Free play in London: four top places to visit

Free play in London: four top places to visit

Play England defines free play as “…children choosing what they want to do, how they want to do it and when they want to stop and try something else.” This kind of play is good for both children and their parents, and when you’re travelling with young children, free play can help them unwind and settle into their new environment. But big cities don’t often have many places where children can just kick back and play free.

City Cruises

We’re lucky here in London. There are plenty of spaces where children can play unrestricted – all very close to central hotels, so you don’t have to travel too far. Here are a few of our favourite London spots for free play. They’re all completely free to enter. And if you’re on a budget and looking for deals on places to stay in London, do check out the Groupon Travelodge page.

Do you know of any more London spaces for free play? Please tell us your favourites in the comments below.

Coram’s Fields

Coram’s Fields opened over eighty years ago, on the site of a foundling hospital established by philanthropist Captain Thomas Coram. Its seven acres, in historic Bloomsbury, not far from the British Museum, include children’s playgrounds, sand pits, a duck pond, a pets corner and a café. The adventure play area features a zip wire, a witch’s hat swing, a sensory and music area and one of the largest slides in town. Like all playgrounds, you do need to keep an eye on your children. But no adult is allowed into Coram’s Fields unless they’re accompanying someone under 16. So it’s pretty safe for youngsters to roam about and play unrestricted.

Getting there

Coram’s Fields is at 93 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1DN. The nearest buses are the 17, 45, & 46 at Gray’s Inn Road or the 7, 59, 68, 91, 168 & 188 at Russell Square. The nearest tubes are Russell Square, Kings Cross St Pancras & Holborn or Chancery Lane. Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston train stations are all within walking distance. There is no car parking on site and metred parking in the area costs around £4p/hr.

Jubilee Gardens


Jubilee Gardens is well positioned, opposite the Houses of Parliament and next to the London Eye.

London’s Southbank is a treasure trove of family entertainment. The London Eye, Shrek’s Adventure and the London Aquarium line up along this bit of the Thames, all within a stone’s throw of each other. A few minutes’ walk away is the Southbank centre, which regularly holds seasonal family-friendly festivals like Imagine Children’s Festival in February, and Wonderground in summer, with talented buskers, a colourful carousel and other fairground rides. In amongst all this excitement, Jubilee Gardens is a small, pretty, landscaped park with 96 trees and a playground for 3-11 year olds. It opened in 2012 to celebrate HRH Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee. With rope bridges, wooden swings and giant stepping stones, it’s a good place to let children unleash their imaginations. You’ll need to supervise them, but you can do it safely from one of the Gardens’ benches.

Getting there

Jubilee Gardens is at Belvedere Road, Waterloo, London, SE1. It’s opposite the Houses of Parliament and next to the London Eye. The Gardens are within easy walking distance from several London Underground stations: Waterloo, Embankment, Charing Cross, Blackfriars and Westminster. The closest rail stations are Waterloo, Waterloo East, Charing Cross and Blackfriars. As well as meter bays located around the streets of South Bank there are also a number of car parks including the Hayward Gallery Car Park, National Theatre Car Park and The Union Car Park.

AHOY! and All Hands Galleries, National Maritime Museum

Greenwich’s National Maritime Museum is the largest maritime collection in the UK, and possibly even the world. You can find yourself gazing for hours at intricate ships in bottles, nautical costumes with ornate, glistening buttons (including the uniform Nelson wore at the Battle of Trafalgar), and splendid artworks by JMW Turner and others. For the under-7s, the Ahoy! Gallery is an immersive space where they can dress up in sailor’s garb, stoke the boiler of a steamship, land a fish or tend ships in the interactive boatyard. For 6-12 year olds, the All Hands Gallery is a space where children can help prepare food in the ship’s galley, or load cargo in the port, as well as shoot down pirate ships in an interactive game.


Greenwich is a good destination for families (image by Pixabay)

The National Maritime Museum is part of the Royal Museums Greenwich group, so if you wanted to explore more of this corner of London, there’s the Cutty Sark, the Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory, home of the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time.

Getting there

The National Maritime Museum is at Romney Road, Greenwich SE10 9NF. The nearest stations are Cutty Sark DLR, Greenwich rail station and Maze Hill rail station, or Greenwich Pier, where Thames Clippers, City Cruises and Thames River Services run regular boat journeys to and from central London.

Diana Memorial Playground at Hyde Park

Hyde Park is a huge green space in the centre of London. It covers 350 acres, so visitors with children would be wise to pick their section and head there on public transport, otherwise you may find yourself with a long march. In the warmer months families can go boating on the Serpentine lake, and try out the new solarshuttle, which glides along powered only by the sun. Knightsbridge or Hyde Park Corner are the best tube stations for reaching the jetty.

Plenty of opportunities for urban wildlife-spotting in Hyde Park…. (image by Pixabay)

For free play, the Diana Memorial Playground i s a space where children can go wild. Queensway is the closest station. This Peter Pan-inspired playspace features a sensory trail, teepees, a pirate ship with beach and many climbing frames. Only adults supervising children up to the age of 12 are allowed in, and children aren’t allowed to enter or leave the playground without an adult carer. On hot days, especially in the summer holidays, visitors sometimes have to queue to enter the playground.

Getting there

The postcode for the park is W2 2UH, but this is for guidance only as the park covers a large area. The tube stations on the edge of Hyde Park are Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge.

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  1. March 7, 2018 / 10:44 am

    Some great ideas. A trip to London can work out super expensive so it’s great to have some options for free play because children enjoy that as much as the expensive things.

    • March 9, 2018 / 10:35 am

      Yes, and it’s a good chance to wind down. London can be very hectic!

  2. March 7, 2018 / 1:27 pm

    How time flies, I don’t think I’ve walked past the London Eye since the Jubilee Gardens we’re finished! I must make an effort to check them out!

    • March 9, 2018 / 10:57 am

      They’re nice. Small, but a good mini-haven amongst all the Southbank hecticness!

  3. March 7, 2018 / 3:58 pm

    All good tips…I would say almost any of the BIG museums could be added too, especially as rainy day options. The science museum has lots of options and space for free play and across the road the V&A has a brilliant courtyard with outdoor play. Another great outdoor (wet) play spot in the centre of London is Somerset House and their fountains in the summer time. Change of clothes definitely needed!!

    • March 9, 2018 / 10:58 am

      You’re so right! That reminds me, I’ve never taken my two to splash in the fountains at Somerset House. It’s just down the road from D’s office, so we need to schedule in a trip once it gets a little warmer!

  4. March 8, 2018 / 9:16 am

    A lovely list, Diana Memorial must be our favourite given how close we live! Weekdays we even bumped in there into Prince George, Kate and Pippa! Very spoilt in London!

    • March 9, 2018 / 11:03 am

      Oh, wow! How exciting. Yes, you’re right – we really are spoilt here.

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