London has some truely amazing museums and if you're after something local, but it's not listed, then try your local authority website for details. This section has some family fun favourites. The big three in South Kensington – Natural History Musem, Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert museum – are always great fun and are geared up for families. Museum of London and the British Museum are
If you are wondering what happened to the
National Army Museum
Different to the Imperial War Museum, this museum tells the story of the British army – its regiments and battles – from the 15th century to present day. There are plenty of special exhibits. There is also café' (with children’s menu), a shop and a reading room. Close by is Albert Bridge and across the river is Battersea Park or, if you fancy shopping, the Kings Road is by the tube station.
Open: Daily 10am-5.30pm
Tube: Sloane Square (zone 1)
Address: Royal Hospital Road, London, SW3 4HT
Phone: 020 7730 0717
The British Library
One of the world's greatest libraries with over 150 million items including manuscripts, maps, newspapers, magazines, prints and drawings, music scores, patents and a sound archive. Oh, and over 8 million stamps and other philatelic items! The library has taken some of the most famous and important historical treasures and put them in a permanent exhibition with interactive displays and a 'virtual curator'. Exhibits include the earliest dated printed book (The Diamond Sutra), the Magna Carta, Lindisfarne Gospels, Leonardo da Vinci's Notebook, The Times first edition from 18 March 1788, Beatles manuscripts, The recording of Nelson Mandela's trial speech and Beowulf! Pick up a family guide from the information desk.
Open: 9.30 -18.00 most days, 9.30- 16.30 Fri & Sat. Closed Sunday
Tube/BR: Kings Cross/ Euston (zone 1) Bus:10, 30, 73 and 91
Address: The British Library, St. Pancras, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
Phone: 020 7412 7332
Explore history in one of the biggest and oldest museums in the world. The British Museum holds over 6.5 million objects. The glass covered courtyard is breathtaking. The museum has good exhibitions and activities for children, including a family trail. Take a look at the Egyptian artefacts and mummys, and see the Rosetta stone. There is a shop, cafe and restaurant on site. nearby you’ll find Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street and the West End.
Open: Daily 10am-5.30pm, Friday closes at 8.30pm
Tube: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn (zone 1)
Address: Great Russell St, London, WC1B 3DG
Phone: 020 7323 8299
London Canal Museum
A quirky museum in a wonderful location. You can see inside a narrow boat cabin, learn about the history of London's canals, the cargoes carried, the people who lived and worked on the waterways and the horses that pulled their boats. The building itself is interesting. Built around 1862-3 for Carlo Gatti (a famous ice cream maker) it was used to store ice – brought by ship and canal boat – imported from Norway. Cold drinks and snacks are available from the shop plus a tea/coffee vending machine on site. Plenty of cafes nearby.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday & BH 10am-4.30pm (closes 7.30pm on Thursday)
Admission: adult £4, children £2, family £10
Tube/BR: King’s Cross, St Pancras (zone 1)
Address: 12-13 New Wharf Rd, London, N1 9RT
Phone: 020 7713 0836
Museum of Childhood
After a multi-million pound redevelopment the museum reopened with a new Front Room gallery, creativity and moving toy displays and lots of fun hands-on activities. The museum has a dynamic programme of temporary exhibitions produced by the museum itself and a variety of touring exhibitions which are relevant both to visitors and the themes of childhood. There's lots going on everyday. Choose from free, drop-in activities, performances and workshops. This is a great museum with a huge collection of toys spanning the centuries! Tie in a trip to the Geffrye Museum nearby.
Tube: Bethnal Green, Bus: D6, 106, 254, 309 and 388
Address: V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9PA
Phone: +44 (0)20 8983 5200
The Geffrye Museum in east London charts the changing style of the English domestic interior in a series of period rooms from 1600 to the present day. Although slightly off the beaten track it is well worth a visit. Great building, nice restaurant, lots of activities and events. And check out the Almshouses, although only open at certain times.
