Yeah yeah, London’s a cool city – but London for kids? That’s a whole different ball game.
Have you panicked one-too-many times about what to do with the children in the school holidays? Or are you struggling to fill your weekends in the capital?
Without proper planning, London with children can be busy, stressful, and expensive.
This guide will show you all the best activities, and how to arrange a fantastic stress-free London adventure for the entire family.
What to Do in London with Kids
Here are 19 of the best things to do in London with kids, to keep the whole family happy.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
For children (and let us face it, adults too) that love Harry Potter, the Warner Bros Studio tour needs to be right at the top of your London bucket list. It is undoubtedly one of the best family things to do in London.
Leavesden Studios served as a key filming location for all Harry Potter movies. As a result, the sets, props and costumes are pristinely preserved and displayed for thousands of daily visitors to admire.
The personal highlights include a stroll along Diagon Alley, a peek into the forbidden forest, and a marvel at the iconic Hogwarts Express.
As well as the many artefacts, the studios also run regular exhibitions. The ‘celebration of Slytherin’ is their current offer, which is available until the 15th of September 2021. Visitors can take a deep dive into all things Slytherin, including a tour of the Malfoy family costumes. This is a truly immersive experience that your kids will love.
This two-hour journey magically transports guests out of London and into Shrek’s swamp.
The staff at Shrek’s Adventure! Are fantastic. They have a wonderful way of including every family member, making the day as exciting for the grown-ups as it is for the children. This attraction is all about being involved, and your kids will love seeing you getting stuck in and singing along to all the movie tunes we know and love.
The tour will introduce you to meet the muffin man in the bakery, enable you to rescue Pinocchio from Lord Farquad’s dungeon and finally, board the fantastic flying bus driven by everyone’s favourite donkey.
The Royal Museums and Greenwich are an incredible day out for the entire family, with plenty of attractions to keep the younger ones entertained.
Visiting the home of Greenwich Mean Time is at the top of most lists when in southeast London. Greenwich is an excellent base for exploring the capital, with a range of fantastic activities to do in the area.
The Greenwich Royal Observatory offers magnificent, unrivalled views across the entire city. However, be warned that the steps are steep and might not be suitable for very small children. Aside from this, there is an interactive ‘Ted’s Space Adventure’ show currently running, aimed at children aged 3 -7 to teach them all about the solar system.
See the Changing of the Guard
OK, this one might be a little cliché when it comes to the best things to do in London. However, it is undeniable that kids of all ages love this experience, making it one of the best things to do in London with children.
The changing of the guard ceremony is where the guards responsible for protecting the royal family in Buckingham Palace leave their positions, making way for the new guards to take their place. Seeing the iconic red suits and black helmets marching around the area is a sight to behold, and children especially will love its theatre.
Throughout June and July, the ceremony happens every day but be sure to check their website for the exact times of the ceremony, as they can often change at very short notice.
Discover Children’s Story Centre
Discover Children’s Story Centre is all about letting children’s imaginations run wild, encouraging them to become immersed in the world of storybooks. The story centre is aimed at children up to 9 years of age, although those up to 12 may still enjoy the activity.
The heart of the centre is the magical story garden, where children are free to explore at their own pace, enjoying the various sets, toys and activities. As well as the free-play areas, the centre holds many events, such as the fairy tale exhibition which is currently ongoing.
For those driving, make use of the smart parking facilities at Stratford’s Westfield shopping centre. If you register beforehand, the barrier will automatically lift on your arrival, and it offers some of the least expensive parking options in the area.
The Tower of London
No family day out in London would be complete without a look around one of England’s most prestigious fortresses.
The Tower of London is actually a collection of buildings rather than one stand-alone structure. Over the years, it has served various purposes, including a royal residence, a prison and an army barracks. However, the most famous current use for the tower is to provide a home for the crown jewels.
Understandably, many with small children are wary of taking guided tours. However, I strongly advise purchasing tickets for this occasion. The staff here are wonderfully knowledgeable, and are used to showing around families, meaning they are armed with facts, figures and plenty of jokes that the little ones will enjoy.
