The best things to do in London with kids

Visiting Buckingham Palace is one of the best things to do in London with kids

It’s no exaggeration to say that London is one of the world’s greatest cities.  You might be put off visiting London with kids as it’s such a huge, busy metropolis that it can seem a bit intimidating trying to navigate it with a family in tow, especially if you’ve got toddlers.  But there are plenty of things to do in London with kids, even small ones likes ours, and lots of quiet corners where you can retreat from the hustle and bustle.

Read on to find out how to spend a fabulous 7 days in London with kids!

Table of Contents

7 day London itinerary for families

Regular readers of this blog will know that we love visiting capital cities with our kids; so far we’ve managed Amman, Paris, Rome, Prague, Reykjavik, Tokyo, Lisbon and Copenhagen.  So we thought that there was no excuse not to check out London with kids too!  When we were finally able to visit London with our small kids we had a blast.

I’ve come up with a 7 day London itinerary to suit families with kids of all ages, covering the best things to do in London with kids.  Of course, you don’t have to have a whole week in London to use this itinerary.  If you’ve got, say, three days in London then just pick and choose the days you like best.

This post should give you all the information you need on how to spend up to 7 days in London with kids; it covers day by day itineraries, how to get around London, things to do in the evening with kids in London, where to stay in London, and more ideas if you don’t like what’s been suggested each day.

I’ve tried to avoid moving around too much and have stuck to exploring one part of London on each day – this should help you be more efficient and avoid any stressful or tiring travel from one end of London to the other.

This post contains compensated links.  Please see our disclaimer for more information. 

The best things to do in London with kids

I’d advise allowing as much time for London with kids as you can.  This wonderful city is packed so full of world class museums, parks, cultural and historical sights as well as lesser-known quirky things to do, that you could spend months here without getting bored.

I’ve tried to include a range of London attractions in this itinerary.  We personally have not covered everything in this itinerary with our kids (some are not age appropriate for our little ones) but I’ve tried to give you alternative options if you don’t fancy doing exactly what we did, or if your kids are older and have different interests!

I lived in London for 10 years so I know it well and have been to these attractions myself.  Personally, London is my favourite city in the world (sorry, Tokyo, you’re second) and the familiar sights and smells make me feel like I’m home as soon as I get on the tube.  There’s nothing that you can’t do in this city.  I hope you love London as much as I do!

So read on to find out what are the best things to do in London with kids of all ages.

Day 1 in London with kids: Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Bus Tour

Tower of London; London with kids

Begin your first day in London by going to my absolute favourite London attraction, the Tower of London.  You could spend a few hours or most of a day here, depending on how interested in London’s bloody history you are.

If time allows you can visit Tower Bridge exhibition (or just take a look at London’s most famous bridge from the Tower).  Either way make sure you don’t miss it.

In the afternoon you could visit The Sky Garden for free views over London, or take a bus tour.

TIP: Remember to book your London Pass to save money.  Click here to buy the London Pass.

Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of London’s best attractions.  It’s a Royal palace and home to some of London’s best known symbols; the Beefeaters, the Crown Jewels, and of course, the Tower Ravens.  There are loads of hands on things for kids to do at the Tower, and often some special kids’ events put on, especially in the school holidays.

I’d advise starting your day at the Tower.  It opens at 9am most days and it’s best to get in before the crowds do.  If you get in for opening time, head straight for the Crown Jewels as the queue to see these gets enormous later in the morning.  After you’ve seen the Jewels look around the White Tower in the centre, where you can see fantastic armoury displays and the kids can get stuck in to the interactive displays upstairs.

You could also take a free guided tour; the Yeoman Warders will give a very entertaining talk on the Tower’s history, although they do get very busy so you should take a tour sooner rather than later if possible.  Tours last an hour and depart every 30 minutes.

Outside in the courtyard, make sure you find the memorial to the queens, ladies and nobles who were beheaded here, on Tower Green.  Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Jane Grey, Margaret Pole and Jane Boleyn are all buried in the chapel by the green, and you can go inside to see their gravestones.

Elsewhere at the Tower you can see the Royal Mint, walk the walls and see how prisoners were kept.  There are often family-friendly performances, trails and more scheduled which will keep the kids interested.  I could spend hours at the Tower but keep an eye on the time or you won’t manage to fit in anything else before the day is up!

You can click here to buy your Tower of London tickets.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge London with kids

Tower Bridge is one of London’s best known sights, although some confuse it with London Bridge (which is much plainer).  Most people are happy to just walk over the bridge, but you can go inside it to see the Victorian mechanism that used to raise the bridge.  There’s also a glass walkway right over the road so you can watch the traffic and the river far below!

Tower Bridge opens up to let ships pass several times a week – try timing your visit to watch the bridge lift.  You can find times on the Tower Bridge website.

Entry to Tower Bridge is included in the London Pass, or you can book tickets here.  There’s also a combined ticket which allows you to visit the nearby Monument, which is a memorial to the Great Fire of London and also has a tower you can climb for views over the city.  Click here to buy the combined ticket.

Monument

While you’re in the area, you might want to take a quick peek at the Monument to the Great Fire of London which devastated the city in 1555.  The fire started in a bakery in Pudding Lane and quickly spread to engulf thousands of homes.  The Monument is an alternative place to get a view of London as you can climb up the central pillar.  It’s right by Monument station and very close to the Sky Garden.

Entry to the Monument is included in the London Pass, so if you can’t get Sky Garden tickets, here’s an alternative!

London Bus Tour

This is a great way of taking in some of the best sights and for getting a feel of areas you’d like to explore in more detail or skip altogether. If it’s raining then you can still get out and about without getting too wet, and you can save your legs for Day 2 in London as you’ll need them!  Bus tours are one of the best things to do in London with small kids, as they’ll enjoy the ride too.

There are several bus tours to choose from.  You can usually hop on and off the bus wherever you’d like.  Why not try Trafalgar Square to start with – this makes a gentle introduction to London; there’s the National Portrait Gallery, or St Martin in the Fields church here, as well as the awesome fountain and Nelson’s Column.  Covent Garden and Leicester Square are nearby and you could look around them too.

Alternatively you could begin your day by getting on a bus tour and hopping off at the Tower of London.  The Big Bus Tour’s Red Route drops you off at the Tower. You could get the first bus at 8.30 and be at the Tower shortly after opening time (depending on your starting point). Click here to buy your London Bus Tour pass.

Sky Garden

Sky Garden London, London with kids

A fun thing to do in the afternoon or evening might be to go to the Sky Garden, in the “Walkie-Talkie” building.  This is in the City, where you’ll find the highest concentration of skyscrapers.  London isn’t particularly high-rise compared to many cities, but the Sky Garden offers some of the best views of London from above, and best of all, it’s free.  So if you don’t want to pay to visit the Shard, then this is the place to come to.  It’s also right next to the Tower of London so it’s super convenient if you plan on staying in the area today.

Once you get up to the top there are a couple of bars to get drinks and snacks from and tropical themed gardens on either side.  The viewing deck is great; the kids loved looking through the clear barriers at the city far below.  They also enjoyed .the novelty of being in an indoor garden.

You need to be organised to get your tickets though.  Sky Garden tickets go on sale every Monday for the following week.  Tickets will book up quickly so it’s a good idea to set an alert on your phone and book them as soon as they become available.  Click here to book your free tickets.

Tube: Bank/Monument or Tower Hill

Day 2 in London with kids: South Bank with kids

London Eye, South Bank; London with kids

South Bank is one of my favourite areas of London.  South Bank is a large riverside promenade which stretches from Waterloo Bridge, where you can get a super view of the Houses of Parliament, to the Tate Modern. You can keep walking along the riverside until you get to Tower Bridge, and even further.  The South Bank may be touristy, but there’s always loads going on here, and it’s a fantastic way to start seeing some of the best of central London.  It’s definitely one of the best places in London for kids – they will love it.

Along the route you’ll encounter street performers, possibly a food festival or a funfair, and look out for the beach and water area in the summer months; this is guaranteed to entice small kids (I told you you could do everything in London).  As well as free entertainment there are plenty of museums, galleries and other paid attractions to explore.

In this section I’ll go over the main things to do along the South Bank, but I’ll also include the sights all the way from Tower Bridge to Waterloo Bridge, as I think this makes a great itinerary for a day out in London.