Open: Museum Tue-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun & Bank Hol 12-5pm
Admission: free for Gardens and Museum;
Tube: Old Street Tube+Bus 243; BR: Liverpool Street+bus: 149/242 (zone 1)
Address: 136 Kingsland Road, London E2 8EA
Phone: 020 7739 9893
London Fire Brigade Museum
See how firefighting has developed in the last 340 years! Exhibits range from firefighting during the Great Fire of London to modern day. Tours of the museum take around an hour and need to be booked in advance. Children are given colouring pencils and explorer packs and can try on uniforms.
Open: tours Monday to Friday at 10.20am and 2pm
Admission: adults £5, children £3
Tube: Borough, Southwark, Elephant & Castle; Bus: 344; BR: London Bridge (zone 1)
Address: Winchester House, 94a Southwark Bridge Rd, London SE1 0EG
Phone: 020 7587 2984
Oddly, Greenwich feels slightly seperate from the rest of London. I love a slow boat trip down from Westminster, followed by an amble around the market, park and museum. You can also board the Cutty Sark, visit the Royal Observatory and planetarium. Finish the day off with a movie at Greenwich Picture House.
National Maritime Museum
Experience the world's largest maritime museum, filled with inspirational stories of exploration and endeavour at sea and packed to the gunwales with intriguing objects and fascinating galleries. The NMM has the most extensive collection of british naval and maritime artifacts in the world. There are lots of beautiful paintings and you can also see Prince Frederick's gilded royal barge, round-the-world yacht 'Suhaili' and ship models. There are lots of Family activities laid on during school holidays and at weekends. While you are visiting, be sure to wander around the Royal Naval College and take a look at the chapel, visit the planetarium, have a butchers at the Queen's House, browse in the market, board the Cutty Sark, visit the royal observatory and (if there's any time left) take in a show at the Greenwich Theatre or the Picturehouse!
Open: Daily 10am-5pm, last admission 4.30pm
BR/DLR: Greenwich, Cutty Sark (zone 2)
Address: Romney Rd, London, SE10 9NF
Phone: 020 8858 4422
Top tip: Tie your visit to the National Maritime Museum with a boat trip from Westminster
Royal Observatory Greenwich
Built in 1675, today it is a centre of excellence for modern astronomy. It houses the largest refractory telescope in the country and eighth in the world. On this site you can ask astronomers questions, browse frequently asked questions and read the latest astronomy news. Entrance to the observatory is free, however there is a charge for the planetarium and Flamsteed House, the original observatory building in Greenwich, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1675 on the instructions of King Charles II. The historic site also includes the Prime Meridian of the World and the UK's largest refracting telescope. You can save on a combo ticket for the house and the Cutty Sark.
Open: Daily 10am-5pm, last admission 4.30pm
Tube BR/DLR: Greenwich, Cutty Sark (zone 2)
Address: Greenwich Park, London, SE10 9NF
Phone: 020 8858 4422
The Queen's House
The 17th-century Queen’s House represents a turning point in English architecture. It was originally
the home of Charles I's queen, Henrietta Maria. It now showcases the Museum's outstanding
Open: 10am to 5pm
Address: Queen's House, London SE10 9NF
The Horniman has great exhibitions, events and activities that illustrate the cultural and natural world. Collections include anthropology, natural history and musical instruments. It provides inspiration through a programme of permanent and temporary exhibitions, events and activities. There are a number of storytelling and art and craft sessions for children. There is also an aquarium and 16 acres of beautiful gardens with a nature trail and animal enclosure. You get a good sense of community in this museum and it has an eclectic mix of old and modern architecture and exhibits. It manages to strike a balance between being intimate, but big enough to be worth a trip across London. The cafe offers a kids menu and you can sit in the glasshouse dining area. PS look out for the Walrus!
Open: Museum Daily 10.30am–5.30pm
BR: Forest Hill+5min walk (zone 3)
Address: 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ
Phone: 020 8699 1872
Imperial War Museum
Gain an insight into the reality of modern warfare – how it affects our lives and what led up to wars, including what happened during and after them. Exhibits range from tanks and aircraft to personal letters and ration books. Look out for the ‘A Family in Wartime’ exhibition. There is a nice café with children’s menu and a shop on site. Not far from London Waterloo, the London Aquarium, the London Eye and the BFI Imax.
