. What I find interesting when visiting London museums with kids is almost always not what my children find interesting. Be open, go along with their interests and don’t force it.

Always see if the museums have any children’s activity packs or worksheets – it can really focus them, and us as parents, on certain parts of the museums and encourages them to seek out information rather than just blindly go round looking at items.  

Most of the time you’ll find that these packs are free or have a very small charge, but we’ve always found them worthwhile and and donation gives back to the museum.

Many of the museums have picnic areas for bringing your own food and almost all have a cafe attached or food options nearby.

I hope you enjoy your time in this great city and explore some of the amazing museums for children in London!

For more of my posts about London click here.

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to explore the UK and Europe and has a particular penchant for historical sites.

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