Are you planning your trip and looking for things to do in London with kids? The cardinal rule for all seasoned travellers with kids is to organise leisure time to balance adult interests and child’s needs. It sounds simple, but the art of juggling sightseeing, daytime sleep, mood swings, physical activity and meals requires at least some persistence and organisation.
If you’re travelling to a metropolis with a young person, especially a pre-schooler, the measured pub-walking, spontaneous choice of entertainment and quiet contemplation of city life can be forgotten. Nevertheless, the city can reveal its most charming side on such a trip. London makes sure it’s comfortable and fun for everyone, so there are tons of things to do in London with kids.
So, let’s explore the top things to do in London with kids.
Transport in London is as iconic as Big Ben or the now-abandoned telephone boxes. There’s no better place to start your London with kids trip than by introducing them to different modes of transportation. Buy your family Oyster Passes, and download the best Citymapper transit app.
You can’t go to London with kids without going for a ride on the world’s oldest tube. However, the tube doesn’t offer a barrier-free environment at all of its stations in the city centre. If your family is travelling with a pram, be sure to take this into account when planning your walks.
However, having traversed all the stairs and passageways, it is in the underground that you will all feel that London is the most polite city on earth. Here you can find people who will apologise if you push them, and children always make way for you.
One of the fun things to do in London with kids is go on a red bus ride. Everyone in the family will enjoy a trip around town on the first floor of the famous red double-decker. You can buy a day ticket on the Hop on Hop off tourist bus route and really hop on and off at the iconic points from the school topiary. Or you can feel like a local and ride the regular city routes that run in the centre.
For example, if you get off at Victoria Station on the 24 bus, you can see Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, the Prime Minister’s House at 10 Downing Street and get off at Trafalgar Square. Or, if you don’t get off, take a ride through the bustling and colourful theatre district.
You can also see Westminster with the inevitable Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, the City financial district and St Paul’s Cathedral from bus 11. The journey starts from a stop on King’s Road in expensive Chelsea and continues through the impeccable streets of the prestigious Belgravia district.
Route 9 is one of London’s oldest routes and also one of the “richest” because it covers all the outrageously expensive areas of the city. It begins on Aldwych Street, near Somerset House, the main venue for London Fashion Weeks, and travels to Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Street, along Green Park.
Then you will pass through the luxury district of Knightsbridge with its famous Harrods department store, Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Gardens. No trip to London with kids would be complete without checking Route 9!
Another way to see London with kids is the River bus. Start at the North Greenwich terminus and hop on the River Thames right up to Big Ben. It is often the recommended way to see London from the river. The ‘buses’ themselves are spacious and have excellent visibility, and you can choose to sit inside the ship or on the open deck.
From the start to the London Bridge pier, take the family and appreciate the high speeds at which this city transport system sails, deftly manoeuvring along the winding Thames River.
London Cable Car
Explore London with kids even further with an aerial tram ride across the River Thames on the city’s east side. To do so, arrive at the Royal Victoria station of the DLR landless tube (another mode of transport!) and cross the river to the Emirates Royal Docks funicular station. Once you’ve boarded the cab and enjoyed the views of east London, you’ll just land in North Greenwich, from where you can take the river bus to the centre.
Okay, this one might be a bit pricy, but it not-to-be-missed! If you are going to London with kids, you have probably thought about including a black cap ride in your itinerary.
Interestingly, the cab drivers study all the nooks and crannies of London for 2–3 years, and then they take a challenging exam which includes psychology and etiquette in addition to knowledge of the city. A true rarity that will soon be superseded by progress and technology, so hurry up for a ride.
If you are a foreigner and this is your first time in London with kids, then you might be drawn to go over the main points from the school English book. Luckily, they’re all relatively close to each other, and you can check that out of your list pretty quickly.
The best place to start is Westminster tube station, especially if you’re travelling with a pram, it’s one of the few central stations that have lifts. Step out, and you’ll be right on top of Big Ben.
