London is my favorite city in the world. I’ve visited it a dozen times by now, four of them with the kids. There is so much to see and do and fortunately there are tons of free family activities in London – all over this majestic city.
So, how can you create everlasting memories that won’t cost you a cent (or a penny!) while visiting London? Let’s get right to the list!
- 1. Go see the Queen –
- 2. Have your picture taken with a bobby –
- 3. Visit the Royal Toy Store –
- 4. Climb the lions at Trafalgar Square –
- 5. See a real Egyptian Mummy at the British Museum –
- 6. Visit the Natural History and Science Museums –
- 7. Feed the ducks at St. James’s Park –
- 8. Use London’s Transportation –
- 9. Visit the Harry Potter Sites
- 10. Visit Greenwich
The entire area around Buckingham Palace is filled with the Queen’s guards in their striking red
costumes uniform. The Change of Guards at the palace is always fun to watch and there’s a good chance that you’ll get to see some horse-drawn carriages or fancy-dressed horse riders too. We actually got to see the Queen of England herself on one of our visits, riding in one of the carriages with hundreds of guards escorting her into the palace. It’s definitely something we’ll never forget. Can’t beat that for your list of Free Family Activities in London!
2. Have your picture taken with a bobby –
“A bobby” is British slang for police constable. You will see them all over London and in our experience, they’re happy to have your picture taken with them.
3. Visit the Royal Toy Store –
Hamleys is the official Royal Toy Store and we always stop by when we visit. There’s always something going on with store employees blowing bubbles, flying miniature airplanes and otherwise making sure everyone is having a good time. Just remember this is a free attraction only if you don’t shop! If you decide to buy something, expect a royal price tag. Otherwise, it’s one of the coolest free family activities in London: .
4. Climb the lions at Trafalgar Square –
We love Trafalgar square! For one thing, it’s perfectly located between the Pall Mall and Piccadilly Circus, which means you can go visit the heart of the British Empire’s government in the morning, then walk through Trafalgar Square to catch a show at bohemian Soho in the afternoon. This huge square is a great spot for parents to rest while the kids climb up the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column.
5. See a real Egyptian Mummy at the British Museum –
The British Museum is huge. When I first brought The Better Half to the British Museum, long before we had kids, we encountered a problem as soon as we walked in. He approached the cabinet in front of us which had a tray with hundreds of interesting beetles pinned on it, along with explanations about each beetle. Twenty minutes later he was still reading up on them, at which point I gently intervened and showed him that there were about a dozen trays in that cabinet alone, and a few dozens such cabinets in that hall. The hall was one of the least important ones out of hundreds in the museum.
If you like investing yourself and reading up on every exhibit, you could spend a lifetime in the British Museum. In fact, a lifetime may not be enough. However, when visiting with kids, I recommend heading straight for the Egyptian rooms and focusing on the mummies. If you and the kids are ready for more, you can and should spend the day at this phenomenal institution!
6. Visit the Natural History and Science Museums –
I could write an entire post about free museums in London. I may just do that some day. For now, I promise this is the last museum on this list. Ok, make that the last two museums on this list. The Museum of Natural History and the adjacent Museum of Science are a Must-See for kids and grownups alike. The historic buildings alone are reason to visit, reflecting the grandeur of the empire and its scientific achievements in the days of Darwin and Faraday. Within the buildings, dinosaurs, blue whales and giant models of the earth await you. If you’re geeks like us, plan on spending a day in each of these museums. Otherwise, you can cover both in a day, as they are right next to one another.
7. Feed the ducks at St. James’s Park –
London has fabulous parks. St. James’s is a personal favorite. Right next to the palace, it feels like the most regal of the city’s parks and we love feeding the ducks and other water fowl there. Another park which should not be missed is Hyde Park. Make sure you visit Speaker’s Corner on Sunday for a free street display of this unique British democratic tradition.
8. Use London’s Transportation –
I consider this to be free as transportation gets you from one place to another and isn’t counted as “an attraction” in a traveling family’s budget. It’s an activity though and as such, I think it merits a place on the list of free family activities in London.
London offers some unique ways of getting from point A to point B, each offering a new experience that kids just LOVE. The famous underground system is convenient and quite “British” but don’t limit yourself to the tube. Take one of the double-decker buses and get a seat in the first row of the second floor. It’s cheap (covered in the cost of a weekly Oyster travelcard) and offers a great way to see the city. The railway that goes to the docks is great as well. Our kids loved sitting in the first row of the first carriage, right next to the driver! Last, but not least, the weekly travelcard also covers the water buses on the Thames. It’s an affordable way to enjoy the views from the river.
9. Visit the Harry Potter Sites
Hogwarts is not in London but you can get everything you need for Hogwarts in the city. This website offers a free self-guided tour in the footsteps of Harry and Hagrid, from Diagon Alley to Platform Nine and Three Quarters at King’s Cross station. You don’t have to do all of it (it’s long and would take more than a day) but incorporating a few sites into your itinerary is going to make London all that more magical for your kids.
10. Visit Greenwich
Not all of Greenwich is free to visit these days and there is a small fee associated with actually standing on the line that marks the Greenwich meridian, where east meets west. However, if you wish, you can spend an entire day there without spending a dime: Walk the streets of this London village, climb the hill to the observatory and visit the Maritime museum. Oops! Did I say no more museums? Do yourself a favor and add this one to your list anyway. Our kids loved it, so it’s definitely on our list of awesome free family activities in London:
I hope this post inspires you to visit London with your family. It truly is a remarkable city and it is very family-friendly, budget considerations included.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions for more free family activities in London: ? Let me know in a comment!