Is it possible to plan a full day with free things to do in London? OK, so pretty much whichever way you approach a trip to the UK capital, one thing is for sure. It’s going to cost a damn sight more than most other cities in Europe, if not the world, irrespective of budget.
Because London is expensive, it doesn’t have to be ridiculous, though, and a little research can go a long way. As such, we highly recommend spending a few minutes pouring over our suggestions for free things to do in London, from museums to petting zoos – well before stepping off the plane or train. But, first, follow these simple measures to ensure you’re not unnecessarily out of pocket when going to the planet’s most visited city.
Ways to save money visiting London
- Trains: Book any rail journeys in advance- Although shorter trips often benefit little from pre-payment, buying tickets to travel on trains ahead of the departure date can save passengers a significant amount of cash.
- Cabs: Avoid black cabs where possible, use licensed mini-cabs or Uber. It may sound biased, but Hackney Carriages (taxis you hail on the street) don’t come cheap, and London is enormous. Mini-cabs and Uber need to be booked in advance and are cheaper, but public transport is the most viable option.*Purchase an Oyster Card- Similar schemes are apparently being planned in other major UK cities like Manchester, proving the success of Oyster. Get a card from a transport shop and keep it topped up to make Tube, bus and train journeys within London’s network far cheaper, plus getting through ticket barriers is much more efficient.
- Discounts: Buy a ‘London Pass’- Providing free entry to over 55 attractions and tours, these tourist cards will give you access to Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and Windsor Castle, with queue jump privileges to boot. Even better, you can also hop on a Thames River Cruise, sans toll. Alternatively, if you’re arriving by train, make sure to check the 2 for 1 offers to many of London’s top attractions for kids like Sea Life and Tower of London.
- Hotels: Compare accommodation comprehensively- London has an overwhelming amount of hotel options to suit every budget.
- Free museums and galleries: Unlike most of the world, public museums and galleries in London are, in many instances, free to visit. Excellent examples include the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and Imperial War Museum London, though special exhibitions may charge. In this post, we will take a detailed look at what you can do completely free of charge in London.
With a bit of planning, you’ll be able to enjoy a long list of activities completely free of charge. From world-class museums to amazing playgrounds and city farms, here are some of the best attractions in London to enjoy on a low budget.
When planning for free family days out, there are a couple of essential considerations to make. Let’s start with the most important one: The British Weather. You want to maximize your time outdoors, planning free activities like visiting parks, playgrounds, and farms for glorious hot days. For rainy and cold days, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to all the free museums in London. So we divided our blog post into free things to do indoors and outdoors;
Free Places to Take Kids in London
(jump to section)
- Natural History Museum
- Science Museum
- Horniman Museum
- National Maritime Museum
- British Museum
- Take a double-decker bus
- Diana Memorial Playground
- Greenwich Park Playground
- Holland Park Playground
- Crystal Palace Dinosaurs
- Cycling in London
- Woodland Walks
- Go for a scooting ride
- Visit a London farm
- Splash in a water fountain
- Visit a Royal Park
Free things with Toddlers in London
Free Museums for Kids – Indoor Activities
London is undoubtedly one of the most culturally diverse cities globally, home to an impressive range of world-class museums, art galleries, historic homes, and other cultural attractions. These are not just boring old relics from Victorian times – great efforts have been made to create interactive and engaging exhibitions suitable for all ages. So let’s dive into the best free museums for kids in London!
Not only are many of the leading museums completely free of charge, but they also offer picnic areas great for families bringing packed lunches. We particularly like the big picnic area in the Science Museum (next to Wonderlab) and the outside space at the Natural History Museum. So what are you waiting for?! Here we have compiled a list of the top free museums in London, perfect for cheap days out with the kids.
Natural History Museum – an all time favourite
Great for: Roaring dinosaurs, mammals and rare gems
The Natural History Museum (NHM) is a great institution. For generations of visitors to London representing a source of knowledge and inspiration of the natural world. While the roaring t-rex is the biggest hit in our book, we enjoy the mammals’ section as well as the gemstone exhibition. There’s also a lovely garden and picnic area available for families needing a break bringing packed lunch. The NHM is on top of our list of great free museums for kids in London.
Science Museum – Free things to do and see
The free part of the Science Museum in London takes you through some of humankind’s most outstanding technical achievements with real-life copies of the Wright brothers’ plane to the Apollo program’s Eagle lander. There’s a big picnic area as well as interactive galleries for toddlers on the lower ground floor. But if you want the best interactive learning gallery in town, head to the paid Wonderlab gallery located on the 4th floor.
Horniman Museum – one of the best free places to take kids in South East London
Great for: Old-school Victorian age museum with large collection of taxidermied animals
London’s most enormous walrus and a funny looking dodo are among the kids’ favourites in the Horniman Museum. Located in Forrest Hill, this free museum in South East London is a family favourite with several things to do. The museum is surrounded by a lovely garden with a great view towards Central London and even a small petting zoo with animals like rabbits and llamas.
National Maritime Museum – another Greenwich classic
Great for: Young explorers interested in ships, pirates and cannonfire
The Maritime Museum is beautifully located right next to the main entrance of Greenwich Park. With several interactive and hands-on displays for toddlers and older school-children, it’s a museum where parents can relax and let the kids play. And when the kids have enough, you can exit right into the park and have a picnic in beautiful surroundings. One of the best free museums for kids in London!
