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Free Things to Do in London with Kids

Family fun at no expense


11. Mediatheque

BFI Southbank London
© Visit London

Mediatheque within BFI Southbank is an area for all ages to watch films and shows from the BFI's extensive collection. It's a single room within BFI Southbank (follow the signs inside) and each TV screen can have two sets of headphones. Go to the desk and they'll give you free access for a set amount of time (only limited in case there are others waiting) then choose your show on the screen and enjoy! There are plenty of family viewing options but do keep children seated and quiet as other users are watching their chosen films too.

The South Bank in general is a great area for kids to run free but children do get tired and this can be a good choice to have some quiet time together.

12. City Farms

Brooks Farm Leyton London
© Laura Porter

London has many city farms; most are free to visit, but welcome donations.

  • Hackney City Farm has an award-winning cafe, as well as pigs, goats, sheep, and more.
  • Mudchute Park and Farm is the largest urban farm in the London area with 34 acres of open parkland. It also has horse riding, a tea shop, educational facilities, farm animals, and a shop.
  • Kentish Town City Farm has a wide range of livestock, poultry, and horses, and offers pony rides.
  • Vauxhall City Farm has donkey rides, pony-care classes, and milking demonstrations, all available on request, as well as a range of talks on the farm and lots of hands-on-work with the animals.
  • Stepney City Farm is an East End is a working farm, rural crafts centre and community hub.

See a full list of London City Farms with a map.

13. National Gallery Family Sundays

National Galery London
© Laura Porter

The National Gallery, while not a contemporary art gallery, is appealing to young children if presented right. As with most large museums and galleries in London, there is no admission charge so stop by just to see one painting or make up stories to connect the artworks in one room. The Katie books by James Mayhew (Buy Direct) include many artworks in the National Gallery and give a good reason to visit.

The ArtStart system is great for creating your own tour and there are themes, such as animals or monsters, to search. You can print your tour for free too.

On Sundays, there are regular storytelling and art workshops so check the schedule online. Places are limited. There are also activities in the holidays to inspire your child and instill a love of art and galleries early in life.

14. Make a Pop Video at The O2

Make a Pop Video at THe O2
© Laura Porter

This is no longer available but there's usually something fun and free to do at The O2.

The O2 has lots going on at one venue on the Greenwich Peninsula (nearest station = North Greenwich). There are music venues, a multi-screen cinema, exhibitions, British Museum Experience, restaurants, etc, plus this place to make a pop video.

Easily overlooked, although its been there since The O2 opened, on the ground level by the escalators to the cinema, is a kind of open pod where you can choose a tune (limited choice but it does change) then dance along and be filmed. Staff can add "1970's Top of the Pops" style special effects too. Once boogieing is complete, simply enter your email address and a copy will be sent to you.

This free fun is only available when staff are available but that's usually from midday into the evening each day. They sometimes have props you can borrow too.

15. Fulham Palace & Bishop's Park

Fulham Palace London
© Laura Porter

A London palace that's free to visit is not what you'd expect but Fulham Palace was never a royal palace – it was a Bishop's palace but, quite frankly, they were treated as well as royalty for many years.

Inside the palace is a simple museum but we've enjoyed dressing up and coloring pictures before reaching the very family-friendly gardens. Take a picnic or grab something from the rather fancy cafe and lounge on the lawn. Head into the planned gardens with rows of herbs and orchards at the far end and use your lunch box to collect fallen 'nature'. Also, by the entrance to the palace is the playground in Bishop's Park.

16. Somerset House Saturdays

Somerset House London
© Laura Porter

Somerset House is a wonderful venue on a sunny day, especially when the fountains are working in the courtyard as children love to run in and out of them (bring a towel and spare clothes). Knowing the appeal for families, Somerset House run free family workshops each Saturday afternoon for 6-12 year olds and some sessions for under 5s too. No pre-booking available so you just need to check the online schedule, arrive early and collect a ticket on the day.

For older children you might want to consider the Somerset House Free Guided Tour or a visit to the Courtauld Gallery which is free to visit on Monday mornings.

17. Kensington Roof Gardens

Kensington Roof Gardens
© Laura Porter
Said to be London's equivalent of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Kensington Roof Gardens are a hidden treasure that you can gain free access to with a little planning. Where else will you find flamingos in central London (apart from at London Zoo)? Call ahead as it's not open to the public all the time but you can check availability in advance. You can't picnic here – it's used for private events – and the Babylon restaurant is not aimed at families so after admiring the gardens and views, head to nearby Whole Foods Market and either eat in or get a picnic to take to Kensington Gardens to let the kids run wild.

18. National Portrait Gallery 3rd Saturday

National Portrait Gallery
© Laura Porter
Not an obvious destination for families (unless the kids are studying a topic you need to research), the National Portrait Gallery has a Family Day on the 3rd Saturday of every month, as well as daily activities during the school holidays. Check the schedule online then arrive early to request a free ticket for each session. No pre-booking available and places are limited to 20. Storytelling is aimed at the under 5s and creative workshops are for the over 5s. Staff are outstanding and everyone goes home with a picture or creation to remember their day.

19. Diana Memorial Fountain

Diana Memorial Fountain, Kensington Gardens, London
© Laura Porter

It's not a gushing fountain like in Trafalgar Square, but a trickling line in Kensington Gardens. It's still popular and children like to paddle in it although it's not encouraged as we don't want accidents. But sitting on the side and tickling your toes is fine while hopefully enjoying some sunshine in the park.

A visit to Kensington Gardens has many other treats for young visitors such as the Diana Memorial Playground, the Peter Pan Statue and Kensington Palace.

20. The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Colection, London
© Laura Porter
The Wallace Collection is a hidden treat just off the busy shopping area of Oxford Street that has stunning artworks and a collection of armory to thrill children in their knights and dragons phase. The gallery is free to visit and has a drop-in art workshop on the first Sunday of the month as well as holiday activities. There are also audio guides and interactive tours for both adults and children, as well as fun family trails to collect.
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