You won’t be able to cover all of these attractions in one day but this itinerary will give you a good idea of what there is in this area of London, and you can choose what you’d like to see depending on your energy levels and the ages of your kids.  You can probably squeeze in three or four of the below attractions in a single day.

Of course you can always walk this route in reverse depending on what you want to see first and how much energy your kids have.  So if they’re desperate to start at the London Eye then I’d do it that way around or they might have run out of steam by the time you get there.

Start: London Bridge tube

Finish:  Waterloo tube

HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast; London with kids

The first attraction on today’s list is HMS Belfast, an 80 year old warship that’s permanently moored at the riverside.  You can skip the warship if you like, and begin by visiting the Shard as it’s right by London Bridge station.

To get to HMS Belfast go to the Tooley Street exit at London Bridge tube station and cross the road.  You’ll be able to get onto the South Bank either by walking down steps next to London Bridge or by turning right and cutting through Hays Galeria shopping arcade which is a minute or two up the street (this is the quicker route).

You’ll soon see where you were yesterday as Tower Bridge and the Tower come into view with HMS Belfast almost dead ahead when you come out of Hays Galeria.  You can get some great shots of Tower Bridge and the City from here before you go into the ship.

HMS Belfast is run by the Imperial War Museum and its 9 decks have been turned into a museum where you can learn about life at sea, and even recreate battles that the warship took part in.  Family friendly events are put on in school holidays (check the website for details).

Tickets for HMS Belfast are included in the London Pass; alternatively buy them online in advance to save money.

The Shard

London Skyline with the Shard; London with kids

Back at London Bridge station, you can access the Shard, if you didn’t want to go into it straight away.

The Shard is a glittering glass edifice that’s the tallest building in London (and Europe).  While much of the building is used as offices and apartments, there is a viewing deck and restaurant right at the top.  The views are fantastic, but I actually prefer the view from the Walkie-Talkie’s Sky Garden – you are a bit closer to the buildings and I like the view of the Shard itself.  The restaurant is very nice too but I’d say it’s more suited to a child-free evening meal, and I’d save money by grabbing lunch in Borough Market instead.

Tickets must be booked in advance.  They’re included in the London Pass, or you can buy them online here.

Borough Market

Whichever way you do this walk, by the time you get to Borough Market you’re likely to be hungry!  If you want to grab a snack then take a slight detour from South Bank at London Bridge and head to Borough Market.  It’s a thriving marketplace which sells all sorts of food, snacks and homewares. Borough Market does get very busy, but it’s got a great atmosphere and the food is usually very good.  I like the street food section best, as it’s got lots of choice for vegetarians and vegans, but the husband will always make a beeline for an organic meat stall.

You can eat in some of the restaurants around here, but we like to get takeaway and eat back by the riverside.

Borough Market is open from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.  The full market runs from Wednesday to Saturday.

London Bridge Experience and the London Tombs

If your kids are up for a good scare then take them to the London Bridge Experience.  It’s a live scare attraction and actors in horrific, realistic makeup will jump out at you and chase you as you walk through the exhibitions on a guided tour.  The exhibition is about the history of London Bridge and the London Tombs, which is a site where plague victims were buried.

The London Bridge Experience runs tours in holidays especially for kids; Halloween is especially popular.  The experience lasts for about an hour.  This is something the husband and I have done without kids – I’m not sure if I’d take my 5 year old to the full experience!

If you’d like to take small kids to the London Bridge Experience, then ask for the Guardian Angel tour which is less scary; little kids get to go ahead and won’t be chased by any actors. The Guardian Angel tours are suitable for kids aged 5 to 16.  Kids aged 4 and under are allowed in but it’s not recommended for children under 5.  Click here to book your tickets.

The Golden Hinde

Once you’re done in the London Bridge area, head down onto the South Bank and start walking upstream (turn left).

The walk towards Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre has a few more things to delight children.  The first thing that they’re likely to want to see is the Golden Hinde, a beautiful Tudor era ship that was sailed around the world by Sir Francis Drake in 1577.  This ship is a reconstruction, as the original Golden Hinde rotted away in the 17th Century.  But the new Golden Hinde has also made a circumnavigation of the globe, back in the 1970s, so it’s nearly as good as the real thing!  You’re able to go on board the Golden Hinde and look around – your visit is self-guided but there are plenty of staff around who’ll answer your questions.

Visiting the Golden Hinde costs £5 per person (ages 3 and under go free).  A family ticket costs £15.  There’s no need to pre-book; just turn up.  She’s open every day from 10am until 5pm in the winter and 6pm in the summer.

The Clink Prison Museum

Nearby the Golden Hinde is The Clink Prison Museum.  The giveaway to its location is a skeleton in a cage which dangles ominously above your head as you walk by the ruins of the Palace of Winchester.

This museum is a little ghoulish exhibit dedicated to the stories of the people imprisoned in the notorious London prison, The Clink, which was built in 1144 and held prisoners for some 600 years.  It was so notorious that its name became slang for all other prisons.

The Clink museum has some rather gory exhibits and details of torture and death so it’s not suitable for small kids, say under 7.  However the information is presented in a suitable way for older kids; there is lots of information and history here, and the attraction is a fun place to take less sensitive souls.  You even get a group picture at the end.

You can book online or just turn up.  Tickets cost £8 per adult, £6 per child and a family ticket is £19.20 so prices are fairly reasonable.  The Clink Prison Museum is open every day except Christmas Day.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, South Bank London

Past the eateries and street art of this part of South Bank you’ll see the lovely reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  The theatre shows several performances of Shakespeare’s plays every day, so this is an activity most suited to teens as younger ones probably won’t cope (I know mine wouldn’t!).  The plays vary by season.

You can get standing tickets for as little as £10 but seated tickets range from £20 to £50, and if you want the best seats you’ll pay the top price of over £60.  Click here to book your theatre tickets.

If you don’t want to sit through a whole play but you’d like to take a look around the Globe, then you can book a guided tour.  Tours last around 40 minutes and an adult ticket costs £17 and a child ticket costs £10.  Click here to book your tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Shakespeare’s Globe often runs guided tours for families – these are aimed at 7 – 11 year olds but older and younger kids are welcome too.  They usually operate these tours in school holidays; check the website to see if any are running for your visit.

Tate Modern

You can’t miss The Tate Modern.  It’s an industrial looking block of a building with an enormous chimney, and you’ll often find it surrounded by street performers and artists.  The famous Millennium Bridge is right opposite the Tate, and if you walk over it the road will take you straight to St Paul’s Cathedral.  The views both ways down the river are good from the Millennium Bridge so I always like to walk at least halfway across.

If you’re into modern art then the Tate Modern is worth a look.  Entry is free but be aware that there can be large queues to get in at the weekends.  You can pick up a family activity map, and the museum often runs family friendly events.

The chimney has a viewing deck which makes it a fantastic place for a free view over London; this is great if you don’t want to cough up for the Shard or you’ve missed the opportunity to book the Sky Garden. You can take the lift from floor 0 in the Blavatnik Building to the top viewing deck.

The Tate Modern is open from 10am to 6pm every day, and until 10pm on Friday and Saturday.

South Bank Centre

Once you pass the Tate you’re going to start seeing more street performers and activities along the South Bank itself.  There’s much more going on in the summer but even if you visit in the winter you’ll see one or two things going on.  This sort of thing always entertains our kids, even though as adults we might groan about it inwardly. Still, adults can enjoy the views along the river instead!

The South Bank Centre is in all honesty a pretty ugly concrete mass lumped by the riverside, but there are a large variety of arts and theatre performances held at the centre, including family friendly attractions.  Click here to see what’s on.

At the base of the South Bank Centre you’ll see several family friendly restaurants – all of these are good places to eat with kids.  You can eat as you pass, or return here in the evening for your meal.

London Dungeon

There’s a large concentration of things to see around the London Eye area of South Bank. The first one you’ll see is the London Dungeon.

Similar to the London Bridge Experience, the London Dungeon is a live action, scary attraction that delves into London’s gruesome and murky past.  Expect to learn about infamous historical figures like Jack the Ripper, Guy Fawkes, Sweeney Todd and more.  The difference with the London Bridge Experience is that the London Dungeon is on a much bigger scale and even includes a couple of rides (which you can opt out of).

