London and umbrellas go hand in hand but, despite the capital’s whimsical weather, it’s easy to visit year-round – including with the kids in tow. While its cultural sights, street-food markets and indoor gardens are great for younger ones, there’s plenty to do if you’re travelling with teens, too. During the school holidays, museums often host kids’ workshops: don’t miss Tate Modern’s interactive studio and Drawing Bar. Here are some handy, offbeat (and often free) things to do in London – even on a rainy day.
Nearest Tube station: Canary Wharf
Set atop a futuristic-looking building in Canary Wharf, Giant Robot rustles up some of London’s finest street food. Perfect for restless kids thanks to its open seating, it’s a casual sort of spot for Thai buns and pimped-up patties. For dessert, you can take a scenic stroll in the glass-roofed venue’s tropical garden, which also boasts panoramic views of the docks.
Nearest Tube station: Kensington High Street
Travelling with a buggy is a breeze at the Design Museum thanks to its spacious layout and lift access. Babies will love the immersive installations, and older kids can get to grips with design basics thanks to creative workshops. The permanent collections are free to visit, as are temporary shows for kids under six, but you’ll need to book ahead for the most popular ones.
Nearest stop: Watford train station
Less than 1 hour from London, the Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden are heaven for Potter fans and wizards in training. Discover secrets from behind the scenes, visit the sets and see costumes and accessories from the films. To find out more, have a look at our guide to the Studio tour.
Nearest Tube station: Covent Garden
Packed with models and retro posters, this museum charts the evolution of London transport from the 19th century onwards. A paradise for petrolheads and young speed freaks, its must-see exhibits include a train simulator and the world’s first steam locomotive. Kids even get their own interactive zone where they can dress up, role play and drive a real bus. Free for under-17s.
Nearest Tube station: Fulham Broadway
Get to grips with the world of climbing – an offbeat, family-friendly activity that’s great for kids with energy to burn. With dedicated sessions during off-peak hours, the centre’s fun and colourful indoor courses are open to kids as young as two. And, whether you’re a beginner or a pro, there’s a climbing wall for all levels, so you’ll feel safe as you conquer new heights. Book ahead.
Nearest Tube station: Borough
This industrial-chic canteen is ideal for a family lunch after a visit to Tate Modern. At the helm is chef Mark Hix, a major name in modern British cuisine. Under-10s are treated to free meals between 4pm and 6pm on weekdays and from midday to 6pm on weekends. The whole roast chicken served on golden fries is a real hit with youngsters, who also get a special menu to colour in.
Nearest Tube station: Holborn
Somewhere between an amusement arcade and an eccentric museum, Novelty Automation defies all categorisation. It’s filled with wacky automata created by inventor Tim Hunkin, more suitable for grown-ups and teenagers. Forget Super Mario and Pac-Man: try the 'Instant Eclipse', play ping-pong while on a bike or head off on a voyage via a flying carpet...
Nearest Tube station: Liverpool Street
Car wrecks, salvaged materials and bric-à-brac form the backdrop to this subterranean mini-golf spot with a distinctly 90s air. It’s open to under-18s – as long as they’re with an adult – from Sunday to Wednesday before 7pm. Music and a cocktail bar lend the venue a party atmosphere that appeals to teens and parents alike. Just be sure to book on the website to secure a slot.
Nearest Tube station: Euston Square
This science museum, styled as a Victorian cabinet of curiosities, stands out from other zoology museums thanks to its small scale and huge array of rare specimens. Among the more notable exhibits: a skeleton of a quagga – an extinct cousin of the zebra – and a jar with 18 moles preserved in formaldehyde. Best of all, this intimate, unusual panorama of the animal kingdom is free to visit.
Some fun activities for families if you're coming to London with your kids.
Enjoy behind-the-scenes access to the magical world of Harry Potter at Warner Bros Studios, within 1 hour of London.
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