Watching skulls at the Horniman Museum

London Museums for Kids: The Definite Guide (2021)

There are so many brilliant museums for kids in London to choose from, so which ones should you visit? In this guide, you’ll find an overview of family-friendly museums and engaging exhibitions just perfect for curious children.

Covid 19 and the reopening plan for London’s Museums

Following the latest government guidance, London’s Museums are currently closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the third step of the government reopening plan, museums in London will be allowed to open from 17 May 2021 with social distancing rules still in place. The reopening plan will only go ahead if the virus level is continuing to decline in line with projections. Note that it’s up to each museum to decide when to actually open their doors again to the public, so we might see a phased reopening in the days and weeks following 17 May. Bookmark this page as we’ll provide updates when the individual museum reopening-dates are confirmed.

Choosing the best museums for kids in London

You’ll find lots of articles on the internet promising the “best museums for kids”. What really matters, in the end, is that you find a museum that your kids like; A dinosaur-loving child will most likely have a blast at the Natural History Museum but might get bored at the Tower of London.

4 popular museum-themes among children:

1. Dinosaurs and Big Creatures: If roaring dinosaurs and other extinct creatures are what you’re looking for check out these museums in London:

2. Space and Vehicles: If you have a child into cars and planes or just anything with a big engine, chances are high he/she will have a great time in these museums:

3. Castles and Knights: For children fascinated by the kings and queens of England, any of these historical museums are excellent choices:

4. Pirates and Sea Battles: If your kids have a thing for the maritime world and cannonfire, check out these places:

How to plan for a successful museum visit with kids?

Check our 6 best tips for how to have a great day out in the museum.

What are your favourite museums for kids in London?

We would love to hear your best tips. Leave us a comment below the article!

London museum for kids

Dinosaur museums for kids in London

If your kids are into dinosaurs, the Natural History Museum is the place to go. We recommend going first thing in the morning to beat the crowds and make a plan in advance for what you want to see. A quieter museum, more low-scale is the Horniman Museum in South East London with an impressive display of stuffed animals intact since Victorian times. Last but not least, in Crystal Palace Park you’ll find vintage dinosaur statues as well as a dinosaur-themed playground.

Natural History Museum

Kensington, West London

See London’s most epic roaring T-Rex (for free)

  • Follow the roaring sound, and watch a full-scale T-Rex waggle its tail in the museum’s extensive dinosaur section
  • Enjoy the impressive Victorian museum building, featured in BBC’s “Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures”.
  • Let the kids explore the mammal-gallery, with its wide range of real-scale animals on display
  • Visit the quieter minerals section and admire gemstones collected from all the corners of the world
museums for kids in London
Hintze Hall in Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum is high up on the bucket-list of many families visiting London. To make sure you have a successful visit, we recommend making a shortlist of the sections you’d like to focus on. And if you want to beat the crowds, our best tip is to arrive first thing in the morning (like always in London). Since this is one of the most popular museums for kids in London, areas like the dinosaurs section are almost always going to be full of people, while exhibitions like the minerals section are often very quiet.

Read more tips about visiting the Natural History Museum with kids.


Horniman Museum

Forest Hill, South East London

Meet the giant walrus

  • It’s something fascinating and slightly creepy about the big collection of stuffed animals at the Horniman Museum
  • An oversized walrus has been the star of the show since Victorian times when the museum was built.
  • You’ll be able to enjoy a stuffed example of the extinct dodo.
  • There’s also an aquarium (charged entrance) and small farm (free entrance) with alpacas and bunnies

Horniman Museum is a great place for kids into the natural world and strange creatures. The oldest exhibition has retained a typical Victorian layout with rows upon rows of dead animals and insects organised to perfection. This is a popular spot for local families during weekends, but it doesn’t get as busy as the museums in Central London.

Read more about the Horniman Museum


Space and vehicle museums

From space rockets and aeroplanes to trains and cars – the Science Museum has it all. Another good option for kids into vehicles and engines is the classic London Transport Museum in Covent Garden.

