We spend a lot of time in the city of Lincoln. Why? Because there is so much to see and do and it is a very nice place to spend some time. We moved to Lincolnshire nearly 3 years ago after 14 years in France. We had been to Lincoln before we moved but I had forgotten how lovely it really is. Today I am bringing you my list of the 12 great family friendly things to do in the city of Lincoln, from someone who knows the city well. I hope it will inspire you to make a trip soon.
About Lincoln itself
Lincoln is a Cathedral city and the county town of Lincolnshire. It is situated in the mid west of the county. Lincolnshire is mostly part of the east midlands, plus a small part of it is in the Humber region of Yorkshire. It borders many different counties making it an easy place for many to get to.
Lincoln dates back to Iron age when settlers dwelled down by the Brayford waterfront. Back then it was named Lindon and this is where the name Lincoln is thought to have derived from. Notably next came the romans and they left their mark in many places, some of which can still be seen today. The first cathedral was built back in 1092. To find out more about the long history of Lincoln please follow this link.
#1 – The Brayford Waterfront
Let’s start where Lincoln first started, down by the waterfront. Here you will find a couple of the main hotels, plus a large Odeon cinema and a choice of chain restaurants. The Odeon has a kids club at the weekend and school holidays where you can go and see a film for just £2.50 each (some films are charged at a little more).
#2 – Brayford Belle
You can also go on a river cruise here on the Brayford Belle. Please check out their website for sailing times and days. The cruise is weather dependant and they do not run all year. We paid £7 for an adult and £4.00 for a child. A family ticket is £19. The cruise lasts for about 1 hour. We found it fascinating nosing at all of the house boats.
#3 – The Collection, museum
Across from the Brayford waterfront you will come across the main shopping area of Lincoln. There are canals and a few historic buildings to look at such as the home of the famous Stokes coffee which is a building/café over the oldest bridge in the UK dating back to 1160AD. Look out for the decorative Guildhall arch over the main High street. As you make your way up to the castle you will start your walk up steep hill. This can be avoided by taking a taxi or a bus but then you would miss two of Lincoln’s free museums and the achievement of walking up the hill.
The Collection museum is a really intriguing museum. It’s based on life from the past half a million years (nearly) in Lincolnshire. All different ages are accounted for and a lot of the exhibits can be touched or even worn. There’s armour to wear, stained glass windows to make, touch screen games and plenty more. Also on site there is a shop, café and ‘Play at the collection’.
Although the museum is very child friendly Play at the collection is well equipped for the little ones. There’s plenty of dress up outfits with a stage to act out their character. Toys, crafts and more.
#4 – Usher Gallery
Just along from The Collection you will find the other free museum The Usher Gallery. It is not as child friendly as its neighbour. However it makes a good introduction to art for children and they are more than welcome. As well as paintings they also exhibit sculptures, decorative arts plus clocks and watches.
#5 – New Theatre Royal
The New Theatre Royal is situated just a short distance away from the main shopping area. It was built back in 1893 and retains the original character of its interior to this day. The theatre has a capacity of 475 and has many family friendly shows on throughout the year, including a pantomime in the winter.
#6 – Steep Hill
Be warned this hill is not for everyone. It’s even tougher going down than it is going up. There is nothing quite like the sense of achievement though getting up or down one of the most famous hills in the country. We have walked up and down many times. Sometimes we pause in a café for a drink and some cake, sometimes we stop to look in shop windows. Other times we just march on and get on with it.
It is a really lovely hill and you can imagine Lincoln residents walking up and down many years ago. The hill has a 14% gradient making it a tough hill to climb. If you are walking up you will be rewarded with a picturesque sight of Lincoln castle to your left and Lincoln cathedral to your right.
#7 – Lincoln Sightseeing Bus
This is one of the best ways to get up and down Lincoln without having to walk up or down Steep hill. If you purchase a ticket it allows you two consecutive days worth of unlimited hop on hop off bus riding. You can read more in my review here – Lincoln tourist sightseeing bus – a great way to get around.
At £8 per adult you can hop on and hop off 11 different stops. Or you can stay on for the full tour. There is a guide giving you a very interesting commentary throughout the tour. Up to two children under 16 can ride for free with an accompanying adult. The tour starts from the stop outside the Cathedral however you can hail the bus along the route or at the Brayford Waterfront stop. Your ticket is valid for two consecutive days.
