London isn’t known for being a cheap destination. In fact, it might just be one of the most expensive ones in the world. Luckily, there is no shortage of amazing free things to do with your kids in London.
During the summer of 2013 (which apparently was the sunniest summer in 7 years) I lived in London for 4 months. My husband was doing a research project for several months and I accompanied him.
As I would start a new job upon returning to the Netherlands, I decided to make the most of my time in London instead of getting a temporary job.
I walked around London for 4 months and thoroughly explore the city. London is without a doubt my favorite city in the world!
10 things to do in London with kids without breaking the bank
The best free things to do in London with your kids
- Explore one of London’s many museums
- Take a trip to Greenwich
- Stroll along the South Bank of the Thames
- Discover Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden
- Visit Harrods and Hamleys!
- Eat your way around Borough Market
- Enjoy the view from the Sky Garden
- Walk around colorful Camden
- Climb up Primrose Hill
- Have a picnic in one of London’s amazing parks
1. Explore one of the many museums in London
First of all, all public museums are free in London! And there are a lot of museums… I did my best to visit as many as I could (not nearly all!), here’s my top 3:
- Museum of London
- National History Museum
- Tate Modern
The Museum of London
To get to know London you must visit the Museum of London! This museum is fun for all ages: older kids will learn about the history of the city while younger kids will love the recreated street with historic wooden houses and shops.
The National History Museum
This museum is very popular with families and with good reason. The interactive displays are both fun and educational.
I particularly love the Human Body and the Dinosaur exhibits. Also, don’t forget to check out the impressive Grand Sequoia!
The Tate Modern
The Tate Modern is a must visit on your London family itinerary. You don’t necessarily have to visit for the beautiful modern art, but the Tate Building itself (formerly the Bankside Power Station) is huge and will surely impress your children.
2. Visit Greenwich
Greenwich is quite possibly my favorite place in London and a perfect place to visit with your family. It feels like a little village, but can easily be reached from London city center by DLR or by riverboat!
I recommend starting your trip at the Island Gardens (DSL station). From the Gardens you’ll have a great view over Greenwich. If your kids are not claustrophobic, they will love the the foot-tunnel below the Thames, leading from the Island Gardens to Greenwich.
The first thing you’ll see upon arriving in Greenwich is the Cutty Sark, a tea clipper that sailed from England to China in the maritime glory days of England, a feat that will definitely impress your children.
Note: if you want to enter the Cutty Sark you have to buy tickets, but you can freely admire the ship from the outside.
The Maritime College or the Maritime Museum are perfect for an educational family trip, youngsters will learn more about England as a naval nation.
If your kids are hungry, be sure to visit Greenwich market! You’ll find all kinds of delicious international street food, ranging from Ethiopian food to
Latin American empanadas and Italian arrancini.
Once everyone has filled their tummy with plenty of snacks, climb up to the Royal Observatory of Greenwich. Kids will love the view over Greenwich, the Thames and Canary Wharf. I suggest taking the riverboat back to the city, it’s a lovely trip over the Thames.
3. Sroll along the South Bank of the Thames
Walking along the Thames is a wonderful way to explore London with your family. I recommend to start at St. Thomas Hospital, where you can get the best coconut milkshakes in the world at AMT Coffee and have a beautiful view of the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben.
Walk along the South Bank all the way to the London Bridge (if your kids are up for it, otherwise you can do a shorter section as well).
Along the way you’ll pass the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern museum and several very old pubs. Plus, you’ll have an excellent view of the opposite side of the river, where a lot if impressive buildings can be seen.
You’ll eventually come to London Bridge, where you must visit Borough Market (read more below!). If your kids aren’t tired from all the walking, you can continue along the South Bank and walk from the London Bridge to the famous Tower Bridge (across you’ll see the Tower of London, another great family activity, but not free).
4. Discover Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden
Neal’s Yard is a cute as a button tiny courtyard, hidden between in the lovely streets of Covent Garden. Neal’s Yard was developed by Thomas Neale in the 17th century and home to colorful houses and little shops selling all kinds of organic food.
Your children will love it, it’s one of the cutest places I’ve ever visited and a great place to escape the crowded streets of London city center.
5. Visit Harrods and Hamleys!
Harrods is a must visit on every London itinerary. Your kids will love the beautiful Egyptian Escalator and extensive toy department. Also visit the deli section, where your children will face the impossible choice between delicious looking sandwiches, candy, cookies and chocolates.
Harrods may be one of the most expensive stores in the world, but you don’t have to buy anything, visiting the store is an experience in itself! You can easily spend hours admiring the (countless number of expensive) items on display without spending a dime yourself.
Another famous store in London which is fun to visit with your kids, is Hamleys, the famous toy store.
Hamleys was founded in 1760, making it the oldest toy shop in the world! It’s flagship store at No. 200 Regent Street is the largest toy shop in the world and you can’t help but feel like a little kid again yourself in this wonderful shop.
6. Eat your way around Borough Market
Borough Market one of the oldest markets in London, said to be over a 1000 years old! Your children will be spoiled for choice at Borough Market, you can buy anything from fresh fruit, to cookies, cakes, sandwiches, pies and international dishes from all around the world.
Yes, I know. That means this activity isn’t a 100% free but at least you can decide how much you want to spend;-).
Borough Market is opened Wednesday until Saturday between 10am and 5pm and is a good activity on a rainy day (as it’s an indoor market).
7. Enjoy the view from the Sky Garden
Back in 2013 the Sky Garden had yet to be built, but I’ve made several return trips to London since then and the Sky Garden is not to be missed on your London family itinerary.
Fun fact: the building housing the Sky Garden is also called the Walkie Talkie for it’s peculiar shape.
From the Sky Garden you”ll have a beautiful view over London. A visit to the Sky Garden is free, but you do have to make a reservation in advance.
8. Walk around colorful Camden
Camden Town is also known as Little Venice and another fun place to visit with your kids. They will love the colorful houses with funky fronts, as well as the canals, bridges and the huge market with stalls selling everything you can possibly imagine.
9. Climb up Primrose Hill
Even though Primrose Hill is only 65 meters tall, the view over London from the top of the hill is pretty amazing, especially on a sunny day. Your kids will love pointing out London’s iconic buildings, like the Shard, the Gherkin, the BT Tower, the Walkie Talkie and of course the London Eye.
You can easily combine this activity with a visit to Camden. From Camden Markets it’s a lovely stroll along Regents Canal to get to Primrose Hill.
10. Have a picnic in one of London’s amazing parks
Visit a Saintsbury or Tesco supermarket to buy some supplies for a lovely family picnic and head to one of Londons amazing parks. I’ve been to most of the parks in London, here are my favorites.
Regent’s Park is a peaceful oasis right in the center of London. Kids will love the many-colored roses in the Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens and the swan-shaped pedal boats in the lake.
Clapham Common park
We lived near Clapham Common during our time in London and I love this neighborhood of London. While it’s only 15 minutes from Waterloo (with the Northern line), Clapham Common has a much more relaxed vibe than the sometimes frantic city center.
Clapham Park is a huge triangular green area, with a playground, football fields and a pond. You can spend a very relaxed afternoon here.
Just like Clapham Common, Hampstead Heath is a little further from the center of London. However, the park can easily be reached via the Northern Line as well.
This park really feels a world away from busy London, you can walk for hours and will only have covered a small section of the massive park. During weekends and summer this is a hugely popular family trip for many Londoners as well.
London with kids: in conclusion
This is only a selection of (free) things to do in London with children, you can spend months exploring this city and won’t be bored. Feel free to send me a message if you want more London tips!