Sightseeing On A Budget? Here Are 8 Cheap Family-Friendly London Alternatives

By Zoe Craig Last edited 27 months ago
Sightseeing On A Budget? Here Are 8 Cheap Family-Friendly London Alternatives
Tower of London. One of London's top sightseeing destinations, but not one of the cheapest.

London's expensive. If you're a family of four (or God forbid, five), enjoying some of London's top attractions can be a pretty costly pastime. But it doesn't have to be that way. If you've previously looked at some of London's 'family tickets' and baulked at the price, we're here to help.

We're not saying these alternatives are the same: they're not (we can all agree that riding the Eye is a pretty unique experience, right?). We just want to let under-pressure mums and dads (and grandmas and grandpas) know that there are other options. Not everyone can drop £100 on an afternoon's activity. And you don't have to.

(Prices correct as of 2019).

London Eye £108 vs. Cable Car £27.20

Cheaper London sightseeing options for all the family: Cable Car/Emirates Air Line
Head for new heights on the Emirates Air Line. Image: Warren Christmas

So the Eye costs more than £100 for a family of four if tickets are bought on the day. Over £90 if booked online in advance. And that's before you've even considered getting into the hopelessly alliterative option of something called a 'Fully Flexi Fast Track Ticket' so you can choose to not queue forever during that unseasonal downpour (that'll be £160+).

For two adults and two kids to take a return trip over the Thames with some pretty impressive views and get change from 30 quid, we suggest trying the Air Line instead. Return boarding passes for all the crew will set you back just over £27, but it's even cheaper if you pay with a pay as you go Oyster Card, which'll get you an added 25% off.

Tower of London £62.90 vs. Severndroog Castle £9

Family-friendly, cheap sightseeing options in London: Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle in daytime. Photo: Shutterstock

Book ahead online, and five of you (two adults and up to three kids, in this case) can get into the Tower of London for less — 'just' £62.90. It's certainly not London's most expensive family day out and, with the ravens, the architecture, the unique history and the (frankly gobsmacking) Crown Jewels, we'd argue it's definitely worth doing once.

But if your budget just doesn't stretch to that hefty price tag, you can get your London castle fix over in Shooter's Hill, just past Greenwich, for less than a tenner all in. Lots of gardens and woodlands to explore, plus plenty of family-friendly events sprinkled throughout the year.

View From The Shard £80 vs. Sky Garden £0

Sunset at Sky Garden, great for family sightseeing and you can find an amazing London rooftop bar
Image: Sky Garden

Going up 72 floors above London's streets to the top of The Shard will set two adults and two children back around £80 with their Family Experience ticket. Sky high prices for a sky high visit to Europe's tallest building.

Sure, Sky Garden at the top of the 20 Fenchurch Street skyscraper (affectionately known as the Walkie Talkie building) isn't quite as high at a mere 34 storeys. Sure, you'll need to be organised and book ahead. But it's completely, utterly free.

London Zoo £89.10 vs. Battersea Park Zoo £32.50

London sightseeing on a budget: Battersea Park Zoo is great for children and families
Battersea Park Zoo

Again, there are savings to be made if you book ahead for London Zoo. 10% savings, in fact. And it makes for a pretty spectacular family day out. However there's no family 'package'.

If you've got younger kids, we totally recommend trying Battersea Park Zoo instead. You can see lemurs, donkeys, goats, emus, squirrel monkeys, meerkats, otters, wildcats and more. Smaller zoo, smaller animals, smaller price tag: happy families.

London Aquarium £92 vs. Horniman Aquarium £10.50

Family-friendly, cheap sightseeing options in London: Horniman Museum Aquarium
Plenty of excellent exhibits at Horniman Museum in addition to the Aquarium. Photo: Horniman Museum.

While there are online discounts, a family ticket covering two adults and two children for London's aquarium is more than £90.

As with London's zoos, if you've got younger kids, it's well worth trying the Horniman Aquarium instead. You miss out on the scale and you won't be in prime position to hop on the London Eye afterwards, but you'll still be treated to fifteen exhibits showing off an incredible variety of marine life, from the British coastline to Fijian coral reefs. And when you're done, there's the free natural history museum and 16 acres of gorgeous gardens to run around in.

KidZania £70+ vs. Discover Children's Story Centre £22

Family-friendly, cheap sightseeing options in London: Discover Children's Story Centre
Photo: Discover Children's Story Centre

Entry to Westfield's KidZania attraction doesn't come cheap (they even charge a tenner for children aged 1-3, although under 1s are free). According to the website, KidZania is 'a unique role-play experience'. Essentially, it's a tailor made city for children, where they can act out a load of 'jobs' from fire fighting to window cleaning. They can even spend the kidZos currency they earn. But for two adults and two kids, that comes to at least £70, and prices can rise to £120 at popular times.

If you're counting the pennies (as well as the kidZos), why not try Discover Children's Story Centre instead? There your family of four can role-play tea parties, sail away in a pirate ship, play giant musical instruments and more for £22.

Thames RIB Experience £146 vs. Thames Clipper £36.50

Family-friendly, cheap sightseeing options in London:Thames Clippers
Thames Clippers

Taking two adults and two under 15s on the Canary Wharf speed boat experience across the Thames for just 50 minutes will set you back £146. Yes, the guides are fun and they play the James Bond theme, but that's still a lot. Sometimes you might just want to take things a bit slower (for the sake of saving a ton).

It's slightly more sedate, but for a £36.50 Family River Roamer ticket, a family of five (yes, five!) can get on and off a Thames Clipper boat all day, from nine in the morning until well past bedtime. And no vomit bags necessary.

The Lion King £292 vs. Little Angel Theatre £20

Best cheap, family friendly sights in London: Little Angel Theatre
Little Angel Theatre

There's no escaping it: West End theatre prices are eye-wateringly high. If you're not able to take advantage of the discount TKTS booth, or Kids Week in August, a seat in row W of the stalls in the Lyceum to see a mid-week performance of The Lion King costs £73. It's the same upstairs in the circle. For a family of four, that's nearly £300 for a night out before you've bought a programme and some interval snacks.

Instead, why not head to the 100-seater Little Angel Theatre where you'll also get incredible puppets, gorgeous music, and fab stories, all for a fiver (at 5pm on Fridays).

Where no family bundle tickets are on offer, these prices have been calculated by adding the cost of two adult tickets and two children's tickets.

Last Updated 22 August 2021