One of the things we love most about living in London is just how much there is to do for families. From world-famous museums with hands-on interactive exhibits (many of them free and some of them offering brilliant sleepover experiences) and beautiful parks and gardens to fantastic food markets, amazing toy stores, brilliant book shops and more, London has so much to do for kids of all ages. Given that we’ve only been back in London a short time, I asked some of my fellow family travel bloggers to share some of their favourite things to do with children in the capital – I’ve also added some of my top sights as well. Once you’ve exhausted these 45 ideas for things to do in London with kids then take a look at these selection of London guidebooks, which will give you even more activities to choose from!
45 Things to do in London with kids
Step back in time at the London Transport Museum
The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden is one of my favourite museums in the world for kids. As you enter you take an elevator ride back in time to the beginnings of public transport in London! From there you can learn about the hackney carriages, the makings of the tube and bus systems! Kids will love all the buses and trains you can sit on and there is even a great hands on area for little explorers to get Hands on learning experience! This museum is definitely best suited to kids from toddler age up. Adults will love learning more about design classics and wider effects that London transport has had in the world! My personal favourite thing is watching the development of London through the tube map which is a fascinating insight into the growth of a city. An added bonus is that twice a year the London Transport Museum holds an open day at their storage facility in Acton where you can see some of the gems of the collection that aren’t on display. Be warned however that it is one of the admission charged museums in London but it is well worth the money.
Leona, Wandermust Family
Spend the day in Greenwich
Greenwich used to be a separate village but is now attached to London. Nevertheless, it still has it’s very own quirky character! My advice would be to hop on the DLR from Bank and get off at Island Gardens. From here you’’ll be able to see Greenwich, lying across the Thames. After taking a pretty picture, take the underground tunnel below the Thames to get to the other side. Once there you will officially be in Greenwich and immediately see the British clipper named Cutty Sark, an excellent place to visit with kids. Once your children are done exploring the ship you can get walk to Greenwich Market where you buy all sorts of delicacies. Pack your market goodies, time for a picnic! I recommend finding a spot close to the Trinity Laban Conservatoire for a free lunch concert. After you finish lunch, visit the Maritime Museum which has lots of fun displays and things to see and do for kids. Or, if your children don’t feel like visiting a museum, hike up to the Greenwich Observatory to see the Meridian Line (Greenwich Mean Time). Once you are done exploring Greenwich, hop on the Riverboat to get back to the city center Get out at Westminster to continue your London city trip!
Lotte, Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog
Indulge at the Southbank Centre Food Market
London’s South Bank has seen an explosion of development in the past decade that goes well beyond the London Eye. While the eye is still the biggest attraction drawing families across the Thames, restaurants and a vibrant waterfront are keeping them there all afternoon. Even better, the Southbank Centre Food Market, located behind Southbank Centre, is introducing local and visiting families to cuisines from across the globe. Bites on display include Duck Fat fries, a variety of curries, Ethiopian dishes, Greek salads and Gyros, as well as traditional English fair. Picnic tables are set up throughout the market, so don’t be shy. It’s easy to meet other families on a clear day, but even on overcast and rainy days this food market is hopping. Just make sure you save room for dessert. Several bakeries show up, and a for those looking for a Pimms, you can sit at a pop up bar for a pint or cocktail too.
See the sights on the B Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
What kid (and mom) doesn’t want to experience an afternoon tea when in London. Tackle two items on your list with this 90-minute afternoon tea bus tour that brings you by The London Eye, Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St James’s Park, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, The Royal Albert Hall, Marble Arch, Piccadilly Circus, Nelson’s Column, Downing Street and more. You’ll munch on tiny sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries, all while you see the most iconic sights in the city with other families. This is a great place to meet other traveling families, and introduce your kids to the fine art of drinking tea. Pinkies up!
Visit the Cutty Sark
Built in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, Cutty Sark is the iconic British clipper ship turned museum ship in Greenwich, London. It was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, before sailing ships gave way to steamships domination. It will be a great fun for a family day out, with lively characters and crew members telling the many stories of the ship from the past, while exploring the different parts of the ship from the inside and out on the deck. If you have time, do also enjoy a lovely afternoon tea beneath Cutty Sark’s original copper-plated hull. The Cutty Sark opens daily from 10am until 5pm, with tickets admission for adult at £12.15, while child over 4 (Age 4 -15 years) costs £6.30 and free for anyone under 4. Getting to Cutty Sark is easy with the Cutty Sark station on the Docklands Light Railway (“DLR”) is merely 1 minute walk away, which connects to Central London and London Underground. Else, make the journey part of the fun with the kids and arrive by boat at Greenwich Pier next to the ship. Famously known to be the only intact survivor of its kind, Cutty Sark is definitely a must see in London.