After walking along Parliament Street and seeing Westminster Abbey, go down Parliament Street, which turns into Whitehall Street, to Trafalgar Square.
If your little ones are wondering just when it gets interesting, there’s an excellent St James’s park on the way to the Queen.
Here, you’ll find a pond with well-fed ducks, geese and pelicans, plus ubiquitous squirrels that come fearlessly up to your arms for treats. And, of course, there’s the excellent playground, conveniently located at the end of the park closest to the Queen’s Palace.
After meditating on the measured footsteps of the guards at the palace facade, it’s time to take the metro to St. Paul’s Cathedral. There’s usually a charge to enter, and it’s not cheap, but if you happen to be in the area on a Sunday, that’s when admission to Mass, the choir or the organ concert is free.
Even if you or your kids aren’t keen on the format of such events, it’s an excellent opportunity to at least quickly see the cathedral from the inside.
After the cathedral, walk across the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern. There’s a chance of hanging around indefinitely, so it’s best to set aside a day for this pleasure. For now, take a walk along the south bank of the Thames towards the last item on the school programme; the famous Tower Bridge.
It’s a 30-minute walk that will take the kids to walk around the expansive waterfront, get something to eat at one of the many cafes and enjoy the views and lots of street performers and artists.
If you are going to London with kids, you have to visit the parks! You can’t overstate or glorify London’s parks, they’re perfect. In any season, they’re fun to hang out with the family, stroll through fantasy trees, play sports, play active games, or exercise your child’s motor skills on the cool playgrounds.
In summer, the parks are literally littered with picnic baskets, plaids, soap bubbles, kites and the traditional refreshment of Pimm’s.
One of the prettiest parks is the small Holland park, adjacent to the Notting Hill area. Here you can wander behind the peacocks, gaze at the giant fish in the Japanese garden pond, peruse the flower beds or stroll around the Jacobean-style manor house, and stop at the cute playground conveniently adjoining the café.
Kensington Gardens Royal Park delights the residents of the adjoining Kensington Palace, where the family of Prince William and Kate Middleton live. Lawns and flowerbeds will be awaiting you at the palace, and while there, try to enjoy a fancy afternoon tea at The Orangery restaurant.
At its junction with the famous Hyde park is the Lady Diana memorial playground, designed based on the Peter Pan books. The playground is adapted for children with disabilities. Entrance is free, and the place is very popular, so queues are not uncommon at the weekend.
Not far from Hyde Park is Regent’s Park, with its gorgeous flower beds, laneways, children’s boating pond, and the world’s oldest zoo – ZSL London Zoo.
If you want to venture further afield, Richmond Park in respectable and very quaint Richmond is an unusual way to spend your time. You’ll find yourself walking with deer, which live freely in the garden and are occasionally herded by local dogs.
There are also large green parrots; the legend is that they fled from a film studio in the 1950s, caught on, and bred in England’s mild climate.
The whole family can stand on two hemispheres at once next to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich Park. And it’s all on an elevated site overlooking the park, the beautiful National Maritime Museum and the skyscrapers of the Canary Wharf business district.
There’s also a large playground, flower garden, rose garden, ‘wild’ area and a small deer reserve.
Another notable hill overlooking the centre is the large Hampstead heath park in the northern part of the city. Rarely do tourists make it as far as the magnificent Crystal Palace Park in the city’s southeast. It’s a place that leaves a surreal feeling behind.
The most iconic attraction is the stone figures of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals, dating back 150 years. To the modern eye, they are somewhat naive but full-sized and cleverly integrated into the landscape.
There’s also a small but very cleverly intricate maze, a sculpture in the shape of a giant laptop on the edge of a pond with water lilies, a hilly landscape, old trees, winding paths, the remains of a ruined castle, a lake and a picturesque alley. For children, there is a playground that continues the theme of prehistoric lizards.
As well as the standard range of activities, the sand area is incredibly cool, where you can climb on a stone dinosaur skeleton, dig up its remains or sit in an uncovered egg.