The whole experience takes over 90 minutes and you’ll be walking for most of it.  It’s not suitable for small children; London Dungeon advise 12+ but it’s at parents’ discretion, so you can take younger kids if you think they will be OK with it.

Tickets are cheaper if booked online.  London Dungeon is run by Merlin so entry is free for Merlin Pass holders.  If you’re booking online there are also ticket combinations to other London attractions which could save you money.

London Aquarium

The London Aquarium is a good stop on a rainy day.  Here, the kids can explore different watery habitats from around the world.  There are some large animals such as sharks and turtles, and a tunnel through a tank you can walk through, so you’re surrounded by fish.  Kids will adore the penguins.  However, although it’s good, it’s not the best aquarium in the world so I wouldn’t make it top priority unless your kids are desperate to go in.

Tickets are quite expensive, from £21 although family tickets are available.  It’s best to book in advance as the aquarium can sometimes close to new visitors if it’s especially busy.  Click here to buy your ticket.

You can also buy combination tickets which include entry to the London Eye, London Dungeon, Shrek’s Adventure and Madame Tussaud’s.  Click here to buy your combo ticket.

London Eye

London Eye, South Bank London

The London Eye is now iconic.  Built for the Millennium celebrations, it was supposed to be temporary but it proved so wildly popular that it’s stayed way past its projected 5 year installation.  The London Eye is one of London’s most popular attractions and the queues for it can be huge, so choose your timings wisely (first thing or in the evening is best).

I’ve been on the London Eye a few times, and it is a fun thing to do. The views are good but not the highest you’ll see in London, although you do get a great look at Parliament and Big Ben.

A ride on the London Eye takes 45 minutes and very small children might get bored, although others will enjoy picking out landmarks.  It could be a relaxing way to finish your day in London though – a good excuse to rest your weary feet, and watch London from above as the sun sets.  Click here to book your London Eye tickets.

You can also get a combination Merlin ticket for the London Eye, the London Dungeon, the London Aquarium, Madame Tussaud’s and the Dreamworks Shrek Adventure.  This ticket is valid for 3 months.  Click here to buy the combination ticket. 

TIP: Remember to book your London Pass to save money.  Click here to buy the London Pass.

In the evening, you could stop for a drink at the Marriott Hotel which has a kid-friendly bar, Gillrays, overlooking the London Eye and Westminster.  They do good cocktails which make a perfect pick-me-up for weary parents!

For dinner, Ping Pong is nearby and serves dim sum; you could retrace your steps back to the South Bank Centre where there are several family friendly chains; or head over the river into the Covent Garden area where there’s lots of choice.

Day 3 in London with kids: Buckingham Palace and Westminster

Visit more of London’s heavy hitters today.  Spend the day taking in some of the most iconic sights in and around Westminster.  This has the potential to be quite a long day with small kids so do make sure they get a breather in between by taking in a park, and sticking to one or two attractions.

Start by visiting the Queen at Buckingham Palace and stay for as long or as little as you’d like; there’s more than just the Palace here.  Walk through St James’ Park at lunchtime where you can picnic and enjoy the laid back atmosphere – the kids can have a run around and look at the resident pelicans.  In the afternoon you’ll be able to explore Westminster, the area for Parliament and Big Ben.  To finish your day, head down Victoria Street in the evening for dinner and perhaps a stop at the theatre.

Start: St James’ Park, Hyde Park or Victoria are the nearest tubes to Buckingham Palace (10 – 15 minute walk)

Finish: Victoria tube (or Westminster, if you’re not sticking around Victoria for dinner and a show).

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace with kids

Buckingham Palace is going to be on pretty much everyone’s list to visit in London!  Many people are content to take a look from the outside, but if you’re in London at the right time then it’s even better to go inside.  Depending on what you’d like to see at Buckingham Palace, your visit here could take you all morning or a matter of minutes.

The Changing of the Guard

This famous ceremony takes place at 11am every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and every day during the summer.  Arrive early to jostle for your place – this experience might not be the best for small children as the crowds can get quite big.  However the pomp and ceremony is great fun!

Buckingham Palace Tour

You can tour the state rooms of the Palace if you pre-book a ticket and if you’re in London at the right time. The state rooms are open for 10 weeks from July to September (and selected dates in December and May) and you can follow a set route through the fantastically ostentatious palace rooms.  You finish up in the garden where you can explore or have tea and cake.  There is a children’s pavilion with soft play, books and toys at the end of the tour, perfect for small children.

Tickets cost £25 per adult and £14 per child (under 5s free).  You can book tickets on the Palace website here.  If you’d like to take a tour there are several options such as this one.  Buying tickets in advance is essential.

The Royal Mews

Coaches in the Royal Mews

This is where the Queen’s state carriages and her horses are kept, and it’s just around the corner from the Palace.  We found the Royal Mews to be more kid-friendly than the Palace.  There’s the excitement of seeing real horses for one thing, but there is a dedicated room for kids to sit down in and do some crafts, and there are plenty of hands-on things for them to do too.  They can dress up, see the and touch the equipment used by the carriage drivers, and climb into one of the coaches.  It also helps that the exhibit is quite small and that the coaches are absolutely stunning.

The Queen’s Gallery

This gallery is in between The Royal Mews and the entrance to Buckingham Palace tour, and it’s a good place to spend a few minutes if you’re waiting for your turn to go into the palace.  They have kids’ explorer packs which include a few interesting items, colouring pencils and paper and some questions for the kids to answer.  This will keep them busy while you look around the artwork.  The exhibitions change frequently.  When we visited we saw a huge array of art and artefacts from South Asia.

Tickets for the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery can be bought together to save money – click here to buy your tickets. If bought separately then Royal Mews or Queen’s Gallery entry costs £11 per adult and £6.40 for children aged 5 – 17.

You can also enter the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery on the London Pass.

Green Park/ St James’ Park

London has some fantastic parks and all of them have their own character.  Closest to Buckingham Palace are Green Park and St James’ Park, (although Hyde Park isn’t far either). These are two of London’s eight Royal Parks and are a great stop for some relative peace and quiet away from the hectic London streets.  Taking a break in one of these parks is definitely one of the best things to do in London with kids!

Green Park

Green Park London

Green Park is just to the north of Buckingham Palace, and it’s got large, tree lined boulevards and open grassy spaces where you can rent deckchairs in the summer.  It also has many war memorials including Bomber Memorial and the Canada Memorial.

St James’ Park

St James' Park London

St James’ Park is right opposite Buckingham Palace and stretches from here to Horse Guards, at the back of Downing Street.  I’d recommend going to St James’ Park as you can either picnic in the grounds or eat at the pavilion, Benugos, which has a great roof terrace with good views if you get a fine day.  The flower beds alongside the paths in St James’ Park are beautifully planted and there’s a large lake in the centre which is home to pelicans (they are fed at 2.30 each day – you might be lucky enough to see this).  Kids will enjoy crossing the blue bridge and getting a closer look at the lake, or just having a bit of a run around.

Walk through St James’ Park to the far side where you’ll be able to access Westminster and the afternoon’s attractions. You can stop off briefly at the far end of St James’ Park to take a look at Horse Guards Parade.

TIP:If your family isn’t going to visit the Churchill War Rooms then cut through Horse Guards Parade to Whitehall. Turn right and you can walk past Downing Street on your way to Parliament Square.

Churchill War Rooms

The Churchill War Rooms are much more suited to older children, and so we haven’t taken our youngsters here.  If you have older teens who are interested in learning more about Britain’s role in WW2 then you might want to pay a visit to the Churchill War Rooms, where they can learn about the prime minister at the time of WW2, Winston Churchill.  You’ll find the War Rooms right opposite St James’ Park.

The Churchill War Rooms are part of the Imperial War Museum.  On site there are several permanent exhibitions on Churchill himself (he was, unsurprisingly, a remarkable man) as well as life and work in Churchill’s bunker and the War Rooms themselves which have been preserved as they looked back in the days of WW2.

Tickets cost £18.90 per adult and £9.45 per child aged 5 – 15, and these are the cheaper online prices.  Click here to buy your tickets.  Buying in advance is recommended as there can be a queue to get in.

If you have a London Pass then entry to Churchill War Rooms is included.