Allison, Urbanite Diary
Play at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
London is filled with amazing parks, but one of the best for all ages is the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This park was created during the revitalization of this area for the 2012 Olympics and is well worth the excursion to this side of town. From water play areas to challenging climbing walls to a treehouse fort, everyone will find a unique area to explore. Our favorite area is the Tumbling Bay Play area that has rock pools, sand pits, elaborate pulley systems, tall tree houses connected by wobbly bridges, as well as slides, swings and plenty of space to run around in the bushes. There is also a cute cafe here making it easy to spend your entire day at the park.
Continuing on through the park is the Pleasure Gardens area that features a massive climbing wall left from the building of the Olympic areas as well as swings and a massive sand pit. This area can feel busier, but is wide open allowing easy viewing of kids! Apart from the playgrounds, there are also many trails to traverse including London 2012, Art in the Park, Parkland and Wildlife or Children’s Adventures in the Park. The Children’s Adventures offers a fun interactive mission for kids to accomplish as they venture around the park. Trail maps can be downloaded online.
Karilyn, No Back Home
Watch the Queen’s Life Guard
Lots of visitors to London go to see the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace, but there can be large crowds making it difficult for little ones to see. An alternative, particularly for children who love horses, is to head for Horse Guards Parade where the Queen’s Life Guard change at 11am Monday – Sat and 10am on a Sunday. There are smaller crowds and no railings between visitors and the guards taking place, and the whole event takes about 30 minutes. Combine this with a visit to the Household Cavalry Museum where you can see the horses being looked after in their stables through a glass partition. It’s rree to watch the changing of the Queen’s Life Guard, but their is an entry cost for the Household Cavalry Museum (Adults £7, Under 5s free).
Jo, Kiddie Holidays
Climb the dome at St. Paul’s Cathedral
There are so many wonderful things to do in London with kids but one of our absolute favourites is visiting St. Pauls Cathedral and climbing up the dome. St. Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic feature of the London skyline, with its world famous dome. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1708. Climbing to the top of the dome takes a little effort but is so worthwhile. 259 steps take you up to the Whispering Gallery, which runs around the interior of the dome. From where you can look down to the Cathedral floor. It gets its name from the fact that if you whisper against its walls the sound is audible on the opposite side! Continuing upwards, up small twisting staircases, and you reach the Golden Gallery, from which there are fantastic views across London. In total 528 steps climbed. Aside from climbing the dome, St. Pauls has an excellent family multimedia guide which takes you around the cathedral, with quizzes, activities and interactive games.
Nicky, Go Live Young
Take a ride on the Hop On Hop Off Bus
There is so much to see and do in London, which can mean a lot of walking for little legs. On our first day in London we did a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city, which was the perfect way to tick off a lot of the popular sights without tiring the kids out. There are numerous bus companies to choose from, all running similar routes and itineraries. Our favourite was the buses with live narration where we soaked up the history and interesting facts the guide explained. Best of all, we could hop-off whenever something caught our eye that we wanted to explore deeper. Our bus tour also included a river cruise on the Thames, which was a great bonus activity. The hop-on hop-off bus was a great way to start our trip in London.
Dawn, 5 Lost Together
Enjoy a Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea
There are few things more British than afternoon tea and fortunately London has a lot of great places where you can eat your fill of cakes. One afternoon tea experience that should be top of any family’s list is the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych. This luxury contemporary hotel is located in Covent Garden and is the perfect afternoon stop. The tea has been inspired by the sweet shop in the story, the magical afternoon tea includes treats such as a golden chocolate egg, chocoate caramel milk, home-made candy floss, blueberry Eton Mess and plenty more sweet treats. For those with less of a sweet tooth you’ll be relieved to hear that the savoury selection is just as good. Afternoon tea is served in The Lobby and The Indigo restaurant on the first floor.
Take a walk around Primrose Hill
One of the best things to do in London is a stroll around Primrose Hill, which is located a little bit north of the city centre. Primrose Hill is easy to reach by Tube and a nice and relaxed alternative to the typical tourist hotspots in London. The park is perfect for an afternoon stroll, and from the top of the hill (which is very accessible and not very steep), you have a great view of the London skyline. The best part about it? Compared to some other viewpoints, this one is completely for free! The neighbourhood around Primrose Hill is one of the upper-class areas of the city and you’ll find nice cafés and restaurants close by. I’d also recommend combining your visit at Primrose Hill with Camden, which is known for its alternative markets. A nice stroll along the canal will take you from Primrose Hill to Camden, where I particularly recommend visiting one of the food markets. A great way to spend an afternoon!
