Visit London with Kids
Updated: Jan 15
London is such a historical and politically significant city, and hides many interesting and delightful things for families to enjoy. Read on if you would love some help deciphering where you should stay in London, what you can do with kids and where to find tasty food.
The beauty of this article is that I have also tried to include plenty of fun and free things to do in London with kids.
Along with the many well- known tourist attractions of London, kids will be excited by the green spaces and parks where they can play and run, and you just never know when you might stumble across something to draw your attention like when we unexpectedly passed a full mounted horse guard procession on its way up to Buckingham Palace.
With so many wonderful things to see and do in London you will need to return over an over to fit everything in.
Although it is extremely rare for me to do this (as most things are thoroughly enjoyable and worth the time and effort) I have also included a little tip on what I wouldn’t recommend doing in London. You will have to read on to find out what left us wishing we hadn’t visited!
And of course don't forget to check out all the other amazing attractions to visit in England as there is so much more to experience than just London.
LONDON FAMILY ATTRACTIONS
The absolute best way to see all the best sights in London and enjoy the humorous and educational commentary is to buy some tickets on the London Big Bus.
With different ticket options to suit how many days you are in London this combines all your sightseeing and transportation into one easy bundle.
Kids love the Big Bus just as much as the adults and speak to the driver or concierge to pick up the kids commentary version. Buy your discounted tickets for the Big Bus here.
If you would like to purchase a Big Bus Ticket that also includes a river cruise then check out this packaged option.
Considering that we have two little girls it was an easy sell to go and visit the Queen’s palace, albeit their version of the Queen is a little more Elsa and a little less Queen Elizabeth. Nevertheless, kids will find it intriguing to visit Buckingham Palace and watch the soldiers marching in the front courtyard or even a changing of the guard.
If you are particularly organised and book well in advance you can also visit some of the rooms in the Palace. We left this way too late so be prepared to consider this months in advance.
Climb Tower Bridge
Our kids loved the climb up London’s Tower Bridge where they could walk across the glass floor to see the road and boats below.
To make this a real adventure for the kids make sure you time your visit with a ‘bridge lift’ that occurs on several occasions on most days.
Visit the Tower Bridge website on your visit day to double check the ‘lift’ times and position yourself either at the base of the exit pylon or looking through the glass floor to watch the lift unfold.
Princess Diana Playground and Memorial Fountain
Tucked away in a green and leafy corner of Kensington Gardens is the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. It is a spacious and thoughtfully designed park where kids can play on the large structures such as the pirate ship or a timber fort with slides and climbing ropes, or find their own quiet patch tucked away in private gardens with swings, musical instruments and sand pits.
In such a bustling and often crowded city it is a lovely place to find some quiet and open space for the kids to stretch their legs.
It’s not all about the kids either with a lovely café attached to the park that caters well for parents.
We visited the park first thing in the morning as I had heard it gets very busy with line-ups at peak times. Early on we had no trouble with crowds and the kids had a great play.
Once the kids have run themselves silly and gotten all hot and bothered it is the perfect time to stroll past Kensington Palace over to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. A favourite spot for the kids to cool off by splashing and playing through the large flowing water feature while mum and dad can chill out underneath a tree.
Explore Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park
Although a little untamed in places, Kensington Gardens have a sprawling and open design that can be enjoyed with a simple picnic or chilling out by the round pond while gazing at Kensington Palace. If you are feeling more active then it is a great place to ride a bike or go for a run.
There are some awesome bike tours in London that will take you exploring through many of the best gardens and parks as well as to many of the City's highlights. This tour will take you to one of the best London Bike Tours through Hyde Park and the Royal Gardens - perfect safe riding for families.
Venturing further along you will reach Hyde Park, the more manicured and formal sister to Kensington Gardens. Filled with beautiful flower beds, mini waterfalls and squirrels scurrying between the trees to steal food from unknowing lunch-goers, Hyde Park is a green oasis in the heart of London.
It is the perfect spot to unwind with the kids away from the city streets and if the weather is particularly warm and sunny you can even rent some paddle boats to laze on the ponds.
Take in a West End Musical
Each time we visit London we try to take in a live show on the West End. It is a fabulous place to see the very best stage shows and they never fail to amuse and entertain. Returning to London with kids for the first time, I opted for Matilda and my oldest daughter and I were wowed from start to finish. Such amazingly talented kids and fun staging and music makes it very appealing for kids.
Note that seats to popular shows can book out well in advance particularly for weekends and evenings. To save money consider going to a matinee as the prices are usually considerably cheaper.
It's a rite of passage to visit the Tower of London and the whole family will love the interactive and fun tours of this historic building. With gruesome facts and enthralling stories it is a really great place to visit with kids in London and gives them a nice understanding of the tumultuous history of London.
Visit the London Transport Museum
An inexpensive outing for kids in London and perfect for a rainy day is to take the family to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. Kids enter for free and can entertain themselves climbing and exploring the showcases from London’s transport network over the years.
Discover the Making of Harry Potter
If you have kids who love Harry Potter then you must consider a day tour of the Harry Potter Warner Studios. Absorb the film sets, the costumes and all the magic in this 8 hour tour that will capture the imagination of the whole family. Buy tickets here.
Ride an Iconic Red Bus
A cheap and cheerful way to see the sights in London is on board one of the red double decker buses. With loads of different inner-city routes, you can sit up the top with views out the front of the bus as you cruise past all the iconic sites of London.
Although not as fast as the underground, the buses provide great views and the opportunity to hop off wherever your interests might take you.
Kids absolutely love the big ferris wheel that is the London Eye. Located on the banks of the Thames the London Eye is a bucket list thing to do in London and really does give a lovely birds eye view of the London skyline. While the kids enjoy the ride in a giant bubble, the adults can take in the sights.