Science Museum

Kensington, West London

Turning dry science lessons into fun experiences

  • Wonderlab (charged entry) is an interactive gallery within the Science Museum full of fun science experiences – we love it!
  • The space exhibition (free) on the ground floor is a must-see for young aspiring astronauts
  • The exhibition “Flight” (free) on the third floor will take you through the history of aviation with an impressive display of original aeroplanes
  • “The Garden” (free) is actually a kids area in the basement of the museum

museums for kids in London
From the Wonderlab exhibition in the Science Museum – one of our favourite museums for kids in London

Science Museum has been able to strike a great balance between being entertaining for kids while remaining highly educational at the same time. The result is a museum that the whole family can enjoy, from toddlers to the oldest member of the family. Keep in mind that this is also a large traditional Victorian museum building with a labyrinth of corridors and halls, and it can easily get overwhelming and exhausting for young kids. Our recommendation is to spend some time planning in advance, make a list of priorities for what you want to see and start from the top when you get there!

Read our full post about the Science Museum


London Transport Museum

Covent Garden, Central London

The engines that powered London through the centuries

  • A great display of the historical vehicles that moved people around London through the centuries
  • Two highly interactive galleries for toddlers and young children
  • Stamp trail through the museum
  • Lots of organised events and activities throughout the whole year

transport museum for kids in London
Hop on board an old Routemaster at the London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum is a classic museum for kids in London. Here you can hop on board the classic Routemaster double-decker bus or test how it’s like to drive a London Underground tube train. This is just a dream come true for any child or adult fascinated by the city’s transportation network.

Read our full post about the the London Transport Museum


Castles and Knights

London has no shortage of historical attractions, so plenty to choose from in this category. We love visiting the Tower of London and Hampton Court with our kids because of the wonderful historical reenactments making history come alive.

Tower of London

Tower Hamlets, East London

Knights in shining armour

  • Watch and take part in one of the historical outdoor plays taking place outside the White Tower
  • See the ravens and learn about their story
  • Try to find out what happened to the Princes in the Tower
  • Admire the huge collection of shining armour and weapons
  • Learn about the Tudor dynasty and what happened to King Henry VIII’s wifes
tower of london
Learn about the Tudor’s bloody history at the Tower of London

The Tower of London was built by the Normans to impress and rule over London more than 900 years ago, and it’s been standing tall ever since. The White Tower can be linked to many of the most important historical events in Britain, and visiting the castle can be really inspirational for children starting to learn about history. Try to catch one of the entertaining plays which are taking place on a regular basis in the courtyard.

Read more about the highlights for children at the Tower of London


Hampton Court

Richmond upon Thames, South West London

Go back in time to the Tudor court

  • See how Henry VIII’s feats were prepared in the enormous Tudor kitchens
  • Enjoy the amazing Magic Garden playground
  • Look for signs of Henry VIII’s wifes in the Great Hall
  • Find your way through the 300 years old Maze
  • Make sure to catch the amazing historical reenactments taking place around the palace

Hampton Court is a fascinating palace outside London built by the Tudors more than 500 years ago. If your kids are interested in Henry VIII and Tudor history, this is one of the best places to visit. Hampton Court is also an entertaining palace for younger kids with the medieval themed Magic Garden playground.

Read more about Hampton Court


Pirates and Maritime Museums for Kids

Even if you won’t find a pirate museum in London, you’ll learn plenty about them in the National Maritime Museum. And for an exceptionally engaging and interactive experience, hop on board Cutty Sark from the glory days of the British Empire.

National Maritime Museum

Greenwich, South East London

Set sails and explore Britain’s maritime past

  • Dress up like a fishmonger or fix the hull of a ship at the Ahoy! Children’s Gallery.
  • Load the cannon and aim for pirates at the All Hands on Deck gallery on the 2nd floor
  • Go on an ocean voyage and explore a gigantic map
  • Check out all the exciting historical artefacts like Admiral Nelson’s coat
Boy running through a museum next to an old boat
If you’re planning to visit Greenwich with children, the National Maritime Museum is a family-friendly favourite

National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is one of the most interactive museums for kids in London. The different galleries for children cover several age-groups from toddlers to teenagers, so there’s something for everyone. With several attractions around Greenwich, you can have a lovely day out and combine museum visits with playtime in the park.