British Museum – a great option for school children
Bloomsbury, Central London
Great for: School children learning about the ancient cicilisations
The British Museum is a great institution and should be on your bucket list if you’re visiting London with school-age children. With bucketloads of ancient Persian, Greek, Egyptian and Roman artefacts, the British Museum is one of the best places to get a sense of how the human civilisation evolved through the centuries. Unfortunately for toddlers, it’s not too much going on when it comes to interactive displays and play areas.
Visiting London on a low budget? Take a double-decker bus
Great for: Amazing views of the city
London’s transport network is fascinating for kids to explore. Get a front seat at the top of a double-decker bus going through Central London and you’ll be guaranteed to cover several attractions. Kids under 11 travel free with an adult (up to four children travel free with one adult), which is much cheaper than the expensive open-top bus tours.
Popular bus routes for sightseeing in Central London include numbers 11, 73 and 24.
Free Family Days Out – Outdoor Activities
Diana Memorial Playground – a wonderful gem
Kensington, Central London
Great for: Kids taking a break to play while sightseeing in Central London
Inspired by Peter Pan, one of Princess Diana’s favourite children’s stories, the Diana Playground is a great free place to take kids visiting London. Not only is it great fun for the kids, but it’s also gated with staff on-site in case of emergencies. So expect to queue up if visiting during weekends and school holidays.
Grreenwich Park Playground – perfect for free family days out
Greenwich, South East London
Great for: Toddlers enjoying sand and water play areas.
Surrounded by several supercool kids friendly activities, Greenwich Park Playground is a great place to chill out. Make sure to bring change for the kids to take full advantage of the water and play area, great for younger kids during the summer months.
Holland Park Playground – perfect for days out with kids in West London
Kensington, West London
Great for: Adventurous children enjoying climbing challenges
Holland Park Playground is designed sustainably with natural materials using wood, rope and metal. Placed beautifully in the terrain, this is an excellent park for younger and older children who like to challenge themselves.
Crystal Palace Dinosaurs – explore the Jurassic times
Bromley, South East London
Great for: Dinosaur loving kids
The vintage dinosaur statues in Crystal Palace Park might not be 100% accurate, but they are just as fascinating for kids. And as a bonus, there’s an accessible dinosaur-themed free playground close by. Crystal Palace is definitely one of the best free places to take kids into roaring beasts from Jurassic times!
Cycling in London – an awesome way to see the city
Great for: Acive days out exploring London
London is not just about congested streets. We’ve mapped out several traffic-free cycle routes in London great for families cycling with young children. This is a terrific way to see the capital, plus you get some exercise at the same time.
Woodland Walks – for active and free family days out
Great for: Experiencing wildlife just a few tube-stops away
Wildlife might not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about things to do in London, but you’ll find a surprisingly large amount of green space in the capital. So if you’re into wild deer and ancient woodland, you should check our woodland routes across London.
Scooting in London – race throug the capital in no-time
Great for: Kids that love their scooters
Kids get quickly tired of walking but give them a scooter, and they will cover mile after mile. Just make sure to find a safe scooting path, avoiding dangerous traffic. Check out our traffic-free scooting routes in London for the whole family to enjoy!
Farms in London – visit London’s adorable farm animals
Great for: Kids that love animals
You’ll find free city farms dotted around London full of lovely farm animals from pigs and sheep to rabbits and guinea pigs. These are usually small community farms, free for everyone to enjoy. So get your kids off the screens and take them to one of these fantastic pieces of countryside in the city. Visiting a city farm is one of our favourite free things to do in London with kids!
Water fountains – among our favourite free things for Little Londoners
Great for: Kids that love to cool off splashing about on hot summer days
You’ll find water jets, fountains, splashing pools and water parks all over London. Sometimes they’re a bit hidden away, so it makes sense to plan your route. Also, don’t forget to bring a towel and change of clothes – you’re guaranteed to need them!
London’s Parks – free and very family friendly
Great for: Enjoying free and active days out with the kids all year round
London has more green space than any other major capital, and wherever you are in London, you’re never far away from a park. From perfectly manicured Royal Parks to ancient wildlife, you’re almost sure to find a favourite park to enjoy. We’ve mapped out more than 20 great parks for kids in London.
10 Free things to do with Toddlers in London
Places like the British Museum, Tate and Museum of London are great for school-age children interested in historical subjects like the Great Fire and the Vikings. For toddlers, on the other hand, these places can get quite dull. Here are some of the things our toddlers have enjoyed the most on our numerous excursions around London:
Free places to take toddlers in London:
- Museum of Docklands: The Mudlark Gallery,
- National Maritime Musuem: The Ahoy! Gallery
- Natural History Museum: The Blue Zone,
- Science Museum: The Garden,
- Elephant Springs: Water Play Area
- Greenwich Park Playground: Water and sand play area
- Diana Memorial Playground: Climbing Frames
- Mudchute Park & Farm: Adorable animals
- Crystal Palace Park: Vintage Dinosaur Statues
- The Queen’s Life Guard: Horse Guards Parade