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The London museums are great places for families with lots of activities and resources aimed at helping kids explore the museum and enjoy themselves. All the national museums are free and this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the free museums in London. We have picked out our favourites for visiting with families of all ages.
For all the museums, it is well worth checking out their websites before you go. They often have family trails & special events during the school holidays. You can also look at the museum plan & have a better idea as to where to find exhibits you particularly want to see.
The British Museum – This is a magnificent place for everyone, with mummies, ancient artifacts from all over the world & the Rosetta stone. Currently they are running digital workshops for families at weekends as well. It does get very busy. We recommend going straight to the exhibit you want to see the most, if the crowds become too much after that leaving feels a lot better.
The Natural History Museum – The highlight for lots of families here is the dinosaur exhibit, which is excellent. One word of warning, it is a bit loud & dark in places. If you have a little one who scares easily you may want to send an advance party ahead for a recce. Another top tip is that the minerals gallery is often very quiet & a good place to find a peaceful bench if you fancy a time out.
The Science Museum – Most families head straight for the space exhibit on the ground floor. If you haven’t been to Duxford, the flight exhibit on the 3rd floor is fun. One of the best bits about the Science Museum is the interactive galleries of which there are several. Look out for a hand pointing type symbol on the map. There is also an interactive visit planner on their website where you can stipulate the ages of your kids which may help.
The Victoria & Albert Museum – In our view there are better options for very small kids, but the V&A is fabulous for any older kids who enjoy art or design. If you have a mix of ages there are family trails & backpacks as well as some interactive exhibits. If you are there in the summer the courtyard garden is lovely & there is a water feature that is very attractive to children….
The V&A Museum of Childhood – There’s tons here for kids with lots of activities held by the museum & the collections of toys & objects illustrating the lives of children through the ages. It does get really busy in the school holidays & on occasion they do have to stop people coming in to prevent overcrowding. To avoid the worst of the crowds, you are better to arrive after 2.30 in the afternoon.
The Museum of London – We think this is a particularly child friendly museum with lots of interactive exhibits. It illustrates the history of London (who knew from the name), but many of the exhibits would apply to a lot of the country. For example, you can walk through a reconstructed Victorian London street which would be similar in any large city. There is also a 50s living room where children can play with toys from the era.
The Museum of London Docklands – This is another part of the Museum of London, but as you will guess from the name, concentrates on the history & importance of the docks & London as a shipping centre. This is tons to do for families with an interactive children’s gallery & a great reconstruction of a 19th Century “Sailortown”.
The National Maritime Museum – This museum is in Greenwich which makes a fabulous destination for a family day out in London. The museum has all manner of interactive family friendly exhibits about our maritime history. You can also visit the Queen’s House, the Old Royal Naval College & the Astronomy Centre at the Royal Observatory for free, so it is really hard to run out of things to do.
The Wallace Collection – This is a lovely small museum, a block behind Selfridges. The museum is full of art, porcelain, furniture, miniatures & other items, but our favourite is a massive collection of arms & armour. We particularly love all the full suits of armour & the horse armour is magnificent. If you go down to the conservation room in the basement you can try on a suit of armour & some chain mail & get to see just how heavy it is!
The Imperial War Museum London – The IWM London has just had a major refurbishment and now features a new atrium containing a Harrier, a Spitfire & a T-34 tank amongst other things. The First World War Galleries are excellent & a useful way of explaining the conflict to children. Please note the Holocaust exhibition is not suitable for children under 14.
If you want some ideas on other activities you can combine with a visit to one of the London museums with free admission, check out our page on free family activities in London. We also have information on how to get around London with the family and where to eat & drink in London with kids.
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