Top 10 Activities for London with Kids
Updated: Mar 9
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Our family of 6 arrived in London on a rainy fall day. London is a metropolitan city that doesn't disappoint. London is filled with museums, double decker bus', charming parks, afternoon tea and historical sites. Your whole family will be entertained in this stylish city. Practice your fake English accent (we did this way too much prior to this trip), and get on your way. Here's our top 10 activities for London with kids
Our 10 Favorite London Activities
1. Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is a World Heritage site and the most famous religious building in England. Coronations and monarch burials happen here. Also, a couple famous people you may have heard of were married here. You can attend mass here or just visit this beautiful Abbey.
We took the kids on a long walk to get to mass. The entire mass was an experience to behold. We came out of the cold rain to a warm velvet pew in the church.
Each seat in the pews has a gold plaque showing where each important dignitary is supposed to sit during formal affairs. Jude and Luca (12 & 10) pointed out where the royals sit at famous weddings. Amazing to sit in a church where so much history has taken place.
2. Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is located on the west end of Hyde Park. We went at dusk and had the whole palace to ourselves. If you buy a ticket after four, the price is significantly reduced. It is interactive for kids in every room. It is small and not overwhelming.
Kensington Palace gives a fascinating insight into Queen Victoria's life. There is a special room displaying Queen Victoria's upbringing and family tree. Inside, a small toybox with replica of the toys she played with are on display and available for children to try out.
The ballroom has light installations and classical music playing. The installations actually show a proper waltz. Of course my girls had to join in.
One room in the Kensington Palace displays Princess Diana's fashion pieces. Ladies, just swoon now. So cool to see Princess Diana's iconic outfits on display and read about her fashion journey. My girls and I were fascinated. They have a wall with sketches that designers had sent Princess Diana. On the sketches, you can see her handwritten suggestions for the designers. Truly awe sinspiring to be in the presense of this inspiring Princesses' fashion memorabilia. That being said, The boys spent all of two minutes in this room before taking refuge in the room next door. It showed a small film about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's great romance.
We closed the palace down. Plan a couple hours here. They have beautiful gardens to explore as well. We did the evening ticket, so the gardens were closed. Your family will love this interactive museum. Plan a couple hours to enjoy and go at your kid's pace. After their good museum manners, let them wander around the beautiful Kensington Gardens. One of the best part of Kensigton Palace is that it is located in Hyde Park, so the journey to and from is part of the fun.
3. Hyde Park
Once the hunting ground of Henry VIII, Hyde park has a rich history. It became a popular place for rallies and major events. Today your family can stroll through these beautiful grounds on your way to most sites in London. Hyde park stretches from the entrance to Kensington Gardens, located in the posh neighborhood of Kensington, to the main entrance of Buckingham Palace, just north of Westminster. We found a daily excuse to stroll through this beautiful park.
It features Serpentine Lake, where boating occurs when the weather is nice (I'm not sure when that occurs...jk), Diana Memorial Fountain, Cafes, the historic Speaker's Corner, Rose Garden, and multiple playgrounds. Your kids can run free and get an upclose look at swans. They aren't afraid of people, even my people....so clearly, they are very brave.
4. Diana Memorial Playground
The real jewel of Hyde Park for kids is Diana Memorial playground. Princess Diana loved the age of innocence and this playground is inspired by the tales from Peter Pan. It encompasses every important aspect of childhood development: physical, creative, social, and educational.
It features a sensory trail, teepees, pirate ship, toy and play sculptures. It is surrounded by lush trees that make this playground feel like a kid sanctuary. It's actually hard to find in Hyde park because there are so many thick trees surrounding it. Follow the sound of children's squeals of glee. It is hard to find the entrance, so we were those desperate people yelling, 'how do we get into Neverland?" Ok, when I say we, it was just me. The rest of my smart family walked around the trees to the gated entrance.