Patrick, German Backpacker
Go shopping in Hamleys Toy Store
Hamleys, one of the most famous toy stores in the world, has enthralled kids since 1760 and it is easy to see why even before entering. We spent most of the day in the store with our kids when visiting London and it is one of the best experiences they had. Everything is extreme, the opening each morning is a spectacle in itself when the mascot bears, Hamley and Hattie, are there for the countdown of opening time. From the moment we stepped inside the entertainment did not cease. Shop staff were ‘playing’ all the time… flying mini-drones, blowing giant bubbles and enticing kids to join in (and parents to buy). It was hard to get the kids out of Hamleys, we did get lured into buying a few items that we really did not need, but they made excellent gifts for friends as we travelled around the UK and Europe!
See dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park
With all the activities available, Crystal Palace Park makes a great family destination for a day out around London. It is a must-see for every dinosaur’s lover. With its 30 life-size, 3D model dinosaurs, sculpted in 1854 and restored in 2003, it will for sure be a huge success for your little adventurers. They will be amazed by the detail to which these dinosaurs have been sculpted. The most courageous children could venture in the giant tea maze, one of the biggest in the UK. But they could also visit the farm or play in the playground while you are having a well-deserved rest. And that’s not all, the park has also two lakes where you can fish or enjoy or boat ride, a lot of areas where you can stop for a picnic break. Plus if you fancy a bit of culture, you can visit the Italian terraces and the concert bowl where Pink Floyd, Santana and other major bands have performed. On top of that, the entrance is completely free!
Rim, Curious and Geeks
If you’re looking for an outdoor activity to take the little ones to, don’t look past Go Ape’s high ropes and ziplining course in Battersea Park. Yep, you don’t even need to venture out of the city! There’s the Tree Top Junior for monkeys of all ages to get a taste of zip wires, adults included, or the Tree Top Adventure for 10 years (minimum 1.4m tall) and above to test their climbing skills and get out of their comfort zone. Wriggle into your secure harnesses and tick off a thorough safety briefing before making your way up the first ladder, then take on tree-top crossings, balance beams, wobbly bridges and adrenaline-inducing rope swings into giant nets. The Junior course is 231m of kid-size zip lines and bridges, and the Adventure course is 730m long, including a 50m zipline and a maximum height of 13.6m. Epic! Let the kids release some energy, soak up the fresh air and enjoy a family-friendly day outside, in the middle of the city.
Alex, Finding Alexx
Explore Covent Garden
Covent Garden is the perfect place to take the children when in London. The list of things to do is endless from street entertainment , toy shops and interesting child friendly museums. The best free things to do is watch the street entertainers which can be found performing outside of St Paul’s Church, inside the Apple Tree Market and along James street. There are many shops suitable for children and lots of stalls in the market area including a sweets stall and a magic stall and teddy bear stall. Some of the fantastic unique toy shops are, Benjamin Pollocks Toyshop, The Tin Tin shop, The Moomin shop and Pylones which is filled with crazy objects and gifts. You could also visit the London Transport Museum for a fabulous insight in to the world of London’s transport. Why not catch a theatre show? After all Covent Garden is the heart of theatre land and the choice is endless. When the kids are feeling peckish you will be spoilt for choice; grab a Nutella crepe in Gelatorino, a freak-shake or burger in Maxwells, a cupcake in Lola’s or some cookies in Ben’s cookies. Christmas is also a great time to visit Covent Garden as they often have lots going on including hunting for Rudolf the red nosed reindeer.
Donna, Like Love Do
Sleepover on The Golden Hinde
The Golden Hinde is nestled in a small dry dock amongst the hustle and bustle of borough market. You board the ship and are greeted by a welcoming crew of four actors; the captain, the barber surgeon, the gunner and the cook. The immersive theatre begins as soon as you are all aboard. You change into ‘crew’ attire; a jacket, belt and hat for children and adults alike. Some fun ‘orientation games’ follow on deck as you get to grips with our ports and starboards. It’s a unique adventure although the sleeping part is not for the feint-hearted or those too attached to their modern day comforts, but the amazing intimate and immersive experience is well worth it. The talented team at the Golden Hinde have numerous events going on and do check out the website for dates and details.
Karen, Mini Travellers
Ride high in the London Eye
The London Eye is one of the best places for kids to get a taste of the London skyline from the fun vantage point of, what usually is, an amusement park ride. Take your kids on the giant ferris wheel located on the south bank of the Thames River. It opened to the public in 2000 and offered the highest views of London until The View From The Shard observation deck opened in 2013. From the London Eye, you’ll see amazing views of Big Ben and the Parliament Building. There is, literally, no other place in London where you can get such close views of Elizabeth Tower and the Big Ben clock itself without actually being in it. Your kids will also enjoy the sky-high views and delight in the fact that they’ll get a bird’s eye view of the city. It’s a fun ride and super safe for kids of all ages!
