A Guide to Visiting Museums with Babies

National Maritime Museum 

Babies in Museums Total Rating ****

We highly recommend this museum for you and your baby. There are many great facilities and sights you and your little one will enjoy. The National Maritime Museum is free to enter, large, fascinating and includes lots of great things for you and your baby to see and do. There are very few down sides here. Lily was fascinated by the colours, light and sights of the museum’s galleries. She particularly liked the world map which is on the floor in the main foyer area –with lots of space for little ones to crawl or toddle around in a wide, safe and inspiring open space. 

There is a one-way system in operation at the moment to support covid safety. This had the unintended benefit of highlighting galleries we had never visited before. The route is entirely level access and all of the front of house staff were helpful, kind and supportive. Lily is particularly excited about boats at the moment so all of the different and unusual types of boats and ships on display were a particular highlight for her. There are lots of displays at low level – perfectly situated to be seen from a buggy or wheelchair, what a kind and inclusive idea, thank you NMM!

A small word of caution for little children – the Lord Nelson Gallery has a discreet section about historic medical techniques. This is a bit gory, but easily avoided.

Under usual circumstances I would enthuse about and highly recommend their toddler’s interactive gallery “A’ hoy”. This on-theme section is situated on the ground floor, there is a buggy-park and the toddler interactive gallery is completely enclosed so there is no risk of any small feet running off or getting lost. Interactives include rock pools to play in, a range of seaside shops and a fish mongers for imaginative play, a scaled size ship to explore and climb around including ‘cabins’, ‘the boiler room’, ‘ships wheel’ and ‘galley’. There is an iceberg game and polar explorer dressing up. This space is free to enter, never overcrowded and perfect for crawlers to 4-year-olds. The National Maritime Museum is free to enter, although places should be booked in advance at present. 

If we are going to nit-pick the baby changing facilities were not very clean or very nice. (Note to Museums – please don’t use your access loo as a broom cupboard, that’s not ok people!) On to better things, we travelled to the museum by car and parked just off Trafalgar Road (£3 per hour pay and display). The nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark and they have full level access.

Changing facilities **

Access *****

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) *** 

Travel ****

Enjoyability **** 

Total Babies in Museums Rating ****

Museum of London Docklands 

Babies in Museums Rating *****

A class act and winner of the 2020 Babies in Museums, Best Museum Award.

How does this museum cater so well to their youngest visitors? The list is impressively long. They get the basics right – baby changing facilities are central, well thought through and well maintained. The cafe includes comfortable lounger style chairs designated specifically for baby feeding (the only time I have ever seen this in a museum). There is a weekly events programme for the under 2s – often held on the museum floor and always connected to the Docklands history. The whole building is fully accessible. You will also find Mudlarks an Early Years interactive gallery. This space is pre-book only, but without charge and includes learning, play and soft play areas specially designed for tiny visitors. The Mudlarks interactives, games and toys all relate directly to the collection and narrative of the museum and can be found alongside displayed objects from the MOL collection. This is an insightful, creative and bespoke learning space which brings the story of London Docklands to babies and very young children.

The Museum of London Docklands is in Canary Wharf. This new (ish) purpose-built financial district was designed in the eighties and those clever, accessibility-aware architects made the whole site pretty much universally level access. So, while this part of London was not designed for babies in museums, it is ideal. The main public transport is the DLR which is 100% level access at all stations. All buildings and walkways have ramps, lifts, and beautiful inclusive architecture. It is possible, but expensive to drive and park near to the Museum of London Docklands, a few parking spaces are reserved for parents with small children. 

We visited for around 2 hours. All of the staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming. There is a buggy-park on the ground floor, lockers and a cafe. There is space for crawlers and toddlers to roam, plenty to explore and lots to stimulate a baby’s senses – and all without an entrance fee.

Changing facilities *****

Access *****

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) ***** 

Travel *****

Enjoyability *****  

Total Babies in Museums Rating *****

Hampton Court Palace

Babies in Museums Rating ****

A spectacular full day out – the staff are very friendly to babies and the buildings are reasonably baby friendly too. 

Former home of Henry VIII and later William and Mary – Hampton Court Palace is a grand day out in every sense. The buildings are huge, the history exciting, the artwork is world class and the gardens are ancient and extravagant.  There are also lots of brilliant interpretation techniques to be found here.  

Hampton Court Palace has been a rare and favourite treat for me since my own childhood, so I was very excited to be able to share it with my little daughter.  

The Tudor parts of HCP have lots of cobblestones. Depending on the model of your pram this might be tough for pushing, noisy and perhaps a bit uncomfortable for your baby. There is a buggy park just off Clock Court, you can also find lockers here and a small baby and parent room which was a kind extra. 

 We found a large room of tapestries which was very quiet. I took the opportunity to lift Lily out of her pram and let her have a little crawl about. She isn’t walking yet, but she can crawl pretty far and pretty fast. This is probably the biggest room Lily has ever been able to roam and explore freely and she loved it. She was confident, excited by the amount of space and I felt that this would be a really good opportunity for her to experience some exercise and independence. The room stewards were encouraging, and this was an unexpected highlight. There are a few one-way routes to choose from – although it is trickier to follow the one-way system while also avoiding stairs the front of house team do a lot to assist with this and make things as smooth as possible. Face coverings are required in all indoor spaces. If you have forgotten yours they sell a very pretty, but rather expensive selection at the gift shop. There are hand sanitising stations positioned sporadically – mainly in the outdoor spaces. A few of the smaller rooms, including the art gallery, royal tennis court and maze are closed at present.  If you prefer there is lots to see without needing to enter any of the buildings and the gardens have been decorated with some beautiful new willow sculptures. The jousting knights on horses were Lily’s favourite.