East London is notable for the old and beautiful Victoria Park and the new and varied Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, built for the 2014 Olympics. At Victoria Park, you can feed the geese, go boating or entertain your kids in an area designed with natural materials: wood, stone, and sand, plus a large area for water play.
The Olympic Park is large-scale and technologically advanced, and the playground is the city’s biggest and most diverse playground.
On the top of the list of things to do in London with kids is visiting museums. There are many of them; they are huge and unique. Almost everyone has a barrier-free environment, restrooms and a special programme for younger visitors.
However, passive attention to art or history with children can be a confusing or tedious experience, so we have highlighted only those places where younger travellers will definitely find it interesting or at least spacious.
Natural History Museum
Every kid in London is crazy about dinosaurs, and this fascination starts at the Natural History Museum (Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW7 5BD). This is where the remains of ancient animals and their robot prototypes are kept.
The most important character is undoubtedly the mechanical model of Tyrannosaurus the Rex, whose roar is echoed enthusiastically by younger visitors.
If you’re not into stuffed animals or huge mineral collections, then you should at least be impressed with the Romanesque-Byzantine building and the central hall with the famous diplodocus skeleton of Dippy. Admission is free.
Adjacent to the Science Museum is the number two pilgrimage destination for all little Londoners – the Science Museum (Exhibition Rd, Kensington, London SW7 2DD). A collection of technical discoveries from different eras, most of which are interactive – you can touch, press and watch the effects.
A collection of aerospace exhibits that illustrate the history of space exploration. Halls devoted to medicine, chemistry, physics, flight history, household appliances’ evolution, and the human body. And the most popular of all is the children’s interactive rooms, where the laws of physics, mathematics and chemistry are explored playfully.
Some of these are free, as is the museum itself, but for the largest and coolest children’s laboratory with Wonderlab science spectaculars, you will need to pay £5.40 for children from 4 years old and £7.20 for adults.
History of the world’s most recognisable urban transport, from horse-drawn carriages to the latest double-decker buses. The museum is geared primarily towards children, so there is plenty of space for climbing, touching and looking around.
A puzzle game is also offered at the entrance, so that young visitors can explore the exhibits while looking for hidden artefacts and mark their finds with special stamps. Entry: Annual pass of £17.50 per adult, children free.
Museum of Childhood
The V&A Museum of Childhood is hardly a museum exclusively for children. It’s more of a museum about the history of children’s stuff, from the huge collection of toys to children’s clothes and furniture.
There are children’s play areas and interactive corners. There are a lot of them, and they are organically and thematically integrated into the exhibition. While the child is busy playing in a 19th-century kitchen, playing with dolls’ houses or rocking a horse, parents can explore the surrounding showcases.
Prepare for nostalgia for ’90s consoles, Ninja Turtles and other superheroes, and mild bewilderment at the Victorian-era dolls, whose prototypes were dead children.
Younger visitors will also want to see how inventive child amusement manufacturers of the past were: toys whose mechanics are based on shuffling sand or zoetrope ‘cartoons’. Many showcases feature yellow cards with simple tasks.
For example, count all the cars on the rack or repeat facial expressions from illustrations. In addition, free performances, guided tours for young children and free crafts activities are available daily. Admission is free.
The Tate Modern has extensive lobbies and corridors and a viewing platform in the new Switch House. With the exception of special exhibitions, most of the gallery’s exhibits are free.
Contemporary art is often interactive or involves exposure to different channels of perception, so there is always an exhibit that will appeal to a child. However, remember that it can also be provocative and disturbing, so pay attention to the information on age guidelines when entering the exhibition halls.
As in any museum, there are free performances for children, the times and content of which can be checked in advance on the gallery’s website.
A tip: The gallery is open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and when it’s dark, there are fewer visitors, so there’s more room to stroll and fool around. By sundown, rush to the 10th floor of Switch House or the café overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral on the 6th floor of Bankside Power Station.