A couple days ago I discussed the value of the London Pass and how to determine if this is a good option for your visit to the British capital. You can save a significant amount off of top attractions. Still, the pass prices are expensive, and things add up quickly. This meant I was also looking for free things to do with kids in London.
Best Free Things to Do with Kids in London
When planning travel with kids, I try to break things up enough to simply give us time to enjoy the actual city. Sure, there will be times when we’re running quickly between attractions (such as when I planned our visit to Westminster Abbey and tour of Parliament too close together). But generally, it’s nice to have 30+ minutes to simply walk, talk, grab a snack, and the like.
Along those lines, some of the best free things to do in London with kids can be accomplished as a transition. For example, our bus “tour” was a specifically chosen line that transported us to where I wanted to go. It just also provided some excellent sightseeing. Other options are attractions in their own right. But enough introduction. Here are 10 of the best free things to do with kids in London.
Enjoy a Lovely View of the City from the Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge in the heart of London is something you’ll surely see and want to experience. It’s one of London’s most recognized landmarks, probably second to only Big Ben. If you want the “full” experience of the Tower Bridge complete with enjoying the walkway between towers, be prepared to fork over an entry fee. I’d highly recommend that experience.
But if you have a fear of heights or don’t want to pay the ~$30 USD for your average family visit, you can enjoy walking it at street level for free. We walked it twice, enjoying the views of the city and of the Thames.
Take a “Free” Tour on a London Bus
You classic Big Big Tour of London will take you between sights easily and on more than one route. But you do need to fork over £35 pound per adult for the cheapest ticket. The cost of a city bus tour quickly makes is a costly option, unless you want to roll it into the entire London Pass.
However, there is a fantastic alternative. There are a couple great city bus lines that will take you right past a number of London’s most iconic landmarks. It’s not guided, but it is a classic London red bus experience and is far cheaper. The line you want is Bus 11. If you hop on in Kensignton, which is easy enough to get to, you’ll be whisked past:
- Westminster Abbey
- Big Ben
- Trafalgar Square
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Bank of England
It’s by far the best route for sightseeing. Granted, it’s not truly free. But if you’d be paying for a tube fare anyway, consider the bus instead. It’s no additional cost. The kids and I had a blast riding at the front of the double-decker.
London Natural History Museum
Located in Kensington, the Natural History Museum is solidly one of the best things to do in London with kids. It was on our list, but unfortunately we headed back to the hotel the afternoon I’d hoped to visit, as I was feeling under the weather. I remember our brief stop during my last visit to London. The museum is worth a peek, even if just to enjoy the impressive building in which the collections are housed. Of course the kids will want to see the giant dinosaur skeletons. So you’ll likely end up there for the whole day.
As with a number of other London museums, entry to the London Natural History Museum is complimentary. Certain exhibitions will require an a la carte ticket purchase, but you can enjoy the bulk of the museum free of charge.
The London Natural History Museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:50 PM.
Explore Camden Town Market
As part of our easygoing day between more jam-packed sightseeing, the kids and I enjoyed exploring Camden Town. This is a London neighborhood that I didn’t experience during my previous visit. We enjoyed exploring Camden Market, looking for sourvenirs at the many shops, and walking along the Regent’s Canal. If it had not been winter (and the boating open), we certainly would have enjoyed part of the afternoon on the water. The Pirates Castle has kayaks and canoes for rental. You could also catch the water taxi over to the zoo once you’re done enjoying Camden.
The fish and chips (or any of the other foods available) at the market are obviously not free. But you’ll be buying lunch anyway, and it was fun to sit and enjoy it together along the canal. Camden Market around lunchtime on a Sunday is definitely a busy place, though.
Take a Walk in Hyde Park
Hyde Park in January is not all that much of a sight. With the bare trees and no real flowers to speak of, there might not be a whole lot to interest you. Yet even then it is still a wonderful green space in the middle of the city.
In the summer, it’s truly lovely. I only spent the smallest amount of time there during my visit to London over a decade ago and wish I had spent more. The park is huge. If you and the the kids need to stretch your legs, or just relax on the grass, Hyde Park is the place to do it.
Visit the British Museum
Of all the museums you’ll want to see in London, the British Museum better be at the top of your list. It’s one of the most impressive collections of art, history, and historical artifacts in the world. You could spend a couple full days in the museum and still not see everything.
The coolest part is that this amazing museum is entirely free. There are temporary exhibits and other parts that come at a cost, but the vast bulk of everything you’ll want to see, including the remarkable Rosetta Stone, the impressive Assyrian panels, and the enormous Easter Island head.
The British Museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM.
Take in the View from Primrose Hill
After walking through Camden, the kids and I headed through the Primrose Hill neighborhood, stopping for coffee at little cafe to warm up for a bit. It’s a lovely, quiet area in the city, and we enjoyed seeing the rows of nearly-identical row houses painted in various pastel hues.
We then headed up Primrose Hill itself, which treats you to a view of the London skyline from a distance. You can pick out notable landmarks, such as The Shard, The Walkie Talkie, The London Eye, and the BT Tower.
Imperial War Museum
We skipped over this museum during our visit, mainly due to lack of time. As a teen, I greatly appreciated this London highlight that walks you through the history and stories from the world wars and into the present day. If you have older kids, it will likely be a hit. I decided that it might be too much for my kids. We’ll hit it on the next visit.
The Imperial War Museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Walk Central London from St. Paul’s to the Bank of England
You’ll certainly want to spend at least a little time in the heart of London. With various sights to see in many other areas, however, it’s possible to skip over completely. My favorite section was walking from St. Paul’s all the way to The Monument, stopping at a couple other iconic buildings along the way.
St. Paul’s requires an entry fee to see the inside of the famous cathedral, and a fairly steep one at that. We headed down to the crypt, but I decided to pass up touring the interior. From there we walked along Cannon Street to the Royal Exchange and Bank of England. The museum at the Bank is free, so make sure you check it out!
Visit the London Transport Museum
A highlight for my son during our trip, the London Transport Museum lets kids experience the changing modes of transportation in the city through the centuries. London was one of the first urban centers in Europe with significant sprawl, where people were commuting into the city for work from outlying areas. The London Transport Museum will walk you through the development of London’s train, bus, and subway networks.
The catch with the London Transport Museum being “free” is that only kids are free. Adults tickets cost £16.50 online and £18 at the door. As your under-12s must be accompanied by an adult, you can’t just your kids let them run free and wait in the museum cafe (which I would be entirely comfortable doing here is kids 12+). I personally enjoyed the museum as well, definitely more so than my 12-year-old daughter.
Other Free Things to Do with Kids in London
With additional museum and parks at your disposal, there is still a whole lot you can enjoy in London without breaking the bank. Visiting a new city doesn’t mean you have to do everything on the typical tourist circuit. Sure, these are the highlights for good reason. The kids definitely enjoyed The Tower of London, Westminster Cathedral, and the Houses of Parliament (except my daughter was heartbroken Big Ben is covered up by scaffolding and undergoing renovation).
Still, intersperse your visit with cheap or free things to do with kids in London. Walking through Hyde Park, seeing the Tower Bridge, and exploring the British Museum were just as memorable.
Do you have any other favorite free things to do in London?