London has always been a great centre of culture and learning, boasting some of the best museums around. Fun, educational and with most of them being free, they’ve always a prime destination for family-outings. Read on and find our selection of the very best museums for families to visit in the capital.
THE SCIENCE MUSEUM:
Found on the bustling Exhibition Road in South Kensington, the Science Museum is a delight for all ages. Whether you’re a science buff or not, you’re sure to be thoroughly entertained by this highly interactive experience. Set across a large space with its own unique and curious sections, the heart of this place is definitely the “Launchpad”, which features over 50 engaging exhibits and experiments to bring out the child in you. A great way to get kids involved in all forms of science, its quirkiness and appeal really do make learning fun.
Where: Exhibition Road, SW7 2DD
What’s on: 3D Printing The Future (Kids); Mind Maps: Stories From Psychology (Adults); Hidden Universe 3D (Family)
HORNIMAN MUSEUM AND GARDENS
Set in 16 acres of landscaped gardens, the Horniman is an anthropological museum with an eclectic centre featuring a natural history gallery (with its own stuffed walrus at the centre), an aquarium, a gallery and a collection of around 1600 instruments, with some you can even pick up and play. Providing a multitude of activities for families, take part in nature trails, weekend workshops and a centre in which children can interact with the displays. A less talked about museum than some, it remains committed to being engaging for all ages and is definitely worth the visit.
Where: 100 London Road, SE23 3PQ
What’s on: Gardens Festival (Adults); Extremes Exhibition (Family); Discovery For All (Family)
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM:
Just down the road from the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum is a popular destination for family activities. Spread across four coloured zones each with its own theme that includes Geology, Ecology and Biology, kids will be awed and amazed by the escalator through the centre of Earth, the life-size blue whale on display, the many dinosaurs and the earthquake simulator. With areas dedicated to kids only, they can take part in a number of interactive games. Fun for all the family, the soon to be opening Mammoth section is sure to become a hit with the kids as well.
Where: Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD
What’s on: Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story (Adults); Sensational Butterflies (Family); Mammoths: Ice Age Giants (Family)
V&A MUSEUM OF CHILDHOOD
The V&A hosts an impressive range of artefacts from numerous cultures in an extensive timeline. Whilst great for history aficionados, it may be a slight drag for younger visitors. Nonetheless, thanks to the venue’s “Childhood” section, which showcases a brilliant section of toys since 1872, meaning there’s plenty to do for kids. Hands-on activity stations with Lego, a sandpit and board games, a reading area and special events on weekends and bank holidays, you’re sure to have a good time.
Where: Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9PA
What’s on: Confiscation Cabinets (Family); The Great Diary Project (Family); Hand Me Over Hand Me Downs (Adults)
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM
Whilst perhaps not suitable for young children, the Imperial War Museum is an ideal destination especially if you have kids learning about such topics in school. Seemingly more focused on boys due to its many tanks, guns and planes, it aims to be a centre for the whole family thanks to its exhibitions such as ‘A Family in Wartime’, which details the lives of ordinary families during WWII. Reopening in July this year after an extensive refurbishment, it will boast the largest retrospective of WWI to commemorate its centenary.
Where: Lambeth Road, SEI 6HZ
What’s on: IWM closed until 19th July.
LONDON TRANSPORT MUSEUM
With some of the most iconic transport systems in the world, the London Transport Museum aims to showcase the capital’s transport history. With 80 vehicles on display including a red London bus and the first ever Tube train, many are interactive and entertaining for kids. Equally displaying the history of advertising artworks including Harry Beck’s original tube map and with it being free for under-16s, it’s ideal for the whole family.
Where: Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 7BB
What’s on: Goodbye Piccadilly: From Home Front to Western Front (Adults); Year of the Bus Events (Family); Family Station Activities (Family)
One of the oldest museums in the world, the British Museum certainly has quite the reputation. Some of the world’s oldest artefacts can be found here, including mummified pharaohs that are sure to impress all ages. With free family events every Saturday that range from trails, backpacks and object handling and bi-monthly sleepovers in which you’ll be entertained by centuries of world history, you’ll truly get to see history come to life.
Where: 44 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG
What’s on: Vikings: Life and Legend (Family); Ancient Lives, New Discoveries (Family); Marvellous Mummies (Kids)
NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM
Discover Britain’s long maritime history at the National Maritime Museum. Enjoy galleries exploring the East India Trade Company’s impact on British culture or the history of trade across the Atlantic, whilst also having the opportunity to see Nelson’s uniform from the battle of Trafalgar and Prince Frederick’s gilded barge. With activities aimed at kids as well, they’ll get to enjoy the new interactive pirate ship game and the ship simulator. A fun day out at an often overlooked museum, it’s a treat for the whole family.
Where: Romney Road, SE10 9NF
What’s on: Nelson, Navy, Nation (Adults); Explore Saturdays (Kids); Legends Of The Sea (Family)
The world’s leading museum dedicated to contemporary design, the Design Museum is a celebration of all forms of design from furniture, architecture, graphics and industrial design. With a whole host of exhibitions regularly on, most are usually accompanied by workshops for children. A versatile venue that can accommodate for any age group, take part in talks, events, family activities and more. Informative and entertaining, it’s an idyllic spot for the creative-minded. With dedicated family activities varying according to age groups, there definitely is something for everyone here.
Where: Shad Thames, SE1 2YD
What’s on: Drop In and Design Family Workshops (Family); Designs Of The Year (Adults); Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith (Adults)
DULWICH PICTURE GALLERY
Dating back to 1811, the Dulwich Picture Gallery is a forerunner of works by Old Masters, boasting an impressive collection of paintings from the likes of Rembrandt, Poussin and Gainsborough. Whilst this bijou gallery seems exclusively made for art enthusiasts, it nevertheless aims to brings crowds of all sorts and especially encourages family days out. Not just a stuffy gallery, it is bursting with life thanks to its many workshops including after-school art sessions, six-week art courses and an evening Art School. Great for budding artists, it’s a fun way to nurture young talent.
Where: Gallery Road, SE21 7AD
What’s on: Art and Life (Adults); Family Sundays (Family); Plaster Casters (Kids)