Constance, The Adventures of Panda Bear
Visit Harrods with the kids
One could say that Harrods is merely a department store, but that would be a horrible disservice to a legendary retail establishment that has both history and beauty on its side. Yes, the toy department is greatly altered from just a few years ago and is no longer a fairyland of books and toys. It’s now more of a minimalist space that may be of interest to design-forward young ones. However, the entire store is actually like an enormous toy jewel box, with treasures to be found on every floor. The escalators (fun fact: Harrods had the world’s first escalator, installed in 1898) move past intricately carved stonework with Egyptian motifs and beautiful displays of housewares, fashion and souvenirs of the shop and London. There are interesting things to admire everywhere you look. I recommend a stop at the Ice Cream Parlour on the second floor. It’s beautiful place to enjoy a sundae or sweet treat, though mind the prices. If it’s a fine weather day, shop the Fresh Market Hall on the ground floor for some delicious picnic supplies, and head to nearby Hyde Park for a memorable al fresco lunch.
Claudia, The Travelling Mom
Have fun at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground
In between visiting museums and other cultural places, it’s a great idea to take your kids to a park to let them burn off energy and enjoy some fresh air. When in London, we recommend visiting the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. Located next to Kensington Palace, the playground is in a central location and is easy to get to by the Tube. Peter Pan was the inspiration for the design of the playground, which encourages kids of all abilities to use their imagination while playing. The drawcard of the playground is the large wooden pirate ship built on sand, large enough for kids of all ages to climb on and play in. There’s also a sensory trail, play sculptures and tee pees. The playground is set among beautiful trees with seating and grassy areas for adults to relax while their kids play. There is a café on site that sells hot food and healthy and vegetarian options and has kids food too. Get to the park early, especially during the summer when there can be long queues. The park opens at 10am each day (closed on Christmas Day). The park is supervised however children must be accompanied by an adult.
Natalie, Home Health Living
Explore the British Museum
The British Museum is a treasure trove of artifacts from around the world. Among its treasures, you’ve got bits of the Greek Acropolis, the Rosetta Stone, a burial helmet from Sutton Hoo and an Easter Island statute. There is so much to see among the permanent collections but there are also excellent temporary exhibits, too such as South African Art, American pop culture and Japanese manga. Thanks to its free admission, you won’t feel the need to insist on an extended visit if your children get exhausted with such an enormous museum. The British Museum is easy to visit – open every day and late on Friday evenings. Unlike other celebrated museums, there is no long line to get into the museum. As such, it is an easy museum to dip in and out of, taking in a small part of it at a time. My daughter even had a sleepover at the British Museum with her friends as a 10th birthday party. The British Museum sleepovers are run regularly for children between the ages of 8-15. They are an amazing experience with arts and crafts and storytelling set around a theme usually related to an exhibit at the museum. There are several sleepovers every year. Sleeping amidst the priceless artifacts in the Egptian and Assyrian rooms was something we will never forget.
Shoba, Just Go Places
Discover the Science Museum
You will be able to see iconic objects and learn about important scientific discoveries, there are IMAX films and even a Red Arrows simulator. The Science Museum presents everything in a way that is sure to entertain your little ones. Most of the museum is free to enter but you may want to consider paying the entrance fee for Wonderlab where you can get even more hands on with the science and watch interactive presentations with explainers who bring science to life to teach you about fire, electricity, rockets and more. All in all it is a great way to spend a couple of hours with your kids, they are sure to have fun and they may even learn a thing or two.
Chris, More Life in Your Days
Ride the Rail Mail at the Postal Museum
A tunnel system exists in London that few people know about, the Mail Rail. The Postal Museum in London highlights the mail transport system that was used to transport mail from different stations across the city for nearly seventy five years. Learn what it was like to work in the tunnels, see the equipment used by the driver-less trains and then experience the small train filled with people instead of sacks of letters as you ride to a station platform for a video presentation. As letters were replaced by phone calls then texts then video and now emoji’s, the need for and the efficiency of the mail rail diminished. Now, children can try their hand at sorting mail on an interactive display in the exhibition area or enjoy the indoor play space, Sorted!, for the littlest ones (under 8 years old). Communication has evolved but the history of the mail rail and the romantic nature of those letters of the past continue to be celebrated at the Postal Museum.
Suzanne, Phila Travel Girl
Explore the Tower of London
The Tower of London is such a great place to visit with kids if they’re into learning about the history of London, castles and stories of kings and queens – including a bit of blood and gore! Kids will be enthralled by the stories of the famous tower ravens, Henry the VIII and his many wives, the Guy Fawkes plot, the yeoman warders and Beefeaters with their pomp and ceremony. Save the best until last – the spectacular Crown Jewels including dazzling crowns and jewellery that are still in use today. Our kids were in awe of the huge Cullinan I diamond, the largest white cut diamond in the world. There’s a lot to cover so it’s a good idea to pay a little extra for the audio tour that includes a family-friendly guided tour and commentary around the tower, pointing out the highlights that will capture your children’s imaginations.
