Although I’ve intended this blog post to be about free things to do in London with kids, we found that any one of these activities were equally enjoyable as adults. It’s just that our kids particularly liked these excursions. All of which come free of charge, although in some cases we did have to organise things a little in advance.
I’ve loads of pictures here so I’ll gather them into a gallery at the end!
The Sky Garden
I had heard about this unusual sky garden from a few horticultural friends and wasn’t disappointed. It’s open to the public most days, but you do need to book your visit online in advance. Be warned, security to get up to the garden is tight, but once you step out of the lift you won’t have any time restrictions. You can expect to have your bags checked, you’ll need to walk through a scanner, and bring your passport or driving licence with you as proof of ID.
Technically you could stay up in the garden all day. It boasts spectacular views of the Thames River and beyond on a clear day. The kids loved gawking over the balcony, and that we were able to point out so many landmarks to them. We chose to do this trip rather than The London Eye which comes with a premium pricetag and we were delighted that we made that decision.
All in all, we spent 2 hours there one overcast morning in London. We did splurge and buy some coffee and cookies at the cafe which is on the lower floor of the sky garden. It was on the expensive side but the coffee was good and the cookies delicious. There is a restaurant at the upper level which I’m told is excellent, again pre-booking is advised.
We’ll definitely visit this garden again next time we’re in London; we’ll try to book it late in the evening so we can see the sunset.
Natural History Museum
If you’re from Dublin, you’ll understand what I mean when I say this is the Dead Zoo on steroids. We (stupidly) chose to visit on a Saturday of the school holidays which meant there were massive queues to visit the dinosaur exhibit after 11am, so made do with this lovely specimen in the main hall. There were large queues to even get into the museum but they moved fairly quickly and we didn’t have to wait very long at any stage.
The biggest fella (okay Dad) whiled away quite some time looking at the exhibition of different types of stones, and also liked the giant tree ring. The smaller boys were fascinated with the creepy crawlies on display, and I loved the beautiful architecture of the building which contains this beautiful museum. We intended to return again another day but ran out of time while we were in London. When we go again it’s on the must-see list. It is so interactive and engaging for small children all the way up to adults.
The Science Museum
Also on the same stretch as the Natural History Museum, we needed to set aside a separate day for our visit. This is one of the most spectacular museums we’ve ever been to. My husband’s job means he visits a lot of locations such as museums and interactive exhibits annually, this was incredible. From the moment we entered it was an absolute marvel. The basement section was a hit, where children could see how everyday items worked (the flushing toilet took up a lot of our time). There was a hands-on play area for toddlers that the 4-year-old loved, also in the basement. Then upstairs we were fascinated by the space exhibit, future work, the earthquake experience, and the flight exhibit. Honestly, we needed far more than one day for our visit to this outstanding and wonderful museum. If you go to London, then make your way here (regardless of whether you have children with you or not).
We took a picnic with us on this visit and ate in the comfortable picnic area in the basement. The whole experience was outstanding, I can’t emphasise this enough.
We had toyed with the idea of booking the London Eye but elected to visit the Sky Garden instead which was a success. Then we realised that actually when you’re small, you don’t necessarily need to actually go into these huge buildings that you’ve seen in the movies, you just need to see them in person. Which is what we did. We walked around London city centre on a giant sightseeing tour. In preparation, we watched plenty of movies which included the sights. We also visited (but didn’t take pictures) The National Art Gallery, St Martin In The Fields, and Trafalgar Square. We were lucky enough to catch some rehearsals in St Martin In The Fields for a concert that night. That I found particularly special as I had sung in that same church quite some time ago.
Note: Most museums are free to visit in London, however, they do ask for a donation as you enter. It’s entirely up to you whether you choose to donate towards the museum or not. For what it’s worth we did donate on entry, but it’s not an entrance fee, making the museum visit technically free.