There are unisex baby changing facilities just off Clock Court in a disabled access loo. I am afraid to say that this is a functional, but pretty drafty and dilapidated facility. It served a purpose, but no more than that. There is a second and far nicer set of toilets in the Tilt Yard café. In addition, I was very impressed by a kind room steward who volunteered the opportunity for Lily and I to use a small concealed bathroom just off the King’s Staircase. I suspect that this facility is usually meant for the staff, and perhaps was only offered to us because we were visiting at a quiet time. However, I was really appreciative of the thoughtful offer and the willingness of the team to bend the rules a little to accommodate us (thank you, and don’t worry we won’t tell anyone!)   

There are two grand staircases at HCP with impressive fresco walls and ceilings. We weren’t able to take the stairs, but we didn’t miss out on the architecture or the artwork.  Although parts of HCP are 500 years old and other sections are just over 300 year, I am delighted to say that we were able to take Lily’s pram around the whole site and there was lift access enabling us to see everything. Access to the lift is via a staff-only area so we needed staff assistance to find and use it. This was not a problem as the front of house team were ready and waiting to help. They were keen to offer advice on travel around the building and willing to offer extra help with short-cuts and even permitting access to a few “behind the scenes” extras (such as the staff loo behind a concealed door and the reverse side of the chapel’s east window). 

There is no level access available to the gift shop in the Clock Court, this is a shame, although I was pleased to find the gift shop by the ticket hall has very similar (the same?) stock and is level access. 

We visited Hampton Court Palace for around 4 hours. We ate in the Tiltyard Café which has baby changing facilities and plenty of highchairs. There is an adorable and very popular children’s garden, complete with playground and even a fire breathing dragon. This wasn’t open during our visit, access is restricted to the summer months, but it looked very exciting and perfect for children aged about 2 years upwards. If you visit in the summer months here are some tips for visiting the Magic Garden; At the moment the garden is running at half capacity to enable better social distancing. This means that you may need to queue to enter. Visits are limited to 1 hour. There is sand and water to play with so you may wish to pack and dress your little ones accordingly. The Magic Garden at HCP is probably the best adventure playground I have ever seen. It is just breathtakingly well-made with astonishing details and great imagination.

Entrance to HCP is £29 for adults. I think this is pretty pricey, but it is easy to spend a full day exploring the historic buildings and the gardens and the full site, just about, is accessible with a pram. Their annual membership pass is pretty good value at £55 – click here for details. We travelled to HCP by car and parking within the palace grounds, which, during term time was plentiful. Parking off-site might be necessary in peak season and weekends. Hampton Court Palace train station is a 2-minute walk away and offers a regular service from Wateroo Station.  

Changing facilities ***

Access ***

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) *** 

Travel ***

COVID protection measures ***

Enjoyability *****  

Total Babies in Museums Rating ****

The National Gallery

Babies in Museums Rating *****

A cautious and safety compliant visit.  The National Gallery’s arrangements were thorough, with an unintended benefit – a near unique opportunity for Lily and I to have the artwork (almost) to ourselves. 

The National Gallery was the first big museum to re-open after the British COVID lockdown. Lily and I were feeling quite starved of culture and in-person experiences so were excited to book our free tickets. 

The Gallery are very organised and have created an entry system which is efficient – polite, but thorough and I felt very safe taking Lily with me. Tickets are available for advanced booking online and are free but they do go quickly, so flexibility and advanced planning are useful here. 

Entry into the Gallery is via the Sainsbury Wing, where smartly uniformed staff in PPE signalled where we should queue for entry. Groups of around 50 people were admitted every 15 minutes. Lily and I joined the queue about 5 minutes before our allocated entry time and were admitted promptly. There is a little shelter for the queue, but not a lot so this might have been an issue in poorer weather. As it was, our wait was neither long nor uncomfortable. 

On entering the Gallery, my temperature was taken with a remote thermometer and I was asked to wear my face covering – I had brought one with me, but they did have a small stash for those who arrived unprepared. Of course, Lily, and all children under the age of 11 don’t have to wear a face covering. To provide some extra protection for Lily I did consider applying the rain cover to her pram while inside the Gallery, but in the end the rooms were so quiet this felt unnecessary. I didn’t need to take Lily out of her pram on arrival and the front of house team were very accommodating. There were foot-operated hand sanitizing stations at very regular intervals throughout. 

Three possible one-way routes were mapped out and numbered, some of the most popular paintings on each route were highlighted on new signage. Lily and I took route B – including artworks from the late 1600 to the early 1900s. The Gallery is so large and their intake of visitors is now deliberately small, so it was possible to see, and better appreciate the architecture of the building and the artwork both close up and from a distance. After months in my own living room the grand galleries and staircases seemed so big and impressive. There was far more opportunity to study the works on display and to consider them more closely than I have every been able to before. Lower visitor numbers meant that Lily and I were able to enjoy the views, freedom of movement and bit more personal attention from the staff – who wore face visors and were really friendly. 