Museum of London
Less busy than the museums in south Ken, but one of our favourites. Learn about some of the city's 2,000 year history through interactive displays that reveal the way the city has changed over the pasy 400 years and beyond. Find out about Roman London, the plague, the Great Fire and when pointy shoes became fashionable. Reconstructed interiors and street scenes are alternated with displays of original artefacts found in the museum's archaeological digs around the capital. Nice little cafe attached. Look out for St.Paul's, Little Britain and the Barbican nearby. You can take a walk down past St. Paul’s and Paternoster Square, across the Millennium Bridge to the Tate. Also visit the sister Museum in Docklands.
Admission: freeOpen: 10am-6pm daily
Tube: St. Paul’s, Barbican (zone 1)
Address: 150 London Wall, London, EC2Y 5HN
Phone: 0870 444 3852
The Ragged school Museum
The Museum was opened in 1990 in three canalside warehouses in Copperfield Road, East London. These buildings were previously used by Dr Barnardo to house the largest ragged school in London. In a re-created classroom of the period, visitors can now experience how Victorian children were taught. There are also displays on local history, industry and life in the East End and a varied programme of temporary exhibitions.
Open: Wednesday, Thursday 10am - 5pm,First Sunday of the month 2pm - 5pm
Address: 46-50 Copperfield Road, London, E3 4RR
Tube: Mile End DLR: Limehouse, then walk via Flamborough St., Aston St. and Ben Jonson Rd.
Phone: 020 8980 6405
Museum of London Docklands
Exhibits and galleries trace the history of the port, river and its people. There is also a dedicated gallery for under 11s (Mudlarks). Explore the story of Londoners from across the world - from Roman settlers to city workers. See how the River Thames became a global gateway, bringing invaders, merchants and immigrants through one of the world's longest serving ports into the heart of the city. Exotic objects, tours, films and hands-on displays and events make the Museum in Docklands an adventure for all ages.
Open: Mon-Sun 10am-6pm
Admission: Children Free, Adults £5 for an annual ticket
Address: West India Quay, Canary Wharf, London, E14 4AL
Tube: Canary Wharf, DLR: West India Key
Telephone: 0870 444 3853
Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre
OK not exactly London, but it is Roald Dahl so we'll make an exception! Don't be put off by its size. There is enough here to keep children occupied for a good few hours. Intimate without being cramped, this small museum is situated just moments from the house where the world famous children's author lived & worked. The galleries take you through the works and life of Roald Dahl with lots of interactive displays and fun stuff to fire young imaginations. There are free story telling sessions in the courtyard and the twits cafe is great. Staff are friendly and attentive as are guest poets and authors running workshops. If you are travelling out and want to make a day of it, there are the Chiltern Hills and a model village nearby. Workshops cost extra, but are reasonably priced.
Open: Tues - Sun & Bank Holiday Mondays. 10am-5pm
Admission: Adults £4.95, Child 5+ £3.50, Under 5s Free Family Ticket £16.00 (2+3)
Address: 81-83 High Street, Great Missenden, Bucks HP16 0AN
Phone: 01494 892 192
Rail: Great Missenden (40 mins from London Marylebone)
Royal Air Force Museum
Situated on the historic site of Hendon's London Aerodrome in Colindale, this is one of two sites belonging to the Royal Air Force museum. The London collection includes over 100 planes, ranging from some very early aircraft through to the latest modern day jets and military aircraft. There are lots of activities for children, interactive displays and a 4D cinema. You’ll find a restaurant, cafe and shop on site and there is also a special Autism Friendly Trail.
Open: daily 10-6pm, last admission 5.30pm
Tube: Colindale (zone4)Address: Grahame Park Way, London, NW9 5LL
Phone: 020 8205 2266
The big three at South Kensington – the Science Museum, the V&A and the Natural History Museum – are all brilliant and very different. All three can be accessed by underground walkway from South Kensington Station. The Natural History Museum has a great outdoor rink in the winter, the V&A's cafe is a wonderful place to sit and the science Museum has lots of interactive displays and workshops. Because they are great they do get really busy, especially at weekends.