Kylie, Our Overseas Adventures
See a show at the Globe Theatre
There’s no better place to begin your child’s theatre education, than with a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Originally constructed as an open air theatre in the late 16th century, the theatre suffered a fire, and was shut down for over 300 years, before its ruins were discovered and a new theatre was built on the site. If this story alone doesn’t entice your kids, they will definitely enjoy the guided tours that retell the rich history of the building and its famous characters. The company does a wonderful job of introducing theater to children of all ages. Their workshops bring Shakespeare to a younger generation by creating stories in terms they can understand like good versus evil. Children ages 5 to 12 can try acting sessions where each child is given a role and learns about theatre terminology. Older children may be interested in one of the Shakespeare performances. Whatever you choose, know that the Shakespeare’s Globe is one of the best places in London to introduce children to Shakespeare and the theatre.
Kirsten Maxwell, Kids Are A Trip
Visit Buckingham Palace with kids
Buckingham Palace is one of London’s most popular and iconic sights. Most people will want to visit, even if it’s just to admire the exterior. But if you visit at the right time of year, it’s possible to take a tour around the State Rooms, and yes, it’s family friendly! You can pick up an audio guide and walk through some of the most opulent rooms in Europe. The White Drawing Room is probably the most gasp-inducing room in the palace but you can also see the Ballroom and Throne Room, all filled with glittering objects and artworks. After your visit you can explore the gardens on your way out. Stop off in the kids’ pavilion to let the children play before you leave. If you can’t visit the Palace for the summer opening then you can still visit the Royal Mews, which is where the Queen’s carriages and horses are kept. This is a hands-on, kid friendly experience with dressing up and crafts along the way. Next door, the Queen’s gallery is suitable for kids too, as they supply an activity backpack to hold the kids’ interest while you admire the treasures on display. The State Rooms open for 10 weeks during the summer. Tickets must be pre booked online. The Royal Mews is closed between December and January, and on selected days throughout the year.
Emily Cole, Kids and Compass
Be amazed at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood
One museum that kids and adults will enjoy alike is the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. The museum is a part of the Victoria and Albert Museum in Knightsbridge and houses an impressive collection of toys and other childhood-related objects from the 1600s to the present day. The museum holds the largest collection of dolls in the UK with dolls representing people of different nationalities, a collection of Barbie dolls, the Kammer & Reinhardt dolls (popular life-like baby dolls) and the Tiny Tears dolls (from the USA) to name a few. In addition, you will find doll’s houses, objects from a child’s early years (bottles, prams, walkers etc.), learning and development toys, board games, outdoor games, mechanical toys, puppets, soft toys and an impressive collection of toy cars and other vehicles. It is lovely to walk around the museum and interact with some of the exhibits. Overall, a wonderful museum where children enjoy and adults can relive their childhood. I would definitely recommend visiting this museum whether you have kids or not. The museum is open daily and the nearest tube station is Bethnal Green on the Central Line. Admission is free.
Deeptha, The Globetrotter
Take a Harry Potter Tour in London
If one of your little ones is a fan of Harry Potter, you need to take them to some of the Harry Potter related sites in London. Start out at King’s Cross Station where you can take a photo at Platform 9 ¾. Be prepared to wait or pay for the VIP experience. In the Leicester Square area, you will find the inspirations for Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley. The kids will love the Harry Potter inspired treats at Hardy’s Candy Shop. You can also visit the shop of MinaLima who did all the graphic design work for the films. Close to Covent Garden, you will find Gringotts Wizarding Bank, known as Australia House to muggles. In Westminster, you can visit spots where they filmed outside the Ministry of Magic. These are only a few of the Harry Potter sites in London. Of course, you can visit all these places on your own or join a Harry Potter London Walking Tour.
Anisa, Two Traveling Texans
See the animals at Mudchute Farm
You hear London and you think think: Museums, Hyde park, the Queen and crazy shopping. London has everything. And as we learned recently, it has everything include several farms, yes farms. We visited one of them – the Mudchute Farm on the Isle of Dogs within walking distance of Greenwich and Canary Wharf. Mudchute Farm has horses, cows, sheep, pigs, hens, geese and all the animals you would expect to see on a farm. You can touch most of them and feed some, either with grass or seeds which are on sale at the entrance. We spent around two hours there, walking around, petting animals and feeding them. We had a great time. If you love nature and are looking for some alternative way to spend family time in London I think Mudchute is great option. Mudchute is open everyday from 9am to 5pm and entry is free.