The Gallery has prepared thoroughly for re-opening after months of lockdown in the UK. Our visit felt abundantly safe, the logistics for re-opening were beautifully organised and didn’t detract at all from the visitor experience – if anything it may have slightly improved it. 

Lily and I travelled into town by car and parked at the Q-park at Leicester Square. The Gallery has very very good level access – every staircase we encountered had a lift exactly next to it – so we didn’t need to use a different route to other visitors or travel out of our way for step-free access. The only small room we couldn’t manage was the gallery opposite the main staircase, so we did miss seeing Holbein’s The Ambassadors, a small disappointment, but not a deal-breaker for me. I suspect help would have been provided if asked. One Gallery shop was open – and offering a small discount, one café was open and offering a paired down menu. I would recommend The National Gallery for anyone looking to take a COVID cautious, thought through and well-planned cultural visit.     

Changing facilities ***

Access ****

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) ***** 

Travel ***

COVID protection measures *****

Enjoyability *****  

Total Babies in Museums Rating *****


Back to Museums

July 2020 – The UK has been in lockdown for the best part of 4 months now. I am excited that museums, art galleries and the heritage industry has been given the opportunity to reopen this month. I want to visit as many places as possible to give them my patronage and support, however, I am nervous about the risks to myself and, more particularly, to my little daughter.

I know that the heritage sector is working hard to develop confidence. Lots of good quality and proven social distancing and cleanliness techniques are under discussion. When museums and art galleries do reopen it will be up to each venue to devise their own procedure. This means that there may be some variation in what is offered from one place to another. Options under consideration include: 

  • Provision of complimentary PPE for visitors 
  • Provision of hand sanitiser 
  • PPE for all members of staff 
  • Regular and visible room cleaning
  • Screens at reception desks and other staff counters 
  • The introduction of one-way systems 
  • Timed and pre-allocated ticketing to control visitor numbers 
  • Low maximum capacities 
  • The removal of all interactive displays

All of our reviews from now on will include an account of each venue’s COVID protection measures and I will rank each museum’s provisions with a star rating. 

Museums in Lockdown

March 2020 – COVID 19 has struck and most museums and cultural places have closed for the foreseeable future. Lily and I are sad to be without our usual cultural visits and current forecasts suggest that social distancing is here to stay, for months at least. I had begun to research a lovely list of cultural places, castles and historic houses who have beautiful gardens and grounds we could visit. Alas, that was not to be as most of these are closed now too. 

I want to write something optimistic, or broadly positive at least. So, while this isn’t in-keeping with my usual brief of visiting and reviewing cultural places – here is a run-down of museum outreach programmes which might appeal. 

Some of the world’s biggest museums have uploaded video tours of their most popular galleries and most recent exhibitions. A virtual visit for parents.

The BBC are partnering with The Museum Association and NMDC to create Museums in Quarantine. This brand new series is a great response from the museum community, it will be presented by Dr James Fox, will feature some of London’s big national museums and it will air on BBC 4 soon.

From May 2020 Art UK will be launching a new platform enabling us all to become have-a-go-curators and build art exhibitions of our very own.

I think this online tour of the V&A’s Cast Courts is pretty spectacular.

The Roald Dahl Museum are working on a new selection of Things to Do Indoors. This will probably suit over 5s the most. 

I will add to this section as more good quality at-home content comes my way .. .


Painted Hall – Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich 

Babies in Museums Rating **

A very beautiful building, but this was a disappointing visit with too many obstacles and some well-meaning but ineffectual staff. 

The Painted Hall recently reopened following a multi-million-pound project to conserve the paintwork, provide more interpretation and improve the visitor experience. We visited with high expectations, enhanced further by the new £12 entrance fee.    

The Old Royal Naval College in general and the Painted Hall in particular are a really beautiful collection of buildings, world class in terms of artwork and architecture. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call the Painted Hall the British answer to the Sistine Chapel and it had the same architect and artist pairing as St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Entrance to the Painted Hall is now via the under croft. I am pleased to say that there is a new lift, but frustratingly the staff didn’t know how to use it. The lift is positioned away from the new interpretation gallery, so we missed this until we were about to leave. 

Level access is not universal across this site – there are three or four stairs up to the platform inside the hall. This means you can’t easily access the focal point of the room, complete with portraits of George I and his family. We also had problems with stairs at a number of points outside the building – more on this later. 

There are baby changing facilities inside a unisex disabled access toilet, this can be found near the Victorian “bowling alley”. A novelty installation built by retired and convalescing sailors in the nineteenth century, although this unusual attraction is looking a bit shabby and smelling a little damp now. I was encouraged to have a go at bowling a “faux canon ball” down the lanes, a unique opportunity.    

The painted hall is twinned with the Chapel of the ORNC. From memory the chapel is also very beautiful, and this part of the site is free to visit, however a large number of staircases make it really challenging to access comfortably with a pram and we didn’t manage it, I am sad to say. 

We visited the Painted Hall for 30 minutes to an hour, we travelled there by car and parked in the carpark on Trafalgar Road which was pretty quiet on a weekday during term time. The nearest step free tube station is Cutty Sark on the DLR.   

If you or someone you know works for the ORNC please do get in touch, I would really like to help make this national treasure accessible for more people, including parents and small children.  