Parliament Square and the Houses of Parliament

Parliament Square

Parliament Square London, London with kids

From the Churchill War Rooms you can reach Parliament Square very easily.  This might be the most famous square in London.  At the centre of the square you’ll see the famous statue of Churchill, looking over towards Parliament and Big Ben (in the Elizabeth Tower, if you want to be precise about it).

Big Ben and the Tower are currently under renovation and will be covered up for several more years until 2021.  The clock will not chime during this period of works either, so don’t be disappointed if you visit in the next few years!

If you’d like to take a peek at Downing Street where the PM lives, then you can head up Whitehall.  Downing Street is on the left, but don’t expect to be able to see much past the armoured police guards!

Houses of Parliament

You’re able to take tours of the Houses of Parliament, where you can choose an audio guide option or take a guided tour.

Family-friendly guided tours are available too – they’re aimed at older kids than ours and are most suitable for ages 7 – 12.  Expect to find out lots about the Gunpowder Plot and all sorts of interesting and quirky facts.  You must book in advance – an adult ticket costs £18.50 but all children go free.  Click here for more information.  You can also add on an afternoon tea option afterwards if you like.

Parliament is open to visitors on most Saturdays throughout the year and on weekdays during recess.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey London; London with kids

There’s been a church of some sort on this site for 1000 years and it’s one of the most important religious places in the UK.  It’s where monarchs are crowned, where princes and princesses are married, and the resting place of some of the UK’s most famous people including artists, writers, royalty and scientists.  Many others have memorials here.  The Abbey has a huge amount of things to see, not least its jaw-dropping architecture and stained glass windows.

Westminster Abbey’s highlights include a new museum in the gallery level (separate ticket required), the Coronation Throne, the Royal Tombs, Cloisters and Abbey Gardens and much more.

The opening times vary by day so it’s best to check on the Abbey website to see what will be open and when for your visit. Generally, the main attractions are open from 9.30am – 3.30pm on Mondays to Fridays and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

Tickets cost £20 per adult and £9 per child (ages 6-16).  Click here to buy your tickets.

Entry to Westminster Abbey is included in the London Pass.

Victoria

After you’ve looked around Parliament Square and visited the attractions here, you’ll probably be feeling hungry!  Just down Victoria Street, towards the station, you can find plenty of family friendly eateries in Cardinal Place.  We always stop at Wagamama but there’s also tapas, pizza and pasta and a Nando’s here, if you must.

If you’re still not done sightseeing then you could look into Westminster Cathedral as you walk down Victoria Street.  You can climb the tower here for a great view over Parliament.

And if you have older children and you’d like to do something with them in the evening then there are several theatres around Victoria, where you can catch Wicked or Hamilton, or something more offbeat at The Other Palace.

Day 4 in London with kids: West London, Kensington with kids

Kensington is a great area to visit with kids – there’s plenty of culture, shopping, food and parks to cater for the fussiest of families!

Head to Exhibition Row just around the corner from South Kensington tube, and choose from one of the following museums.  These are some of the most famous museums in London and all of them are great to visit with children.  They’ve got hand on exhibitions, kids’ trails and best of all, they’re free to visit.  Just make sure you arrive in time to skip the queues.

If you don’t want to look in the museums then Kensington is home to enormous department stores Harrods and Harvey Nichols as well as plenty of individual shops.  So you could use the morning for shopping if you’d prefer.

In the afternoon take on a London institution: Afternoon Tea.  Then walk off the meal in Kensington Palace Gardens!

Natural History Museum

Hintze Hall Natural History Museum London

Surely London’s best known museum, the Natural History Museum is high on the list of the best things to do in London with kids of all ages.  It’s set within a purpose-built building which is almost as fantastic as the exhibits themselves.  Take some time to spot the monkeys climbing the walls and don’t miss the botanical ceiling.  Dippy the Diplodocus, the former inhabitant of the foyer, is long gone but the immense blue whale skeleton that took its place is just as amazing.

The main thing that the kids will want to see here is the dinosaur exhibits so make a beeline for them as soon as you’re in to avoid the crowds.  The star is a life size animatronic T-rex which my daughter loved but my dino-mad 3 year old son found him a bit too realistic.

Elsewhere in the museum you can trace human evolution, see incredibly rare items in the museum’s extensive collections, discover life in the oceans and learn about space.

Entry is free.

TIP: When visiting the Natural History Museum, get in the queue outside before 9.45am.  The gates open at 10am and if you’re any later than 9.45 the queue will be along the street and round the corner, especially in the holidays and at weekends.

V&A Museum

V&A Museum London

Primarily an art and design museum, the Victoria and Albert might not seem the most kid-friendly choice.  But this is the biggest museum of its kind in the world and so there are some fantastic things to see, even if you just want to poke your heads in for a few minutes.

The exhibits of art and examples of architecture from Europe, Japan and China are my favourites.  We only popped in for a quick look but we ended up wandering around for quite a while as we kept getting distracted by something else!  There are often special exhibits on too – check before you visit.

Pick up a backpack for kids to use in one of the galleries – there’s a choice of several depending on which area your kids are interested in.  There’s an animal hunt backpack for kids under 5 – they have to follow a trail to find six animals hiding on the ground floor.

The cafe (pictured) is absolutely stunning if you want to stop off for a drink or snack, and if you’re lucky enough to get a seat.  I’ve never had to queue to visit the V&A, and entry is free.

Science Museum

The Science Museum is just around the back of the Natural History Museum and it’s got lots for small children.  There are several areas for little kids to experience science through play, and even a Red Arrows simulator that kids aged 2-5 can go on.  There are plenty more exhibits covering the history of flight, the human body and much more.

The Science Museum has a variety of special exhibitions suited to kids aged 6 and up which you have to pre-book to guarantee your spot.  Kids usually go for free as long as they’re accompanied by a paying adult.  Prices are around £15 per adult.

It also has an IMAX cinema showing films covering animal life, the planet and construction around the world.  Tickets cost £11 per adult or family tickets can be bought for £23.

You should book any exhibitions or IMAX films before you go – click here to book.

Afternoon Tea

You can’t visit London without taking afternoon tea.  There are many, many venues to choose from and several places do kid-friendly options.  After looking around the museums for a couple of hours (this is all my kids can take), get an early afternoon tea nearby.

If you’re planning on staying in the Kensington area for the day then I would recommend the Science Afternoon Tea at the Ampersand Hotel.  This is just around the corner from the museums and isn’t a stuffy affair so families with young kids are welcome.  The 5* hotel is beautiful and the afternoon tea is themed around scientific experiments which is perfect if you’ve spent the morning in the museums.

You can mix drinks using powders, flasks and pipettes which will keep the children occupied, and the sweets and cakes come in the shape of astronauts, planets and more.  Veggies and vegans are catered for.  There is a kids’ menu too as the adult version can be too rich for small children (not to mention far too big).  If you don’t think your kids will manage the full thing you can order individual sandwiches instead.  Click here to take a look at the menu and to book your table.

Kensington Palace and Diana Memorial Playground, Hyde Park

To shake yourself out of an afternoon-tea-induced coma you can carry on up to nearby Kensington Palace and its gardens. It’s about a 20 minute walk, or five minutes in a taxi if you’re still too stuffed to move far.

If you’d like to look around Kensington Place itself then you’re able to go inside.  Inside Kensington Palace you can take a look around the State Apartments and see special exhibitions (at the moment there’s one on Princess Diana).  You’ll also find out more about the kings and queens who lived here, including Queen Victoria.  You could have afternoon tea at Kensington Palace if the Science Afternoon Tea at the Ampersand isn’t for you.

Tickets cost about £20 per adult and £10 per child (5-15). Entry to Kensington Palace is included in the London Pass.  Alternatively click here to buy tickets.

The grounds are the best thing about Kensington Palace though, and while the gardens immediately around Kensington Palace are lovely, I’d take the kids to the famous Diana Memorial Playground.  It’s based on Peter Pan and has a pirate ship, a teepee area, climbing frames and more.  There’s a cafe for snacks too.  Our kids loved it but it does get very busy and it’s best visited in the week.

From Kensington Palace gardens you can get into Hyde Park, a vast park in the centre of London.  An evening stroll along the Serpentine makes a good end to your day!

Entry to the Diana Memorial Playground and Hyde Park is free.

