London’s Best Museums for Families and Kids

March 27, 2024
London Museums For Kids

If you are heading into London with your family, you want to make the most of the time together. London has a huge selection of museums to choose from, including heavy hitters on Exhibition Road in Kensington such as the V&A, Natural History and Science museums, but what are the best museums for kids and families in London, and what are some of the less well known options to try out?

In this article, we will share with you our top picks and things to do at each of the museums in London specifically for children.

Science Museum

Website: Science Museum

Admission: Free (donations welcomed)

Hours: Open daily 10am – 6pm

Features: The Science Museum boasts seven floors filled with over 15,000 objects on display, offering a captivating mix of interactive galleries and educational exhibits designed to entertain and inform visitors of all ages. The museum is renowned for being the most visited science and technology museum in Europe.

Highlights: “Turn It Up: The Power Of Music” (until 6 May 2024) explores how music shapes our lives, while “Energy Revolution: The Adani Green Energy Gallery” (opening Spring 2024) addresses the world’s fastest energy transition to curb climate change. “Astronights” offers memorable sleepovers at the museum on varying dates. “Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City” (until 2 June 2024) showcases the mechanical clocks prized by the emperors of China’s Forbidden City. The Launchpad hands-on gallery allows visitors to explore basic scientific principles, while the Exploring Space Galleries feature exhibits like a 3-meter high 600kg spacelab and full-scale models of space probes. The Clockmakers’ Museum, previously held at Guildhall, presents the oldest display of clocks and watches in the world.

Food & Drink: Food and drink options at the Science Museum are extensive. The Energy Cafe (Level 0) offers grab-and-go items and lunch bags. The Shake Bar (Level 3) provides made-to-order ice cream milkshakes and custom ice cream tubs. The Diner (Level 0) specializes in pizzas, while the Gallery Cafe (Level 2) serves sandwiches, salads, and coffee. The Basement Cafe (Level 1) offers snacks, sandwiches, and cakes, and there is a picnic area (Level 3) for those who prefer to bring their own food.

Natural History Museum

Website: Natural History Museum

Admission: Free

Hours: Open daily 10am – 5:50pm

Features: The Natural History Museum houses an astounding 80 million objects spanning 4.5 billion years across more than 20 galleries and four floors. The museum is a treasure trove of natural history and offers a variety of permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Highlights: Current exhibitions include the Dinosaur Trail and the “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” (until June 2024, £15 per person). The upcoming “Birds: Brilliant and Bizarre” (opens 24 May 2024) explores the story of birds. Women in Science Tours highlight the contributions of women in various scientific fields, while “Out of Hours Dino Tours” offer a unique early-morning experience (adults £25, children £17). “Adventure Babies” provides sensory storytelling classes (£20 for adult and child), and the T. Rex Show with Teach Rex features life-like dinosaurs performing educational shows about the T. Rex.

Food & Drink: The T. Rex Restaurant in the Green Zone offers a unique dining experience with pizzas and salads. The Central Cafe in the Blue Zone serves sandwiches, while the Earth Hall Cafe in the Red Zone offers hot meals. The Shake Bar in the Orange Zone provides milkshakes and sundaes.

Gift Shops: The museum shop features nature-inspired gifts, puzzles, toys, art, and homewares. The Cranbourne Boutique in the Red Zone offers fashion, homeware, gifts, and prints inspired by the natural world. The Dino Store at the exit of the dinosaurs gallery sells books, toys, clothes, and games related to dinosaurs.

Horniman Museum and Gardens

Website: Horniman Museum and Gardens

Admission: Free

Hours: Open daily 10am – 5:30pm (Butterfly House 10:30am – 4pm, Gardens 7:15am – 5:30pm)

Features: Located in Forest Hill, the Horniman Museum and Gardens offers a delightful mix of anthropology, natural history, and musical instruments. It is well known for its extensive collection of taxidermied animals, including a large overstuffed walrus.

Highlights: The museum features displays of anthropology, natural history, and musical instruments, with notable items including the taxidermied animals collection. The aquarium (access charge applies), gardens, butterfly house, animal walk, and the Under the Sea soft play area provide additional attractions. The museum also hosts a mini golf course during the summer. The World Gallery showcases over 3,000 objects from around the world, and the Horniman Market operates every Sunday. Family Craft Saturdays and “Hear it Live!” performances and talks (2nd Thursday of every month) enhance the museum experience.

Food & Drink: The Horniman Cafe offers hot and cold meals, sandwiches, and biscuits. The Bandstand Cafe Kiosk provides sandwiches, snacks, and ice cream. Visitors are welcome to bring their own food and enjoy picnics in the gardens or The Dutch Barn.

London Transport Museum

Website: London Transport Museum

Admission: Free for 17 and younger (Annual pass required for adults: £24, £22 off-peak)

Hours: Open daily 10am – 6pm

Features: Situated in Covent Garden, the London Transport Museum is a leading museum of urban transport with galleries showcasing vintage London trams, trains, and buses. The museum features over 450,000 items spread across three floors and a mezzanine.

Highlights: The museum includes the Global Poster Gallery and the “Legacies: London Transport’s Caribbean Workforce” exhibit, celebrating the contributions of Caribbean heritage to transport history and British culture. Other exhibits cover 19th Century London and Victorian Transport, including riverboats, the first omnibus, trams, early railways, and the world’s first underground. Visitors can see the only surviving 1860s steam engine and learn about the Greathead shield used for deep tunnel digging. The “On the Surface 1900 – 1945” exhibit features horse-drawn vehicles, trams, trolleybuses, and the first motor buses. “London by Design” celebrates London’s transport design heritage, and the “London’s Transport at War” exhibit highlights transport during wartime.

Food & Drink: The Canteen offers hot meals, sandwiches, soups, and homemade cakes. The Lower Deck Cafe, open on weekends and school holidays, serves ice creams, sandwiches, snacks, and lunchboxes. A picnic area is also available.

National Maritime Museum

Website: National Maritime Museum

Admission: Free

Hours: Open daily 10am – 5pm

Features: Located in Greenwich, the National Maritime Museum houses a vast maritime collection, including art and interactive exhibits such as the Great Map.

Food & Drink: Visitors can enjoy meals and snacks at the museum’s various cafes and dining areas.

London Postal Museum

Website: London Postal Museum

Admission: Annual tickets only (Unlimited access for 1 year: £16 adults (25+), £11 young person (16-24), £9 child (3-15))

Hours: Open daily 10am – 5pm

Features: Situated in Farringdon, the London Postal Museum offers a fascinating look at 500 years of communication history with hands-on exhibitions and the opportunity to listen to postal workers’ stories. The museum is split between two buildings: the Postal Museum and Mail Rail.

Highlights: The “Sorted!” exhibition is designed for under 8s, featuring the Postal Play Space, an immersive mini town. Visitors can ride the Mail Rail, a 100-year-old underground post office railway.

Food & Drink: The museum provides various dining options, including a cafe for hot and cold meals, snacks, and drinks.

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