Changing facilities ***

Access **

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) *** 

Travel ****

Enjoyability ** 

Total Babies in Museums Rating **

The Foundling Museum

Babies in Museums Rating *****

A genius idea for parents and babies – a “Babe in Arms” tour of the Foundling Museum’s latest exhibition. 

There is a lot of heartache in the story of the Foundling Hospital – a charity begun in the eighteenth century to care for babies who would otherwise have been abandoned on the streets of London. 

I shed a tear or two at the heart-breaking history to be found in this museum, but there is more here than tragedy, the museum puts research and resources to championing the rights and the needs of today’s children and parents. 

A history of attitudes to motherhood form the basis of their latest exhibition Portraying Pregnancy. This exhibition was made even more accessible to new parents last week when they staged their first “Babe in Arms” guided tour. 

The idea of a museum tour for parents and their babies is new, brilliant and I give much praise to the Foundling Museum for thinking of this and making it happen.  

Lily and I were delighted to attend the 9.30am tour which lasted around 45 minutes and was concluded with coffee, tea, treats and an opportunity for the parents to chat. I purchased a ticket on-line in advance and at £10 it seemed very reasonable, considering the usual adult admission fee is £10.50. After the tour we were given the option to view the rest of the museum’s galleries and rooms at our own pace. 

This was an excellent, well designed and thought through event. Lots of extra facilities were made available for us and here is a summary; a manned room was allocated to store our prams and belongings, a microwave and other baby food preparation equipment was on hand, at the start of the tour we were invited to feed our babies wherever we wanted, to sit on the floor during the tour if desired, to change the baby as necessary.  Our guide, the Museum Director Caro Howell was very understanding and accommodating about her youngest visitors, their needs and occasional noises.  

There were very very few down sides to this perambulation. My only niggles were that a 9.30am start necessitated rush hour travel – with a baby this is not easy or comfortable. Secondly, because of the nature of some of the objects on display it was not possible to take Lily’s pram into the exhibition with us. Baby-wearing is not my (nor Lily’s) favourite system of travel, but we were warned about this in advance and, with so many positives to recommend this event, we attended sling-in-hand. 

The Foundling Museum hope to offer more babe in arms tours in the future – I hope they do, and they deserve great success. Click here for details. 

In the meantime, here is a look at the general facilities and practicalities involved in visiting the Foundling Museum on a typical day. 

The museum has very nicely designed level access to the front, a lift to all floors and baby changing facilities in a unisex disabled access toilet on the ground floor. There is an un-manned buggy park. We travelled to the museum by car and parked in the Brunswick car park over the road, if you do this please be sure to book your space and pay in advance, the savings are very considerable. Alternatively, the nearest tube station with the most complete level access is Kings Cross St Pancras about a 10-minute walk away. 

Thank you very much Foundling Museum for providing this very thought through and well catered visit. Both Lily and I loved it. 

Changing facilities ****

Access ****

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) **** 

Travel ****

Enjoyability *****

Total Babies in Museums Rating *****

Warner Brother Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter

Babies in Museums Rating *****

This “Harry Potter World” is a truly majestic and fantastical day-long treat which just keeps on giving. The experience is all the more meaningful if you are a “Potter-head”, but even if you are not, there is a huge amount to see and experience. The ticket price is very considerable at £47 for an adult (Lily was admitted for free) you also need to be very organised, booking 3 months in advance is necessary. 

As a keen and devoted Gryffindor I could write at length about the exciting objects, sets and spectacles on display, but it is my job here to talk practicalities. Therefore I am happy to report that visiting with Lily and her pram was straightforward, very comfortable, everyone was very welcoming and some of the special attentions offered to us by the front-of-house team were utterly charming. 

First of all WBST does all of the basics very very well. There are plenty of baby changing stations in unisex toilets in three different points evenly spaces across the site. There are a goodly number of seating areas. There are spaces of excitement, but also spaces of calm and lower sensory engagement. They even have a parent and baby room next to the back-lot café which offers seating for feeding and spaces for changing. The whole site is step free including some very nicely designed ramps and level-access architecture. I was impressed and relieved.

More impressively however, they get the added extras right. The front of house team welcomed Lily and I and engaged with her beautifully throughout. We were asked some lovely questions and particular care was taken of our welfare. At the beginning our tour group was encouraged to applaud quietly so as not to disturb Lily while she slept. Some sections are dark and others a bit scary (particularly if you don’t like dragons or spiders) and where relevant a team member was stationed ready with a warning and an alternative route, if desired. So careful steps are taken to avoid nightmares. The whole experience involves a lot of sights, sounds, lights, movement and stimulation which Lily just loves.  She had a really great time too – mainly from her pram, although I did carry her for some sections just so she was a little higher up and could get a better view.   

We travelled to The Warner Bros Studio Tour by car and parking was very plentiful. We stayed for around 4 hours – including a fairly leisurely lunch. My pedometer informs me that we walked 2.5 miles around the site – so it is very big. The tour route is one-way and linier, although there are shortcuts and the opportunity to miss bits if you ask or if there are sections you want to avoid (such as the forbidden forest). Entry is via timed ticket, although once inside you can travel at your own pace and the group quickly disperses so it isn’t too crowded. 

This is a very pricey day out, and one which requires a fair deal of planning, but it is my favourite trip this year and one I will never forget – a truly happy and highly encouraged visit for babies and parents.

