Family-friendly museums in London

Last updated 9th June 2017

1/11 The British Museum

Big Bus Tour: Stop 49, 50 & 52

Arguably the most famous treasure house in Britain, The British Museum houses more than eight million items, from all over the world and all historical eras. The sheer scale, not to mention the number of visitors (6.7 million last year), can seem overwhelming unless you do some homework and decide on a focus. The current Viking exhibition, which runs until 22 June, is a good bet for families, as is the collection of mummies.

There are also special events for children, mostly at weekends and during school holidays; during the May half term, for example, there’s a programme devoted to ‘Marvellous Mummies’.

Entrance is free.

Open: Daily from 10am to 5.30pm (8.30pm Fridays).

Info: 020 7323 8299;

Tube: Tottenham Court Road or Holborn

2/11 Natural History Museum

Big Bus Tour: Stop 36

It’s hot competition for the biggest wows between the massive skeleton of Diplodocus in the main hall, the T Rex in the herd of animatronics or the Blue Whale. The latest exhibit is a 42,000-year-old baby mammoth called Lyuba, found by a Siberian reindeer herder and the star of a new mammoth exhibition, which opens on 23 May. But the entire museum is really a turn-on for children of all ages, especially activities such as ‘build a bee hotel’ and ‘make a volcano erupt’.

There’s also a fascinating exhibition this summer (until 28 September) devoted to early man, including a life-size model of Neanderthal man. The big, although expensive, treat is an overnight ‘Dino Snores’ experience, where seven- to 11-year-olds can spend the night in the museum, including a torch-lit trail through the dinosaurs gallery.

Price: Overnight stays, which require a minimum of five children and one adult per booking, cost £52 per head. General admission to the museum is free.

Open: Daily from 10am to 6pm. Info: 020 7942 5000;

Tube: South Kensington

3/11 Victoria and Albert Museum

Big Bus Tour: Stop 36

It might, on paper at least, be hard to fi re up enthusiasm in younger folk for visiting a museum devoted to applied arts, but in practice the V&A works well with some judicious pruning. For example, you might prefer to turn your back on the Italian Renaissance sculptures, and go instead to the fashion galleries, which are staging (until next March) an exhibition of wedding dresses since 1775. There’s also the new theatre nd performance spaces and an excellent shop.

Entrance is free.

Open: Daily from 10am to 5.45pm (10pm Fridays).

Info: 020 7942 2000;

Tube: South Kensington

4/11 Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood

A celebration of a children’s world pre PlayStations, iPadsand other modern distractions. Exhibits, which offer plenty of hands-on engagement, date back to the 1600s but with particular emphasis on the 19th century. The doll’s house collection is especially popular.

There’s also a new show (until 2 November), which is devoted to the work of children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson, including a mock-up of her 1950s childhood bedroom.

Entrance is free.

Open: Daily from 10am to 5.45pm.

Info: 020 8983 5200;

Tube: Bethnal Green

5/11 Science Museum 

Big Bus Tour: Stop 36

Rocket science, steam engines, classic cars, IMAX 3D films… in fact it’s easier to say what the Science Museum hasn’t got. This is a great place for children to get a handle, often literally, on technology. It’s education meets fun, learning meets leisure, with permanent galleries (don’t miss ‘Who Am I?’, which examines everyone’s favourite subject, ie themselves), enhanced by special exhibitions.

Entrance is free.

Open: Daily from 10am to 7pm.

Info: 0870 870 4868;

Tube: South Kensington

6/11  Imperial War museum

Big Bus Tour: Stop 22

Although the museum is closed until 19 July, it reopens in time for the school holidays with new galleries devoted to World War I in commemoration of the centenary year. Another newcomer will be a family exhibition called ‘Horrible Histories: Spies’, which will join other permanent galleries themed around such topics as ‘Secret War’ and ‘A Family in Wartime’ and (for older teenagers) ‘The Holocaust’.

Entrance is free.

Open: Daily from 10am to 6pm.

Info: 020 7416 5000;

Tube: Lambeth North

7/11 Horniman Museum 

Once the art nouveau home of a wealthy tea trader, the Horniman now houses one of London’s most eclectic collections. Among the displays are a vast number of musical instruments, African masks, an extensive aquarium and menagerie of stuffed specimens, including a massive walrus. Family friendly, with lots of hands-on activities and engaging events, plus a delightful garden with a few animals.

Price: General admission is free; tickets for the aquarium cost £3.30 for adults; £1.10 for children.

Open: Daily from 10.30am to 5.30pm

Info: 020 8699 1872;

Train: Forest Hill

8/11 Florence Nightingale Museum  

Big Bus Tour: Stop 13 & 22

Tracing the story of the world’s most famous nurse, including her service during the Crimean War (particularly pertinent given the current unresolved crisis in the Ukraine), the museum forms part of St Thomas’ Hospital.

Price: Tickets cost £7.80 for adults; £4.80 for children.

Open: Daily from 10am to 5pm.

Info: 020 7620 0374;

Tube: Westminster orWaterloo

9/11  The Geffrye Museum

A row of 18th century almshouses has been reincarnated as a history of private homes, the individualhouses now a seriesof 11 rooms decoratedand furnished in styles from different periods from the 1600s. The period garden is also interesting. Fabulous free weekend and holiday activities for families, usually based around crafts, are well worth attending.

Entrance is free.

Open: Daily (except Mondays) from 10am to 5pm.

Info: 020 7739 9893;

Train: Hoxton

10/11  Museum of London Docklands

Lest we forget what came before the huge commercial redevelopment of the capital’s Docklands, the museum spells out the significance of the area since Roman times, with especially poignant reminders of the role of the docks during the slave trade and the hammering it took during World War II.

Housed in a 19th century warehouse there’s a great play area for the kids, too, and a regular programme of special events for families, from storytelling to craft sessions.

Entrance is free.

Open: Daily from 10am to 6pm.

Info: 020 7001 9844;

Train: DLR West India Quay

11/11  Museum of London 

Big Bus Tour: Stop 17

Centuries upon centuries of history are to be found within London’s walls. From the time long before London was London, when all that existed was wilderness and a population that would fit on a  doubledecker bus, the museum tells the story of the arrival of the Romans in AD 50, the Middle Ages, both World Wars and right up until Swinging London of the 1960s.

It also looks beyond, to what the capital might look like in the future. Lots of special family events, too.

Entrance is free.

Open: Daily, from 10am to 6pm.

Info: 020 7001 9844;

Tube: St Paul’s or Barbican