London with Kids: A Budget-Conscious Guide to Family Fun

England’s capital is not only home to fine food, world-class art and ancient history—it’s also a super fun place for children. 

London has an amazing reputation for a lot of things, but being cheap is not one of them. But we’re here to tell you that even with kids in tow, it doesn’t have to be this way! 

We’ve rounded up some wallet-friendly ideas to make your family holiday go off with a bang. From museums and activities to thoroughly decent snacks, here’s everything you need to know about visiting London with kids. 

A guide to what to do in London with kids

Kid-friendly London museums (with free entry!) 

1. Natural History Museum

From the gigantic blue whale skeleton welcoming you in, to the animatronic dinosaur exhibits and the escalator ride through the moon, this museum is a place to let your child’s imagination run wild as they discover natural history at its very best. 

Tube stop: South Kensington 

Dinosaur skeleton at London's Natural History Museum
Kids will love saying hi to the dinosaurs!

2. Science Museum

Right next to the Natural History Museum, you’ll find the finest establishment in the UK dedicated to science. At the Science Museum, space, aviation, psychology, household technology, biology and so much more are all presented in a kid-friendly way that even adults will enjoy and learn from. Win-win! 

Tube stop: South Kensington

Science museum in London
The Science Museum is the perfect place for the whole family to learn something new. Photo credit: Heather Cowper

3. Museum of London

As the crowds head off to the British Museum, join the locals in the know at the Museum of London. Your family will embark on a chronological adventure through the city’s history from early human settlements to the present day with interactive displays and an impressive range of optional paid exhibits on the Vikings and Tudors. Check out the view down to the ancient Roman wall, too! 

Tube stop: Barbican 

4. Museum of Childhood

Though closed right now for renovations, the Museum of Childhood is definitely worth checking out when they reopen later in 2020. With toys and games from many eras of history, this is not just a fun trip for young ones, but a seriously nostalgic journey back in time for the grown-up “kids,” too. 

Tube stop: Bethnal Green 

Museum of Childhood in London
You don’t need to be a kid yourself to enjoy the marvels and wonders of the Museum of Childhood. Photo credit: Neil Turner

Free activities for kids in London

1. Mudchute Farm and Kitchen

One of the largest city farms in Europe, this is the place to come for some country feels in London. Packed full of more than 100 types of farm animals, from chickens and pigs to donkeys and llamas, they even have an amazing kitchen open until 3 p.m. serving properly sourced full English breakfasts and toasted sandwiches complete with eggs freshly laid on the farm itself. Get there on the Docklands Light Railway which, as a driverless train, is an experience in itself if you sit at the front. 

Tube stop: Crossharbour DLR

Cows grazing in a field
Mudchute Farm gives kids the opportunity to meet farm animals up close—just a hop, skip and a jump from central London. Photo credit: Al King

2. Princess Diana’s Memorial Playground 

Set near the gardens opened in honor of the late Princess of Wales, this playground—complete with a Peter Pan pirate ship theme—has a sensory trail, swings, climbing frames and various other places to let off steam with local kids.

Tube stop: Queensway

3. Rent a bicycle 

With the London bike rental program, you can find bikes dotted all around the city to take you off on journeys through parks and on cycle superhighways. No advance booking is necessary; just pay at the docking station and remember, the first 30 minutes are free! This is an excellent way to see the city at your own pace with your family… just remember that here in the UK, we drive on the “wrong” side! 

4. Hamleys 

One of the largest and oldest toy shops in the world, Hamleys on Regent Street is six floors of pure play heaven with toy demonstrators and performers all over the shop. Be wary, though—what started as a free excursion could get rather expensive by the second floor if you’re not careful! 

Tube stop: Oxford Circus 

Hamleys toy store in London
Hamleys is far from your average toy store! Photo credit: Olivier Bruchez

5. Platform 9 ¾ 

Fear not: there’s no need to spend oodles of money on the Warner Bros experience for your little Hufflepuff. At King’s Cross Station, you can reenact Harry’s first and bumpy arrival on the famous platform for free! Go early before the crowds get there to have it to yourself—and don’t forget your Hogwarts scarf for the action shot! 

Tube stop: King’s Cross St. Pancras

Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station in London
Unleash your inner wizard at Platform 9 3/4!

Where to eat with kids in London

1. Chin Chin 

An ice cream shop powered by liquid nitrogen which gives the classic treat an unbelievable texture, Chin Chin has three branches in London. They offer diverse tastes like burnt caramel and Parma violet, and even have vegan options! 

Tube stop: Camden, Tottenham Court or Shoreditch High Street

Nitrogen ice cream at Chin Chin in London
Nitrogren ice cream certainly isn’t the most traditional form of the treat, but one bite of Chin Chin’s incredible creations and you’ll fall in love. Photo credit: s-velasco

2. Borough Market 

One of the most iconic markets in the world, Borough Market is a fantastic place for kids to try an entire world of snacks. Be it tastes of British venison salami, a roast pork sandwich, applesauce, insanely good doughnuts from Bread Ahead, vegan and gluten free chocolate brownies, Scotch eggs, curries or pasta, this market is sure to have something to please everyone… even the pickiest of eaters. 

Tube stop: London Bridge 

Entrance to Borough Market, London
Borough Market gives you the chance to taste the entire world all under one roof.

3. Cereal Killer Cafe 

Yep, an entire cafe dedicated to cereals from across the world. While it definitely first opened to fill the daytime cereal cravings of Brick Lane’s hipsters, Cereal Killer Café is a place where the kids will still feel at home with the 120 types of cereal to choose from

Tube stop: Shoreditch High Street

Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoreditch, London
Feeling nostalgic for your favorite childhood breakfast? You’ll love Cereal Killer Café. Photo credit: Cereal Killer Café

4. Voodoo Ray’s 

Based on NYC-style pizzerias, Voodoo Ray’s use the very best Italian ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes, Caputo flour and excellent buffalo mozzarella—all baked together in 22-inch pies and sold by the gargantuan slice. Nestled in Shoreditch’s Boxpark, this is an excellent quick snack if visiting Brick Lane and Spitalfields market. 

Tube stop: Shoreditch High Street

5. Poppies 

With branches in Camden and Shoreditch, Poppies is the ultimate in kitsch fish-and-chips restaurants. Staff are dressed in vintage uniforms, the battered fish or haddock is spot on, the mushy peas are perfect, the jukebox is second to none—and hey, they even have a very reasonably priced kids menu. Enjoy the classic British candy they bring you with the bill.

Tube stop: Camden or Shoreditch High Street

Plate of fish and chips
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a kid who doesn’t like fish and chips.

6. Tredwells 

For those with gastronomically adventurous little folk, look no further than Tredwells from Gordon Ramsay alum Marcus Wareing. A high-end experience at an accessible price, they offer the “Culinary Kids” menu with six courses including a non-alcoholic cocktail; an antipasto; a starter; a main of hake, salsa verde and purple sprouting broccoli; and two—yes, two!—desserts at a mere £17. Bargain. 

Tube stop: Covent Garden 

7. Meat Liquor 

Meat Liquor is a grungy street food outfit specializing in “dirty” fries, burgers, meat- or plant-based hot dogs that has spread to various outposts in London. With a well-priced kids menu, the coolest thing about this place is the crazy, punky decor. We recommend the King’s Cross branch where the kitchen and bar are housed in a graffiti-covered old train carriage. They also have an amazing booze menu for parents should the mood take you… and it will. 

Tube stop: London-wide, but go for King’s Cross St. Pancras

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