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Travelling with a baby

12 London museums for kids and winter – and not in South Ken!

With cold weather properly settled in, plenty of parents with young kids like ours research ideas for indoor entertainment.  And with the 3 South Kensington museums so busy at weekend and school holidays, parents are rightly looking and asking around for alternative options. Have no fear, London has so many treats, it’s difficult to exhaust even in few winter seasons. Here are our latest favourite museums for parents keen to try something different to South Kensington or not to be on Christmas mode for 8 weeks – shopping or entertainment wise!

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1. London canal museum. Little known, cosy and charming, Canal museum has a fascinating history. 200 years ago used to be one of London ice houses set up by a Swiss Italian. Carlo Gatti earned his fortune around Kings Cross with a grand restaurant and later on, ice and icecream. The basement contained 2 huge storage rooms for ice coming all the way from Norway, 1st floor was the horses stables and 2nd floor Carlo Gatti’s residences.

There are boats, barges, locks to play with – our kids found it particularly entertaining. We spent a morning with friends and their kids listening stories of the canals, their people and trade. We then headed for lunch at Camino nearby, yum delicious Spanish tapas.

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My 4 years old asked me to go back after lunch for more – whilst the museum is rather on the small side, there’s plenty of interactive gadgets and even a kids corner with puzzles, drawings and books. London Canal Museum team on the day was lovely and keen to share the history and knowledge. When our 4 years old was asked about his favourite museums, he was quick to confess that London canal museum is his favourite right after Natural History Museum!

In summer and Halloween, London Canal Museum also runs boat trips, witches and spooky fun included.

2. National Army Museum of Chelsea. Brand new and renovated at perfection, including a very nice softplay area and a cafe with home made dishes, wine and beer – all the ideal ingredients for good play dates!

Nice contemporary design, Scandi furniture and lots of material for thought.

Lots of trails, interactive play including marching, driving a tank, playing as changing guard with bearskin, red coat and sentry box included, designing outfits, deciding rations, as well as treasures like the horse rode by Napoleon, the sword of Lawrence of Arabia, and the service uniform worn by HM Queen Elizabeth II.

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Very exciting to have NAM in Chelsea – 3 well spent years of renovations!

3. British Museum needs little introduction. That comes at a high price of course, this is the 2nd most visited museum worldwide, right after Louvre. Couple of weeks ago we went on a rainy Saturday, it was rather packed by 11am. Pick the rear entrance for no queues and head to the family desks for the backpacks.

For parents with kids age groups similar to ours (18 months & 4 years old), there’s the African adventure and Little feet – Alfred the Explorer backpacks.

A very exciting family events calendar as well, best to check directly on British Museum website the relevant workshops.

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4. Royal Airforce Museum  for the love of airports & flying. Interactive, fun and huge, keeps our kids very entertained and happy. The Battle of Britain Hall is usually our first stop, with little men going into the very planes that fought for supremacy over the Channel.

Marine craft collection outside also fascinating but less interactive. The Milestones of Flight also great to run around and magic : from the early pioneer days – up to our times of flying and jet engines.

The Aeronauts Interactive Centre is the icing on the cake: a hands on flight centre with lots and lots of exhibits to help discover how aircrafts fly. Helicopters, gliders, planes and so much more.

5. Design Museum for an arty designery break and gorgeous Holland Park next door. A favourite of ours, where me and my 4 years old son test on regular basis chairs, cups, outfits and various ideas at the Designer, Maker , User.

There’s also a family room for a lego break or a bit of reading – architecture in plain terms for the kids. Former Commonwealth Institute building and renovated for almost 5 years, Design Museum has also regular (and some free) exhibition – lots of food for thought and very topical.

6. V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. The mission of the museum says it all “To enable everyone, especially the young, to explore and enjoy the designed world, in particular objects made for and by children.” There are extensive collections of toys, childhood equipment and costumes, and stages a programme of temporary exhibitions.

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Renovated twice in the last 12 years, the museum is a true celebration of children and play.

7. Horniman museum in Forest Hill hosts anthropology, natural history, musical instruments and a large collection of taxidermied animals.

The gardens are huge and delightful, there’s a conservatory, a bandstand, ornamental garden,  enclosure for small animals, nature trail and even a sound garden with large musical instruments for playing.

8. London Transport Museum in Covent Garden – we wrote about in here.

9. National Gallery next door in Trafalgar square. Another popular/ read crowded – right after Louvre and the British Museum.

The main collection is free of charge, there are regular workshops and family friendly trails as well as a favourite of ours and our eldest – Magic carpet.

10. Tate Modern does the trick. One of our most memorable days out – read all about and why in here. The Turbine Hall has been invaded by playfully subversive artists and their swings. A must see by April 2018.

11. Cutty Sark. The world’s sole surviving tea clipper and fastest ship of her time treated us with tales, warm staff and all sorts of distractions, including wooden but vocal pigs, pianos to be shipped to Sydney, tea boxes & crates, bells to be rang.

The views from the lowest floor/ coffee shop level are really awesome as the 19th-century sailing ship has been raised over three metres allowing one to walk directly underneath!

12. The latest kid on the block, Postal museum. We will visit in 2018 and will write about, in the meantime here’s a link and impressions from one of my favourite bloggers – Catherine at Cultural Wednesdays.

And in case you exhausted all of the above there are over 200 museums in London!  Happy museum wanderings all!