Changing facilities ****

Access *****

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) ****

Travel *****

Enjoyability *****

Total Babies in Museums Rating *****

The V&A

Babies in Museums Rating *****

Today to the Dior exhibition at the V&A – hottest museum ticket in town.

First of all it is important to say that the V&A is very good in terms of level access. There are a number of lifts at both entrances of the Museum and near the large staircase at the back right hand-side section as well (near the Cast Courts). This is particularly useful if you want to visit one or two galleries, but avoid other, busier areas. The museum also has plenty of ramps which are useful, but more particularly for a museum of design – they are really beautiful and make a genuinely valid contribution to the aesthetic of the architecture. Well done V&A.

This exhibition was very beautiful both in terms of the collections on display and the display techniques used. Thought, design and investment have clearly gone in to the installation of this show and the lighting, room dressing and decoration made an exciting contribution to setting the mood of the House of Dior. I could review this exhibition in far more detail, but I must confine my comments and limit my focus to include only how the exhibition and the museum worked for Lily and I during our visit.

The Dior exhibition is beautifully lit and includes some music and movement in the second to last room. Lily is really stimulated by museum lighting, particularly moving light and light that casts interesting shadows. This was plentiful in the “garden room”. Bold and successful use of colour could also be found in a number of rooms, which I think made a strong impression on all visitors big and tiny. There is very little seating in the gallery, which was unfortunate. We did linger and had the opportunity to take a closer look at displays that had seating nearby. 

The Dior exhibition sold out many months ago and so must have been at capacity during our visit. Tickets are timed and there was a medium sized queue to get in. Having said this, there was still plenty of room to move around the exhibition with Lily and her pram plenty of opportunity to look at key pieces up close and in detail and also space to stand back and admire the rooms and the objects from a distance. This is a one-way exhibition layout of sequential rooms so once you are in it is hard (impossible?) to leave quickly or easily should you need to. This may be an issue had Lily needed some space, a nappy change or a cuddle. On this occasion she was happy to watch from her pram, or from my arms. As we left the exhibition we were informed that the lift was now broken. Happily there was already a plan in place and two front-of-house staff had been positioned to guide us to a service lift, which was very near. I didn’t mind one bit seeing the less decorated “behind the scenes” staff area in order to access the lift. We felt really “looked after” that the team had found the problem and arranged a solution so swiftly.

Back to the V&A in general. The bathrooms and changing facilities were clean, plentiful and again, design led. There were unisex changing facilities in a disabled access loo and a pull-down changing table in the sink area of the ladies (sorry I can’t comment about the gent, but I hope they had a baby changing table too.)  

A successful and enjoyable visit for both of us. We stayed for 2.5 hours and travelled to the museum by taxi because I couldn’t easily find the nearest step free tube station and wanted to arrive feeling calm and looking neat.

Changing facilities ****

Access *****

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) **

Travel **

Enjoyability ***** 

Total Babies in Museums Rating ****

British Museum

Babies in Museums Rating *

A horrific visit, unlikely to be repeated.

The British Museum was overfilled with many thousands of visitors populating every available surface of every room and corridor. The central courtyard housed hundreds of people, many of whom were sitting on the floor for lack of seating, available space or alternative sources of entertainment. The sound of the visitors echoed against the glass ceiling making it very difficult to hear any conversation held at a normal level. It was impossible to walk in a straight line so overwhelming was the crowd and I was concerned that the volume of people (in every sense of the word) would be frightening or overwhelming for Lily. As it happens, she took it in her stride more successfully than I did.

On to the slim list of positives. When we arrived at the museum the entrance queue spanned the fully length, and half the depth, of the building perimeter. The queue included perhaps two thousand people, or so. As we had pre-bought exhibition tickets which included a set entry time we were permitted to jump this queue. We were also excused the airport style security. Had these exceptions not been offered it is unlikely we would have continued with this trip.

The museum’s classical style entrance with columns and staircase is attractive to look at, but awkward with a pram. A small and unattractive lift is available, but was out of order, so Nephew E, Niece A and I carried Lily and her pram up the stairs while grumpy and unhelpful staff looked on.

We visited the Manga exhibition. This exhibition was very interesting, I knew very little about Manga in advance and learned a lot. The exhibition was installed in one large gallery with partition walls positioned to guide the visitor and portion off themed sections. It is useful sometime to be able to take Lily to a quieter area, or somewhere which is out of the way and ideally darker to lower input if she becomes overwhelmed. The Manga exhibition offered space and opportunity for this which was very welcome, particularly as the rest of the building was so over-populated. 

There was an opportunity to sit and read a small library of manga books and the colourful exhibits and videos made for a very attractive and entertaining space for Lily. It was also good to show her a culture and an art form from a different country and for her to hear a different language. At the end of the exhibition there was an opportunity to take a selfie, which was then transformed into manga style artwork. This was a fun and popular extra, which really helped us to feel a closer connection with the manga world and created a different sort of keepsake from the day.

It seemed a shame, while we were at the British Museum, not to visit at least some of the Museum’s key objects from the permanent collection. The Elgin Marbles, the Egyptian gallery and the Rosetta Stone at the very least. However, the majority of the museum was so overpopulated and awful that it was impossible to see anything properly or have the space or time to enjoy the objects or learn from them. So this ambition was abandoned.