Read more about visting Greenwich and the highlights for children in the National Maritime Gallery


Cutty Sark

Greenwich, South East London

One of the most interactive museums for kids in London

  • Once the fastest ship in the world bringing cargo from all corners of the British Empire
  • Explore the different decks and cargo areas onboard the ship
  • Pretty much all the exhibitions are hands-on making it a great place for kids to explore
  • Get a real sense of the ship out on the main deck, as well as a nice view of Greenwich town

cutty sark - one of thebest museums for kids in London
Cutty Sark in the centre of Greenwich is one of our favourite museums for kids in London

Cutty Sark is one of the most interactive museums for kids in London and a perfect place for anyone interested in maritime history and pirates on the high seas. Combine it with a visit to the National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory if you have time, and you’ll have a great day out in Greenwich.

Check out more activities onboard Cutty Sark


How to plan a great day out with kids at London’s museums?

6 tips when visiting museums with kids in London:

  1. Check for family-friendly events
  2. Plan your museum route carefully
  3. Pick museums with interactive exhibitions
  4. Spark your kid’s interests
  5. Consider bringing a packed lunch from home
  6. Know when it’s time to leave

1. Check for family-friendly events

Many of the museums in London organise scheduled events, demonstrations and lessons that are free for kids to join. You can plan for these by checking the museum websites upfront and booking in advance if needed. Note that many museums like the V&A don’t have a lot of interactive exhibitions for kids, so joining an event like this can add a lot of value to your visit.

Girl trying on dress in Victoria & Albert Museum
On the surface, the V&A might not seem like the most child-friendly museum. However, they are doing really well in terms of organising activities for kids like this interactive session making our own dress.

We don’t always plan for specific sessions but rather ask the museum staff when we arrive and then decide on the spot. A good resource to use for planning your specific museum events is the wonderful blogger Museum Mum who regularly publishes recommended museum exhibitions and events in London.

2. Plan your museum route carefully

Don’t underestimate the complexity of museum buildings in London! Many of London’s big museums originate from the Victorian age with labyrinths of corridors and halls on different levels. Even if museums are doing their best to display clear signs and colour codes for different sections, it’s really easy to get confused. Especially when the kids are running in different directions!

floor plan national history museum
Checking the floor plan in advance can be helpful. Here you can see the popular Dinosaurs section marked on the floor plan of the Natural History Museum. Following the signs through the main entrance from Cromwell Road takes you straight to the dinosaurs exhibition really quickly. The route coming from the side entrance on Exhibition Road takes you through several galleries and corridors before finally reaching T-Rex.

Many of the museums have side entrances that are worth checking out if the main entrance queue is very long. If you visit the Natural History Museum, the queue on Exhibition Road is usually much smaller. And the same the British Museum – the back entrance on Montague Place at the rear of the museum is usually a lot quieter.

Floor plan of British Museum
Check the back entrance at the British Museum if the queue at the main entrance is long.

To avoid getting lost in the labyrinth it’s always good to visit the museum website in advance and have a look at the floor-plan. So when you get to the museum you should be able to follow the signs and get to your first stop quicker without getting lost on the way. 

3. Pick museums with interactive exhibitions

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The Science Museum (Wonderlab) is one of the best museums for kids in London when it comes to interactive exhibitions

A museum full of interactive elements can really help inspire a child to develop their knowledge and interest. Wonderlab at the Science Museum is a good example of a highly interactive exhibition that engage kids in subjects such as chemistry, computing, communication and astronomy. Done in the right way, museums provide learning experiences that inspire kids while spending quality time with their families.

Here are some of the best interactive exhibitions for kids in London:

4. Spark your kid’s interests

In our experience, kids usually get more engaged when visiting a museum if they already know something about the subject beforehand. A good example is the space exhibition at the Science Museum which has a lot of interesting displays and models everywhere you look. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed and just jump from one thing to the other without really paying much attention to each display. By knowing the story about the Apollo missions beforehand after having watched a documentary and read a fact-book it was a lot more meaningful and interesting for our kids to see the full-scale replica of the lunar module.

