Where to go that’s free this half-term: London’s best cheap family attractions


Fair dos, while on a half-term London break with the kids, all you may want to indulge in is the likes of an afternoon tea near Barbican, but let’s face it; that’s not really on the cards, is it? Instead, your top priority’s going to be hunting down and getting to from your accommodation (say, the London City Suites hotel) two or three excellent, money-saving attractions that are finely suited for all the family – but especially your little ones…

Horniman Museum

(100 London Road SE23 3PQ)

One of the capital’s perfect-for-kids attractions that, like it or not, only those in the know ever seem to, well, know about, the Horniman’s a fascinating destination for a visitor of any age, but most definitely younger ones. With its, on the surface, rather ramshackle collection of marvellous, rare and unusual objects – it’s a place that centres on showcasing the weird and wonderful of natural history, anthropology and, yes, musical instruments – it’s rather understandable then why it appeals so much to kids. And yet, don’t doubt it, the childlike wonder it evokes is why it’s a satisfying venue for practically anyone. Note that, although the museum’s free to enter, entry to its aquarium is not (it’s £4 for adults and £2 for children), while other charges apply for specific events and exhibitions.

British Museum

(Great Russell Street WC1B 3DG)

Granted, this extraordinary museum – both in its scope and size – could seem rather hazardous a venue to take little ones too as it simply could be too overwhelming, but then it all depends on what you’re going to it for. Indeed, this grand, vast museum’s actually a fine attraction for kids thanks to its commitment to ensuring they get the chance to really examine the history and art in front of them in a totally small-scale but kid-accessible manner – for instance, the animal masks of the African galleries are a must, while all the Buddhas in the Indian galleries are great for engaging counting games. Plus, best of all, during holidays it’s a place that runs more than its fair share of craft projects. Pick and choose; that’s what the British Museum’s all about – for all ages.

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground

(Kensington Gardens, Broad Walk W2 4RU)

Given this supreme playground for little ones (it features, among its many appealing bits and bobs like a sensory trail and dinky tepees, an enormous pirate-ship-climbing-frame, inspired by Kensington Gardens’ association with Peter Pan) gets absolutely packed at the height of summer – as you can, no doubt, well imagine – a non-rainy half-time morning or afternoon may just be the perfect time for you and your little tykes to pay it a visit. It also features a decent requisite café and lots of seating for potentially shattered parents. Plus, lest we forget, of all of London’s Royal Parks, Kensington Gardens is arguably the most kid-friendly, what with it also featuring the central feature that’s the Round Pond with all its sundry wildfowl and, of course the iconic Peter Pan bronze statue (simply magical) and, of course, it’s totally and utterly free – perfect then if you’re already saving cash via city break London packages.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

(E20 2ST)

It may not be top of your kids’ wish list, but which curious visitor to London wouldn’t want to explore the sites that primarily played host to London’s iconic 2012 Summer Olympic Games? The great news too is that this vast space has been expertly converted into an awesome, modern family-friendly park that’s perfect for any sunny autumnal day. Indeed, kids’ll doubtless be able to get enough of Tumbling Bay, a playground that features tree houses, sand pits, rock pools and wobbly bridges, while there’s ample picnic space throughout the place and an excellent café to boot.

Hackney City Farm

(1a Goldsmiths Row E2 8QA)

Finally, for city-dwelling families (wherever in the world they might hail from), this twee and charming urban farm is a must-visit what with its plethora of cute and cuddly, furry critters, such as rabbits, sheep, goats and chickens. Plus, parents may approve of the organic vegetables- and eggs-vending farm shop that’s all about providing good, locally grown produce – and the fine example that can set for little minds.