What to Do in London With Kids
Planning a family trip to London? You won't be short of things to do. London has something for everyone and that includes little ones. Parks, palaces, royalty, history, museums, shops, sights.
Traveling on the tube with buggies or pushchairs can be a bit of a drag, but the city has more than enough to keep children entertained. Take a ride on the top of a double-decker bus, say hello to the statues of lions in Trafalgar Square, do some brass-rubbing at St Martin-in-the-Fields, head down to Buckingham Palace and wave at the Queen.
If it's your first time in London, a ride on the London Eye is well worth a go. The kids will doubtless jump at the chance of spin on what is essentially a great big Ferris wheel. Take a ride in one of the 32 glass capsules and enjoy a 30 minute revolution. On a clear day, the views are great. You can see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul's Cathedral and plenty more. It's a great way for the kids to get a sense of the size of the city and to locate landmarks.
The London eye can get busy, so it is best to book in advance. Children under four can ride for free, but they still need a ticket. Anyone under 16 must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 18. Buggies and pushchairs must be folded flat and all items removed before taking them on board. Baby changing facilities are available in the ticket office. The nearest tube station is Waterloo.
Right beside the London Eye on the South Bank is the London Aquarium. With 14 themed zones over three floors, you can see hundreds of varieties of fish and sea life from all over the world, including stingrays, sharks, piranhas and sea scorpions. The aquarium's Shark Walk gives you a chance to walk over a glass platform with sharks swimming just below your feet. You can also explore the Antarctic in the Penguins: Ice Adventure zone. The nearest tube stations are Westminster and Waterloo.
For tales of Kings, Queens, prisoners, execution and escapes, The Tower of London is a fascinating way to spend several hours. You can get a guided tour with a Beefeater, the men in the strange black and red costumes, who will take you around Traitors' Gate, the White Tower, and the Royal Chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula. There are costumed events which take place every day, so you can watch history being acted out.
Some outdoor areas are cobbled, which can make things difficult for pushchair users. There are also several places to leave pushchairs though, however this is at the owner's risk. Of course there are themed shops selling gifts of jewellery, toys, games, fashion, and all kinds of souvenirs of your visit to the Tower of London. There are baby changing facilities located in the disabled toilet in the New Armouries café. There is also a female only baby care facility in the Brick Toilets behind the Jewel House. The nearest tube station is Tower Hill.
For a further look into London's murky past, check out The London Dungeon.The attraction uses theatrical actors, special effects, stages, scenes and rides to create a walk through experience which you see, hear, touch, smell and feel. It takes you through a history of the city's old crimes, punishments and disasters.
The shows are based on real London history and legends, so you get to find out about characters like Jack the Ripper and the infamous barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd. This attraction is not really suitable for young children as it is likely to be too frightening, but teenagers might like it. The nearest tube station is London bridge.
For animal antics, there is London Zoo. Covering 36 acres, the zoo which can be found in Regent's Park is home to more than 760 species of animal. Areas include Tiger Territory, Penguin Beach, Giants of the Galapagos, Butterfly Paradise, Meet the Monkeys, Rainforest Life and Gorilla Kingdom.
There are regular 'animals in action' displays, feeding sessions, and talks by keepers. The Animal Adventure area of the zoo has a network of towers and tunnels which younger children can explore. The zoo has plenty of cafés, picnic spots and souvenir shops. The nearest tube station is Camden Town.
Imaginative little ones will love the Diana Memorial Playground in Hyde Park. As well as a huge wooden pirate ship, the park has teepees, a beach, as well as various toys and play sculptures. Inspired by the stories of Peter Pan, the playground encourages children to explore and follow their imaginations, learning whilst they play. The park, which opened in 2000 in memory of the late Princess, is surrounded by scented shrubs, willows and bamboos, making it a very pleasant place to hang out. There are toilets, nappy-changing facilities and a café. The playground can get very busy at the weekend if the weather’s fine. The nearest tube is Queensway.
How to Get Around London with Children
Public transport in London is a great option as child travel is mostly free:
- Children under five: travel free at any time on the Tube, DLR, buses, trams and overground trains, as long as they are accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket.
- Children aged five to 10: travel free at any time by Tube, DLR and overground trains as long as they travel with an adult who has a valid ticket (up to four children can travel free with one adult) or have a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard.
- Children aged 11 to 15: travel free on buses and trams and at child rate on Tube, DLR and overground trains, provided they have an 11-15 Oyster photocard.
London Guide for Children
Want to prepare the kids for your trip to London? Not for Parent London from Lonely Planet provides a fun introduction to the city for kids. The book includes sections on the history and geography, major tourist attractions, the Royal Family, as well as Harry Potter movie locations. It's all done in an upbeat and quirky way and is sure to appeal to your children.
What are the Best Museums in London for Children?
The British Museum is packed full of stuff to see. There are hands-on activities and art materials to borrow, as well as activity backpacks with puzzles and games. Family trails range from Ancient Egyptian quests to hunting for dragons. There are toilets on every floor and baby feeding rooms in the Ford Centre for Young Visitors and near the East stairs. The nearest tubes are Tottenham Court Road or Holborn.
The Science Museum has plenty of hands-on galleries where children can investigate science. They can see iconic objects ranging from Stephenson's Rocket to the Apollo 10 command module. They can ride on simulators or visit an IMAX 3D cinema. There are guided tours available, which are suitable for most ages. Getting into the most popular children's galleries such as Launch Pad, The Garden and Pattern Pod can sometimes take time, as they be busy. Baby changing and disabled toilet facilities are available The nearest tube is South Kensington.
The National History Museum is the place to go for dinosaurs. You can also learn about volcanoes, precious gems and creepy crawlies. There are special backpacks available for explorers of the museum. Filled with pens, paper, games and activities, these bright red backpacks help children under the age of seven explore the galleries. There are gift shops selling books, jewelry, toys and souvenirs. There are baby changing facilities and small toilets for little ones. The nearest tube is South Kensington.
A smaller, but not necessarily lesser museum is the Museum of Childhood. This is the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection of childhood-related objects and artefacts, with things from the 1600s to the present day. You can see toys, dolls, clothes, miniature houses, puppets, furniture, games and teddies. The museum often runs special events, such as storytelling, arts and crafts, tours and treasure hunts. There are baby changing facilities, as well as a quiet room for feeding. The nearest tube station is Bethnal Green.
Where Can I Go Shopping in London with Kids?
From toys of the past to toys of today. No trip to London is complete without some shopping.
Your kids will love the toy department in Harrods. The famous department store attracts both wealthy shoppers and less affluent tourists who are simply there to do a bit of sightseeing. The shop is particularly worth a visit at Christmas time. The nearest tube station is Knightsbridge.
Also worth a look is Hamley's, the world's largest toy store. A major attraction, it can get pretty busy, especially around Christmas time. With seven floors of toys, your kids are sure to find something they like. The nearest tube is Oxford Circus,