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The best museums in London for kids are exciting and interactive, designed to fire the imagination and bring the world's treasures within easy reach of everyone. A wander around a museum introduces young minds to everything from the tiniest sea creatures to the vast expanse of space. It shows them what life was like 100 years ago or the tough living conditions onboard a sailing ship.
If you’re visiting London as a family, there are so many amazing things to see, including some of the greatest museums in the world. To help you make the most of your time here, we've collated a guide for the best museums for kids in London, broken down into age-appropriate sections. Whether you’re here with toddlers and tots, tweens or teens, our selection of London children’s museums is bound to be a hit with everyone.
Slip on a pair of comfy shoes, grab your Oyster Card, and let's explore the best museums in London for kids.
London is filled with iconic landmarks. From the London Eye to the Tower of London, Madame Tussauds, gorgeous green parks and world-class museums, it is home to attractions that will enchant children of all ages.
Central London is relatively compact too, and thanks to a comprehensive transport system, it's easy to get around. A trip on the 'Tube', London's underground train network, is an adventure in itself. If you prefer a little more comfort, an open-top bus tour on an iconic red Routemaster bus lets you see all of the key attractions from a fantastic vantage point.
Great restaurants are plentiful throughout the city, and every world cuisine you can think of is available in the capital. Even picky eaters will find something they love here, from fine dining to grab-and-go authentic American burgers or sizzling Thai street food. And thanks to a wealth of accommodation on offer, there are plenty of great places to stay in London with kids for them to settle down in at the end of a busy day exploring.
Let's start with the little ones. Hours spent wandering around the exhibits in some of the city's bigger museums may be too much for tiny tots, who can tire quickly. So these choices are ideal if you’re looking for the best museums in London for ten-year-olds and younger.
With an aquarium, a butterfly house, and a charming museum that explores global wonders and enchanting gardens, the Horniman Museum and Gardens is one of London's real gems. Located in Forest Hill, it's about 15-20 minutes on the London Overground from London Bridge and is a real treat for little ones. They'll love the Hands-On Base touch-and-feel collection, where little children can touch and play some of its musical instruments.
From soft play areas that also teach young children about life under the ocean to tours of the garden, the Horniman Museum is a wonderfully interactive experience for young children.
Right in the heart of London’s historic East End is this fabulous (and free) museum. Documenting the lives of Londoners through the ages, it includes audio and video exhibitions, fun games and treasure trails, as well as word games and activity sheets specially designed for younger visitors. Find out more about the stories told in the museum in the interactive Mudlarks Play Area and sensory fun sessions. Dress up as a Victorian Sailor or sing along to tunes from yesteryear in a silent disco with a difference.
One of the best museums in London for kids has to be the Science Museum. You’ll find this fantastic exploration of everything from how engines work to outer space in the pretty neighbourhood of South Kensington. As well as a myriad of buttons to push and levers to pull, the Science Museum also provides activities for younger visitors, such as their Pattern Pod, a sensory play area for young explorers, and The Garden, which is an outdoor learning and safe water play area down in the basement. Here, children can learn about more complex concepts such as floating and sinking, light and sound.
The V&A Museum of Childhood, now known as Young V&A, is an annexe of the famous V&A based in Bethnal Green, East London. It’s focused on younger visitors with a series of childhood galleries and a fascinating toy collection. The museum tells the story of children through the ages and allows young visitors to connect with them through play, design and creativity. The Imagination Station runs creative workshops for all ages, and there are even online play interactive platforms so your child can virtually visit the museum any time they like, even once they’re back home.
Older children are looking for more than just a chance to play when they visit a museum. To engage with the 10-12 age group, we’ve picked some of the best museums in London for kids who are a little bit older and have more wide-ranging interests (including dinosaurs…)
Described as ‘the only museum in London where you’re encouraged to laugh out loud!’, the Cartoon Museum will appeal to children of all ages, including grown-ups, who may get a bit nostalgic as they wander around. Dedicated to preserving the art of the cartoon, this museum encourages you to pick up a piece of paper and a pencil and create your own comedy masterpieces. With a collection of over 6,000 original cartoons and a huge library of comic books, this museum is an absolute delight and demonstrates that even in today’s digital age, cartoons are alive and well.