London Film Museum
A museum dedicated to British movies is an excellent way to show your children some history and culture whilst keeping them enthusiastic and excited.
Located in Covent Garden, the museum houses costumes and props from many different movies and is suitable for children of all ages.
Perhaps the most exciting element of this museum is the ‘Bond in Motion’ exhibition that has been ongoing since 2014. This is the most extensive collection of James Bond vehicles, featuring original cars from many of the much-loved movies.
Visit the Sky Garden
The Sky Garden, offering fancy cocktails and sunset yoga, might not be the first thing that springs to your mind when looking for kids activities in London.
However, children can tire when wandering around London, and trying to squeeze all the iconic sights into a weekend can be challenging. The Sky Garden offers an excellent opportunity to see the city from a unique (and free!) perspective. A trip to the sky garden is a concise and weatherproof way to show your children all of the famous London landmarks.
Family-Friendly Meal at the Hard Rock Cafe
Finding somewhere to eat in London with children can be an enormous challenge. Many parents come for a day in the city, reluctantly accepting that they will have to pay over the odds for sub-par children’s food. However, a trip to Hard Rock Cafe offers the perfect solution.
With a menu to suit all ages and an atmosphere perfect for children and adults alike, Hard Rock Cafe is the ideal family-friendly eatery in London.
Hire a Pedalo in Hyde Park
Visiting the incredible parks around the city should be at the top of your list of summer activities with children. Perhaps the most famous of them all is the fantastic Hyde Park.
The 40-acre lake in Hyde Park, known as the Serpentine, is open until 8 pm in the summer months and has both rowing and pedal boats for visitors to hire.
While rowing boats might not be the best option with small children, pedalos provide a great dose of family fun. This park does get extremely busy, especially on the weekend. However, once you are out on the water, you will find you are afforded plenty of space for a relaxing afternoon.
Swim Outdoors in One of London’s Lidos
No summer in London would be complete without a dip in one of London’s famous lidos.
Tooting Bec is the largest outdoor freshwater lido in Europe, and caters well for family days out. They have bookable family sessions, as well as a paddling pool for smaller children. But be warned, the water here is not heated, so it is particularly chilly first thing in the morning!
Alternatively, try London Fields lido for an east London adventure. This is one of the most popular outdoor swimming venues in the city, so be sure to book ahead to secure a spot for your family. It is also right next door to the beautiful leafy park, and plenty of quirky cafes for a post-swim refreshment. Again, London Fields have dedicated family sessions and large changing rooms.
Alternatively, try one of these wild swimming spots in and around London.
The London Dungeon
The London Dungeon takes guests on a fully immersive and slightly terrifying adventure through London’s past. Along the way, you will meet Guy Fawkes, hear all about the great fire of London and even visit Sweeney Todd’s barber shop. It is a tremendous learning experience, and the actors perfectly balance a range of jokes that will make the children belly laugh and the adults giggle.
Children of any age are permitted inside the London Dungeon. However, it is best suited to those 12 years of age and above. I recommend reserving around 90 minutes for your trip to London Dungeon to get the most from your experience.
Enjoy the Rollercoasters at Thorpe Park
Home to the likes of ‘Nemesis Inferno’, ‘Saw’ and ‘Stealth’, Thorpe Park is a fantastic adrenaline-filled day. Situated just an hour’s drive from central London, the theme park is packed with over 30 rides and attracts visitors from all over the country.
Many roller coasters are ideal for teenagers and adults, but the park also caters exceptionally well for smaller children. Kids under 3 enter for free, there is plenty of baby changing facilities around the park, and there are food options to suit even the fussiest eaters.
Trafalgar Square Treasure Hunt
Getting the kids out on a walk can be a challenge. Especially when said walk involves historical landmarks and ancient buildings. However, throw a treasure hunt in there, and you’ve got a whole day of fun!
The treasure map should be purchased ahead of your trip, and only one is needed for the whole family. This route will start at Trafalgar Square and introduce you to all the delights the area has to offer.
The walk averages around 90 minutes but can be taken entirely at your own pace. Stop for lunch, soak in the sights, and enjoy some family time exploring the beautiful history London has to offer.
