BFI Southbank | Kidadl

BFI Southbank

Kidadl.com is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read our Terms & Conditions for further information.

  • Check out some of the classic and contemporary screenings that take place in dedicated film seasons all year round.
  • Head to the BFI Film Festival every October to celebrate cinema from around the world.
  • Kids can be their own film director at one of the regular family workshops and events.
  • Head to the South Bank to explore and discover a taste of British and international culture.

The BFI, or the British Film Institute, is one of the staples of London's South Bank, and is home to a year-round selection of film screening from all eras and genres. From indie favourites to critically acclaimed world films, BFI Southbank is on the cutting edge of cinema, and is the place for classic and contemporary film screenings, family events and more.

Originally starting life at the National Film Theatre in the '50s, the site opened in 1957 for the first BFI London Film Festival, and is now a part of the huge Southbank cultural complex that is also home to the National Theatre and Southbank Centre. With multiple cinemas for screenings, as well as an art gallery, BFI Southbank is a great spot for movie lovers and mini culture vultures. Here, you'll even find the largest cinema screen in the UK, at the BFI Southbank IMAX. Located on Charlie Chaplin Walk just a couple of minutes from the main BFI Southbank building, you can check out films on the colossal 520m squared screen.

As well as being the place to go in central London for all types of contemporary, classic and family film screenings, you'll find much more than just moving image at BFI Southbank. There are lots of great family activities and BFI Southbank events on all year round to help get kids and parents involved in the arts, and encourage children to think creatively. From workshops to classes that will allow kids of all ages to learn what it is like to film, design and archive your own work, there is lots to learn in the famous BFI Southbank building. For teens and young adults, there is also a 25 & Under scheme, which is aimed at people between the ages of 16 and 25, and includes discounted tickets, as well as special workshops, talks and events that encourage young people to get involved in the arts. Future Film is another British Film Institute initiative that is aimed at 15-25 year olds, where they can engage in workshops, enter competitions and form community around their shared passion for film.

You'll also find lots of top family friendly screenings to enjoy at the BFI Southbank cinema, with their Saturday Film Clubs for kids being a particular favourite. These clubs offer not just free screenings, but also the opportunity for kids to learn how to become a director and create their own films, as well as learning all about the secrets of the silver screen. However, you don't need to travel to London to experience some movie magic from BFI Southbank. On the British Film Institute website you'll find a selection of free films that are available to stream immediately. From old classics such as The Clangers to a whole category of Family Films, you're sure to find something that tickles your fancy. You'll also find films that correspond with the BFI's film seasons online, including a 'Kids Will Be Kids' section that focuses on the experience of children all over the world, as well as a great list of '50 films to see by age 15' to get stuck into. As well as being the site of the annual London Film Festival, BFI Southbank is home to an archive of hundreds of thousands of films, television series and more. Due to the scale of the collection, the BFI is actually home to the largest film archive in the entire world. For a taste of the archival collection to take home with you, head to the BFI shop where you can collect books, DVDs, souvenirs and rare or signed items too.

Located on the South Bank in Zone 1, the BFI Southbank is right in the centre of all the London action. For something to eat on your visit, head to the BFI Southbank restaurant, also known as the BFI Riverfront, where you can enjoy pizzas, fish and a fab children's menu from Benugo, There is also the BFI Bar & Kitchen onsite, which is ideal for a drink before you catch a film. However, since you're already on the South Bank, there are lots of brilliant options for food just on your doorstep. If you happen to be visiting at the weekend you're in luck, as the Southbank Centre Food Market is open, and buzzing with delicious street food to try. Alternatively, the centre of London is just a stone's throw away and is easily accessible by tube, bus or on foot, so feel free to explore the local riverside area.

What to know before you go

  • BFI Southbank opening times are from 11am-11pm daily, except on Fridays and Saturdays when it is open from 11am to 11.30pm.
  • There are accessible toilets and three baby changing facilities available on site.
  • The building is accessible for wheelchairs, with a lift to the main foyer for access. There are also a number of wheelchair spaces inside each cinema.
  • Buggies are allowed and can be stored on site while you are watching a film.
  • There are designated safe spaces and private areas around the building, as well as Relaxed Screenings for those who need them.

Getting there

  • It is recommended to get to the BFI Southbank using public transport if possible, as the BFI is located within London's congestion zone, so you will be charged for driving in this area. There is a car park under the National Theatre. You can also check for NCP parking here.
  • The nearest train stations are Waterloo and Embankment tube stations. Charing Cross is also nearby.
  • There are many bus services that pass through the area and will take you into central or south London.
  • You can catch a taxi from the Royal Festival Hall, or most taxi apps are in use in the London area.

More amazing things to do