I absolutely love London. I first traveled there as a high school student – the last stop on a six country educational tour. The moment that I stepped off the bus, I knew there was something special about London. I returned a few years later to study abroad, and was able to absorb the culture by working at an internship for three days per week and going to school two days per week. But until this summer, I hadn’t traveled to London with kids.
I was always eager to return, especially if my children. But I was apprehensive, because I was afraid that things would have changed, and that I wouldn’t have enough time to truly do everything that I wanted to do. This past year, when we were talking about summer vacation ideas, both of my kids wanted to go on the Adventures by Disney London and Paris trip. There are so many great London attractions for kids, and my kids were eager to see all of them. We arrived in advance of our trip to have some extra time to do activities on our own, and really enjoyed our stay. If you are headed across the pond, here are some of the best things to do in London with kids.
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Things to Do in London With Kids
For a nice walk in a large urban park, head to Hyde Park. This park, the largest of the royal parks, features beautiful gardens, memorials, and is home to many protests. After settling in on our first day, that’s the first place I wanted to go. If you are looking to get away from the city atmosphere for a bit, it’s the perfect spot.
I wasn’t sure what to think about this newer attraction. It wasn’t there when I had last visited London, and I was a little apprehensive. But we really enjoyed our ride. It takes about 30 minutes to go around, and gives you some great views of London, including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. My kids enjoyed the ride, which is fully enclosed and climate controlled.
When purchasing your London Eye tickets, you’ll also have the option to include some of the other Merlin attractions in London, including the Sea Life London Aquarium, the London Dungeon, and Madame Tussaud.
Read all of our tips for the London Eye here.
Many visitors to London include a visit to Buckingham Palace, which is one of the few places where the Queen of England actually resides. For most of the year, you’ll have to limit your visit to the outside area of the palace, where you may be lucky to see the Changing of the Guard.
However, for ten weeks in the summer (and a few others times during the year), you can actually go inside the castle and tour the staterooms. We were lucky that our summer visit coincided with one of these times.
You’ll definitely want to purchase these tickets in advance, because they are limited and are also timed tickets. Our tour (we opted to do the family audio tour) took about 60 minutes. We were told to plan for about 2 hours, but since we were with kids, we didn’t spend as much time in each room.
Even if you aren’t able to go inside the state rooms, it’s definitely still worth going by the palace. It really is beautiful.
Tower of London
You can’t go to London and skip visiting the Tower of London. It’s magnificent, and there’s so much London history there. I’ve been three times, and each time I’ve been so impressed.
There are several options for your visit. You can choose to visit the Tower of London at your own pace, seeing the places that you specifically want to see. Audio tours are also available. I usually recommend doing at least the audio tour so you have some context for what you are seeing. There are also Beefeater Guided Tours that provide a more in-depth experience.
There’s almost always a separate line to see the Crown Jewels, but it’s so worth it. The actual trip through the jewels utilizes a moving sidewalk, so the whole process is very efficient.
Covent Garden features shops, restaurants, and street performers. It’s definitely worth walking around the area – perhaps stopping for lunch, dinner, or a snack. We took a cab there from the London Eye, and had lunch at the Punch and Judy pub.
West End Show
When I studied abroad in London, I tried to see as many West End shows as possible. This district, which is London’s version of Broadway, offers a number of musicals and shows. There are some shows that are currently only playing in the West End, while others, like Hamilton, are also playing in the US.
Unfortunately, when I traveled to London with kids this past summer, our only free day was on Sunday, when the shows are typically not running. But, if you can fit a show into your schedule, it’s definitely a good idea.
Thames Boat Tour
I wasn’t sure what to expect with our Thames boat tour, but it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. I was so surprised with all of the changes on the banks of the Thames (including the London Eye and the Shard), and it was so interesting to hear about them. The boat we went on, part of the Thames RIB Experience, also included a fun thrill ride at the end. My kids absolutely loved it!
This world-famous cathedral is located in the heart of London. It’s famous for weddings, funerals, and coronations, but is also the burial location for many notable British poets, and scientists. It’s absolutely beautiful and is worth visiting with kids.
Purchase tickets online and you’ll get the fast track option included. It’s also important to make sure there are no special events happening during your visit.
Various Kid-Friendly Museums in London
Looking for free things to do in London with kids? I love visiting museums, and London has so many great ones. If your kids are anything like mine, you’ll need to pick just a few that they’ll enjoy. Since many of the museums in London are free, you can visit without breaking your budget. You also won’t need to purchase tickets for the free museums, so you can decide spontaneously to visit if the weather isn’t cooperating with your trip. Here are some options:
Museum of London
This free museum showcases the history of London through permanent and temporary exhibits. They offer some things especially for kids, including activity bags. See the family events and activities at the Museum of London here.
The British Museum is a free, public museum filled with artifacts and art from all over the world. It’s one of my favorite museums, and because it’s free, it’s definitely a must-visit. They offer kids’ activities and events, including a family guide.
V&A Museum of Childhood
This free museum is affiliated with the famous Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s dedicated to showcasing the history of childhood artifacts, and is great for kids to see.
London Science Museum
Unlike the science museums in other major cities, the Science Museum in London offers free admission. There are some exhibits, activities, and events that do charge admission, however. If your kids love science, this South Kensington museum is definitely a place you’ll want to visit.
Natural History Museum
The London Natural History Museum is another free museum in Kensington. It features exhibits focused on dinosaurs, evolution, space, and more. While general admission is free, you will need to pay extra for some temporary exhibits.
National Portrait Gallery, London
This art museum is one of my favorites. It’s free, and has some family-friendly aspects, including a family audio guide. It also has free admission, and boasts the largest collection of portraits in the world.
I absolutely love the energy and atmosphere of Piccadilly Circus. It’s similar to Times Square in New York City, and offers restaurants and shops. Don’t get too excited about seeing a circus though – in this case, circus means circle.
If you love to shop, you’ll want to take a walk down Oxford Street. London’s version of 5th Avenue offers a number of popular shops, like Selfridges, Topshop, Marks and Spencer, and John Lewis. It’s best for families with older kids who love to shop. My daughter loved Oxford Street, while my son was bored.
Sherlock Holmes Museum
Sherlock Holmes lovers will want to check out this museum, which is located at 221b Baker Street. It’s privately run, which means you will have to pay an admission fee. Our hotel in London, the Landmark, is right near the museum, and each day we saw lines headed in. So I would definitely recommend visiting early, especially if you are traveling with kids.
While many of the museums in London offer free admission, you will have to pay for some attractions. We recommend considering the London TurboPass, which offers admission to a number of attractions. You can choose the amount of attractions that are included, based on the type of pass you purchase. Attraction options include the Shard, St. Paul’s Cathedral, a hop on/hop off bus tour, a Thames River Tour, and more. If you are traveling to London with kids, it’s a great way to save on attraction tickets.
Where to Stay in London