For kids safety, there is a door and attendant. Kids are not allowed to leave or enter without a grown-up. Princess Diana thought of everything. There are plenty of benches for parents to sit and relax, but you won't want to. There are so many cool features to this playground, you'll want to play alongside your child. Let kids stay innocent and let them play for hours after museums and palaces in this gorgeous Neverland.* If you have big kids who are too cool for playground most of the time, that will not be the case at the Diana Memorial Playground. I had to drag my too-cool 12 year old out after a couple hours.
* If you have small children, you want to follow them around at this playground. This playground is large and there are a lot of patches where it is hard to see kids. I told my big kids to stay together. We found a meeting site if we couldn't find one another. The hubs and I each took a little around to explore.
4. Tower of London
The Tower of London is a royal palace as well as fortress. It was founded in 1066 as a royal residence, but evolved into a prison. In history it has served as an armoury, menagerie, treasury, Royal Mint, public record office, and home of the Crown Jewels of England. Today, the Tower of London is run by the Resident Governor of the Tower of London and Keeper of the Jewel House. He ACTUALLY lives there. Yeoman Warders, aka "Beefeaters", are the guardians and responsible for the safekeeping of prisoners and the British crown jewels. They march, famously without smiling, no matter how long my kids march alongside them.
With it's long history of torture and sabotage, the Tower of London will interest the whole family. Take a beefeaters tour with your kids. The tour is grim and fascinating. It gives a general overview of the Tower of London. Kids are sure to listen, because someone other than their parents are telling it to them (truth). The tours run about every 30 minutes and start at the main entrance. They are free and wonderful. If you have the time, I highly recommend them. You can easily start it and leave the tour, if your family loses interest.
*I always tell my kid to stand a the very front of the tour with the guide so they can hear everything. This really helps them focus and hear what the guide is saying. Often times kids standing right in front of a tour guide are more likely to get interaction from the guide.
* Warning: If your kids are sensitive, the tour has some dark and graphic content. My big kids loved it. Luckily, most of the gruesome parts went right over my little kid's head.
Plan a couple of hours after your tour because you walk through most buildings on the grounds ....and stalk the beefeaters and ravens. You can visit the prison, torture chambers, menagerie. One room is interactive for kids (age requirement of kids is flexible...35 is still a kid right?). Kids can virtually joust, see a fire breathing dragon, duel, and watch interactive models of old London...
As you walk around the grounds, notice the RAVENS. Because I digress on a regular basis, I have to write about the Ravens. Tradition holds that 6 Ravens help protect The Crown and Tower. Today, a Ravenmaster is in charge of keeping 7 Ravens at the Tower at all times. (STOP! what! How is this a real job title? Imagine going on a date with someone for the first time and they tell you their job is Ravenmaster at the Towere of London...awesomeness)
There can never be less then 6 ravens at the tower, so they have 7 is so one can be a backup. It might be because I spent biology class in high school talking to my friend Nicole and not paying attention, but I had no idea Ravens were actually different than crows. Ravens are huge. I have never seen one in person. They cruise "fly" around the castle and are not afraid of people. They are a bit intimidating due to their size and appearance. Check them out with your kids!
Plan at least 2 hours here. Come right at opening or in the late afternoon to avoid a crowd.
5. Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace
Read every travel blog about London and "Changing of the Guard" is a must. It starts at 10:45 everyday. It changes with the season so check the schedule online before you make plans. It lasts 45 minutes. You have to get there at least an hour early to get a spot where kids, and yourself, can see. This is free fun in London and a neat experience. We came during Halloween week ,so the marching band played Michael Jackson's ,Thriller as they marched into the Palace. We left early. I don't love crowds and I don't love to stand still, so this was my least favorite activity. A majority of our wait time was spent listening to friendly police officers on horseback, tell us to watch our pocketbooks. Pickpocketers are prevelant at this event. If you and your kids don't have ants in your pants, check it out for a little piece of Buckingham Palace tradition. Please watch your pocketbooks (I'm very English).
6. The British Museum
The British Museum is free and a must in London. It holds some fascinating historic artifacts. Pick up a brochure and a kid's guide at the information desk and start exploring. Check out the Rosetta Stone. Parthenon Marbles, Egyptian mummies, artifacts from Mesopotamia, Enlightenment Gallery, and the gorgeous architecture within the Great Hall.