It was also very difficult and unpleasant to use the bathrooms or the baby changing facilities. The queue for the ladies was twenty, or so, people long and the bathroom was down a flight of stairs making them impossible to access while accompanied by Lily and her pram. One of the disabled access toilets was out of order; the other was heavily in demand with a queue of wheelchair users outside. There was a baby changing room with two changing mats and a sink, but no toilet. The room was dirty, smelled bad and was also being used to store a mop and bucket (ironic). We left immediately.

This was not an enjoyable visit and we stayed for only 1 hour, spending all of that time in the Manga exhibition. We travelled to the museum by car and parked in the car-park under Bloomsbury square. Parking is not too expensive if you book on line first and there is a lift, although we did need to carry Lily and her pram up one flight of stairs to street level.    

if you work for the British Museum please do get in touch – I would be happy to provide some support, ideas and advice on how you might improve your offering to young children and their parents.

Changing facilities *

Access **

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) *

Travel ***

Enjoyability **

Total Babies in Museums Rating *

Tower of London

Babies in Museums Rating **

The architecture was brilliant, but the practicalities were not on our side.

I am a huge fan of Historic Royal Palaces and have held membership for many years. Annual membership is good value if you live in London and visit the 5 London Palaces in their portfolio regularly or if you are visiting London and want to see more than two or three of their Palaces during your trip. You also get a gift shop and café discount. Without membership this visit would have been around £20 and I am afraid to say that while the Tower of London is iconic and has spectacular architecture, it is a very hard place to manage comfortably with a baby. It isn’t easy to justify this entrance price given the obstacles we encountered. In all we probably managed to see around twenty per-cent of the site, maybe less. Our visit was limited to the outside of the buildings, although we did manage the Royal Mint display and possibly could have visited the Crown Jewels, but were unable to wait in the very long queue (around a 1 hour wait in peak summer season).  

I really want to be positive, because I did enjoy my time during this visit, and I genuinely want to encourage others to see the Tower of London. This is a 1000 year-old site with medieval and Tudor architecture. Buildings as old as these pre-date prams and wheelchairs by hundreds of years and so they were never designed with easy accommodation in mind. I think a Tudor stonemason would be fascinated to know the volume of people who pass through his buildings today, and how far they have travelled to see his creations. I also know only too well the complexities of trying to retrofit lifts and ramps today to buildings of such age and national significance.  

So, as a visitor, here are my recommendations about how best to tackle this one. There are a lot of cobbled streets so your little one will experience a pretty bumpy ride. If you have the capacity to lift your pram and carry it up and down a few short flights of stairs it will make your visit more straightforward and enable you to visit more of the site. If this is your first visit and you want to see as much as possible then baby-wearing if pretty much your only option. There is a buggy park near to the entrance. You will need to bring your own sling or carrier as I didn’t notice any provided. (as a slight aside I would like to give kudos to the Roman Baths in Bath who do provide baby and child carriers for their smallest visitors). If you are able to carry your child in this way then you will be able to visit the White Tower, the recreated medieval rooms in the curtain wall and several other buildings within the grounds. There are still a lot of stairs and in some areas also low ceilings which may also be an issue depending on the style of your carrier and the age of your child. 

I would like to say a few words in case you are concerned about the suitability of some of the subject matter covered at the Tower. While the Tower of London was used as a prison and place of execution in the past there are no gory or scary displays here. No severed heads, no fake blood, nothing you may wish to avoid with young children. You are safe.  

We travelled to the Tower of London on the tube. There is completely level access at Tower Hill tube station and there is level access from the station to the entrance of the Tower of London itself. We visited in the rain and if you are not able to manage stairs easily then shelter is limited. Shelter with seating is limited further still. Lily was asleep under her rain cover during almost all of this perambulation so I can’t really provide much feedback on her behalf. The baby changing facilities were unisex in the disabled access toilet, and reasonably clean.  We visited for around 1 hour or so and left via the Thames Clipper. More on this next. 

Changing facilities **

Access *

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) *

Travel *****

Enjoyability ***

Total Babies in Museums Rating **

Thames Clipper

Babies in Museums Rating ****

More of a sail than a museum visit, but this made for a fun and interesting cultural experience for Lily and I.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find how straightforward and accessible it was to take a boat on the Thames with Lily in her perambulator. We travelled from Tower Bridge Pier to Westminster.

There are ramps from the street right up to and across the doorway of the clipper boats so no lifting was required. Once on board there was space at the front of the clipper for Lily in her pram. She could have very happily stayed in her pram for the duration of the journey, which lasted around 20 minutes or so. However, I took her out of her pram and sat her on my knee so I could give her a bottle and provide her with a better view out of the window.   

There is a little shop on board selling snacks and coffee, which was nice. There are toilets on-board, but baby -changing facilities are only available on the larger vessels. We didn’t use them so I can’t comment on cleanliness, quality or range of facilities I am afraid. It was only a 20 minute journey.

Once at Westminster Pier, again, there were ramps taking you from the boat all the way to the footpath on the Victoria Embankment. From there you can find step free access if you turn right and travel towards Embankment, however, you will come across quite a steep set of stairs if you turn left and head towards The Palace of Westminster.

This trip lasted around 35 minutes as we did wait a while for the boat to arrive. They do have a timetable online and at each pier so time could have been saved with better research and coordination. The Thames Clipper cost £7 if you pay with your Oyster Card or contactless credit or debit card. There was no charge for Lily.     