Take a Stroll
London willingly rewards those who are willing to take a walk to explore all the highlights. Whether it be meandering along the Thames to see Big Ben and Westminster, wandering through the quirky and trendy laneways or bustling your way through the street markets, London is such a diverse and fascinating city best experienced by the whole family on foot.
Neal's Yard Covent Garden
Covent Garden is a fabulous place to visit with it's bustling markets and quirky street performers. It is a hive of activity and excitement and such a cute side to London. When in the area make sure you find your way to Neal's Yard which is the most colourful corner of London and potentially the prettiest little enclave of buildings.
A tiny, brightly coloured square with busy cafes and shopfronts awaits and this is a fun little place to grab a hot drink and relax.
Of course, a city the size of London has so many wonderful and interactive attractions with many we simply didn't have time to experience this time around. At least we know we will definitely be back...
So back to the what not to do with kids in London.
I hate to be a downer because this place certainly has the ingredients for a great day out. Unfortunately, there was just too much wrong to make it enjoyable.
For those of you not aware of the Kidzania franchise, they are ‘kid cities’ where kids enter with a boarding pass into a land where they can role play a large number of professions all while earning money to be spent at the end of the day. It is becoming hugely popular, is located in numerous big cities throughout the World and something we had been looking forward to visiting with the kids after hearing some great reviews.
So where does it all go pear shaped?
We had prepaid our tickets online and despite having the email with the voucher and barcode on our phone it took almost two hours for the ticket desk to let us in because we hadn't printed our tickets (even though we were tourists so didn't have access to a printer) We had never come across this issue before - ever!
Once we finally made our way into Kidzania we put on our smiley faces and attempted to enjoy what was left of our day only to be left continually disappointed and frustrated. The place was majorly understaffed with many activities closed for long periods. The lines were long and wait times slow and once finally in, our kids were often bumped out of getting to actually do anything by other bigger kids.
What grated the most for me was the necessity for professional photographers to crawl the place for cheesy photos which required even more wasted time just so the staff can then jump in front of you whilst you attempt a hasty escape from the place to try and add some additionally exorbitant photos to the cost of your day.
My advice, save your pennies and visit many of the other way more worthwhile attractions in London.
Getting to London and Getting Around
London is serviced by nearly all the major International airlines and a huge number of discount carriers making it one of the most accessible cities in the World to visit.
Once in London it is also an amazing place for cheap European flights making a ‘hop’ over to any other European destination super convenient. We have frequently flown with EasyJet to connect from London and whilst their planes are pretty basic the service is generally good and their prices are amazingly cheap.
Once you reach London it is best to navigate your way via public transport as the roads are heavily congested. The underground can’t be beat for convenience and coverage, however if you are travelling with infants or toddlers you will find it tricky as many of the stations do not have lifts. Whilst you can attempt to take strollers and prams up the escalators, be warned that some of the escalators are very long and steep which would be difficult to keep your balance.
A great alternate are the red public buses, not as fast but far easier to hop on and off with prams with the added benefit of sightseeing along the way.
To use the public transport system simply purchase an Oyster card on arrival at the airport, top it up with some credit and then away you go. Kids up to ten years old travel free on public transport when travelling with paying adults and when you are leaving the UK you are reimbursed any remaining credit on your Oyster card.
Family Hotels in London
London is notoriously expensive for accommodation and it is even more difficult to find hotel rooms to cater for families of four or more. Indeed, finding an affordable and family friendly hotel in London will likely be the most time consuming and painstaking task of visiting.
A wonderful option for families is to book an apartment through Stayz. Be wary of AirBnB in London as a lot of people seem to advertise their place for rent but if they are not away on your dates they will cancel close to your arrival date. This happened to us on 3 occasions so Stayz is a more reliable indicator that a place is actually a full time vacation or holiday rental.
Find a location close to one of the underground stations in London and enjoy cooking for yourself, spreading out, and living amongst the local Londoners.
We have also regularly stayed in the Travelodge hotels including staying at the Travelodge Covent Garden which gave us basic but very clean and perfectly comfortable accommodation, which included wi-fi and a simple buffet breakfast.
The Travelodge hotels are a budget brand in the UK and they are very reasonably priced for Central London and cater well for families, with all hotels offering family rooms. Covent Garden and Marylebone are our two favourite areas to stay in London and are easily some of the best areas to stay in London for family travel.
Where to eat in London with kids
I love keeping it basic in London by visiting one of the historic old pubs for dinner. Simple menus and casual, chilled out vibes make it the perfect solution when travelling with kids and you don’t need to search far with pubs on every corner throughout the city.
If you are looking for something a little different, a place I highly recommend if you are close by Covent Garden is a Mexican place called Wahaca. They also now have a number of additional restaurants in different locations.
Completely discreet from the street, you enter and head downstairs into the basement which is decked out with a cool interior and an energetic vibe.
The service was relaxed but efficient and the kids’ menu was a pleasant change with healthy options loved by our girls as they received a platter of Mexican finger foods and salads that they could ‘construct’ however they liked.
For the adults, the menu options were also healthy, inventive and delicious. Oh and feel free to be tempted by one of their slightly intoxicating cocktails.
If you need some ‘cheap’ eats in London this is also easy to find on the run. The Tesco and Sainsbury supermarkets found every couple of blocks have plenty of fresh salads, sandwiches and even some buffet style food options in the larger stores.
There is also a wide spread of convenience stores throughout the city for light meal options such as Pret a Manger and EAT.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to share this info with any friends or family who might be looking to visit London with their kids. Happy travels!
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