This isn’t just one of the best museums in London for kids, it’s probably one of the best museums in the world. Dinosaur-loving kids will make a beeline for the dinosaur gallery and fossil collection, which includes some of the most complete skeletons of dinosaurs worldwide. Keep your eyes peeled for the 'Swindon Stegosaur', or discover why dinosaurs were so big in a fascinating interactive exhibit. The wildlife garden takes younger visitors on a journey through a typical wildlife garden, discovering all about the creatures that live there and how they all interact to create a dynamic ecosystem.
No matter how young or old you are, the Science Museum in Kensington is a sure-fire winner. This exceptional museum was interactive long before it became fashionable and has hundreds of buttons to push, knobs to twist and levers to pull. New additions to the Science Museum include the Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery that inspires and promotes inquisitive young minds to explore the world in different zones.
Get ready to sail the ocean waves and find out what life was really like onboard an 18th-century sailing ship at the National Maritime Museum. The sea has always been an integral part of British culture, and this amazing museum in Greenwich lets young visitors explore maritime history with hands-on exhibits and the All Hands interactive maritime experiences. Next to the museum is the iconic Cutty Sark, the fastest tea clipper ever to sail between the UK and East Asia.
Finally, we come to older children and teenagers. These best museums in London for kids a little older introduce more complex concepts yet still have that interactive element that engages young minds.
With one of the world's finest collections of modern and contemporary art, Tate Modern is a beacon for art lovers and brings modern art alive. The collection spans over 100 years of contemporary art, including paintings, sculptures and conceptual art that utilises everything from LED lights to concrete and drone photography. The principle of Tate Modern is to expand your understanding of modern art. The workshops and art programmes allow teenagers and young adults to dive deeper into modern art by unleashing their creativity, guided by experienced artists. Tate Modern isn't just one of the best London museums for kids, it’s one of the best attractions in the capital for all ages.
The Imperial War Museum in Greenwich documents how conflict has changed over the centuries and how war affects everyone. From dramatic footage of the Dunkirk evacuation and the Battle of Britain, seen from the Spitfire cockpit, to the dark and secret world of espionage and military intelligence, the Imperial War Museum examines the facts without glorifying the conflict itself. Older teens can also see the consequences of persecution and war in the deeply moving Holocaust Exhibition. This may not be suitable for younger children as the terrible real-life conditions of the camps are graphically documented.
Design surrounds us in every aspect of our lives. From packaging to Anime, fashion to architecture, design is far more important than we often realise. The Design Museum in Kensington brings industrial, product, graphic and architectural design to life. This award-winning museum has Designers In Residence Exhibitions, showcasing the skills of working designers who often hold workshops to introduce inquiring minds to design. The museum also encourages groups of children from years 9-11 to participate in Design Ventura, which challenges them to design a new product to sell in the museum's shop. With the help of industry professionals, the Design Museum hopes to unleash the next generation of creative designers.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, or the V&A, is the place to take fashion-conscious young adults. One of the best museums in London for kids who really care about their appearance, it introduces them to fashion through the ages right up to modern days, some of which may surprise them. For example, the intricate embroidery on display in the Medieval and Renaissance galleries will be unlike anything style-conscious teens have ever seen.
The V&A also explores concepts attached to fashion and culture, with exhibitions about gender and sexuality, an entire archive about the legendary Glastonbury Music Festival and the music scene's influence on fashion, through to digital art and design. The V&A fashion and design exhibitions are endlessly fascinating and always changing, just like fashion and culture.
Our final choice for the best museums in London for kids has to be the British Museum. From ancient Greece and the mighty Roman Empire to Egyptian mummies and ancient Asia, the British Museum has one of the world's finest collections of cultural artefacts. Regular special exhibitions explore less-well-known topics such as Hidden China, while other collections display dazzling treasures from the Viking and Saxon times or priceless Celtic gold torques and jewellery fit for kings and queens.
The British Museum is one of those memorable destinations that will draw you back again and again, and with interactive digital displays and workshops for younger visitors, it’s one of the best museums in London for kids of all ages.
With many homes and apartments in London to choose from, onefinestay is the gateway to exploring the rich history and culture of England’s capital city. Browse our destination guides to find out where to stay and things to do (with your children, of course!), and book a London home with onefinestay today.
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