16 kid-friendly things to do in London
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Editor’s note: Some opening times may have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before making plans to visit any London attraction, ensure that it is open.
With sharks and Shrek, military pageantry and royal palaces, tea, sweets and world-class museums, London is one of the best places to visit with children.
To fully enjoy your visit, we recommend getting a London Pass that gives you access to more than 80 attractions. The cost of the pass starts at £79 per adult or £56 per child age 12 and up, but the activities included can far offset the price of the pass.
Children 11 and younger can travel for free if they are accompanied by an adult holding an Oyster card, the smartcard for London transit. You can purchase passes in increments of one, two, three, six or 10 days. Besides the pass, many attractions offer significant savings if you purchase a family ticket and buy in advance.
Here are some of our favourite things to do in London with kids.
1. Hop-on, hop-off bus
Sightseeing via a hop-on, hop-off bus is a great way to explore any city, but that’s especially true in a large metropolis like London. A Big Bus London double-decker will give you a great orientation to the city’s sights. There are a few other hop-on, hop-off bus operators, including Golden Tours and the Original Tour.
Big Bus London offers four routes: the Red Tour that takes you through central London, the Blue Tour of west London, the Orange Route from Madame Tussauds to the London Eye and the Green Link that connects King’s Cross to central London. The bus company also provides a great map to figure out which route best covers the attractions and landmarks you want to see.
Cost: £39 per adult and £26.10 pounds per child (ages 5 to 15). There are other premium ticket options as well if you are looking for a multi-day tour. All three hop-on, hop-off tour companies are included with the London Pass.
Related: 8 posh family-friendly London hotels
2. London Eye
The London Eye has been around since 1999 and will give you unbelievable views of the city from 440 feet above the Thames. It is much like a Ferris wheel, but it is a 30-minute ride and could bore younger children. Nonetheless, it is known as one of the “must-dos” in London with its spectacular views of the city. The Jubilee Gardens playground is nearby for kids to blow off steam.
During peak times, such as the summer, the queue to visit the London Eye can be long. There is a Fast Track option, although the price is quite high. Going first thing in the morning or during the weekday can help shorten your wait time.
Cost: £24.50 pounds per adult and £22 per child (ages 3 to 15) booked in advance. Fast Track options cost an additional £10 pounds per person.
3. Sea Life London Aquarium
Next to the London Eye, the Sea Life London Aquarium is a great family activity. There are many creature exhibits, such as sharks and penguins and interactive components, such as feeding the stingrays and touch tanks.
Cost: Starts at £24 per adult and £19 pound per child (ages 3 to 15) booked online in advance.
4. Shrek’s Adventure
Also next to the London Eye, the interactive Shrek’s Adventure is fun for families with younger kids. Inside, you follow Shrek on an adventure through 10 fairytale-themed live shows, moving from room to room. Your kids will also love getting their picture taken with Shrek at the end.
Cost: £21 per adult and £17 per child (ages 3 to15), booked online advance. There are also package options that combine tour tickets with attractions such as the London Eye and Sea Life Aquarium.
5. Boat tour of the Thames
If you want to see the city from the water, a boat cruise down the Thames is the way to go. My family absolutely loves exploring cities through the waterways — it is calming and kids are drawn to boats. There are a few tour operators in London. City Cruises is a popular one with cruises leaving every 40 minutes.
This tour company has piers at Westminster, the London Eye and the Tower of London. You can buy a single-ride ticket or a 24-hour hop-on, hop-off ticket.
Cost: If you’d like to use the boats to visit many sites during a 24-hour window, the prices are £20.25 per adult and £13.50 per child (ages 5 to 15). The 24-hour ticket is included in the London Pass.
6. Buckingham Palace
If you want to see where the queen lives, you can visit Buckingham Palace.
During the self-guided tour, you’ll see the staterooms and the gardens. Touring the palace typically takes about two hours, so this is definitely a better tour for older kids who are okay on their feet for a longer time. Unfortunately, prams are not allowed in the staterooms, but you can borrow a baby carrier free of charge.
Cost: £26.50 per adult and £14.50 per child.
7. Changing of the Guard
If the state rooms at Buckingham Palace are not on your itinerary, you can still see the Changing of the Guards. This typically takes place daily in June and July and on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between August and May.
At 10:43 a.m. the old guard leaves St James’s Palace for Buckingham Palace and at 10:57 a.m. the new guard leaves Wellington Barracks for Buckingham Palace. The official start time for the actual changing ceremony is 11 a.m. and it lasts about 45 minutes. This event is fully open to the public — no tickets required. It can get crowded and I suggest arriving well in advance to try to get a good spot.