Day 5 in London with kids: Day trip from London

Break up your London sightseeing with a day trip from London.  Your choices here are pretty vast!  Public transport from London to many other towns and cities is usually reasonably good.  Usually.  You can check times and book trains on the trainline website.

Some of the best day trips from London include:

Warner Bros Studio Tour: the making of Harry Potter

Hogwarts Castle, Warner Bros Studio Tour

This is a great day out for kids, and any adult Potter fans.  The Warner Bros Studio Tour isn’t like Harry Potter world at Universal Studios, instead this is an exhibit of the sets and props used in the making of the Harry Potter films. It’s brilliantly laid out with plenty of hands-on things for kids, dressing up opportunities and set walk-throughs (the Forbidden Forest is particularly good).  We’ve been twice; you can read our review of the Harry Potter Studio Tour for more information.  Click here to book your tickets.

Kew Gardens

Princess of Wales Conservatory Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens aren’t that far from central London and are a great place to visit at any time of year.  At Kew you’ll find Royal palaces, tropical glasshouses full of amazing plants, beautiful flowerbeds and arboretums, treasure trails and more.  We’ve been twice and still haven’t covered everything there!  Book tickets in advance online here.  Kew is on the Underground – alight at Kew Gardens or Richmond.  Check out our post on Kew Gardens here.

City trip

Roman Baths, Bath - one of the best things to do with kids in Bath

Several of the UK’s best cities can be visited in a (busy) day trip from London.  We’d recommend bohemian Brighton for a sunny summer’s day where you can experience the best of British seaside culture.  Read more about visiting Brighton with kids here.

Cambridge is one of England’s best known cities.  It’s just over an hour on the train from King’s Cross and you can take punts along the river in good weather, which is the best way to see Cambridge’s famous colleges.  The husband and I lived near Cambridge for a few years before we had kids and it’s one of our favourite UK cities – we’ll have to take the kids before long!

Bath is one of our favourite cities, full stop. It would be a busy day but you can definitely experience Bath in a day trip from London.  Bath is most famous for its (still working) Roman Baths, Georgian architecture and connection to Jane Austen.  I’ve got a guide to Bath with kids that you can read here for more information.

Take a look at this post for more London day trip ideas.

Day 6 in London with kids: East London: Greenwich with kids

Greenwich (GREN-itch, not GREEN-witch) is a fantastic area to explore just outside of Central London in the eastern part of the city.  There are several ways to arrive; you can choose from tube, train, Docklands Light Railway or river (my personal favourite).  At Greenwich you can explore some of London’s maritime history and also see the Greenwich Meridian, and find out about the origin of Greenwich Mean Time!

As with every day in this itinerary I’ve tried to be thorough and have covered most of the things you’re likely to want to see in Greenwich.  You probably won’t get around all of them, but you might not want to anyway!  Pick and choose which attractions you’d like to visit.

Boat trip on the Thames

Getting to Greenwich can be fun in itself!  I’d recommend taking a boat trip down the Thames to get there.  There are several different ways you can do this.

The quickest and cheapest way is to get to the Tower of London where you can catch a riverboat.  You’ll be at Greenwich in about 20 minutes.  You can also catch the same service from outside Westminster, Embankment and Blackfriars.  If you’re just doing a single or return journey then tap in and out using your Oyster card.  Kids under 5 travel free. The Thames Clippers run a hop on hop off pass so if you’d like to see more sights along the river it might be worth getting.  Click here for more details.

You might prefer to take a tour with commentary – this will take a little longer. Click here to find out more.

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark Greenwich; London with kids

When you arrive at Greenwich Pier the first thing you’ll see is the Cutty Sark.  She’s an old tea clipper ship, so she used to sail to China and back to pick up tea for the insatiable Brits.  She’s now the only surviving tea clipper in the world, and very beautiful she is too!

She is now a museum and when you visit her you’re able to go onboard and explore all about her history and life on board (similar to the SS Great Britain in Bristol).  There are plenty of family friendly exhibits and interactive things to do, such as a family trail and an under 5’s backpack, as well as special events throughout the year.  Meeting the crew is always a highlight for small children.

Tickets to the Cutty Sark are included in the London Pass and the London Explorer Pass.  Alternatively you can buy a Royal Museums Greenwich day ticket which lets you into all of the top sights in Greenwich (excludes Planetarium shows and exhibitions).  Click here to buy the RMG ticket.

National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House

The National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House is very close to the Cutty Sark so it makes sense to head here next.  At the National Maritime Museum you can look around four new galleries covering British seafaring history.  The galleries cover Pacific, Polar and Tudor & Stuart seafaring and a gallery displaying seafaring objects and telling personal stories.

As with the Cutty Sark, the National Maritime Museum is very child friendly.  They have two separate play decks for children – the AHOY! Gallery is for kids aged 7 and under, and the All Hands Gallery is for kids aged 6 – 12.  There are lots of interactive and educational activities for kids in these galleries, and they’ll have a blast.

Entry to the National Maritime Museum and the kids’ galleries is free.  If you want to enter the special exhibitions then there is a cost of around £10 per adult.

Grab some lunch in the Parkside cafe after you’ve looked around, or head into Greenwich Park for a picnic if the weather gods are on your side…  There’s a nice children’s playground here where special events are sometimes held.

Queen’s House

Neighbouring Queen’s House is a Royal Palace and today it’s an art museum filled with incredible historic works.  However it’s probably not going to be of much interest to small children – but do take a peek at the delicate, spiral Tulip Staircase.  It’s beautiful, certainly, but it’s also reputed to be haunted!

Entry to Queen’s House is free.

Greenwich Royal Observatory

View from Greenwich Park over London

After lunch head up the hill through Greenwich Park towards the Royal Observatory and Planetarium.  You can get a fantastic view over the park and east London from here so make the effort to walk up even if you’re not planning on looking in the Observatory itself.  Inside the Observatory there’s a collection of famous clocks and timepieces (especially maritime timepieces) and an exhibit on the history of Greenwich Mean Time.

You can get into the Royal Observatory if you have a London Pass, or the RMG pass, otherwise you’ll need to have a ticket.

TIP: It may be worth working out your schedule for this part of the day in before you get to London, as you need a time slot to visit the Prime Meridian and the Planetarium needs to be booked in advance.

Greenwich Prime Meridian

This is an iconic thing to do in London!  You can stand on the Greenwich Prime Meridian, which splits the eastern and western hemispheres of the planet.  The Meridian has been here since 1884.  Taking a selfie is mandatory.

Entry to the Meridian costs £13.50 per adult and £5.85 per child aged 4 and up.  If you’re doing the Cutty Sark as well then it is worth getting a day saver ticket.  Book your tickets here – you’ll need to do this in advance as you need a time slot for the Meridian.  It gets busy here so be prepared!

Planetarium

London’s only Planetarium is another famous sight at Greenwich.  It shows films about space science, including a live Sky At Night walkthrough with an astronomer.  Other things to learn about include the solar system and dark matter, and many other topics.  Our boy was too young to sit through a screening though, so we didn’t take the kids here.

Most shows are suitable for kids aged 5+ and at weekends and holidays there’s a special show for young families.  Check the Planetarium website to book your tickets (around £8 per adult and £5.35 per child).

The Planetarium is closed on the first Tuesday of every month.

Fan Museum

On your way back to Greenwich Docks you might want to take a quick look in the Fan Museum.  People have been using fans for thousands of years and this museum traces their history and displays some of the most beautiful examples from around the world.

There is also a lovely orangery where you can have afternoon tea (you’ll need to pre-book!).

The Fan Museum is closed on Mondays and throughout January.  Entry costs £5 per adult and £3 per child (7+).  Find out more on the website.

More things to do in East London with kids

If the above sights aren’t for your family, then take a look at these nearby attractions.

Museum of London Docklands

OK, sorry, another museum!  But the Museum of London Docklands is part of the Museum of London, which tells the story of London’s long, bloody but fascinating history.

There are loads of exhibits aimed at children including workshops which kids can get stuck into while learning about London, such as painting and rug making.  You can also learn about how Londoners celebrate world festivals too; events run around Chinese New Year among others.  Kids will also love playing in the Mudlarks gallery.