Ania, The Travelling Twins
Fly on the London Emirates Cable Car
Our two nieces, 7 and 9, absolutely loved their surprise highlight to our London day out, a ‘flight’ on the Emirates Air Line cable car. As the MBNA Thames Clipper rounded the river bend the suspense was lifted as the tall towers and suspended cable car ‘cabins’ popped into view. With a cabin all to ourselves the girls shrieked with excitement as we ‘took off’ climbing steeply upwards from the ground station near the O2 Arena. The ‘flight’ lasted 10 minutes, one way, giving us fantastic 360 degree views from 90m above the docks. After delicious ice-cream cones at the far end, we caught the return flight back to the Greenwich Peninsula. Next, we visited the Emirates Aviation Experience, a state-of-the-art exhibition room that included an Airbus A380-800 cockpit mock-up and an interactive cargo-loading challenge that had the girls hooked. It was a great-value, day out. The ‘Emirates Air Line and MBNA Thames Clippers River Roamer’ family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) cost us £50. This allowed all day hop-on, hop-off travel on the river, plus the cable car and Aviation Experience access. Purchasing online and printing our own ticket made the day out quick and easy.
by Darrin, What The Saints Did Next
Order a kid-friendly afternoon tea at the Café in the Crypt
St Martin in the Fields church is on Trafalgar Square right in the centre of London. The crypt underground beneath the church is a wonderfully atmospheric place for a coffee or meal. The vaulted brick ceiling arches above your head and you’re likely to walk across historic tombstones worn down with age and thousands of feet. The menu is highly affordable with my top pick being the St Martin’s Afternoon Tea. For less than £10 you can enjoy sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, cakes, desserts and a pot of tea. Buy two and share with the kids, or, for something smaller, a scone with jam and cream will set you back less than £5. The kids can also make a brass rubbing here with paper and a wax crayon. There are replicas available from churches and cathedrals all over the UK. The designs are often quite intricate and dramatic with dragons, knights and princesses. They make for a wonderful souvenir that can easily be tucked into your suitcase.
Kirralee, Escape With Kids
See dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum
My kids really enjoy visiting natural history museums, and London’s Natural History Museum definitely did not disappoint. The cathedral-like building in South Kensington is stunning, and we were greeted by Dippy, a diplodocus skeleton featured in Hitze Hall, the main hall of the museum. The dinosaur has now been replaced with Hope, a blue whale skeleton that we can’t wait to see on our next visit. The Dinosaur Gallery is the only one we’ve found that added animatronics to dinosaur skeletons. The enormous animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex is the highlight of the exhibit. Visitors stand in a line (which is known as a queue in London) that eventually inches past the T-Rex. The Natural History Museum, has an impressive collection of animal specimens from Charles Darwin’s samples. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to London’s Natural History Museum and recommend a visit. As an added bonus, there is no general admission because it is a publicly funded national museum.
Recommended by Catherine D’Cruz, We Go With Kids
Learn about the Great Fire of London
If your kids are learning about the Great Fire of London at school I thoroughly recommend a themed day out in the capital visiting all of the following major sights. Start with a visit to the Museum of London (which is free) to wander around the Plague and Fire gallery. You can then easily walk to St Paul’s Cathedral which was completely rebuilt after the original cathedral, Old St Paul’s, was burnt down in the 1666 fire. Another short walk takes you to the base of the Monument to the Great Fire of London. It costs just £4.50 for adults and £2.30 for children for fabulous views over the Thames and Tower Bridge and your kids will love climbing the 311 steps. (My boys counted each and every one!) To finish off your mini history lesson make sure you pop over to Pudding Lane, where there is a sign near where the bakery which started the Great Fire used to be.
Lisa, Travel Loving Family
Take a Thames River Cruise
The perfect way to get amazing views of London is on board a Thames River cruise. There are plenty of different operators along the river and different stops you can make along the way. Most typically run from the big tourist highlights of Embankment and Westminster, past the London Eye, Tate Modern, HMS Belfast and the Tower of London then under Tower Bridge (if you are lucky you may see the draw bridge in action!). Next, cruise around to the more modern parts of East London to Canary Wharf and terminate your cruise at Greenwich, taking in a wonderful walk to the Royal Observatory. Alternatively, opt for a longer cruise past the O2 Arena and as far as Woolwich to see the famous Thames Barriers, London’s flood defence system – a beautiful, fascinating and little known-gem of London.
Keri, Little City Trips
Climb the O2
Fancy conquering one of London’s icons? Climbing the O2 is an easy, fun outdoor challenge without the need for ice axe or crampons says Kirstie Pelling from The Family Adventure Project. You do get a nice warm jumpsuit though. And caribinas. What kid doesn’t like caribinas? The action takes place on a bouncy walkway at the 02 dome in Greenwich. You clip and unclip yourself all the way up so there’s lots to keep the children entertained. After a short video giving you the safety stuff, you venture up in small groups with your own climbing guide but you can take things at your own pace. (If you don’t mind holding up the person behind you.) It will be a bit of a challenge if you’ve never done anything like it but afterwards you will boast of being a mountaineer. And as you go upwards to 52m above ground level you’ll get the best views of London. Book ahead for your chosen slot, especially at busy times. I recommend a dusk adventure, where the changing light is most atmospheric. Or book an after dark tour to see the skyscrapers twinkle. You can also book an experience where you enjoy a glass of champagne at the top. And look out for offers where you can bag a free hot chocolate. In winter you will need it – it’s chilly up there!