Note: Dates and times can change because of other ceremonies, road closures or weather. Always check the website in advance — the event is temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cost: No tickets are needed.
8. Horse Guards Parade and Household Cavalry Museum
If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds at the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace but still want to see a ceremony, you can go to the Horse Guards Parade. Here you will find fewer crowds and it will be a much more manageable experience with kids. This 30-minute ceremony takes place daily at 11 a.m. Monday to Saturday and at 10 a.m. on Sunday. I’ve taken my kids to both ceremonies, this one is preferable with children.
You’ll also find the Household Cavalry Museum at the Horse Guards, the official entrance to Buckingham and St James’s Palaces. There you’ll be able to watch real soldiers on the job. There is also a self-guided audiovisual tour.
Cost: There is no charge to watch the Horse Guards Parade. Museum pricing is £7 for adults and £5 for kids (ages 5 to 16) and is included in the London Pass.
9. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens consist of more than 500 acres of large grassy areas, lakes, statues and fountains. There are also many playgrounds — my absolute favourite is the Princess Diana Memorial playground.
In winter, Hyde Park has Christmas markets and in summer, you can go boating on the Serpentine. This is a great area for kids to run around and get out their energy, especially on a beautiful day.
Cost: Boating costs £12 for adults for one hour and £5 per child (14 and under). Families with children under 12 months of age can only use the Serpentine Solarshuttle boat.
10. Science Museum
The Science Museum is a great place to take the kids before or after spending time outdoors in Hyde Park. There are many interactive galleries, IMAX films and rotating exhibits. For little kids, I highly recommend The Garden play area in the basement — my kids had a blast there. It is currently closed, but its website says it will be reopening soon.
Cost: Admission is free, although some exhibitions do come with a charge. IMAX films are included with the London Pass.
11. Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is next to the Science Museum and is another great indoor activity with kids. Seeing the dinosaurs and learning about volcanoes and earthquakes is a favourite. There is also a nature centre with live talks. With the numerous hands-on and interactive activities, it will keep your kids entertained for hours.
If you happen to be visiting during the late autumn or winter, you can also go ice skating at the museum.
Cost: Entry to the museum is free, although select exhibits require paid tickets.
Related: How to spend a Sunday in London
12. Afternoon tea
There is no better way to fully embrace London culture than by taking afternoon tea. You can book a tea at many hotels, but when travelling with a family, you’ll want one that is kid-friendly. At the Ampersand Hotel, you can book the Science Afternoon Tea with a dedicated kids menu including chocolate spacemen and dinosaur biscuits. And, of course, there is Champagne for the adults, if you are in the mood. There are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
Cost: The cost of afternoon tea varies by location, but this venue starts at £44.50 per adult and £31.50 per child.
Related: 6 mistakes tourists make in London
13. Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is one of the most well-known bridges in London (although often mistaken for London Bridge) and will allow you to get some great views of the city and the Thames. Inside the tower, you can learn more about the mechanics of the bridge by watching videos and exploring the Engine Room.
Kids will enjoy the app that allows you to use your phone for a real-life simulation.
If you have a child with special needs, Tower Bridge offers Relaxed Openings with timed tickets at 9:15 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month.
Cost: £10.60 per adult and £5.30 per child (ages 5 to 15) and included with the London Pass.
14. Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the top tourist activities in London and a great one for families. This is where you’ll see the Crown Jewels and tour the tower with a yeoman warder.
The Tower may be better suited for older children, but younger children will enjoy playing make-believe in this real-life castle and fortress. There can be long lines and crowds at peak times. There are also many stairs, so keep that in mind for little ones. It is also not the most pram-friendly place.
Cost: £25 per adult and £12.50 per child (ages 5 to 15) and included in the London Pass.
15. London Transport Museum
For train-loving-kids and adults, the London Transport Museum is a great activity. Almost every kind of transportation is on display, from double-decker buses to London cabs to trains. The museum is interactive and fun and even takes you back in time. There’s a play zone and book corner and special family events such as story time and sing-alongs.
Cost: £18.50 per adult, kids 17 and under go free. Your ticket is good for museum admission for a year and included in the London Pass.
Related: 5 top London museums for kids
16. Lego Store and M&M Store
In Leicester Square, you’ll find both the Lego and M&M shops. If you have never visited either of these stores in another city, they are something else. In the Lego Store, you can build your own creations and in the M&M Store, you’ll enjoy sweets and more sweets.
With so many parks, playgrounds and attractions, London is a must-do for families. If you plan on hitting up a number of these attractions in the same trip, the London Pass, while initially seeming expensive, can be great value once you add up the individual costs of the attractions it includes.
Just pack a light rain jacket and you’ll be on your way to a great time.
Featured photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
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