7 London Museums and a hidden gem
Guest Post by Mike James
Are you looking for something to do in London with the children that isn’t going to cost an arm and a leg? A day out in London is a fabulous experience for the whole family, but many of London’s popular attractions can be expensive to visit, especially when there are four or five of you.
The London Eye will cost a family of four over £81 if booked online (more if tickets are purchased at the attraction). Factor in another costly sightseeing stop off, lunch, as well as dinner, and it’s easy to see how the cost of a simple day out can mount up to hundreds of pounds.
London is such a vast and interesting city. While many of the top attractions don’t come cheap, there are many more that are free or at least come with a reasonable price tag. London’s museums have so much to offer for families. If you are looking for an interesting budget-friendly day out in London, with London’s museums you really can’t go wrong. Here, I reviewed the top 7 – and unearthed a hidden gem, should you find yourself with an extra hour to kill…
There are some wonderful museums in London, and with free entry to many they are a great way to while-a-way a few hours. They are hugely educational too. The obvious big museums are all worth a visit, especially if you haven’t been before. Some of the smaller museums are just as educational and fruitful in terms of activities for kids.
#1 | Natural History Museum
With over 80 million specimens from the world’s most important natural history collection, the Natural History Museum has something for all ages. Highlights include the popular Dinosaur gallery, the mammals display with the awesome blue whale, and the spectacular and iconic Diplodocus skeleton in the main hall. There are lots of exciting, interactive exhibits, as well as many temporary exhibitions and events, so check out the website for what’s on before you go.
Where is it? Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW7 5BD
#2 | Science Museum
Loads of interactive fun is to be had at the Science Museum, with activities for all ages. While entry to the museum is free, the new Wonderlab in the Statoil Gallery is ticketed (you’ll need to book in advance). Wonderlab is worth the fee (£20.20 for a family of four), with seven zones and 50 mind-blowing marvels of science to enjoy, including chemistry experiments, gravity force slides and explosive science demos. Even if you don’t visit Wonderlab, the Science museum has plenty more interactive play for kids with different zones for various age groups.
Where is it? Exhibition Rd, Kensington, London SW7 2DD
#3 | British Museum
Here you’ll find a remarkable collection of treasures showcasing the world’s cultures spanning over 2 million years of human history. The Egyptian mummies are a fascinating hit for kids. Check out the website for regular free family events, including activities for the little ones. There are family trails in 8 exciting themes to explore different areas of the museum. At weekends there are free digital workshops at the Samsung centre inside the museum.
Where is it? Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG
#4 | National Maritime Museum
Great for all ages, the Here is full of interesting seafaring artefacts, models, maps and memorabilia. There’s a kids’ AHOY gallery where 0-7 year olds can stoke the boiler of a steamship or land a fish, in an interactive play boatyard. What’s more there are plenty of other attractions in the area within walking distance. Greenwich Park, the Meridian Line, the Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark are all close by. The National Maritime Museum is free. A family of four ticket to see both the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory costs £39.00 (it’s best to book online).
Where is it? Park Row, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
#5 | Imperial War Museum
This museum is probably more suited to older children just by nature of the subject matter, but don’t rule it out for younger ones. There’s a family trail prompting interesting questions and plenty of interactive activities. It’s a beautifully designed museum with Harrier and Spitfire planes suspended from the ceiling, and lots of interesting and thought-provoking exhibits and facts about war.
Where is it? IWM London, Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ
#6 | Hornimans Museum
An anthropological delight, This museum is set in 16 acres of landscaped gardens so there’s plenty of space for kids to get some fresh air and have a run around too. There’s a traditional natural history gallery (not a digital application in sight), a state-of-the-art aquarium and a collection of around 1,600 musical instruments, some of which can be played by visitors.
Where is it? 100 London Rd, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ
#7 | The London Transport Museum
This is a much loved museum with exhibits showcasing the fascinating history of transport in the capital. There’s a great family play zone for kids up to age 7 with mini vehicles to climb into. Visitors of all ages can sit in the cab of a red bus and an iconic London taxi. It’s free for under 17s. Adults pay £17.50.
Where is it? Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB
Novelty Automation (a hidden gem)
Based in Holborn, this is less of a museum, but more a small arcade of quirky homemade machines. Tokens to drive the machines cost £1 each (or less if you buy in bulk). It’s a hidden gem worth an hour’s stop if you are in the area. Be sure to check the website for its limited opening times before you go, though they are usually open every day during school holidays.
Where is it? 1a Princeton St, London, WC1R 4AX
Round the day off with a visit to one of London’s Parks
London’s Royal Parks are a delight and worth factoring in when you are on a family day trip to the capital. If you’re spending some time at a museum, check out the nearest park for the kids to run off some steam after all that awe and concentration.
The National Maritime Museum is perfectly placed for some time in Greenwich Park. The Imperial War Museum is set in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, which has plenty of green space and a Tibetan Peace Garden. The Science and Natural History museums are a short walk from Hyde Park. It’s only a couple of stops on the tube and a short walk to Regents Park from the British Museum.
A bit about Mike
Mike James is a writer with London-based nanny agency Harmony at Home.