From adventure trails, to tropical gardens, free art exhibitions, outdoor space to run around in and creative play and song sessions for the under 5s (yes, really!), there's so much to do at the Barbican - all free. Here’s our guide to why the Barbican Centre is an absolute must-visit for a family day out for both locals and visitors, whatever the weather.
1. It’s a hidden oasis full of tropical plants and secret walkways.
Rather than being hidden away in the bowels of the building, the Barbican Centre's stairwell was designed to be a big feature. Surrounded by glass all the way to the top, you can walk up and take in 180-degree views, including St Giles Cripplegate church, which survived the Blitz and is one of the few remaining medieval churches in the City of London. Walk up to Level 2 and you’ll find access to the walkways - follow the yellow brick line and wander around the Barbican Estate, taking in the views and post-war brutalist architecture. With no cars and very few people around, it’s perfect for letting the kids run - or scoot - around and explore. Make the most of Sunday and head to the Barbican Conservatory Terrace on Level 4 to discover more than 2,000 tropical plants.
2. Level G is the place to be
The Barbican is a perfect rainy day option - you could easily spend a whole afternoon milling around Level G with the kids. There’s Squish Space, a free sensory play session for under 5s, Rhymetime on most Fridays, and the Curve art gallery, all of which are free. The Curve gallery also holds special family days, encouraging younger visitors to engage with the exhibition. You are welcome to bring your own food and have lunch on one of the tables or sofa areas, and there’s also free wi-fi. There are also free art installations on this floor, as well as pop-up live music - there’s always something different going on.
3. Kids eat free!
Feeding everyone can add a huge expense to your day, but there are a couple of great options here, including kids eat free deals. Head to the Barbican Kitchen on Level G for pizza or a super-healthy buffet lunch - kids under 12 eat free and if the weather’s good you can sit outside on the Lakeside Terrace. Or go to Bonfire on Level 4 for a burger with a view - they also run kids eat free offers and have a table football to play on. Or if you fancy a crepe or toastie, go to the Beech Street Cafe & Bar attached to Cinemas 2 & 3 on Beech Street, across the road from the Silk Street entrance and accessible from street level.
“They also run kids eat free offers and have a table football to play on”
4. You don’t have to walk through the shop on the way out.
There is a beautiful shop on Level G selling a curated selection of books, prints, jewellery by up and coming design houses, as well as some smaller items for kids, but it’s positioned in such a way that you can totally avoid it if you want to. There’s no sign of the dreaded ‘pocket money toy’ section and you don’t have to walk through it on your way out. Definitely worth a browse when you’re not with the kids though!
5. Kids will LOVE the Big Barbican Adventure
Get set for a voyage of discovery as you and your mini adventurers explore the Barbican following this DIY trail. Solve cryptic puzzles and use your artistic skills to create new drawings and play games along the way. To get started, just pick up your free trail kit from the Information Desk on Level M. The Big Barbican Adventure takes just over an hour to complete, depending on how large your group is, and will guide you inside and outside of the building. At the end, go back to the Information Desk to collect your secret prize!
6. There's loads of outdoor space
As well as the walkways, from Level G you can step outside to the Lakeside Terrace and fountain area, which overlooks St Giles church and has plenty of tables and benches to sit at all year round - perfect for eating a packed lunch in the sunshine. And If the weather’s good, you can wander over to Beech Gardens, accessible from street level via White Lyon Court, at the junction of Fann Street and Aldersgate Street, opposite the Shakespeare pub.