The permanent exhibitions at the museum centre around London as a port and aren’t afraid to tackle some heavy subjects such as slavery and Empire, as well as WW2 bombing and the Docklands’ recent regeneration.  You can grab free tours of the exhibits when you arrive.

The Museum of London Docklands is open from 10am – 6pm every day (closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day).  Entry is free.  Find out what’s on for your visit here.

Nearest tube: Canary Wharf, or Westferry station on the DLR.

Climb the Millennium Dome

For kids aged 9 and over with a head for heights, why not try climbing the Millennium Dome? (I know I should call it the 02!) The climb is a 90 minute guided experience on a walkway up and over the Dome.  You’ll be strapped into a harness as the sides of the Dome are up to 30° so it gets pretty steep!  The top is 52m high and so you get fantastic views across London from the summit.

Click here to book your tickets.

Emirates Air Line (cable car)

Close to the O2 you’ll find the Emirates Air Line Cable Car – the only cable car in London.  You can take a “flight” over the Thames where you’ll get a good view over the London Docklands area, between North Greenwich and Royal Victoria stations.

You can use your Oyster card or buy tickets separately.  There’s a combined pass with MBNA Thames Clippers so you can cruise along to the cable car, and back again.  Click here to buy the combined pass.  Kids under 5 travel free.

Tube: North Greenwich; DLR: Royal Victoria

Day 7 in London with kids: Central London sights and shopping

See some of London’s most famous streets today as you get right into the heart of the capital.  Start your day with a morning at the British Museum, a playground or the London Zoo (you’ll need all morning for the museum or zoo so make your choice!).

In the afternoon head through tourist-central London, taking in the route from Covent Garden to Regent Street and pick up some last minute shopping before you drop after an action packed week in London!

British Museum

The British Museum is a fantastic place.  Everyone will find something to interest them here and the exhibits on Ancient Egypt are some of the best you’ll find outside of Cairo.  It’s even got the original Rosetta Stone (funny story; years ago my sister and I spent ages trying to find the Rosetta Stone in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, only to find that it was a replica and the original was back at home two tube stops away from work).

The building is fabulous; all colonnaded Roman temple from the outside and glass modernism on the inside.  It’s definitely worth a look and it won’t cost you anything unless you let the kids in the gift shop.  At the welcome desk you can pick up family friendly trails and find out where the best things to see are located (but you’ll be going to the Egyptians, I’m sure).

Entry is free, although there are charges for special exhibitions (you get entry to one exhibition on the London Pass).

The nearest tubes are Russell Square, Holborn or Tottenham Court Road.

Coram’s Fields

If the kids would rather have a play instead of going to the museum you could take them to Coram’s Fields nearby.  Here there’s a small farmyard with animals, an adventure playground, a sensory area and another brilliant playground for smaller kids.  In the summer kids can cool off in the paddling pool, or play in the sandpits year round.  Kids will love it!  Find out more here.

Coram’s Fields is close to Russell Square tube station, and entry is free.  No adults allowed without a child!

London Zoo

Another alternative for the morning is London Zoo.  London Zoo is on the edge of Regents Park, and is home to nearly 200 species of animals, including komodo dragons, lions, tigers, giraffes, gorillas and more.  The zoo is partnered with Whipsnade Zoo and works to promote conservation and animal welfare (the elephants here were moved to Whipsnade so they could have more room).  Make sure you look a the feeding and talks schedule to get the most out of your visit.

You can book experiences at the zoo – you can get to meet some of the animals up close or if your kids are aged 11 – 15 they could be a keeper for a few hours.

Click here to buy your London Zoo tickets.  Entry to London Zoo is included in the London Pass.

If you’re choosing the zoo instead of the British Museum then the nearest tube stations are Camden Town or Regent’s Park.

Covent Garden

Head to Covent Garden for lunch (there’s loads of choices for families) and take a look at the lovely Covent Garden market.  Kids will enjoy looking at the street performers (some have been there day in, day out, for years) and grownups might be able to get a bit of shopping in.  Look out for the hidden area of Neal’s Yard, which my daughter loved.

You can walk from the British Museum (we did) or take the tube from Holborn but as it’s only one stop it’s not really worth it.  From London Zoo you can drop down the Northern Line from Camden Town to Leicester Square and double back, or change to the Piccadilly Line at King’s Cross.

London Transport Museum

Kids always enjoy the London Transport Museum in the corner of Covent Garden Piazza.  There’s a massive amount of information on the history of London and things to do for families.  The history of the tube, the world’s first underground train system is explored, as is the history of moving from horse drawn carriages to cars.  There are special family events in holidays.

The museum can even arrange to take you on tours around London to see some of its hidden treasures, like the disused tube station at Aldwych. These tours must be pre-booked on the website and are not suitable for kids under 14.

Entry is included in the London Pass, or you can buy tickets here. Kids go free.

Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street

Personally, this isn’t my favourite part of London; I find it a bit tacky (and seedy in places) and overly touristy (that’s the former Londoner in me speaking) but it can be fun to walk through this area briefly and there are a few things that kids will enjoy here.

Leicester Square

From Covent Garden walk down towards Leicester Square (taking the tube takes longer).  There are plenty of theatres around and lots of nightlife too, so be careful after dark – watch out for pickpockets around here.  Leicester Square is full of cinemas and it’s where all the big UK premieres happen, but there’s also the Lego Shop (queues around the corner to get in) and the M&M shop which we went in to out of curiosity and came out even more puzzled (it’s beyond bizarre).  Around the back of Leicester Square is London’s China Town which is a good place to come back to for dinner.

Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street

From Leicester Square head towards Piccadilly Circus which has huge advertising billboards (similar-ish to Times Square but on a much smaller scale).  You can then find the start of Regent Street and London’s main shopping area.  Up near the top of Regent Street and the Shibuya-style crossing with Oxford Street, you will find Hamley’s toy store.  We explored all six floors of Hamley’s and the kids loved it.  We thought it was about time to spoil them after their good behaviour!

You can stop in at touristy-central restaurant The Rainforest Cafe for dinner if you’re feeling really cheesy.  The food isn’t anything incredible but eating surrounded by the rainforest decor and sounds will go down well with the kids, I promise!

Things to do in the evening in London with kids

London Eye at night; things to do in London with kids at night

If you have small kids like we do then you might not be heading out in the evening at all – we found that the days tired them out too much and they crashed out after our evening meal.  But there are plenty of things to do in London with older kids in the evenings if they’ve got the stamina for it!

Theatre

The theatre is an obvious choice as there are loads of kid-friendly shows.  One of my favourites is the Lion King, which has been going forever, and the new Aladdin is also meant to be very good.  If you’re really lucky you may be able to get tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child but they sell out very fast.  But there are many more options suitable for families.

Click here to take a look at what’s on when and buy your tickets.

The Unicorn Theatre, near London Bridge station, is a theatre which puts on events, shows and workshops for kids aged 6 months+.  Click here to find out more about the Unicorn Theatre.

Astronights at the Science Museum

The Science Museum hosts the occasional sleepover for kids aged 7-11.  The experience includes several activities and an IMAX show the next morning before the museum opens.  Kids must be accompanied by an adult.

Astronights aren’t on all the time so you’ll need to check on the museum website to see if they tie in with your visit.

Ghost Bus tour

London has been around for a while and so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of ghost stories to be told about the capital.  The Ghost Bus Tour is a comedy/horror show as you take a  ride around some of London’s most ghoulish sites.  It takes just over an hour.

It’s suitable for kids aged 5+ (younger ones are allowed but it’s not recommended to bring them).  Kids under 5 travel free if they sit on your lap.  Click here to book the Ghost Bus.

Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London

This is the ceremonial locking up of the Tower of London which happens every night at 10pm.  It’s extremely popular and tickets will sell out 12 – 18 months in advance.  The whole thing lasts only a few minutes and may be of limited interest to kids, but if you’d like to book it here is the link.

A better option is to take a tour of the Tower after everyone else has been sent packing for the day.  This is a guided tour of the castle where you’ll get to hear all sorts of gruesome facts, but does not include any of the towers or the jewels.

Tickets cost £27.50 and must be pre-booked, and they only take place on select Sundays.  It’s not suitable for kids under 12.  Click here to book.

