There are lots of things to do in London with kids. The capital is filled with amazing museums, brilliant theatre, endless exhibitions and dozens of brilliant places for afternoon tea.
But sometimes you just want swings and roundabouts. Fortunately, London is also a great place for green space and playgrounds
London is filled with green spaces and most local parks boast a good playground. Look closer, however, and you’ll find that the capital enjoys plenty of adventure playgrounds too with climbing walls, splash parks, a paddling pool and even pirate ships.
The following are some of the best London playgrounds for children of all ages. but particularly for young children. You’ll be happy to hear that these are all free playgrounds (take a look at other free things to do in London here!)
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Diana Memorial Playground
One of the most famous and best playgrounds in London is the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground located in Kensington Gardens. Kensington Palace, home of the late Princess Diana, is just a short walk away. The playground opened in 2000 and is a brilliant place for kids.
Taking centre stage is the huge pirate ship where kids can reenact their favourite Peter Pan scenes (or just run around and have fun!). There’s also a sensory trail, teepees and a beach area with water pumps and splash park around the ship where children can play. The space has been designed for less able-bodied children to enjoy as well.
Adults are only allowed in if supervising children up to the age of 12. If it’s a hot, sunny day during school holidays then the queues can be long. Either get there early or be prepared to wait. Take a look at the website for opening times and more information.
There’s a cafe near the entrance selling drinks, snacks and ice cream.
Nearest tube: Bayswater, Queensway & Lancaster Gate
Marylebone Green Playground, Regent’s Park
Located in the southern section of Regents Park is this great playground featuring climbing frames, seesaws and sand pits. Marylebone Green Playground is divided into three different themed zones.
The Traditional Zone is a traditional playground with swings, a seesaw and a climbing frame. It’s perfect for young kids. The Art Zone, inspired by the annual ‘Frieze’ art show in the park, is home to a spiralling concrete ‘folly’ with a slide. There’s also a rock climbing wall. In the Natural Zone, kids can wander through a living willow tunnel, clamber over rocks and scramble over fallen trees.
Nearest tube: Regents Park
Highgate Woods Playground
The playground at Highgate Woods is one of the best places to go with kids in North London and is very popular with the local community. This ancient woodland is home to a number of scenic trails, a large playing field (popular for football matches in winter and cricket tournaments in summer) and a cafe. There’s also a large playground located near the playing field.
There are separate play areas for different age groups (including a separate play area for very young children) as well as a small zip wire, a climbing frame and plenty of spaces for mum and dad to sit and watch.
The woods close at dusk and the playground just before that. Closing times are marked on the gate.
Nearest tube: Highgate
Located in Central London is the excellent Coram’s Fields. This is a real community park and playground that is open year-round for children under the age of 16. There’s a huge sandpit, lots of climbing frames, paddling pools in warmer months plus a sensory playground. There’s even a city farm here as well as an adventure playground for older kids featuring a zip wire and a tunnel slide.
One of the things that I love most about Coram’s Fields, however, is it’s history; the play area is located on the site of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital that was set up in 1747 as a home for ‘deserted’ and abandoned children. There’s a large grassy lawn area, which is perfect for picnics when the sun shines.
The park also has a football pitch, table tennis tables and a netball and basketball court.
Nearest tube: Russell Square, Kings Cross St Pancras & Holborn or Chancery Lane.
The playground at Battersea Park was given a huge facelift just a few years ago. Today there’s a brilliant adventure playground that’s perfect for 5 to 16-year-olds and a children’s playground next door that has been designed for kid aged 1 to 7-years-old. There’s also a toddler’s playground for little people under the age of 5.
Even better, Battersea Park is also home to a Go Ape treetop adventure challenge.
Nearest tube: Battersea Park is not brilliantly located for the London Underground, your best bet is to get the overland train to Queenstown Road Railway Station. From here it’s a 10minute walk to the park.
South Carriage Drive Playground
Located in Hyde Park, one of the Royal Parks, this adventurous playground is suitable for children up to the age of 12. It also boats some pretty fabulous views with the Serpentine boating lake in the distance. There are climbing frames, a swing set and a slide. It’s not a fairly small playground but the perfect place for a a quick run around. There are also picnic tables here.
Nearest tube: Knightsbridge
Children’s Garden at Kew
Kew Gardens is one of the best parks in London and not just for its beautiful gardens. Kew Gardens is also home to a magical children’s garden, the Children’s Garden at Kew.
The children’s garden has been designed for children aged from 2 to 12-years-old. The play spaces have been divided into the four natural elements: earth, sun, air and water. In other words, all the things that plants need to grow.
The various play areas match the themes; in the Air Garden kids can jump on trampolines for example and they can engage in water play in the Water Garden. It’s a fun educational concept and really well done.
Pre-Covid the playground hosted botany classes for kids in tents on the lawn and reading time in the temperate glass house. These will come back at some point, so do check their website.
Tickets for the Children’s Garden must be booked in advance. Remember to book a time slot to enter Kew Gardens and secure a separate time slot for The Children’s Garden ahead of your visit. You can book tickets here.
Nearest tube: Kew Gardens
The Magic Garden at Hampton Court Palace
Definitely one of the most whimsical playgrounds in London is the Magic Garden at Hampton Court Palace. There are royal towers and an aerial walkway, a large sand and water area, and an enormous fire-breathing dragon. It does get very crowded during summer months and at weekends even with timed entries (you’re given a coloured wristband which indicates when you’re allowed to enter – and when you must leave!).
This is one to combine with a day out at Hampton Court Palace, particularly if you don’t live nearby.
Nearest rail station: The easiest way to get to Hampton Court if you are not driving is by train from Waterloo Station to Hampton Court. This takes approximately 35minutes.