So our advice is to give the kids a basic introduction (through documentaries, books, games, quizzes etc.) before going to the museum. This makes it easier for them to digest the exhibitions without getting overwhelmed with information.

5. Consider bringing a packed lunch from home

Tower of London
Nothing like enjoying an ice cream at Tower of London on a sunny day!

We usually plan for an early lunch with packed sandwiches from home. Most museums in London serve decent food, but the choices are often limited, prices are high and queues can be long during peak hours.

Beyond sandwiches, healthy snacks and fruits are also good to have in reserve to use as small bribes. They usually don’t get any sweets except for in the afternoon if they need a bit of extra motivation on our way home.

National Maritime Museum
We love The Great Map at the Maritime Museum: Lots of space for the kids to run around, and a nice break for parents to sit and enjoy their coffee.

Two nice museums to have a packed lunch

  • Science Museum: When going to the South Kensington museums we always go to the “Picnic Area” on Level 3 in the Science Museum just outside of Wonderlab where there’s plenty of space and large family tables available.
  • National Maritime Museum: We usually go for a quick bite at the Great Map Cafe, have a picnic in the park or get food from one of the stalls in Greenwich Market.
20190915153947
Relaxing in the John Madejski Garden in Victoria & Albert Museum just next to the Garden Cafe.

London Museum Lunch places we enjoy:

  • The Energy Cafe, Science Museum: Good selection of warm and cold child-friendly dishes and plenty of space.
  • Picnic Area, Science Museum: This is a great place to have your packed lunch after enjoying Wonderlab.
  • The Garden Cafe, V&A Museum: Not a huge selection of food to choose from, but we love sitting next to the fountain in summer.
  • The Great Map Cafe, National Maritime Museum: We really like the open space, watching the kids play while enjoying our coffee!
  • T.rex Grill, National History Museum: Perfect theme and great for carnivores. Gets very crowded during peak times.

6. Know when it’s time to leave

museums for kids in London
Visiting the Horniman Museum you’ll have plenty of outdoor options when the kids had enough of the museum.

Visiting museums with kids in London can be very exhausting and sometimes it’s better to throw in the towel (or picnic blanket) and escape to the nearest park! Luckily there’s a lot of parks and playgrounds in London, so it’s easy to plan for a quick escape and relax for a bit before hitting the tube back.

Children playing in Diana Memorial Playground
If you want to make a quick escape from the museums in South Kensington, Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens is a good alternative.

FAQ museums for kids in London

What’s the best dinosaur museum in London?

Head for the “Blue Zone” in the Natural History Museum where you can see a real-scale T-Rex roam.

Which are the best space museums in London?

1. The “Exploring Space Gallery” at the Science Museum
2. The Peter Harrison Planetarium at the Royal Observatory
3. The “Red Zone” at the Natural History museum

Which are the best Tudor attractions in London?

1. Hampton Court Palace
2. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
3. Tower of London

Which are the best car and motor museums for kids in London?

1. London Transport Museum
2. Making the Modern World at the Science Museum

Which are the most interactive museums for kids in London?

1. Wonderlab at the Science Museum
2. All Hands children’s gallery at the National Maritime Museum
3. Mudlarks children’s gallery at the Museum of London Docklands
4. All Aboard Playzone at the London Transport Museum
5. The Garden at the Science Museum

What are your favourite museums for kids in London?

We would love to hear your comments and tips!

4 comments

Andrew February 25, 2021 - 4:01 pm

Amazing news about the museums opening again on 17 May ! Do you know when it will be possible to book tickets again?

Reply
LondonDucklings February 25, 2021 - 5:37 pm

My best guess is that they will announce the museum reopening dates and make bookings available a couple of weeks in advance of May 17.

Reply
Caroline February 28, 2021 - 7:26 am

Museum of Docklands right next to Canary Wharf has a brilliant soft play gallery for toddlers (free of charge), just remember to book in advance! 😉

Reply
LondonDucklings February 28, 2021 - 9:21 am

That’s an excellent tip, thanks a lot for sharing!

Reply

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