Christmas lights/Winter Wonderland

If you’re visiting in the winter then there are lots of things to do with kids in London.  My top pick would go to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.  Here you can shop in an authentic German Christmas Market, ice skate and go on all sorts of fairground rides.  They even put on shows and Santa is waiting to greet little ones.  You can visit in the day but it’s especially magical at night.

It’s open from 10am to 10pm, late November to early January.  You need to pre book tickets for many of the attractions and you can do this and find out more here.

The Christmas lights along Regent Street and Oxford Street are usually incredible.

More fun things to do in London with kids

If you have more time or the above attractions don’t float your boat, take a look at these alternatives:

KidZania London

KidZania is a wildly popular destination for kids aged 4 and up.  There are KidZanias all around the world in major cities.  The premise is for kids to work in adult jobs over the course of a 4 hour session.  Younger kids have to be supervised by adults although no adults are allowed in the job areas.

When we visited the girl worked as an airline pilot, a smoothie maker, a delivery girl, a police officer and she also did some dancing – there are over 60 jobs to choose from.  It was a real hit with the kids, although to be honest it was much less fun for us adults as it involved a lot of waiting around.

If you have older kids (8-14) you can leave them to it and go shopping in the cavernous Westfield shopping centre where KidZania is located.  The kids won’t be able to leave without you as everyone who goes in is given a security tag that can only be removed by staff.  You need to pre-book tickets online (and adults are charged for the privilege of waiting around, too). Click here to book your tickets!

Nearest tube: Wood Lane or Shepherd’s Bush

Madame Tussauds

The famous waxwork museum wasn’t on our list as our kids wouldn’t have had a clue about who anyone was!  However the models are pretty realistic and it’s a popular attraction.  Older kids will get a kick out of seeing their favourite stars and there’s a huge Star Wars section for any little Jedi knights out there.  There are also extensive displays featuring Marvel superheroes and Sherlock Holmes, making it perfect for kids aged about 6+.

Entry is included in the London Explorer Pass, and the Merlin discount ticket.

Nearest tube: Baker Street

Harry Potter walking tour

Harry Potter fans will know that there are loads of places in London that were used in the films.  There are a couple of tours that you can take to see these locations, and the tours are great fun.  They’ll take you to places that you probably wouldn’t visit otherwise!  These are two of the best rated Harry Potter Walking Tours in London:

Click here to book Magical London: Harry Potter Walking Tour

Click here to book A Muggles Guide to London: Harry Potter Walking Tour

There are more options on Get Your Guide!

Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum London is the largest part of the IWM in the capital (the others are the Churchill War Rooms and the HMS Belfast). It covers war in the 20th and 21st centuries

This museum is a bit too heavy going for our little ones, and some exhibits aren’t suitable for kids under 14.  However older children will be fascinated by some of the aircraft on display.  It’s got a fantastic recreation of the trenches from WW1 as well as details on the Battle of the Somme, how a family coped with evacuations in wartime and more.

Entry is free to the permanent exhibitions.  You can see what’s on for your visit here.

Nearest Tube: Lambeth North or Elephant and Castle

Horniman Museum

The Horniman is a bit of a hidden gem in south London.  There’s a lovely garden, an aquarium, butterfly house and plenty of kid friendly exhibits and curiosities. Definitely suitable for little ones, and worth the trek out to see it.  See what’s on on their website.

Nearest train station: Forest Hill

Postal Museum

The Postal Museum has a lot more to it than you’d expect from the name.  As well as exhibits on the history of mail in London, there are also temporary exhibits, like Voices from the Deep. This tells the story of the SS Gairsoppa which was torpedoed by a German U Boat, and the efforts to conserve its contents including hundreds of letters.

The star attraction is a ride on Mail Rail, through a hidden network of tunnels underneath London. You can ride underneath Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant Sorting Office, where not even glom of nit can stop the mail sorters, hard at work. (apologies).

There’s also a great play space for kids under 8.

Entry costs: £17.05 per adult and £10.45 per child for the museum, Mail Rail ride and Voices from the Deep.  Access to the museum only costs £11 per adult, with kids free.  You probably need to buy tickets in advance as only a limited number are available on the day.  Click here to book tickets.

Nearest Tube: Russell Square, King’s Cross, Chancery Lane

V&A Museum of Childhood

This is a great, family friendly museum with plenty of hands on activities for kids.  Grab a kids’ backpack and follow a trail around the museum. Kids can explore historical toys and learn about how kids lived in the past.  Exhibits vary according to the time of year.  Click here to see what’s on for your visit.

Entry is free.

Nearest tube: Bethnal Green

London Wetland Centre

While we haven’t been to the London Wetland Centre, it’s run by the WWT (we’ve been to some of their other wetland centres, at Slimbridge and Arundel) so you know that it’s going to be well run and make a nice break from the city.  Expect to find plenty of bird life, and even an otter or two as you explore the ponds and water meadows.  Click here to find out more.

For kids there’s an outside adventure playground and indoor discovery centre.

Nearest train station: Barnes

Know before you go

London with kids

Where to stay in London with kids

London is an expensive city – there’s no getting away from that fact.  But you don’t have to spend a fortune to stay in a central London location relatively cheaply.  You should budget a minimum of £100 per night to stay in London with your family.  If you don’t mind staying in hostels then you can probably find cheaper places but this may only be suitable for families with older kids.

Mid range and budget hotels in London

Premier Inn are a chain of hotels across the UK.  They’re no-frills but have large family rooms and comfortable beds; we’ve stayed in them in plenty of locations and they’re always of a good standard.  They usually have a bar and restaurant attached so you can grab breakfast early before heading out for your sightseeing, and they have family friendly options for the evening (although nothing that will set your world on fire!).

We managed to get a room at Premier Inn on Old Street at the last minute, but if you book further in advance then there are locations much closer to central London than this one.  I’d probably go for the one on South Bank or the one by Tower Bridge.  Click here to book your room at Premier Inn.

The Gower Hotel is located in Westminster and offers family rooms which sleep up to five people.  It’s a basic hotel but has a great location near Paddington station and Hyde Park, and is good value for money.  Breakfast is available, and included in room price.  Click here to check dates. 

To get real value for your stay try staying in apartments.  They often have more space than hotels and although they don’t always have lots of amenities or a front desk, staying in an apartment is often the best way to stay in a central London location at a relatively low price.

LCS Exeter Street Apartments is a good central choice.  Choose from apartments with one, two or three bedrooms and stay right in the heart of London only a minute from the Strand and a couple more from Covent Garden.  The apartments are modern and bright with kitchen/diners and living areas.  Click here to take a look and to book the apartments.

LCS also have properties at Covent Garden; Oxford Street; South Bank; and Chancery Lane.

High end hotels in London

If budget isn’t a huge concern then you can stay in some of the finest hotels in the world.  Top end hotels in London include:

The Corinthia Hotel has an amazing location right in the middle of London.  It’s a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square and the Strand and boasts views over the London Eye and the Thames from its rooftop bar.  Family rooms are available, and the interior is utterly gorgeous.  Click here for rates and availability.

Kids will really go for the eclectic decor at the Haymarket Hotel. Each room has been individually designed with bright colours and interesting fabrics.  The rooms are a good size, and you can’t beat the location; just around the corner from Trafalgar Square. Family rooms and kids’ amenities are available. Kids get a gift and an activity book, and babysitting is available too (win!).    Click here to book the Haymarket Hotel.

Mentioned here already for its afternoon tea, the boutique Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington is also a great place for families to stay.  The location is fantastic for museums and as it’s right by South Ken tube, getting around is easy, too.  There are family rooms available, a games room, and kids will receive an activity pack.  Click here to check prices and availability.

The Savoy is a London institution!  A stay here makes a visit to the capital extra special. The location is great, right on the Thames, with access from the Strand.  Family rooms are available and kids are welcome in most of the restaurants.  Kids also have access to their own amenities and get a welcome pack.  Babysitting is available too – so take advantage and head to the American Bar for some incredible cocktails.  Click here to check availability and book.

If you want to really splash out then Brown’s at Mayfair should be your first choice.  They’ve thought of pretty much everything at this top class hotel. Not only do kids get an activity pack, newspapers, access to a kids’ library, but there’s also 50% off meals and milk at cookies at bedtime.  Bedrooms are themed with kids’ linen and amenities.  It’s a stay your kids won’t forget!  Click here to book.