#8 – Go on a trail
Lincoln has a series of trails. In 2017 they had the Knight’s trail throughout the summer. They often change their trails however the one that I feel is the most family friendly is the Lincoln Mystery Trail. Suitable for children from 6+ you can download the trail online for £6.99.
About the trail ‘Then why not explore Lincoln on this self-guided Murder Mystery themed Treasure Trail. As you follow the Trail route, can you solve the sneaky clues set on existing buildings, permanent features and monuments to eliminate the suspects to discover whodunit?
The Trail starts at the Tourist Information Centre in Exchequer Gate and takes you on a circular tour along Bailgate and around to the Lawn Complex. You then return via Wordsworth Street and Steep Hill to the Cathedral itself and the old streets around it.’
#9 – Lincoln Cathedral
As you can see from the photo above Lincoln cathedral and it’s location is simply stunning. The interior is as breath-taking as the exterior. The Cathedral has been through many phases of construction since 1088. It’s the third largest Cathedral in the UK so there are many areas to explore inside including a café and a small area for relaxing in the sun. Make sure you find out all about the mischievous Lincoln imp during your visit.
Entrance to the Cathedral costs £8 for an adult and £4.80 for a child ages 5-16. Under 5’s are free and a family ticket is £20.80. Please check their website for opening days and hours. You can purchase a combined ticket for the cathedral and the castle. Adult £16, child 5-16 £10, under 5’s free and a family ticket is £40.00.
#10 – Lincoln Castle
Lincoln castle has recently undergone a major renovation of it’s surrounding walls. You can purchase a ticket that allows you to walk the full way around the walls. We have done this a few times now and the views from the top are well worth the effort. There is a lift up if you don’t fancy the stairs, however with more steps to come you may as well walk up.
Lincoln castle was constructed in the 11th Century. It was built by William the conqueror to defend a vital crossroads in the country. Into the later 18th Century Lincoln castle was used as a prison and a court of law. You can look around the grounds for free on a non event day. However if you want to see the prison, the magna carta and walk the castle walls then you will need to pay an entrance fee.
If you don’t purchase a combined ticket for the cathedral you can pay just to visit the castle. An all inclusive ticket, including event days, is £13.50 for an adult. 10% off when booked online. £7.20 for a child and under 5’s go free. It’s worth checking out their website for other pricing options.
The prison is well worth a visit. We have spent a lot of time exploring the different rooms and exhibitions. The chapel is the most interesting place of all to visit. I will leave that one as a surprise for your visit.
Read more about a major Lincoln castle event here – Lincoln castle, Grand medieval joust event review.
#11 – Museum of Lincolnshire life & Ellis Windmill
A short distance up past the castle you will find two more free places to visit. The museum of Lincolnshire life and Ellis windmill (this is currently closed for restoration).
The museum of Lincolnshire life is a very child friendly museum. We enjoyed our visit and you can read more about what there is to see and do there via my review – Museum of Lincolnshire life, free day out review.
There’s plenty to see and do and learn all about the past years of Lincolnshire life. Jamie loved exploring the different halls full of displays, old shop displays and the history hunters playground. It’s a great attraction in any weather. We explored in the middle of winter! They also have children’s trails to make their visit that bit more interesting. Be sure to ask for a trail. There is also a shop and café on site.
#12 – Medieval Bishop’s palace
During the Christmas market we visited the English heritage owned Medieval Bishop’s palace for free. At other times of the year you can visit at no additional cost if you are an English heritage annual pass holder. Currently the palace is undergoing restoration work so the site is closed until further notice.
The palace was once one of the most important buildings in the UK. You can take an audio tour around the undercroft, entrance tower, chapel range and more. When the palace reopens if you don’t have a pass or visit on a special free event day then entrance costs £5.50 for an adult without gift aid. Children under 5 are free and 5-15 just £3.30. A family ticket is £14.30.
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….Coming soon. A massive list of family friendly things to do in Lincolnshire. Plus a list of free or cheap things to do in Lincolnshire and things to do within 5 minutes of Lincoln – Phew! Busy me!!