A family day out in London doesn’t have to break the bank. Take the kids to some of the city’s best museums, galleries and free tourist attractions and find out which central London restaurants let them eat for free.
Morning: free museums
There are a lot of free museums in London. Among them, South Kensington’s Science Museum and Natural History Museum are especially good for kids. And apart from some temporary installations and exhibitions, these are both entirely free!
London's Science Museum is packed full of fun family activities. Get a grip on numbers at Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, enjoy a glimpse of space travel with the Apollo 10 command module and learn how technology has played an increasingly vital role in our lives.
Next door, the Natural History Museum has lots of fascinating finds. Get up close to a terrifying T. Rex, step into an earthquake simulator and check out an extinct sabre-tooth cat. But don't forget to say hello to Hope the blue whale in Hintze Hall!
Lunch: picnic time!
Take a packed lunch to the Science Museum's indoor picnic areas on level 2 and 3 of the museum. If it's a nice day, sit on the east lawn of the Natural History Museum or find a spot in nearby Kensington Gardens.
Afternoon: free parks and film favourites
Once refueled, let the little ones burn off energy in Kensington Gardens. The Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground has a giant wooden pirate ship to climb, as well as a sensory trail, beach and teepees. If you have rollerblades, you can join skaters of all ages on the nearby Broad Walk. Or step into a fairytale at the Peter Pan statue – swipe your smartphone and you may even get a call from Peter Pan himself!
Wander across the magnificent Serpentine Lake to Hyde Park. The Serpentine is home to many birds, many of which are winter visitors to the park. Spot ducks, geese and even great crested grebes.
If you want a real treat, venture further on to St James's Park, where the resident pelicans can be found around the lake – you may even make it for feeding time, between 2.30pm and 3pm each day!
Once they've had fun with their new feathered friends, take the bus or walk to Leicester Square, where the little ones can bump into their film icons. The Scenes in the Square trail features bronze statues of famous characters, from Harry Potter to Paddington and Mary Poppins. Enjoy a free audio tour of the trail using your smartphone.
Evening: cheap eats in Covent Garden and Soho
Catch the Tube to Covent Garden to watch colourful street performers in the piazza and offer them your appreciation in the form of applause and some small change. There are also plenty of fantastic and cheap places to eat in the area.
Famed for its frozen custard shakes, Shake Shack serves burgers from £5.50. Byron also has a Covent Garden outpost, complete with a kids menu of a main, side and soft drink for £6.50 – adults can tuck into burgers from £8.95.
For the more adventurous child, Wahaca dishes up flavour-packed Mexican street food in a lively atmosphere – sharing-style street food dishes here start at £5.10, with kids' specials from £5.25. The Real Greek, which has locations in Soho and the Strand, offers kids a main course, drink and dessert for £6.75; while adult-friendly sharing meze plates average around £6.
Young children can enjoy free or discounted travel but older children need a Zip Oyster photocard to receive money off. The cheapest way for adults to travel is by using an Oyster Card or contactless payment card, with fares capped at £7.20 per day in Zones 1-2.
- Dinner for two adults and two children: around £35
- Tube fare for two adults in Zones 1-2: £14.20
- Everything else: free
- Total: £49.20