Paddington Recreation Ground
The Paddington Recreation Ground is something of a hidden gem. The imaginative play space took a year to create and now offers a brilliant area for kids of all ages.
For infants there’s a train and tunnel as well as a slide, swings, climbing wall and a scramble net. There are also beautifully designed playhouses, the pastel-coloured Beechcroft Gardens terrace. For older kids there’s a wooden streamliner to play on as well as a roundabout, a fireman’s pole, a nest swing and more. The streamliner and the playhouses were all made at a workshop in York.
There’s even a space for teens; a huge wood forest play unit built around the existing trees. The zip wire has been revamped and a four-seater see-saw introduced. You’ll also find a sensory play space. It really is one of the best play parks in London.
Nearest tube: Maida Vale. Or Kilburn High Road overground railway station.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is home to a number of different play areas. Located in East London, the park was built in 2012 for the Olympics. Today, it’s an excellent place for families.
To the north of the park there’s the Tumbling Bay Playground, home to rock pools, sand pits, wobbly bridges and tall treehouses. There’s also a cafe here.
To the south of the park you’ll find the Pleasure Gardens Play Areas. There’s an enormous sand pit, oversized swings and giant red rocks that kids must climb up in order to reach the slides.
The park is also home to an excellent Climbing Wall and the Waterworks Fountains. The fountains are, not surprisingly, very popular with kids. The 195 individually controlled jets of water provide much merriment on sunny days.
Don’t miss the 114.5m-tall ArcelorMittal Orbit slide while you’re here. It’s the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide and offers some of the best views of London!
Nearest tube: Stratford station and Stratford International station
Gloucester Gate Playground
Beautiful Regent’s Park is home to no less than four playgrounds: Gloucester Gate Playground, Hanover Gate Playground, Marylebone Green Playground and Primrose Hill Playground. Of these, Gloucester Gate is the one you should make a beeline for first. This play space has been welcoming children since the 1930s but recent renovations mean that it’s now shiny and modern.
The new space is nearly double the size of the former playground and comes with a 50m zip wire, water play and climbing equipment made for natural materials. Accessibility has also been considered and there’s a wheelchair accessible roundabout, a wide slide and raised water and sand tables.
Nearest tube: Camden Town
Holland Park Adventure Playground
The Holland Park Adventure Playground is another play space that has benefited recently from investment and refurbishment. The result is an exciting adventure playground that boasts climbing frames, a climbing wall, a zip wire, nest swings, wooden walkways and more. For younger kids there are the perennial favourites of sand and water play. Don’t miss the Kyoto Garden and the Koi Carp while you’re in the park.
Nearest tube: Holland Park
Ruislip Lido is more than just a playground, it’s an entire day out. Located in the borough of Hillingdon, north-west London, this space offers visitors a 60-acre lake with sandy beaches and a play area just near by. This is where you’ll find the popular wooden pirate ship for kids to clamber on. On the beach itself is the Splash Pad for lots of water fun.
Possibly the most exciting thing about Ruislip Lido perhaps – particularly for little kids – is the miniature stream train. Ruislip Lido is home to Britain’s longest 12″ gauge miniature railway, which travels around the lido from the carpark, through the woods and to the beach.
Nearest train station: Ruislip Station is the closest station; from here it’s a 10 minute bus ride. If you have a car, you are probably better off driving.
Jubilee Gardens Playground
Located next door to the London Eye (where you can get great views of London) on the South Bank is Jubilee Gardens. This excellent adventure playground sits smack bang in the middle of the city. The playground is divided into two sections; one for older children and the other for smaller kids.
The main structure is made up of a series of long logs that criss-cross one another forming a 100m-long structure that kids must walk, climb and scramble across. Rope nets link some of the logs together. It’s a wonderful nature-inspired playwark that big kids will love.
For younger children there’s a toddler version that they can manoeuvre across as well as a walk-the-plank swing log and a fort with a slide. You’ll also find two rope swings and a menagerie of wooden animals near the front gate that are always a hit with younger visitors.
Nearest tube station: Waterloo is the closest. Embankment, Westminster, Lambeth North, Waterloo East and Southwark are all within walking distance.
Greenwich Park Playground
In south London Greenwich Park is a great option for families. There’s been a playground here since the 1940s but you’ll be pleased to hear that facilities have been upgraded since then!
Today Greenwich Park Playground enjoys a maritime theme, reflecting the nautical roots of the area (don’t miss a visit to the Cutty Sark while you’re in the neighbourhood and make sure you see these views of London too). There’s a great mix of sandpits as well as water play to enjoy as well as wooden boats to balance on, lots of swings and roundabouts and great slide that’s particularly fun during summer months when kids like to pour water along the surface before whizzing down!
There are children’s public toilets including an accessible toilet and baby change facilities. There’s a drinking water fountain, a kiosk for refreshments and picnic tables.
Nearest station: Maze Hill overground station
Victoria Park Playground
Victoria Park, known to locals as Vicky Park, in East London is a great spot to spend an afternoon. There are four different play areas here, suitable for kids of different ages. The main playground has a huge variety of play equipment including a giant spiderweb climbing frame and a large sandpit area. The best thing about area, however, are the big slides. There are three slides of varying steepness (the middle one is the most challenging!), and all are great fun.
Next to the popular playground is the Victoria Park splash pool, one of the biggest free water play areas in London. For older kids there’s the skatepark, home to the only skate cradle in London.
Victoria Park is also home to the V&A Playground where you’ll find lots of wooden structures, sandpits and water pumps. This corner of the park is ideal for younger kids and toddlers.
Nearest station: Homerton or Hackney Central followed by a bus.