Emirates Air Line Cable Car
This is certainly not a full day out in the city, but children love this unique view of London and the experience of flying high over the River Thames. Not to mention, it is a highly efficient way to transport the family across the water.
The journey takes you from Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks (and back again) and departs every 30 seconds. If you plan to visit the Greenwich observatory or the fantastic parks in the area, this is a wonderfully unique way to arrive.
Visit an Outdoor Cinema
Pack a picnic, grab the popcorn, and head to one of London’s fabulous outdoor cinemas.
Treat your kids to a late night and a movie at dusk for a real weekend treat. Luna is perhaps the most popular outdoor cinema provider, with venues across the city. They have plenty of upcoming events that welcome children, such as The Greatest Showman, Black Panther and The Dark Knight.
Go Ape Battersea Park
From a very young age, some children are simply fearless. While many enjoy keeping two feet firmly on the ground, others love nothing more than swinging from the trees. For those adventure seekers, Go Ape has your day out in London with children sorted.
The attractions differ slightly between their 35 locations, but the Battersea hangout has a mini treetop adventure where you will find wobbly bridges and exhilarating zip lines. Excellent for children aged 4-8.
Go Ape suggests that kids of 10 years and older (providing they are 1.4m tall) are welcome to enjoy the complete treetop challenge. Speaking from experience, this course is not for the faint-hearted.
See the Street Performers in Covent Garden
Many Londoners avoid Covent Garden like the plague. It has an unfair reputation as somewhere only tourists frequent.
However, if you look beyond the expensive designer shops, you may just find one of the best things for kids in London.
Street performers such as magicians and acrobats fill the square every day of the week and are well-versed in entertaining the little ones. For a courteous small donation, your children can enjoy all the excitement this central location has to offer.
Situated in northwest London, Hanwell Zoo provides an excellent alternative for those who aren’t prepared to face the crowds of London Zoo, which is why it has made it to this list of the best London attractions for kids.
Whilst Hanwell might not have some of the bigger beasts housed at the more prominent zoo’s; it offers a more personable experience which is great for those with young families. Porcupines, lemurs and meerkats will be sure to keep the children entertained for the morning.
Additionally, Hanwell zoo is extremely inexpensive, with adult tickets priced at £4.50 and children’s just £3.
Practical Tips for Visiting London with Kids
Whilst taxis might seem like the most convenient way of getting the family around London; they can quickly become costly. Public transport is usually very reliable, just remember to download the app City Mapper if you are not familiar with the capital. Children under 11 travel for free on all busses, trams and tubes when accompanied by an adult.
Contrary to what some news outlets profess, central London is an extremely safe place to be. Keep your wits about you as you would any other busy city, and you will have a fabulous time.
Public toilets in the city are few and far between, which can cause an issue when travelling with the family. Be sure to use the facilities every time you stop for a bite to eat or even a coffee.
Searching for family-friendly hotels in the capital can be challenging, especially for those looking for something a little special. Here are two of the best that London has to offer.
The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences
Who said travelling with children means that you have to give up luxury?
Not the Athenaeum Hotel, that’s for sure.
This 5 star, centrally located hotel has all the amenities a family could desire. Upon booking your stay here, you will receive a questionnaire about your child. The hotel is eager to learn your little ones favourite books and films to make their stay extra special.
From the moment you step through the doors of the Athenaeum, you will be greeted by the dedicated children’s concierge, who will then be on hand to keep your children happy and entertained throughout their stay.
100 Queen’s Gate
100 Queen’s Gate offers an exceptional ‘after bedtime’ package, perfect for families staying in central London. This package includes early check-in and late check-out, as well complimentary room upgrades where available. Incredibly, it also provides food and drinks vouchers, complimentary breakfast, and a backpack filled with goodies for each child.
The hotel is located in Kensington, making it the ideal base for London exploration. 100 Queens Gate manages to perfectly balance a stylish, chic décor with all the facilities to make it a practical and enjoyable experience for families.
Map of Things to do in London for Kids
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London for Kids – More Cool Things to Do
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