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101 things to do in London with kids: free activities

Don’t let a tight budget restrict your family fun. These wonderful London experiences are all yours for free

Fountains, playground, © Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
© Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
By Laura Lee Davies |
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Having kids is an expensive business, and most of us don’t have an unlimited entertainment fund. Fortunately, whatever your children’s ages or interests, London has an abundance of free family activities. These are our favourite things to do with kids that will cost you nothing at all.

SEE THE FULL LIST: 101 things to do in London with kids

Free things to do with kids in London

Attractions

Move on up to catch the best views in London at Sky Garden

icon-location-pin Fenchurch Street

Looking like something curvy and top-heavy that’s straight out of ‘LazyTown’, the Walkie Talkie is a City office building that has a Sky Garden on its top floors, which, happily, is open to the public. Take in a huge concourse of lush, exotic plants, plus restaurants and a terrace for amazing views. Sky Garden is free to visit but you must book your 90-minute time slot at least three days in advance.

Free

All ages

Things to do

Learn a Victorian lesson at The Ragged School Museum

icon-location-pin Mile End

This museum in east London brings to life what school was like 150 years ago. And it’s not about how rich kids were tutored, but Dr Barnardo’s ‘ragged school’ – which offered free basic education for less privileged children. There are fascinating exhibits and on the first Sunday of each month children and adults can dress up and experience a Victorian class for themselves. Open every Wednesday and Thursday, and the first Sunday of each month.

Free (£2 donation for class)

All ages

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Golders Hill Park, Hampstead Heath
© Garry Knight
Attractions

Meet the ring-tailed lemurs at Golders Hill Park Zoo

icon-location-pin Golders Green

This park has ponds, play areas, a café and a wonderful small zoo of enclosures which offer a quick fix of wildlife. Head here to hear the laughing kookaburras, spot a ring-tailed coati in the bushes and watch the ring-tailed lemurs up to their gymnastic tricks in the branches. Especially good with little ones who don’t have the stamina to make a pricey visit to the big zoo worthwhile.

Free

All ages

Art, Galleries

Be dazzled by a neon wonderland at God's Own Junk Yard

icon-location-pin Walthamstow

Artist Chris Bracey created incredible works for art projects and movie sets for nearly 40 years until his death late last year. His God’s Own Junk Yard space in Walthamstow is a studio where you can see his work – a combination of recycled urban debris and electric light in a gallery of wonderful colour. Still a working neon sign business, it’s open to the public Friday to Sunday, and its Rolling Scones Café is open all week.

Free

All ages

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101 things to do for kids in London, Sailortown at Museum of London Docklands
© Museum of London Docklands
Museums

Visit the (deliberately) stinky streets and dark alleyways of Sailortown at the Museum of London Docklands

icon-location-pin Isle of Dogs

This free museum has a dedicated gallery (Mudlarks) for small children, but it’s worth visiting the main galleries, for the huge model of the old London Bridge and a walk-through recreation of the docklands in Victorian times. Hear the noises, smell the scents and peer into the shadowy alleyways. Gaze through the window of the chandler’s shop and see inside an old East End boozer.

Free

All ages

Shopping, Art, craft and hobbies

Get creative at the Cass Arts Saturday workshops

icon-location-pin Angel

These sessions every Saturday morning (10am-noon) at Cass Arts branches in Hampstead and Islington are a lovely way to inspire ideas and nurture budding artists. A free activity table is set out with a range of materials, inviting kids to let their imaginations run wild. Children must be accompanied by an adult, but sessions are drop-in and all materials are supplied free.

Free

Age 4+

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Attractions, Sightseeing

Watch the pelicans being fed in St James's Park

icon-location-pin Westminster

Surrounded by some of London’s most popular sightseeing attractions (Buckingham Palace, Westminster and Trafalgar Square), St James’s Park often gets overlooked, but it’s one of the loveliest green spaces to let the kids run about in. Duck Island, at the east end of the park’s lake, is perfect for birdwatchers. There have been pelicans here since the 1660s, and every day you can watch these curious feathered creatures being fed fresh fish at 2.30pm.

Free

All ages

Camley street park london
© Jonathan Perugia
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Go pond dipping at Camley Street Natural Park

icon-location-pin King’s Cross

In two acres of wilderness just north of St Pancras, Camley Street Natural Park is like a corner of countryside in Zone 1. Created from an old coal yard and sitting alongside the Regent’s Canal, it’s a wonderful space for seeking out birds and butterflies, croaking amphibians and even bats, then reporting back on your wildlife sightings, which helps the work of the reserve.

Free

All ages

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Fly down a zip wire at Coram's Fields playground

icon-location-pin Bloomsbury

This Zone 1 park is a kid-friendly joy – adults don’t get in unless accompanied by a child. Under the dappled shade of the park’s huge trees, toddlers frolic in the sandpits and paddling pool and kids clamber in the playground and swoosh down the aerial slide, while the pens of goats, chickens, rabbits and birds await the attention of curious animal lovers. There are games pitches available free of charge to under-16s, too.

Free

All ages

101 things to do in London with kids, National Maritime Museum
©National Maritime Museum
Museums, Military and maritime

Play shops in the fish market section of the National Maritime Museum’s Ahoy!

icon-location-pin Greenwich

The NMM’s new gallery especially for babies and young children is all about fun. Ahoy! features many different play zones including a beach and a ship deck, plus a game firing cannons and another that is a bit like air hockey. The fish shop is ace –rows of pretend fish, cash tills and shopping baskets. There’s also the All Hands exploration gallery for ages 6-12.

Free

Ages 0-7

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