Disclosure: Many thanks to London Canal Museum, Cutty Sark, Transport Museum and National Army Museum (softplay area) for the press passes.  Views, photos & super excited kids – my own.

42 comments on “12 London museums for kids and winter – and not in South Ken!

  1. Zen Babytravel
    November 16, 2017
    CulturedKids
  2. joannavictoria
    November 16, 2017

    Ive not been to any of these I definitely think they would be fun to visit as a family thank u for sharing.

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 16, 2017

      Glad to hear Joanna, keep us posted on your favourites 😉

  3. Laura Dove
    November 16, 2017

    Oh these all sound lovely! The museum of childhood sounds like something we would really enjoy as a family!

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 16, 2017

      Absolutely, all of them are very enjoyable as family 😉 Thanks for stopping by Laura!

  4. Nadia - Scandimummy
    November 16, 2017

    What fantastic ideas! We’ll definitely be exploring some of these in the coming months. Thank you for sharing x

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 16, 2017

      Great to hear, keep us posted on your impressions Nadia! x

  5. Emma
    November 16, 2017

    I’ve not really explored London too much with the boys, but I’ve seen so many posts with things to do. I’ve definitely been considering a trip!

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 16, 2017

      Definitely Emma, we are very spoilt in London! The boys will love it – I have no doubt! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Leona
    November 16, 2017

    The transport museum is fab so great for families

  7. Little Pickle's Mom
    November 17, 2017

    Wow! Definitely bookmarking this for the future – a great list of places to visit. Thanks.

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 17, 2017

      Great to hear and thanks for stopping by!

  8. mymoneycottage
    November 18, 2017

    These look like fantastic places! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 18, 2017

      Great to hear ! My pleasure 😉

  9. Deb Sharratt
    November 18, 2017

    Fab places. All add to the list for our next trip.

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 26, 2017

      Great to hear Deb, enjoy London and the museums!

  10. Kara
    November 18, 2017

    I have only been to one of these museums but its an excuse to head into London again

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 18, 2017

      Yes we are so spoilt in LondoN and all the cold and wet months are tge perfect excuse to wander around these gorgeous museums and explore!

  11. Annabel Kirk
    November 20, 2017

    This is great! Was planning to write a list like this myself. I’m keen to visit the Post museum and am now going to try the canal museum after reading your review of it, that’s the easiest one for my little family to get to from where we live (always a mission going to London on my own with 2 boys!)

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 21, 2017

      A mission indeed Annabel, hope it goes well and you all enjoy smd please keep us posted with your future links or impressions!

  12. Taslyn Russell
    November 20, 2017

    I took my daughter to that museum recently she loved it cant wait to go back.

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 21, 2017

      Good to hear Taslyn, which one are you referring to? X

  13. MrsS (@Otisandus_blog)
    November 20, 2017

    This is such a great list of places to visit. The Museum of Childhood looks great!

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 21, 2017

      Thank you! Working on actually expaning the list 😉

  14. Stephanie
    November 20, 2017

    I didn’t realise there was so many museums in London!

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 20, 2017

      Can you believe it’s actually 200 of them? We are very very spoilt 😉

  15. Out of Depth Dad
    November 22, 2017

    What a great summary! I’ll definitely try some of these out on our next trip to London.

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 26, 2017

      Great to hear and enjoy London and the museums!

  16. myrabevlife
    November 23, 2017

    It’s weird to think I am practically in London all the time and yet I am have not managed to visit one museum. Thanks for this compilation

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 23, 2017

      Ah wow, definitely worth putting them on your list! Hope you’ll find some time soon and thanks for stopping by!

  17. Zen Babytravel
    November 28, 2017
    MummyTravels
  18. MummyTravels
    November 28, 2017

    We really are spoiled for choice in London and this is such a great introduction to some of the often forgotten museums. I’ve heard great things about NAM and its soft play and the British Museum is one of my fsvourites. When i am feeling uninspired on a grim winter’s day, i am going to remind myself of this post. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 29, 2017

      Pleasure linking in Cathy, will keep an eye on your adventures on grim wintery days !

  19. Tanja
    November 29, 2017

    great places for any time:) #citytripping

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 29, 2017

      Indeed Tanja, it does not have to be winter or rainy! Thanks for stopping by!

  20. Nicky @ GoLiveYoung
    November 29, 2017

    So many museums in London. It’s great to hear about some of the less common ones. We love the British Museum and the Transport Museum £city tripping

    • Zen Babytravel
      December 1, 2017

      I can understand why Nicky 😉 thanks for stopping by!

  21. So many fabulous things to do in London in the wintertime! Thank you for giving my Postal. Useum Post a shout out. #CulturedKids

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 30, 2017

      Pleasure Catherine! We are looking forward to going to the Postal Museum in the New Year, as you say – so many fab things to do in London and so little time!

  22. pigeonpairandme
    November 30, 2017

    I’d love to visit the Canal Museum! It wasn’t on my radar before – thanks for flagging it up. You’ve gathered together some really interesting museums here. Thanks for sharing with #CulturedKids!

    • Zen Babytravel
      November 30, 2017

      Great to hear Nell, Canal Museum has such a fascinating history. You can combine it with a trip to British Library in the area, especially that your kids are slightly older and v likely more behaved than our cheeky tornadoes! Pleasure to link in as usual!

  23. Pingback: Ferrari under the skin. London Design museum with kids. - zenbabytravel

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