Despite being one of the world’s most expensive cities, London still has the magnet to attract visitors from around the globe, including families with young children. Most visitors would say that everything is costly in London. That’s true, but there is good news for families with children. Up to the age of 11 years old, children have many privileges in the UK’s capital, something that parents should know especially if they are on a budget holiday.
The first good news is that Transport for London (TFL), the mass transportation system operator of the city, exempts children from paying transportation fare. In other words, they can travel for free by bus, tubes (underground), trams, etc. No obstructions of any kind, you can just stay calm … and get onto one of the double decker buses or tubes with up to 4 children with you.
What comes as the second good news is the fact that London has several fantastic free-entrance destinations that would make the trip more balanced for children. What do I mean with balanced? Well, at times children do not really get an equal proportion of enjoyment during a city break kind of holiday. Some things that adults enjoy are things that are not really entertaining for their younger travel mates. Many families end up dragging their kids here and there without really looking into activities that could make the trip more rewarding for the little ones. I used to do this too (I’m terribly sorry kiddo), but at least now I don’t intend to do this anymore.
Now if you happen to be in London, or plan to be there, here are some of the places my family and I have been to, those that offer free activities that you and your young globetrotter might enjoy and benefit.
- South Kensington: London’s Museum Cluster
At South Kensington there are three grand museums to visit. They are all family-friendly, and the entrance fee is zero pound sterling. Deciding on which one to go depends on the age of the children. The Natural History Museum would be the museum for all age. Young children even from as young as 2 years old may be able to enjoy it as there are complete attractive displays of animals including dinosaurs. Don’t miss the chance to stand face-to-face with a living T-Rex! Next to this museum is the Science Museum. This one would be an interesting place for older children, let’s say 6+. However, there is an interactive garden for children under 5, quite a solution if you have more than one children with a big age gap. Another museum is Victoria and Albert museum in which a display of art and design from the past 3000 years can be seen. This museum might be interesting for teenagers so when young children are around, this one may be skipped.
- The National Gallery.
As the name suggests, this place displays more than 2000 paintings, most of which are from world-acclaimed maestros to include Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and a lot more. With free entrance and the chance to see some of the greatest masterpieces on earth, it would be a pity to miss this place. It might be hard though, to expect children to understand paintings and find the excitement of walking around the gallery. That’s why the place offers free artsy activities for children such as story-telling, painting workshop and studio exploration. Free activities for adults are also available including free tour, drawing workshop and a couple of more. Please check their website for schedule and types of activities suitable for age range. Activities are offered based on first come first served. No need to book, just be there about half an hour before the program starts to secure your place.
- Awesome Playgrounds
After a long walk exploring the city, a fantastic treat for children would be to let them play freely. Fortunately London has awesome playgrounds where children can play safely. There are abundant playgrounds that can be found in numerous London’s parks, but the following three are worth visiting because of their uniqueness. The first one is the Coram’s Field. An adult can enter only if he’s accompanied by a child under 16. Enormous sandpit, climbing frames, see saws and swings are here. Older children can enjoy a city farm and an adventure playground with tunnels, zip wires and climbing equipment. The second to go is Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Garden. Expect children to be awed by the Peter Pan inspired pirate ship, set within a gigantic sandpit. They can even go inside the ship, climb and jump. The third is the Saint James’s Park, a haven for families to catch a breath after a long walk. Children will be pleased with its sand, swings and climbing areas surrounded by amazing views.
Besides completely free activities, it might be useful to have the information about some low-cost activities for your young travel mates. Saturdays and Sundays are the days when London’s big cinema chains like Vue and Odeon play children movie, offering special show price for children, known as kids screening. For your information, adult and child’s cinema ticket normally costs around 13 and 7 pound sterling respectively. For kids screening, the ticket costs only 2.50 pound each, both for children and their accompanying adults. For dining experience, plan your dining and google for restaurants that offer ‘kids eat free’. You’ll be surprised as you might even see the names of some fancy restaurants! So after all, there is such a thing as a free lunch in London, well… at least for children 🙂