There is so much to do with kids in London, the hard thing will be deciding where to start! Try walking past the famous sites or taking an open top bus tour to begin with and get your bearings, but make some time to plan out some day trips too.
London is a big city so you can’t squeeze in too much to one day, but the great news is getting there with London’s iconic transport can be half the fun!
A Royal Day Out – Buckingham Palace to Kensington Gardens
Coming to London to see the Queen? A very popular activity (even if the Queen isn’t there) is to visit her London Residence, Buckingham Palace. There is a changing of the guard ceremony held every second day at 11am (or daily in peak summer times – check timings here to avoid disappointment).
Although this can be a lot of fun to join in the pomp and bravado, it is also very crowded and a little daunting for small children. People start queuing at the palace gates up to an hour beforehand to get a good spot. Instead of fighting the crowds, try heading to Wellington Barracks just a few minutes before 11am and you will see the New Guard on their way to the ceremony.
Skip the crowds again and start walking up The Mall ready for the horses to return to the Horse Guard Palace about 11.45am. Here you may get a much clearer view and fewer crowds.
You’re also right next to Downing Street here so you may want to say a quick hello to the Prime Minister while you’re here too (under heavy police guard mind you – and there can be protestors generally about in this are). If time allows also pop down to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
A nice place to retire for the afternoon is Kensington Gardens. The centrepiece here is the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, a free playground but one of the most beautiful in the city. Note that it can get very crowded on a sunny summers day.
There are plenty of other playgrounds spread across the Royal Parks. You can also try the Knightsbridge Barracks Playground and the Wellington Barracks Playground (both good horse-spotting opportunities too). Pace how much you will fit in and consider whether you will tackle your stroller on to the tube – it may be well worth it for a walking-heavy day like this.
The London Eye
The iconic 135m tall London Eye observatory wheel dominates the London skyline and is one of London’s most popular tourist attractions for capturing amazing views.
To save money, it’s best to combine your London Eye ticket with other attractions such as a river cruise or get a 4-in-1 pass which includes Madam Tussauds, Shrek’s Adventure and SEA Life aquarium on the south bank.
The Tower of London
One of London’s most historic buildings, The Tower of London was first built in the 11th Century and has played a critical role in the city’s history. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its usage these days is far more ceremonial, yet tourists flock here in their thousands daily to learn more about this unique and historic building, and catch a glimpse of the much famed “Crown Jewels”. It can get very busy, so if you are visiting the Tower of London with kids, consider arriving early in the day.
Don’t forget to take your snaps of Tower Bridge while you’re here! There are plenty of little coffee shops nearby to grab a bite too. If you want to know when the Tower Bridge will lift (to let larger ships pass through) you can check out lift times here.
There are plenty of fantastic London Museums for kids. Our favourite spot to head to is South Kensington, where you can visit two spectacular museums in one day: The Science Museum with all its hands-on activities, and the Natural History Museum for all your little dino lovers. There’s also the British Museum in Bloomsbury that always has special programs on for children.
Another absolute crowd pleaser, especially for little ones who get a thrill from things that go is the London Transport Museum. Adults do need to pay for this one while kids enter free but it’s completely worth it for the fun they will have – and it makes a great rainy day activity!
Cruise the Thames to Greenwich
There are many different options for cruising the River Thames but our favourite route is starting from Westminster and floating past many of London’s historic sites as far as Greenwich. It’s well worth taking the time to disembark at Greenwich and heading to the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
Here you will see one of the world’s most famous “lines” – Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) – take your photo crossing two meridians!
There’s also the giant Greenwich Park for kids to have a good run around and see the famous Cutty Sark ship at Greenwich Pier.
Another beautiful option if you catch London on a sunny day is to catch a sunset cruise down the Thames and see the city skyline light up.
Still fairly new to the London skyline, the Shard is wowing crowds with its phenomenal views over London. At 309m tall it towers over the rest of London, a relatively low-rise city. The View from the Shard gives you 360-degree views from the 68th, 69th and 72nd floors.
West End Show
There are many West End shows just perfect for a younger audience to enjoy. Most offer matinee performances, which are perfect for taking the kids along without a late night.
Shows vary every year but tend to have fairly long seasons. An absolute favourite here at Little City is Matilda, while a classic that never goes out of favour is The Lion King. Slightly older kids will enjoy long-running classic Wicked and those who love a great sing along (ok mum and dad too!) may enjoy Thriller or School of Rock.
If you are in town around Christmas time a pantomime is a must!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Our of town, but one of London’s hottest new family attractions is the Warner Bros Studios in north-west London. Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Harry Potter set; walk down Diagon Alley, see the costumes and learn about the special effects. Note that tickets must be pre-purchased and daily numbers are limited.
If you can’t spend a whole day out of town on the tour, why not opt for a 2-hour Harry Potter Walking tour in London city instead? Check out prices and meeting point here.
Situated to the south west of London, the beautiful Kew Gardens is a must-see. District Line tubes and Overland trains can take you right to the entrance in only 30 minutes from central London. The grounds are extensive and include several playgrounds (indoors and outdoors to suit any weather and time of year), a butterfly house, 2 conservatories and a treetop walk.
A new children’s garden is opening soon.
Click here to see Kew Gardens ticket pricing. Under 4’s are free
Top London Tip: Get Yourself a London City Pass
A great way to save on your London adventure if you are planning to hit several of the cities big sights is the London City Pass.
The London City Pass includes access to attractions including Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the London Bridge Experience, Westminster Abbey, London Zoo, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, The Shard, Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey.
It covers you for getting about the city as well with a Thames Cruise, a discount on the hop-on-hop-off bus and the option to add an Oyster ticket.
To understand how to get between all these attractions, don’t forget to check out our How To Get Around London guide
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