Spend as little or as much time as you want here. IT'S FREE. Enjoy. Have your kids bring their travel journals and draw or write about some of their favorite pieces in this museum. Save your brochures for lunch, where they cut and glue out their favorite componenets into their travel journals (yay! lunch time activity).
7. Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is always a favorite for kids. Explore the hundreds of animals on display. Children can interact with the natural world around them with ineractive exhibuts throughtout the museum.
Again, another free fun activity in London. You can give a donation if you choose.
8. Afternoon Tea
When in England, you go to tea. My kids love tea and have been to Afternoon Teas in the States, so we had to go to a "real" afternoon tea in London. I wanted my kids to go to a proper English Tea and not one geared towards kids, with cotton candy and lemonade served in a tea cup (some actually feature this). Those do sound fun, and if that's your thing or your kids don't like tea, go for it. After all it's about enjoying your trip. We chose the afternoon tea at the Lanchaster Hotel.
The moment you walk into the Lanchaster hotel, you will feel fancy. It is a gorgeous hotel with beautiful chandeliers. They gave us each a list of teas to choose from. My kids picked berry and Earl Grey. My main squeeze and I picked Chai black tea. They bring kids mini-timers with a chart for steeping their tea. Different teas need different times to properly steep before drinking. My kids loved this.
We had an assortment of finger sandwiches and scones. We had curried chicken salad sandwhiches, steak, cucumber, and smoked salmon (we gave all of the salmon with one bite taken out to daddy). The sandwhiches and scones are unlimited and our waiter offered to bring as many as we liked. Scones are baked fresh by order. We could choose which ones we wanted more of....um all of them, except the smoked salmon please! Because this fancy hotel is kid friendly, the waiter whispered to me, 'should I wait and bring out the dessert tray after you are done with the sandwhiches?' My kids tried every finger sandwich and like most of them...it was a afternoon tea MIRACLE.
Enjoy and stay as long as you like. We used this tea as lunch. My kids sat nicely for 2 hours at this tea. They love feeling "fancy", and this was a fun treat for all the kids (even the ones in their 30s). It was so cozy and inviting at the Lanchaster hotel. I definitely recommment it. In the summer they serve tea in the garden... Adorable!
9. Tour of Parliament
The Palace of Wesminster holds the Houses of Parliament, which encompasses the House of Commons and the House of Lords. We went on a tour while Parliament was in session because we had special permission from a Minister of Parliament (MP for short)...that's a long boring story. Anyone can do tours of Parliament on Saturdays when Parliament is not in session.
I honestly, thought this was going to be a little boring. My husband was gleeful at the prospect of stepping into the segregated Houses. He was right. It was interesting. The tradions that still go on today are fascinating . Older kids will be entertained. My older two found it interesting to see how different governments run compared to the states...as did I. My sweet five year old occasionally whispered, "is this almost over?" and my youngest fell asleep in the Ergo. This is an eductional opportunity for the whole family (mostly for older kids).
10. Knock Around
Knocking around is so important on a trip. It's when you relax and let yourself take in the feel of a new place. This is our favorite time to shop for souvenirs and pop into little shops that tickle our fancy. I let the kids lead the way. The neighborhoods of London are neat to see. The kids and I play, "which brownstone walk up would we like to live in" (pretty much all of them).
Walk around in this vibrant city, where you never know what you'll see.
See the charming streets and shops of Covent Garden
Give the kids coins and let them enjoy the entertainment from the street performers at Picadilly Circus
Let the kids lead you to what they find interesting. There will be a lot.
Spend hours in all the London book shops. Some of our favorite book shops: Daunt Books, London-Hatchards, London Review Bookshop, Children's Bookshop london, and Foyles.
We went during Halloween week, so we knocked around some beautiful neighborhoods in Kensington collecting candy.
