- The historic V&A is one of the best museums in London, and is well worth a visit for any family who love exploring together.
- With 2.3 million objects in its collections of art and design, the whole family is sure to find something they love at this incredible museum.
- Kids activities at the V&A Museum are engaging and creative, and are perfect for any adventurous child who loves learning.
First built in 1857 as the South Kensington Museum, the V&A was later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum after Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert in 1899. This versatile and family-friendly art and design museum is the ideal day out for those with curious children, and holds incredible collections of art and objects. These range from 5,000 year old artefacts to modern pieces, and span the globe in addition to different time periods. Creative kids who love learning, and parents who appreciate art will simply adore this incredible museum, set in the buzzing, fashionable South Kensington area of central London.
The V&A museum has a fascinating history. The V&A we know today was an idea borne of the Great Exhibition of 1851, which showcased products and designs from different countries. Wishing to boost British industry following this international exhibit, Prince Albert used the proceeds of the Great Exhibition to found a series of museums aimed at science and art education, of which the V&A was the first. Contrasting many other museums at the time, the museum was aimed at people of all different social classes.
The V&A Museum has an enormous range of exhibitions, featuring 145 different galleries for families to explore. The V&A collections include seven galleries full of European works from 1600-1815, with elaborate outfits from Louis XIV’s reign as the Sun King in France, and ornate German furniture, which will be sure to dazzle any child in Rooms 1-7 on Level -1. Teens, tweens and even little fashionistas will love Gallery 40’s Fashion Room, which is the biggest dress collection in the world, and features pretty patterned Pucci dresses from the 1960's alongside shoes found in ancient Egypt.
Children who love learning about history and art will similarly adore the museum’s collection of objects from China on Level 0, including early modern teapots and contemporary furniture designs, while the bright colours and absurd shapes of modernist art in Room 74 will capture any child’s attention.
There are also many different temporary V&A exhibitions. In the past these have ranged from an exhibition on psychedelic pop music group Pink Floyd, to showcasing the work of esteemed fashion designers such as in the Christian Dior Exhibition of 2019. Whether your children want to gaze at ancient ceramics, or admire modern shoe designs, the V&A has something every child will love.
The V&A’s first director Henry Cole announced that he wished for the museum to be a ‘schoolroom for everyone’ and there is certainly a great range of family-friendly activities available at the museum. This is ideal for families who want to explore a dash of the enormous amount this wonderful museum has to offer. A children’s trail is available to access online during your visit. Alternatively you can pick up physical copies at the Sackler Centre on Level 1 which was built in 2008 as a special centre for arts education. The museum trail will guide you and your kids through some of the V&A’s most interesting objects, such as a plaster cast of Michelangelo’s David and Japanese samurai armour, while engaging your children by asking them questions about the objects. This is ideal for inquisitive minds, and will help your kids use their own creative thinking skills.
If you want an even more engaging experience for your kids, backpacks at the Sackler Centre can be borrowed for an hour, with games and puzzles relating to different museum objects. The Agent Animal backpack includes an audio map, and is recommended for under 5s, while older children will love exploring the museum via a Time Traveller backpack that will tell them all about life in the Middle Ages. A lovely alternative to these more structured activities, is bringing sketchbooks along with you, so your children can get creative and draw the objects they see.
The V&A Museum also has an offshoot branch, the V&A Museum of Childhood which was established in 1872. This is located in East London, and is another great day out for families, especially if your kids love the V&A!
If you’re planning a day out in the South Kensington area, there are plenty of other things to do near the V&A. A three-minute walk via Exhibition Road will lead you to the Natural History Museum, which is also filled with wonderful and fascinating objects, and features a picturesque ice rink in the winter that your kids will love. You could also admire the beautiful Kensington Gardens, perfect for a sunny family day out. Other activities nearby include the Science Museum which is also a short walk from the V&A.
What to know before you go
- The V&A is usually open from 10am - 5.45pm every day.
- There are a number of toilets at the V&A museum. These include toilets on the Ground Floor by the Exhibition Road entrance to the west of the Museum, where baby changing facilities and an accessible toilet can be found. Non gender-specific toilets are located next to the Lecture Theatre.
- There is a buggy park in Room 25, which is the Sculpture Gallery. This is perfect for families with babies and young children, and is located on Level 0.
- The V&A Museum has three spaces to eat, two of which serve cold food such as sandwiches. The outdoor Garden Café is a lovely option for a sunny day. It is typically open all year from 10am -5.15pm each day, and closes at 9.15pm on a Friday. It is found at the edge of the impressive John Madejski Garden to the North end of the museum, with its clay-red architecture and greenery.
- The Courtyard Café is located near the main entrance to the V&A and is open from 8.30am-5.45pm each day with the exception of Fridays, where it shuts at 8.30pm. Cold food is served here.
- The Main Café serves hot food as well as cakes. It was the first museum restaurant in the world, and is set in a trio of unique and beautifully decorated rooms designed by famous designers James Gamble, Henry Morris and Edward Poynter. There is also a children’s menu and high chairs are available. The Main Café is open from 10am-5pm every day, apart from Fridays where it shuts at 7pm. The Main Café consists of rooms 13a, 14a and 15a, and is at the northernmost point of the museum.
- For a family treat after a long day of exploring the museum, try the Victorian style afternoon tea which is served on Fridays from 1pm-7pm. This delicious tea is complete with scones and cucumber sandwiches, and is served in the Morris Room at the Main Café. Booking in advance for the Victorian afternoon tea is required.
- If you fancy venturing outside the V&A for something to eat, South Kensington is full of great cafés and restaurants. With chains like Honest Burgers, ideal for a casual lunch, to famed bakeries like the Hummingbird Bakery for an afternoon treat, or even the stylish La Trattoria by Alfredo Russo at the five-star Pelham hotel, there is a great range of places to eat within walking distance of the V&A.
- There are four shops at the Museum. The main V&A Shop is on Level 0 and is adjacent to the Cromwell Road exit. Here, you can find gorgeous gifts based on the V&A's many objects. The V&A bookshop is the perfect place for any little bookworm fascinated by art, and can be found at the eastern end of the museum, next to Room 26. Fashion-loving children will enjoy looking around the V&A Fashion Shop on Level 0, while the Exhibition Road Quarter Shop specialises in architecture.
- The V&A is wheelchair accessible. The Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road entrances are accessible for wheelchair users.
- Though admission is free, some temporary exhibitions do require paid tickets.
- The V&A postcode is SW7 2RL.
- The closest Tube station to the V&A is South Kensington (District, Circle and Piccadilly lines), a five-minute walk. There is an underground tunnel that leads you to the Museum from this station. This is not wheelchair accessible.
- Gloucester Road Tube station (District, Circle and Piccadilly lines) is also around a 10-minute walk away.
- Car parks near the V&A include Chelsea Cloisters Pure Parking, which is open 24 hours a day year round and is a seven-minute walk from the V&A. Parking for two hours here costs £14. Harrington Road is another nearby car park, at an 11 minute walk from the museum and costs £9 for two hours.
- There are 12 parking spaces for those with Blue Badges on Exhibition Road on the west side of the museum.
- A number of buses will take you to the V&A. This includes the C1 bus from Victoria and the 14 from St James’s Park.