London with teenagers needn’t be expensive, discover my top 10 free things to do in London with teens. All of these have been road tested with my own teens in tow, places deemed to be boring have not been included.
Free things to do in London with Teens
London is awash with free things to do and see. Outings that cover parts of the KS3, GCSE or A level curriculums can be educational for everyone, I learnt loads from my teens when we visited the Army Museum. Here are my top 10 free things to do in London with teenagers.
Discover Roman London
It was the Roman’s that first made London the capital and even today you can walk along the roads they made. Watling Street provides fantastic views of St Pauls and has been a thoroughfare for getting on for 1,000 years. The City of London is awash all things Roman. You can explore the both the London Roman Amphitheatre and the London Mithraeum for free. Take a look at my Roman London post for more walking Roman London inspiration.
National Army Museum
Everything you wanted to know about the British Army and lots more. The stand-out fact for me was that there was no British Army as such until the Civil War. We have visited often and found it helpful with the ‘War through time’ module of GCSE History syllabus. Absolute highlight for the teens was the skeleton of Marengo, Napoleon’s horse.
- National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Rd, SW3 4HT
- Open: Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 5.30pm
Napoleon’s toothbrush, mummified babies, used guillotine blades and this handy model showing acupuncture points are just some of this things on display in this fabulously quirky collection. Sir Henry Wellcome founded the eponymous pharmaceutical company and used some of his money to amass this medically-related stash of things. It is the perfect place for the incurably curious. It has a great café too.
- Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, NW1 2BF
- Open: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Maths Gallery at the Science Museum
The whole of the Science Museum is just brilliant, I first visited when I was a teenager on a school trip and it has never lost its magic, but the Maths Gallery is especially excellent. Maths: just lines of dull numbers or the most beautiful thing imaginable? The Maths Gallery at the Science Museum will convince you of the magic and possibility of numerical mastery. Even the most reluctant teen museum visitor will be smitten by the computers.
- Science Museum, Exhibition Road, SW7 2DD
- Open: Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
Museum of London Docklands
Tall tower blocks make London’s Docklands feel more like America than Britain. The Museum of London Docklands tells the tale of the area from being the commercial heart of Empire to global financial centre. Even better, the journey to the museum is best made on the DLR with its driverless trains, my teens no longer enjoy sitting at the front and pretending to drive the train but I have great fun doing so (whilst they skulk at the back disowning me).
- Museum of London Docklands, No 1 Warehouse, West India Quay, E14 4AL
- Open: Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Stroll along the Southbank
Great views and more silver men standing still than you can shake a stick at are to be had as you stroll along the Southbank of the Thames. Get off the train at Blackfriars, walk along the north bank for a little way before heading over the Millenium Bridge (aka the Wobbly Bridge) toward Tate Modern. Maybe pop inside (also free) and ascend the Switch House for panoramic views over London. Then head east toward the Royal Festival Hall: on your way you will past skateboarders perfecting their skills under the Queen Elizabeth Hall. My teens love selecting lunch from the street food market behind the Royal Festival Hall.
Teens of both genders may like coming face to face with the Laughing Cavalier but it will probably be the boys that appreciate the world class collection of armour. Whole suits of horse armour and intricately chased suits designed to be admired in rather than actually worn into battle as well as more workmanlike examples are on display. Elsewhere you can see Marie Antoinette’s desk and many, many fine pictures.
- Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, W1U 3BU
- Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
Discover Royal Greenwich
Greenwich, to the south of London, was a favourite residence of the Royal family for many years. Henry VIII was born here. Only a fragment of the basement of Henry’s palace can be seen under the Painted Hall but the buildings his Jacobean successors built are spectacular and some are free. The Queen’s House was the first to be constructed, now it is home to a collection of paintings and one of the finest spiral staircases in London. Next door to the Queen’s House is the National Maritime Museum with everything you need to know about our maritime past. Climb up to top of the hill by the Observatory for one of the very finest views across London. Elsewhere in Greenwich you will find the Cutty Sark, the Royal Observatory and the Painted Hall all of which are excellent but do need paying for.
- Queen’s House, Romney Road, Greenwich, SE10 9NF
- Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
Museum of the Home
Over the years we have enjoyed many visits to the Museum of the Home with the teens and the Godparents. The museum is housed in a range of Tudor almshouses and has a series of room sets devoted to London living rooms down the ages. It is fascinating stuff and focuses on the domestic, how lives were lived rather than big historical facts. At Christmas the rooms are dressed to show how are Yuletide celebrations have changed over the years PLUS it has a great cafe.
Jeans, jugs and an Olivetti typewriter are just a few of the things on display at the Design Museum in its swanky new home on High Street Kensington. The permament collection is located in the top right hand corner of the building. Take time to walk up and round walkways rather than catch the lift to take in the full grandeur of the space.
- Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street W8 6AG
- Open: Daily 9.30am -6pm (on Friday until 9pm)
Sightseeing on London Public Transport
Transport, unless you walk or bring your own bikes, will not be free, but you can see the sights as you travel. Oyster cards are your friends, if you live in London it is worth getting a Zip Oyster for your teens if they are below 16. Failing that tap you can use regular tappable bank cards, just make sure that you have one card per person and that everyone uses the same card throughout the day.
Sightseeing by Bus
One of the great joys of London is watching the world go by from the top deck of a London bus. The top deck of a bus is a great place to see the sights, my favourite sightseeing route is the number 15. It runs from the Tower of London to Trafalgar Square will not only get you those two iconic sights but also St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Courts of Justice and the Eleanor Cross.
Cruise along the Thames on Public Transport
The Thames Clipper network is part of Transport for London, you can tap in and out just as you do for the rest of the network. It costs a little more than using the tube, train or bus but a lot less then a tour boat and the views are stunning.
Fly above London on public transport
Well not fly but certainly a birds eye view. The Emirates Air Line to give its proper name, or the cable car in regular speak runs from North Greenwich by the O2 arena and the ExCel centre. The views are stunning in one direction the Thames Barrier glimmers and in the other central London is laid out in front of you. You can see the Thames snaking around just like the opening titles of Eastenders. Flights are £8 for adults and £4 for children. Both ends of the cable car are connected either to the tube, DLR or riverboat network.
These are my top ten things to do with teens in London. Do you have favourite free places to take your teenagers in London?