19 FREE things to do in London for kids
By Helen Wright
If you’ve been planning to bring your kids to London and show them the big city, but are put off by the expense of exploring England’s capital, you’re definitely not the only one! However, the good news is, once you’ve made it into town there is a huge range of free things to do in London for kids and SO much fun to be had. As a mum of two, living in London, we have mini adventures in the city all the time, so we’ve become experts on exploring London on a budget.
With two kids under five, we have tried and tested everything on this list and these are the things we love to do in London with kids for free. Have fun!
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19 FREE things to do in London for kids
1. Ride the tubes and buses
If you’re from outside London, most kids will have the best time ever riding around the city on London’s extensive transport network. From the front seat of a double decker red bus, to tube trains whizzing through the tunnels and gliding down super high escalators, travelling on London Transport is brilliant (if you don’t have to go to work…).
Children under 10 travel for free on Transport for London buses, trains, trams and overground services, such as the Elizabeth Line. An adult day-Travelcard is £14.40. You can buy this in advance or use your contactless bank card to tap in and tap out every time you use the transport. Contactless is by far the easiest way to travel around and the fares are charged individually, but capped at the same cost of a day Travelcard (meaning you will spend no more than £14.40 per day in Zones 1-4, the central London zone)
2. Fly on the Emirates Air Line
One of my favourite free things to do in London with kids is ride on the Emirates Air Line. This is a cable car, operated by Transport for London, that travels over the River Thames at North Greenwich. You get a great view of the river and the O2 (as well as a lot of building and construction, although my kids love a digger and a crane so that’s fine with us…). It tops my list of fun toddler activities in London because children under five go free, and my kids love the experience. Adult fare is £5, kids aged 5-15: £2.50.
3. Explore North Greenwich and the Greenwich Peninsula
This summer, there are lots of events and pop-ups at the Greenwich Peninsula in the newly renovated and arty design district. This area, which used to be merely an entryway to concerts at the O2 Arena, has been completely reimagined with art exhibitions, cafes, bars and restaurants, all designed with a creative and Instagram-tastic flair. There is a lot of fun and free things to do in London with kids here including crazy golf, rainbow play apparatus, selfie spots, and an outdoor cinema. On selected dates, there are live performances, a music festival and food pop-ups. All completely FREE for everyone! Find what’s going on at greenwichpeninsula.co.uk.
4. Scoot the Millennium Bridge
Okay, so if you are disabled or coming from overseas this one might be trickier (I’ll assume most people don’t travel with their kids’ scooters). But, you can still run, skip, walk, wheel or dance across the Millennium Bridge and all ways of crossing the River Thames here are fun. We have toddler scooters that fold for convenience and I often take the kids to the Southbank for a scoot when it isn’t too busy.
The Millennium Bridge is the pedestrianised river crossing between the Tate Modern and St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s fully accessible, so suitable for wheelchair users (and buggies), and fun to scoot across when it isn’t too busy. The area in front of the Tate Modern is also flat and ideal for scooting and there is always a street performer or musician to entertain the kids too. It’s one of my favourite free things to do in London for kids.
5. The Tate Modern
Like the majority of galleries and museums in London, the Tate Modern is free to enter and almost always has something big and bold to experience. As one of the best free things to do in London for kids, the Tate Modern is a relaxed, child-friendly gallery where kids are not only welcome, but invited. Exhibitions like Uniqlo Tate Play and One Two Three Swing were designed specifically with families in mind and the massive Turbine Hall is always exciting for little ones. Don’t leave without a visit to the fantastic gift shop which has excellent, quality souvenirs and gifts. It’s one of my favourite kids shops in London! tate.org.uk
DID YOU KNOW? Members of Tate Modern can bring up to six children (under 15) to any paid exhibition for free.
6. See the Queen’s Guards
One of the more famous free things to do in London with kids is to watch the Changing of the Guard at Horse Guard’s Parade. This 40-minute ceremony celebrates all the pomp and splendour of the Royals with 10+ Royal horses and soldiers from the Queen’s Guard showcasing their skills. This takes place between Whitehall and Buckingham Palace every day at 10:30am.
However, if you can’t make the ceremony (which is popular and gets very busy at peak times), you can still see the soldiers on duty outside Whitehall at Horse Guards. Get a close up look at the soldiers with their amazing horses and get some great photos with them between 10am and 4pm every day. This is a super fun way to celebrate England’s history without spending any money and you are just down the road from Trafalgar Square too.
See how many attractions we saw during ONE day in London with this post (opens in a new tab)
7. FREE things to do in London for kids: Trafalgar Square
Everyone has heard of Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Column, the four lions and the fountains, but what you may not know is that Trafalgar Square hosts multiple free exhibitions and festivals throughout the year. From musical theatre and sports events to cultural festivals and festive celebrations, there is usually free things to do in London for kids slap bang in the middle of one of the major tourist areas and many tourists don’t even know. Even if there is nothing happening, check out the Fourth Plinth Cherry with Cream and Fly sculpture and London’s smallest police station, which are both on the square. You can also come up with a fun game to spot the differences on each of the four lions, which all have a unique quality.
TOP TIP: Kids need a wee? There are well-maintained, public toilets on Trafalgar Square.
8. FREE things to do in London for kids: Museums
London is home to so many amazing museums and the ones that are aimed at children are some of the best in the world. If you are looking for a major tourist attraction that also happens to be one of the amazing free things to do in London with kids, you have a choice of world-famous museums. The Dippy-dominated National History Museum and the super-cool Science Museum (both free) are the most famous, but also consider the excellent Museum of London, which has lots of fun exhibits for kids (including the gold coach from the Lord Mayor’s Show).