The Natural History Museum
The dinosaur gallery is always popular and includes an animatronic T-Rex, although the NHM is worth a visit for the beautiful building alone. Other memorable exhibits include the full size blue whale and the earth- quake simulation room. Children’s activities run daily in holidays and at the weekends, so check the website for details. There are a number of cafés inside and a great basement picnic area. Do take a look at the recently-added ultra modern wing, while you are there.
Open: Mon-Sat 10am-5.50pm, Sun 11am- 5.50pm, last admissions 5.30pm
Admission: freeTube: South Kensington (zone 1)
Address: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD
Phone: (020) 7942 5000
The Science Museum
This seven-storey museum has over 2,000 exhibits and offers fun opportunities to experience science and technology first hand. The museum has a range of interactive galleries designed for ages 3-6, 7-11 and up. See Stephenson’s Rocket, WW2 planes and space rockets, visit the IMAX cinema or take a ride on a simulator. Nice cafés, great kids interactive play in ‘Launch Pad’ and the garden for under 5s. There’s a picnic area in the basement or try the blue cafe (my favourite) for lunch. Occasionally, the Science Museum also hosts special sleep overs for children 8+ accompanied by an adult, see website for details.
Open: Daily 10am-6pm
Tube: South Kensington (zone 1)
Address: Exhibition Rd, London, SW7 2DD
Phone: 0870 870 4868
The Victoria and Albert Museum
The V&A has one of the best and most diverse collections of art and design in the world. Discover 3000 years worth of amazing artifacts, including ceramics, textiles, architecture and art side by side. Although not as obvious for trips with children as its Kensington neighbours, there’s still plenty to see and do with children’s activities and regular workshops. There's a picnic area in the basement and in the quadrangle outside you’ll find a nice shallow water feature (ideal for a discreet paddle). Make sure you take a look at the plaster rooms (our favourite bit) and we love the cafe, which is stunning!
Open: Daily 10am-5.45pm,
Tube: South Kensington (zone 1)
Address: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
Phone: (020) 7942 2000
London Transport Museum
The Museum is open 364 days a year and is a great place for your family to have fun together and discover the history of London’s famous transport network. The museum has cafes, a bar and a picnic area. There is also a play zone and workshops run throughout school holidays. Adults can buy a season ticket for 12 months and young people under 17 go free.
Open: 10am to 6pm daily
Admission: adult £16 (for the year), children free
Address: Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB
Tube: Covent Garden
Phone: 020 7379 6344
London Transport Museum Depot
Located in Acton and open at the weekends, the depot houses some 370,000 items – including vehicles, models and uniforms – in 6,000 square metres of storage space. Take a special family tour and hear about the Victorian train carriage that used to be someone's home, see a special Underground train driven by the Queen and board a 75-year-old tube train.
Open: Weekends 11am-5pm, last admission 4pm
Admission: Adults £10, Under 16s free
Tube: Acton Town+bus: 70,207,266, 607,H40 (zone 3)
Address: 118-120 Gunnersbury Lane, London W3 8BQ
Phone: 020 7379 6344
London Museum of Water and Steam
The Museum is housed in a magnificent 19th century pumping station and centres around the stations five world famous Cornish beam engines. There are lots of science-based activities for children and there is a small gauge steam engine that takes you around the site. You can see the large engines running
Open: Tue-Sun 11-5pm
Admission: Mon-Fri Adult £11.50, child £5, family £28
Tube: Gunnersbury +bus: 237, 267 (zone 3) BR: Kew Bridge
Address: Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, Middlesex TW8 0EN
Phone: 020 8568 4757
One of the world’s leading museums dedicated to contemporary design in every form from architecture and fashion to graphics, product and industrial design. The collection is made up by over 3000 objects that range from the early Modernism of the 1900s to the cutting edge of contemporary design. It plots the history of design in mass production and includes furniture, lighting, domestic appliances and communications technology and is an important record of the key designs, which have shaped the modern world. There is a calendar of events, including talks, events and workshops.
Open: Daily 10am-5.45pm
Admission: £13, £6.50 6-15s, under-6s free family £24 or £35
Address: 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD
Rail: London Bridge DLR: Tower Gateway
Phone: 020 7403 6933