This was a nice little cultural visit, and there are step free tube stations at both Tower Hill and Westminster.

Changing facilities – unknown

Access *****

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) ****

Travel ****

Enjoyability ****

Total Babies in Museums Rating ****

Museum of London

Babies in Museums Rating ****

An excellent visit – suitable for all weathers and very straightforward with a pram.

The museum is set out chronologically, but knowing my time limit and conscious of Lily’s temperament on the day I deliberately skipped the eras I am personally less interested in. It is possible to take short cuts and miss out sections by using the walkways to the left or right of the exhibits. The museum forms part of the Barbican complex, 1960s architecture, and is ideally suited to perambulating with a baby – plenty of lifts and ramps and space. There is well constructed and sympathetically achieved level access throughout. The museum is free to enter and there are lockers – £1 charge – that can store belongings you don’t want to take into the museum with you.     

Lily was really happy to see the shapes and lighting in the Pleasure Garden exhibit, to be found in the eighteenth century section. There are stars on the ceiling, benches to sit on, music and lots for her to look at. There are a number of really interesting places across the museum where you can have a sit, think about the realities of living in that era and see different and unusual sights. This is a really nice way to break up your visit, have a rest and feed your baby or give him or her an opportunity to have a crawl or cuddle while remaining submerged in your century of choice. The front of house staff were particularly chatty, helpful and encouraging – they seemed to really like having babies to visit.

If you want to take some time out or give your baby some space there is also the opportunity to do this. There are two cafes, lots of bench space outside of the exhibits and there are a lot of windows with interesting views to look at – so many museums have no windows and I know natural daylight can bleach and damage collections, but it wonderful that the MOL have overcome these difficulties.

Baby changing facilities are ok. They have pull down changing tables in disabled access loos on the ground floor and lower ground floor. We travelled to the museum by car because my husband happened to be driving past on his way to work. If this wasn’t the case we would probably have taken the tube to either Blackfriars or Liverpool Street tube stations. It is possible in the cold February wind that I may have taken a black cab from the station to the museum.     

If you work for the Museum of London and would like some ideas about making your new site at Smithfield baby friendly, please do get in touch. Lily and I would love to help make the New Museum of London perfect for Babies in Museums.

Changing facilities ***

Access *****

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) ****

Travel ***

Enjoyability ****

Total Babies in Museums Rating ****

South Bank

Babies in Museums Rating ***

Easier than anticipated, but a little local knowledge was vital for the smooth running of this cultural visit.

There is a lot to see and do on the South Bank and this was a reasonably spontaneous visit by the Babies in Museums team. Unless you are in the area a lot I find that it is always a surprise what you might discover on the South Bank. On most Sundays there is a reasonably large used book market near Waterloo Bridge. This time the area had been cleared to make way for a pop-up gourmet hot dog stall (among others) and some bars. This suited us and when we had intended to read, we ate instead. It was very busy so queues for the food trucks were typical and we got lucky finding a table. The area isn’t the cleanest (understatement) and I prepared a bottle for Lily with great care to keep all components sterile – this was not easy.  

There isn’t much shade / shelter on the South Bank unless you go into one of the restaurants or The South Bank Centre. A rather less attractive option might be under one of the bridges. On this occasion the sun was an issue and Lily was shaded with factor 50 and a sun canopy.

There are many exciting and unusual things to look at, smell, see and hear in the area so Lily’s visit included a lot of new experiences for her. I lifted her up to be able to see the boats on the Thames and she was fascinated by the bikes. I wanted to keep Lily out of the sun so this visit lasted around 1 hour or so.

The layout of the riverside, bridges and back towards the road is set over several levels so there were many sets of stairs.  The Southbank Centre too is very multi levelled and I really wanted to avoid carrying Lily’s pram up or down stairs. I used to work in the area so know it quite well and I did manage to devise a route that included only ramps and lifts. Here is how we did it.

I wanted an a > b trip rather than a circular route so we travelled by tube to waterloo station were the Jubilee Line (only) has step free access. From there we approached the South Bank via Waterloo Road and York Road. There is a ramp down to the South Bank between the Royal Festival Hall and The South Bank Centre. We walked towards Westminster.

There are stairs from the South Bank up to Westminster Bridge, but these can be avoided if you walk around the back of County Hall instead of in front. This worked well for step free access, however Westminster Bridge was horrible. Far too busy and pushing Lily in her pram was very difficult. While Westminster Tube station does have step free access I would instead recommend returning to Waterloo for a far more civilised and peaceful end to a perambulation.  

On the plus side there were unexpectedly good changing facilities on the South Bank in the form of some public toilets installed in honour of Her Majesty’s Jubilee (or Jubiloo as they have titled themselves). This is to be found near the London Eye. For 50p you can access bathrooms with baby changing mats (unisex availability). The attendant on duty provided general customer service while he did some cleaning. It was a lot nicer and more straightforward than I predicted. While I am not sure what The Queen would make of this, I was pleased. This visit would have been more successful on a quieter day and in lower temperatures.   

Changing facilities ***

Access **

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) **

Travel ***

Enjoyability ****

Total Babies in Museums Rating ***

Palace of Westminster

Babies in Museums Rating *****

An excellent and perhaps slightly more unusual cultural visit for babies.