TOP TIP: Some museums, despite being free of charge, do require an advance booking for your day of visit. So, check in advance before you travel.
9. Play in the garden in the sky
As a Londoner, I’ll never understand why the London Eye appeals to anyone. Tickets for a whole family to experience it can be really expensive, the area is extremely crowded and unpleasant and the wheel moves so slow, you can’t even tell you are moving and [my] kids got bored half-way through.
Instead, consider there are two fantastic roof gardens in London that offer incredible views over the city and are free things to do in London for kids. Sky Garden is on the roof of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building (nearest tube Monument) and is a beautiful conservatory with an outdoor balcony that has incredible views of the River Thames, The Shard and Tower Bridge. Due to the popularity of Sky Garden, [FREE] tickets do need to be booked on a Monday (around three weeks in advance), so be organised before your visit.
Another fantastic and lesser-known roof garden in London is The Garden at 120 (nearest tube Tower Hill). This rooftop oasis is also FREE to enter and advance tickets are not required. It’s not as high up as the Sky Garden, but the Garden at 120 is actually the City of London’s largest public rooftop space, offering 360-degree views of the City and greater London – and you can see the Walkie Talkie!
10. Barbican Conservatory
Speaking of roof gardens, how about an indoor rainforest? Absolutely one of the most underrated free attractions in London, the Barbican Conservatory blows my mind every time. Follow hidden trails through wild foliage all hidden within the Brutalist architecture of The Barbican, London. Tickets are free and released a week in advance online at barbican.org.uk
11. Stop at Platform 9 ¾
Harry Potter fans are likely aware that you can visit the Warner Bros. Studio Tour and see the making of Harry Potter, including props and the Hogwarts Express, but sadly that is not one of London’s free experiences. However, you can see the ‘real’ magical entrance to Platform 9 ¾ at its actual home – at Kings Cross Station. There is a fun photo op with a railway cart disappearing into the wall which is free of charge and a designated Harry Potter shop next door containing souvenirs and gifts from the movies and books which, again, are definitely not free!
RELATED POST: So HOW MUCH does it cost to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando in Florida? We did a deep dive…
THE MOST FUN FREE THINGS TO DO IN LONDON FOR KIDS
12. The Kings Cross Tunnel
Something kids may find equally as magical is the Kings Cross Tunnel, which links Kings Cross St Pancras to the new, funky area of Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard. Here, you’re going deeper underground with a difference, as the tunnel has a show-stopping LED light wall. This is one of my favourite free things to do in London for kids (I like it as much as the youngsters) and it leads to one of my favourite places. (The tunnel is open Monday-Sunday, 7am until 8pm).
13. The fountains at Granary Square
At the end of the tunnel you’ll find Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard. Coal Drops Yard is the more stylish, fashion-led hub with slick bars and restaurants and Granary Square is the more kid-friendly area. Perched on the edge of the Regents Canal behind Kings Cross, you’ll often find live music and sport, pop-up events and entertainment in the square. In Summer, kids can frolic in the fountains, play ball or scoot and cycle around the large, pedestrianised area.
SECRET TIP: Walk back toward Kings Cross and go for a swing in the giant “birdcage”. Jacques Rival’s artwork IFO (Identified Flying Object) is a huge installation that stands 9 metres high with a single swing in the centre. By night, it turns into a neon rainbow.
(Shh… most people don’t know, that even though the IFO is mostly ‘earthbound’, on special occasions the eye-catching structure is hoisted up into the air to hang freely and light up the night sky. So cool!)
14. Covent Garden: So many free things to do in London for kids
Another obvious choice, you might say, but there is no escaping that visiting Covent Garden is one of the best free things to do in London with kids. All of life’s theatre is there. For little eyes, there is so much to take in. The huge and colourful Apple Market, street performers ranging from robots to hip hop dancers, magicians, opera singers and everything in between. Keep an eye out for special events and pop-ups happening in the square, such as the Disney Musicals selfie spots that were in place this summer and the Kylie Jenner Glam Park 2022.
15. Cool and free things to do in London for kids and teenagers: Southbank Skateboarders
Another thing we love to do for free with kids in London is to watch the skateboarders doing their tricks on the Southbank outside the Royal Festival Hall. My youngsters are always quite mesmerised by the cool kids on their boards and I have to admit, I think it’s brilliant too!
16. The Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre
The Royal Festival Hall and the Southbank Centre also offer a programme of free things to do in London for kids. Events range from fun art installations, such as the Appearing Rooms and immersive productions like the Holiday Hotdog. See a list of everything that is going on here.
17. Street Art in Shoreditch
A different way to appreciate art, and one often loved by kids due to the creative freedom and urban setting, is London’s brilliant street art. Shoreditch in east London is the place to see as much as possible in one area. Take the Tube to Old Street or Overground Shoreditch High Street and wander around spotting your favourite murals.
18. Dinosaurs at Crystal Palace
A little bit out of the centre of London is something a bit different and free for kids in London. Just a short train ride from central London on the Overground and hidden in the ancient Crystal Palace Park are 30 lifestyle replicas of dinosaurs that once roamed our lands. The statues are accompanied by educational info and the fun part is finding all thirty. Learn more about the famous dinosaurs here.
Find out how many London attractions we saw in one day on a Hop-On-Hop-Off tour
We hope this has given you some great ideas on how you can visit London and save some money! If you like this post and found it helpful, we really appreciate your help on social media. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Have a great time in London!
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