Kirstie, The Family Adventure Project
Go Ice Skating
If you’re visiting London around Christmas then you’re in luck as there are some wonderful outdoor ice rinks set up over the festive period. One of our favourites is Somerset House in the centre of London where you can skate day or night in one of the capital’s most beautiful ice rinks. For a historical experience head to Hampton Court Palace where an ice rink is set up in front of the entrance to what was once Henry VIII’s palace. Alternatively, visit the Tower of London and skate in the moat of London’s most famous tower. The Natural History Museum is also home to an ice rink during the Christmas holidays as is Canary Wharf, that boasts an enormous 1200sqm outdoor skating rink.
See a West End Show
London is my favourite city in the world and I recently completed my 7th trip there in October. One thing I do on every visit to London is see a show (or two or three!) in the West End. Live theatre is amazing for all ages, but is especially fun if you’re in London with kids. London’s West End is famous for its variety of live theatre plays and musicals. For kids, I would definitely recommend an eye-catching and engaging musical. There are many kid-friendly shows, such as Matilda, The Wizard of Oz, School of Rock or The Lion King, that cater to young audiences. Your kids may already be familiar with the characters or songs and will love seeing them come to life on stage. Luckily, live theatre in London is also affordable. You can visit any of the discount ticket booths around Leicester Square for cheap theatre tickets. Show up on the same day as you’d like to see the show, and you’ll be able to get decent seats starting from £20 per ticket. Which explains why I often fit more than one show into my London itineraries!
Riana, Teaspoon of Adventure
Discover some lesser known attractions
if you are visiting London, how about visiting some unusual or lesser known attractions to? From parks to underground secret tunnels, to historic ships and free art experiences. For example take a look at Kyoto Garden – a beautiful Japanese garden tucked away in the Holland Park, Kensington. A tranquil setting with a koi pond, winding walkways, roaming peacocks, tiered waterfalls and perfectly manicured vegetation makes this a very inviting space to relax and reflect or how about the Royal Observatory, Greenwich where Greenwich Mean Time originates from? One of the most unique things to do in London is an immersive visit to Dennis Severs’ House – a home frozen in time, styled in the manner of the early 18th century. It is stripped of anything modern: lit by candlelight with sights, sounds and smells from the era. Think of it more as an art exhibit with a side of history. Be warned, the visit is totally conducted in silence, so not for little ones! Alternatively, The Geffrye Museum (The Museum of the Home in Hoxton) shows different homes throughout history and it is very interesting to see how people lived. It’s also much calmer compared to South Ken museums, so ideal for those who need a quieter environment. For more ideas have a look at the post by Carrie from Flying With a Baby on non touristy things to do in London with kids.
Carrie, Flying with a Baby
Pick up a book
London is home to some amazing bookstores for kids so you should definitely make time to stop by one or two during your visit to the capital. One of our favourites is The Children’s Bookshop in Muswell Hill, North London, which is staffed by some of the most knowledgeable staff around. Another favourite is Pickled Pepper Books, that stocks a carefully curated selection of books for kids of all ages. It’s also home to a theatre space where puppetry, poetry, storytelling and much more is held for younger kids. More centrally located is one of my all time favourite bookstores ever, Daunt Books. This small chain of bookshops has various stores across London but it’s the original location in Marylebone that we all loved. Housed within a stunning building that had originally been built for antiquarian booksellers Francis Edwards in 1910, this shop is not a dedicated kids’ bookstore but it does have a very good selection for children. And, while the kids are browsing their books, you can have a look for some of your own.
Have a picnic in the park
London is one of the greenest cities in the world filled with public parks, woodlands and gardens; amazingly 40% of the city is made up of publicly accessible green space. So, you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to have your picnic in the park. In Central London, some of our favourites include Regent’s Park, which includes some wonderful playgrounds, lakes home to ducks, swans and geese, beautifully maintained rose gardens and the excellent Open Air Theatre. Also in central London is Hyde Park, a huge expanse of green in the heart of the capital. Once upon a time Hyde Park was a private hunting ground and Henry VIII and his court were often seen hunting for deer on horseback. Today it’s open to all and is the setting for some of London’s biggest summertime concerts as well as being home to the Serpentine Lido, the only swimming pool in the Thames. Away from the centre of the city, we love Hampstead Heath in North London and the neighbouring Highgate Woods, which has one of the best playgrounds in the capital. Hampstead Heath is home to three swimming ponds, two of which are open year round.