What We Ate
Living in Germany, we don't always get to eat the wide variety of ethnic food our family loves. I have heard so many stereotypes about London having terrible food. This was not the case. I am familiar with traditional English food and I knew it wasn't first on our priority for this trip. Being a larger city, London has a large variety of food. I already had my list of places I wanted to try on this trip before I showed up. These are the places we ate at that are worth mentioning. The following restaurants meet all of my favorite criteria: quality food, reasonably priced, and kid friendly
WAHACA is a mexican chain in London. I was skeptical because Europe is not really known for it's Mexican food, but it had good reviews. I grew up in Southern California and definitely consider myself a Mexican food snob, but this palce was awesome. It is a sit down restaurant with charming decor. It does not look like a chain. At the time the restaurant was decorated in festive "day of the dead" decor. The kid's menu is simple and healthy, giving raw vegetables as a side to accompany the main entree. I had the best fish tacos I have ever had. The hubs had a taco taster with several different featured tacos...yum. They have different tequila testers you can try. Seeing as it was lunch time, I just went for their margarita.
Cafe Rouge is near the London Bridge. We were walking to our next tourist site and needed to eat. I had researched places for lunch that day, but they weren't quite close enough once hunger struck. My hubs found Cafe Rouge and I was skeptical because I hadn't researched this place. It turned out to be our cozieest meal. The decor is traditional and warm.
I loved the kids menu. The kids all received a 3 course meal .
Each kids meal came with a gift bag full of games, organic seeds to plant, and instructions on how to build a bird feeder out of a plastic bottle (none of that ever happened, but its a nice thought, right?).
My hubs had his favorite, eggs benedict. I had thier mussels provencal. This is a wonderful restaurant to come out of the cold and share a nice meal with your family.
Masala Zone is a Indian chain restaurant. You can find them throughout the city. They are fast and kid friendly.
Aphrodite Taverna is a small greek restaruant in Kensington. The food was delicious. The entire wait staff was sweet and accomodating to the kids. Two of the waitress' picked up Hyde and walked around with him...who doesn't love when their babies get love from others?
We seemed to be the only non-regulars in this restaurnat. Everyone who walked in hugged the owner and had a small catch-up before sitting and ordering. Make reservations if you eat at normal dinner hours (not like us early birds) because this restaurant is quaint.
*We ate a breakfast and a couple dinners in our apartment. I found a Whole Foods that I could pick up some healthy premade food that only needed to be heated up. Two sit down meals in one day can be a lot with kids. After a long day of exploring we usually enjoy a simple meal in the room.
How We Got Around
We drove to London from Germany using the Chunnet train. That was an adventure in itself.
In the city, we mostly used city buses to get around. Those adorable double decker buses are cheap and convenient. If you sit on the top level, you can get a great view of the city.
The London Underground goes throughout the city. There are workers stationed at each ticket machine for any questions you might have.
We were running late for afternoon tea one day, so we got the pleasure of taking a London taxi. Most cities do not easily accomodate a family of 6 into one taxi (trust me, we know). The vintage looking, London cabs were made for a family of 6 to pile in. My boys were stoked to ride in a London taxi. The taxi ride was full of giggles and touristy pics.
When you can, walk everywhere. Walk as far as you think your kids can manage. London is beautiful. Half the fun is getting to your tourist sites. Allow your family to explore along the way.
Look for tickets in the fall when prices go down.
Take public transportation when possible
Find a market you like and buy convenience food for breakfast and snacks. Usually if we've had a big lunch, our family is fine with a hearty snack for dinner.
Look for times at tourist spots when prices are cheaper. Bonus: this is also when these attractions are less crowded.
London has a lot of free museums and activities. Look them up and take your pic.
Don't ignore playgrounds as must- see attraction
If you want some great reads for kids before or after your London trip...
Prior to London, we read Paddington Bear books, Madeline in London, A Little Princess (my kids favorite book).
My older kids already know a lot about London from movies and books, but my little kids didn't know what to expect. The best books to help little kids become familiar with London are: This is London and Good Night London.
Thanks for reading about our London adventure! Have you been to London? What were your favorite activities? What did you pack? What did I leave out? Most importantly, what did you eat?
Cheerio Old Chap,