It meant a lot to me to be able to take Lily to the Palace of Westminster – the building and the tour are not party political and focus instead on the history of the Estate the history of British democracy and the mechanics of the political system (there is no mention of current personnel, personal politics or brexit during this visit – or indeed this review.) Our visit included an opportunity to see inside the chamber of the House of Commons and the chamber of the House of Lords, Westminster Hall, Central Lobby and the Royal areas of the House of Lords including the Robing Room and Throne Room. Visiting all of these areas is only possible when parliament is in recess and you can find information about this on their website (although as a rough guide recess tends to fall during standard school holidays).

The level of access offered is very generous and it was thrilling to be able to show Lily the Queen’s Throne, the statue of Winston Churchill (with one polished shoe following decades of MPs rubbing his foot for luck) and the places where the Prime Minster and the Leader of the Opposition stand in the commons chamber. There is a pretty comprehensive audio guide included in the ticket price of around £20 for adults. Tickets are sold online only and are timed. This visit included the opportunity to see many nationally significant paintings, objects and places. Westminster Hall alone is pretty astonishing.

Access to the Westminster Estate is strictly regulated by the Police and all visitors experience airport style security including the scanning of all luggage (and all prams). Once inside the visitor route has level access throughout, with the exception of a rather grand staircase in Westminster Hall. I carried Lily in her pram up and down these stairs with the assistance of niece and nephew. Although I have since learned that had we asked, there is a level access option available. The front-of-house team were chatty and encouraging, and I even managed to discreetly feed Lily during our visit. There are many sitting opportunities during this visit, all with wonderful scenery and things to look at. Even though we visited during peak tourist season (August Holiday) no part of the building was crowded and it was possible to see everything in a very leisurely manner. Lily particularly enjoyed looking at the decorated ceilings, the collection of murals and the statues. 

I didn’t change Lily during this trip so I am afraid that I cannot comment on facilities, although I did notice visitor toilets at the back on Westminster Hall (where you will also find a little gift shop). We visited for around an hour and a half and travelled to Westminster via tube. Westminster Station is exactly outside and has level access from the District, Circle and Jubilee lines.  To get in to the Palace you need to use the visitor entrance opposite Westminster Abbey (St. Stephen’s Entrance).

Changing facilities N/A

Access ****

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) *****

Travel *****

Enjoyability ****

Total Babies in Museums Rating *****

National Railway Museum

Babies in Museums Rating ***

Straightforward visit, free entry and lots to see, although not all facilities were perfect.

This was a good trip which included the history of the rail industry, various famous and unusual trains and train carriages, a LOT of train memorabilia and a small interpretation gallery about how points and signal boxes work and other logistical matters.

I am not a train nerd, but still found this museum very educational and at times quite spectacular to see. There was a lot for Lily to look at and experience.  The museum is housed in two parallel train depot buildings – the space is very big and not very warm (do dress yourself and your offspring accordingly). There are lifts and ramps between floors although level access is far from perfect. It is possible to see inside, and even underneath many of the train, although access up (or under) them is via stairs only. Completely level access is provided for the Japanese bullet train and the collection of royal carriages.  George Stephenson’s Rocket was a particular highlight for me, while Lily liked the store-room of memorabilia which is overloaded with stuff to look at.

There is very little seating available throughout this museum, it is not always very physically comfortable and the displays are a little tired. There isn’t really anyway particularly comfortable to feed a baby at this museum, and the changing facilities were very few and utterly disgusting. In fact the bathroom we visited looked and smelled so bad I rejected it and waited until we got home.

We visited the National Railway Museum for 3 hours and travelled there on foot from York Mainline Station. The museum is a 5 minute walk from the station and York is 2 hours from London by train.

Changing facilities *

Access ***

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) **

Travel ****

Enjoyability ***

Total Babies in Museum Rating ***

York Castle Museum

Babies in Museums Rating *

A very disappointing day for Babies in Museums.

I was very excited to visit the Castle Museum in York, particularly as their permanent exhibition Shaping the Body has direct relevance to another project I am working on. Also, I know their recreation of a Victorian street is very exciting and atmospheric and I felt sure that Lily would be fascinated by it.

Alas, I was turned away at the door. Prams and buggies are not admitted inside the museum.

I was surprised and sorry about this. In fairness, I know from previous visits that the museum is split over a number of levels – is there a lift? This is an obstacle overcome by many (most?) other museums and historic houses, including some with far more strictly protected status and far more complicated architectural obstacles. We couldn’t even have a quick peak at the ground floor.

The only consolation – the museum does provide a buggy park and a selection of baby carriers which can be used free of charge. Alas Lily fidgets terribly when carried in this way, she weighs over 18 lbs now, and I was not dressed for baby-wearing. We were visiting alone, so no one to help put on the carrier (unfamiliar carriers can be tricky to install) and I also had Lily’s sundry paraphernalia to think of – and my coat! Two other babies with parents were dismissed at the door alongside us – is this a regular occurrence? I remain disappointed and particularly frustrated by a local marketing campaign advertising the museum to families.

We travelled to the York Castle Museum on foot from York Mainline Station. York is 2 hour train ride from Kings Cross.

If you work for York Castle Museum and would like some support, advice, ideas about how to make improvements for the parents of young children please do get in touch. I am sympathetic and knowledgable about the conservation and protection needs of old buildings and fragile collections. I would like to help.

Changing facilities n/a

Access *

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) n/a

Travel ***

Enjoyability *

Total Babies in Museums Rate *