Getting around London with kids

London Public Transport with kids

Arriving in London

If you’re flying into the UK you’re likely to land at either London Heathrow or London Gatwick.

There are direct express trains that you can take from both airports that will drop you at a major train station within an hour. Heathrow Express will take you to London Paddington and the Gatwick Express will drop you at London Victoria.  These services are quick but they cost quite a bit.  Tickets are cheaper when booked online.

Alternatively you can take the Piccadilly line tube from Heathrow which will be cheaper and probably more convenient and this line goes right through Central London.  Thameslink services from Gatwick are much cheaper than the Gatwick Express but not as quick.  Thameslink also connect London Luton to central London.

Whatever you do, don’t get a taxi, especially not a black cab, as you’ll pay an arm and a leg.

If you’re already in the UK then I’d advise coming into London by train.  It’s a nightmare to drive around London and I would try to avoid it like the plague.  The main train stations are in central London and you can easily access the tube and bus network from any of them.

London’s public transport

London’s public transport is reasonably good (when it’s not delayed) and the tube (underground) system, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and bus network make getting through the city easy.  It’s not that cheap though so do add transport into your budget.

You can take tourist buses which will link you to the top sights that you’ll probably want to see.  London traffic can be very slow moving though so factor in waiting for buses and then going nowhere fast!

There are also plenty of river trips that you can take, for example, getting to Greenwich on a boat is much more fun than getting the DLR.  More info is available on the Thames Clippers site.  Kids aged 5 and under travel free on Thames Clippers, and there are family friendly saver tickets for families with older children.

Download a tube map here.  Personally I’ve always used the tube to get around London.

Using Oyster Cards, and Oyster Card discounts for kids

Oyster Cards are London’s pre paid, pay as you go travel cards.  You should buy an Oyster Card when you arrive, or just use your contactless bank card if you have one.  The system will work out the best way to charge you so if you reach the threshold for a day travel card it will stop charging you after this.  You can top up your Oyster card in tube stations, at the large ticket machines.  You might want to buy a pre-paid Visitor Oyster Card before you come to London as it saves waiting at the tube station when you arrive and has special offers and discounts.  Find out more here.

Kids aged up to 10 do not need to pay to use London’s tube, bus, DLR (and some National Rail services) when accompanied by a fee paying adult.  You need to use the wide gates to enter the tube stations (there’s usually a guard to help if you’re having difficulty).

If your kids are aged 11- 15 then you can apply for a Zip Oyster Card (you need to do this in advance) or a Young Visitors’ discount (if you live overseas).  You can find out more information about these cards here on the TFL website.

Access for pushchairs/strollers

If you’re using a pushchair or stroller then accessing the tube is generally OK; there are large gates for you to get a pushchair through; tube stations with step free access are marked on maps; and people will usually help you carry the pushchair up and down stairs if you’re struggling.  I’d advise bringing a collapsible, lightweight chair though!

Alternatively consider using a sling or baby carrier as the tubes and buses can get absolutely packed at rush hour.  Avoid travelling at rush hour if you possibly can – transport is busiest from 7 – 9am and 5 – 7pm.

How to save money in London with kids

Big Ben and Houses of Parliament London

The London Pass

While London’s great museums are free many of the other attractions come at a cost, and if you’re in London for any length of time the costs can add up.

Take a look at the London Pass which, if you use it cleverly, can save you quite a bit of money.  Click here to find out more, and to book your tickets.

The London Pass is valid for between 1 – 10 days.  If you’re planning on seeing several main tourist attractions then do consider buying it as you can save a huge amount, especially if you’re planning a longer stay in London with kids.

However, if your plans aren’t concrete or your children are very small and you’re not sure how many structured activities they can cope with, then I would leave it.

The London Explorer

This is a cheaper (but more restricted) alternative to the London Pass.  This pass allows you entry to up to 7 attractions and is valid over a 30 day period; it’s ideal for families who want to take their small kids to several attractions and save money but don’t want to be restricted to cramming everything into a day or two.

The list of attractions covers some big hitters, such as the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Cutty Sark and more,  but there are not as many attractions to choose from as you get with the London Pass.

Click here to buy your London Explorer.

Where to eat in London with kids

Elan Cafe Knightsbridge London with kids

London has a huge range of eateries.  You can get pretty much anything you like, and there’s no way you’ll be going hungry.  There are several family friendly chains that you’ll find across the city (and the rest of the UK) which are suitable for families with small kids.

Our super-fussy kids will always eat at Wagamama for Japanese-inspired food; Giraffe for international flavours; Pizza Express and Bella Italia for (you guessed it) pizza and pasta;  You should be safe with one of these!

You’ll see Pret-a-Manger for sandwiches and salads everywhere, Go Eat! is similar, and Yo Sushi is also ubiquitous but not bad.  Marks & Spencer Simply Food do good ingredients for picnics (there’s one by Green Park tube so stock up here and head to Green Park, St James’ Park or Hyde Park to eat it).  Otherwise pick up lunch in supermarkets like Tesco.

Afternoon Tea is a great London experience that shouldn’t be missed!  There are lots to choose from and I’d recommend the Ampersand (as above), Fortnum and Mason; the Ritz; the Dorchester, or more themed afternoon teas such as Charlie and the Chesterfield at the Chesterfield Hotel; Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel.

Although my daughter’s favourite place was Elan Cafe (pictured) where we grabbed breakfast before heading to the Natural History Museum.  She’s a big fan of pink so this cafe was right up her alley!

When is the best time to visit London with kids?

Any time is a good time to visit London 😉  Rain is always a risk in the UK, but pack your brolly and waterproofs and you’ll be fine.

There are pros and cons to each season.  Spring is great for London’s parks and gardens; temperatures are usually bearable to warm and it’s a little quieter than summer.  Although London can never be described as quiet.

Summer is busy, peak tourist season, but if you’re going to get good weather in the UK, summer is your best shot. Long days make for good evenings in the parks or for dining al fresco.  Attractions such as Buckingham Palace will be open.

In autumn things are quieter but you run the risk of storms and rain.  Some attractions may begin to close for the winter.

Winter can also be a good time to visit.  London is illuminated for Christmas and there are plenty of festive activities.  Try Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (a mixture of traditional German Christmas Market stalls and a fairground), ice skating at Somerset House, or just admire the lights at Oxford and Regent Streets.  The weather will be cold and probably rainy though, so you may not be able to enjoy London’s parks.


That’s a wrap for the best things to do in London with kids – did I miss anything?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the post!

Did you like this post?  Read more of our city guides here:

Rome with kids

Paris with kids

Reykjavik with kids

Prague with kids

Seville with kids

Bath with kids


Pin for later!

The best things to do in London with kids: a complete 7 day itinerary for visiting London with kids of all ages. This post has ideas and activities for children of all ages and includes the best museums, experiences, tours and travel tips so you get the best out of your trip. Also includes where to stay in London with kids. #travelguide #london #familytravel #uk #traveltips

The best things to do in London with kids: a complete 7 day itinerary for visiting London with kids of all ages. This post has ideas and activities for children of all ages and includes the best museums, experiences, tours and travel tips so you get the best out of your trip. Also includes where to stay in London with kids. #travelguide #london #familytravel #uk #traveltips

 

 

15 thoughts on “The best things to do in London with kids

  1. Pingback: Best Museums To Visit With Kids In The World - Passports and Adventures

  2. Grand Adventure Story says:

    Goodness, that’s covered everything! I grew up in London and my parents still live there so we visit regularly. As the boys get older we keep adding more ‘things to do in London’ to our list. Next up will be Olympic Park (we’re seeing a rugby match). I can’t wait! #fearlessfamtrav
    Grand Adventure Story recently posted…A Day at Dyrham ParkMy Profile

  3. Maria says:

    Great guide! We are visiting London the last week of May with our 3 and 5 year old children. We’d like to see Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Tower of London. Also a day trip to Oxford. Do you recommend using push chairs to see some of these sights? Thanks!

    • Emily Cole says:

      Hi Maria! Yes, you can use pushchairs to get around these cities easily. Tube stations with step free access are marked on the maps with a wheelchair, at others you’ll have to carry the chair up and down steps and escalators. There are quite a few steps at the Tower of London to get into some of the buildings so you might want to bring a carrier too in case – they have buggy parks where you can leave the chair. Enjoy your trip!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.