The famous walrus at London's Horniman Museum.
The famous walrus at London's Horniman Museum.

20 Family-friendly British Museums You May Not Have Heard Of

There’s nowhere better – and often cheaper – for a family day out than a museum. And many museums now offer year-round family activities, workshops and events. We've picked out 22 family-friendly museums that while not on every parent's radar are guaranteed to provide hours of entertainment this summer, autumn and winter.


Horniman Museum and Gardens

There’s a buzz at this museum, and it’s coming from the bees. Watch them producing their honey in a glass-sided hive in the Nature Base gallery for under-8s, then spot beetles and harvest mice, listen to bats and learn about fox droppings. There are breathtaking views across the city from the landscaped gardens outside, where those bees draw their pollen.

Geffrye Museum

Take a 400-year walk through a series of rooms, each decorated and furnished in the style of a different era, within an 18th-century almshouse. There's an ongoing array of activities for all ages.


Rural Life Centre

Set in 10 acres of woodland and barns, this giant collection of farming implements and machinery teaches you about local hop-growing and the history of village life in the reconstructed buildings, which include a cricket pavilion, village hall, chapel and Victorian laundry.


Saffron Walden Museum

One of the oldest museums in Britain, opened in 1835, this includes mummy cases, mammoth tusks and Wallace the lion. Set in an enclosed grass meadow beside the ruins of 12th-century Walden Castle, it’s also a lovely place for picnics.


Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium

This venue teaches kids the fundamental principles of science, with more than 100 interactives, trails and ‘explainers’ plus a planetarium with presenter-led shows.


M Shed

This interactive museum in a former 1950s transit shed on the historic dockside is the first to trace the city’s history through the stories of its inhabitants. There are not only objects but lots of film and sound to see and listen to.


Museum in the Park

Housed in a 17th-century wool merchant's mansion in Stroud, this Cotswolds museum is crammed full of colourful displays celebrating the local area, from dinosaur bones to the world’s first lawnmower. But it isn’t actually about objects – it’s about the people who used or made them.

Nature in Art

Dedicated to art inspired by all things natural – the only one of its kind in the world – this museum in a fine Georgian mansion in Gloucester hosts displays of art spanning 1500 years, 600 artists and 50+ countries. You can also meet an artist as they work on their next creation.


Brixham Heritage Museum

Get locked up in the cells of this former police station or go inside the reconstruction of a fisherman’s cottage. The museum also arranges local archaeological trips for families.

Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Devon

This Georgian townhouse, formerly home and studio of artist Thelma Hulbert, is now a temporary exhibition space with family workshops alongside every exhibition.


National Maritime Museum

See boats, boats and more boats at this museum on Falmouth harbourside, so close to the sea it washes the walls. At the Search and Rescue exhibition you can climb aboard a Sea King helicopter and join in the search.


The Cardiff Story

Learn about how Cardiff was transformed from a small 1300s market town to one of the world's biggest 19-century ports in these interactive galleries, with ever-changing temporary exhibitions.


Ironbridge Gorge Museums

The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Ironbridge has 10 museums dotted along the River Severn’s valley, spanned by the world’s first iron bridge. Spot furnaces, factories, workshops and canals, all redundant. Each museum celebrates an industry that once thrived in this area, including china, tile-making and ironwork. Costumed craftspeople show how it was done and visitors get to have a go.


Compton Verney

This may be a high-art gallery but it welcomes small children to wander around its world-class collection and get up-close and familiar with Baroque. The Capability Brown parklands of the former mansion home are simply stunning.


Nottingham Contemporary

Find modern art a bit tricky? Not here, with continually changing exhibitions that always include family activities. This cladding of this contemporary art centre in the Lace Market area of Nottingham is embossed with a traditional local lace pattern.


North Lincolnshire Museum

Become a nature detective, step back in time in the Victorian ironstone cottage and relive the People's War at this great museum for all the family. There’s also a 1950s courtyard café and a garden to explore.


Harris Museum & Art Gallery

This fine art collection in Preston contains paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, sculpture and books dating from the 12th century to the present day but it’s not at all stuffy, with a year-round programme of activities for even very small children.


Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery

This is a little-bit-of-everything museum, from everything from pre-Raphaelite paintings to local geology. In the new Roman Frontier gallery, you can learn more about Hadrian’s Wall and Carlisle’s 400 years of Roman occupation.


Beamish Museum

Set in 300 acres of countryside, this isn’t only an open-air museum, it’s a living museum, with demonstrations of the history of life in northeast England. The old buildings – including a railway station with real running steam trains, a pit colliery, a bank, a dentist’s, a sweet shop and a stables – are all run as if still part of the landscape.


Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway, West Lothian

Hoot, hoot! Buy a ticket to this museum at the authentic station ticket office and set out on an adventure. Scotland’s largest railway museum offers afternoon teas aboard a steam train, a genuine station buffet and days out with Thomas the Tank Engine.

See our guide to UK family holidays and breaks.

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