Meet Shrek and Family
Take a journey to Far Away Land’ says the slogan for London ’s attraction based at Country Hall by the River Thames. Shrek’s Adventure London is a walk and ride experience for the whole family beginning with a 4D bus ride, followed by DreamWorks animation, story-telling and audience participation. If you love the bright green ogre and all his friends, as well as other Dreamworks animations such as How To Train Your Dragon, then this is a brilliant experience right in the heart of London and close to plenty of other attractions. All tickets are allocated a time slot which allows for small groups to enter the attraction at different intervals – which is a great way to avoid the crowds. Expect lots of noise, flashing lights and humour.
Ting, My Travel Monkey
Have a feast at Borough Market
Borough Market is the oldest food market in the capital with a history dating back some 1,000 years. Located at London Bridge, today the market is foodie heaven welcoming some 4.5 million visitors every year. There are over 100 different stalls selling everything from oysters and sausage sandwiches to Thai street food and giant, steaming vats of paella. It’s a great place to come for fruit and veggies as well as freshly caught seafood, cheeses, breads and more. Borough Market is also a reliable option for otherwise hard-to-come-by ingredients. It still operates as a wholesale market, opening at 2am to trade, and welcomes the public from 10am. Note that it gets very busy at weekends.
See the city from the Sky Garden
High above the River Thames floats the magical Sky Garden. A lush oasis from the chaotic pace of London, it will captivate children and adults alike. Spectacular 360-degree views, exotic plants and an array of dining choices await you, and admission is free! Your visit begins with an online ticket reservation. Book at least three weeks in advance at skygarden.london, to be sure of obtaining your place. Another way is to reserve a table at one of the Garden’s restaurants. Some tickets may also be available on the day. It’s best to arrive at the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ building (40 Fenchurch Street) at least 30 minutes before your scheduled time, to clear the airport-style security. You’ll then queue for a speedy elevator ride to the 35th floor, where you enter a vast lobby with breathtaking views. The area has a calm vibe as you explore the stepped Garden levels and stunning outdoor terrace overlooking the Thames. Reasonably-priced snacks and drinks are available, as well as restrooms with baby-care facilities.
If you go…
● Bring a camera and binoculars and count how many London landmarks you can identify.
● Be aware that the many steps between Garden levels make the use of baby buggies difficult. There are lifts for buggies and wheelchairs.
● Best time for children to visit is early in the day, or time your visit to coincide with the day’s sunset – awesome!
Kathleen, Fast Net Travel
Brave the London Dungeon
I’ll be honest, I hesitated when I considered a visit to the London Dungeon with a 9yr old. But oh my goodness – Oh. My. Goodness. It’s a walk-though attraction, and you gradually move through history, visiting with the most gruesome, evil and downright horrible characters along the way. Some are graphically icky, some are loud and screamy, and some are quietly menacing. A couple genuinely raised the hairs on the back of my neck, and the malevolent darkness of Sweeney Todd’s barbershop actually caused Bear to hide in my lap. What a fabulous experience it was – the characters entertained and informed as much as they spooked and whispered and shouted as we travelled through some amazing scenes in time (Jack the Ripper caused an interesting whispered conversation with the 9yr old as to what a ‘lady of the streets‘ actually was – but the visit to the Ten Bells Pub on a stormy night was genuinely sinister even for my adult brain), We both loved it so much, we insisted on a revisit within a few short months with her older brothers, and even the world-cynical teenagers declared it one of the most fun things they’d experienced. A standard ticket for the London Dungeon starts at £21 per adult.
Laura, Have Kids, Can Travel
Stand in The Hive at Kew Gardens
Amazing Kew Gardens in the southwest neighbourhood of Kew is one of London’s most picturesque parks; 132 hectares of gardens and botanical glasshouses that that house the world’s most diverse collection of living plants. Kew Gardens was founded in 1840 and is today London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with beautiful glasshouses, including the iconic Palm House and its exotic rainforest. There’s a wonderful kid’s section (and a brand new – even better – children’s garden due to open in 2019), the fantastic Treetop Walkway that soars into the tree canopy at a height of 18 metres, and Kew Palace, the former summer residence of King George III. One of our favourite things to do at Kew Gardens, however, is to visit The Hive. an incredible
multi-sensory experience designed to highlight the extraordinary life of bees.
Be whoever you want to be at Kidzania
If you are looking for a fun way to get your kids to enjoy a trip while in London, Kidzania is one of the best places to go to for kids. Kidzania has locations all over the world. Luckily, one is found in London. Kidzania is not your typical kids’ playground or fun time. It is where kids get to do the fun, adult work like being a firefighter, cook, nurse, and so much more. It’s a place where they can be whoever they want to be. It’s a city run by kids. Kids can choose from a number of real-life entertaining activities in a secure and safe place. Kidzania is designed for children between the ages of 4 and 14. Activities range from Police Officer, Firefighter, to Actor or Dancer. There are so many things kids can do that they can easily find something they are interested to do or something that fit their personalities.
Allan, The Practical Saver
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