10+ Best things to do in London with kids, especially if visiting London with family for the first time

12+ Best Things To Do in London With Kids

In Europe, Traveling with kids, UK by JurgaThis post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. More info: Disclosure.

It took me a long time to decide whether I could name this post Best things to do in London with kids. There is simply so much to do in London with children that no list could possibly ever include all of them. It’s also a complete coincidence that I selected 12 things to do in London with kids. It could have easily been 17 or more if we had more time on our recent visit to London with our children…

What you will choose to see and do in London with your family will depend on the age of your kids, your interests (and those of your kids), your budget, time of the year, duration of your visit, queues at the major attractions, and even the weather…

We visited London for three full days in spring and had amazing weather all the time. Therefore, we limited our time indoors to the hottest hours of the day and only visited indoor attractions that were very high on our list. This list shows what we chose to do in London with our three boys (age 6-8). I hope it will be a good source of inspiration for your family trip to London.

At the bottom you can find even more inspiration and suggestions for all those other things we wish we had more time to see and do in London with kids.

I asked my kids to sort this list of London landmarks and activities based on what they enjoyed the most. It wasn’t easy to do as we visited so many places, one more impressive than the other. My boys really couldn’t say what they liked best or second best, and there wasn’t one single activity they didn’t enjoy.

So in random order this is our selection of the best things to see and do in London with kids. For a different perspective, I also included a short kids’ commentary for each of the attractions.

Disclosure: We were guests of some of the tours and experiences mentioned in this list. However, we chose all of these activities ourselves, based on our interests and what we thought would be the best things to do in London for our family. We think that this is a great selection of things to do when visiting London with kids for the first time. Find out!

Top selection of the absolute best things to do in London with kids
 

1. London Duck Tours

London Duck Tours offer probably the most unique way to see London with kids. You step aboard a distinctive yellow amphibious WWII vehicle (made by GM Motors for D-day landing) and set on a true adventure through the streets of London.

We did the Classic Sightseeing Tour that brings you past all the main landmarks of central London, coupled with live commentary. We were a bit concerned whether the kids wouldn’t get bored on this ride, since they don’t speak or understand English, but we translated some of the stories for them and they didn’t seem to be bored for a second.

The best part of the tour was of course the splashdown onto the Thames. We spent more time on the water than I had expected and went all the way from MI6 to the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben tower.

What makes the Duck Tours even more fun for kids is that you have to quack loud every time you see another yellow bus.

Update 2019: Duck Tours announced that they were obliged to sell the land that was used to enter/exit Thames river, so they cannot do the splashdown anymore. They still operate, but only as land-based bus tour…

Let’s hear from the kids: The Duck bus was really fun. Especially going in the water, so cool! We also won the ‘quacking’ game against the other busses twice! When I told the kids at school about a bus that is also a boat they all wanted to go to London.

London Duck tours offer one of the most fun and unique ways to experience London for families with kids

London Duck Tours are really great for families

 

2. Madame Tussauds

I have to admit that visiting Madame Tussauds was an adults choice rather than the kids. Our boys are rather young and they are not familiar with famous Hollywood actors, singers, or the British Royal Family. At first the kids were not very excited about the wax figures. However, it quickly changed when they recognised a couple of people, like Donald Trump or Barack Obama. And when we came across their football-hero Ronaldo, their day could not go wrong any more.

From then on it got better and better. We saw Shrek, King Kong, and the boys could even take a picture on a bike with E.T.! We then hopped into a famous English black cab for the Spirit of London Ride, learning about the darker chapters of London’s history, and the recovery after the Great Fire.

But the best was yet to come. I don’t think I can find the right words to describe how much the kids enjoyed the 4D Marvel Super Heroes movie. And the new Star Wars experience was like the cherry on the cake at the end of our visit. You could co-pilot a spaceship with Chewbacca, fight against Darth Vader with a real lightsaber of Luke Skywalker, or take a picture with BB8 (or princess Leia for the dads ;)). The kids wouldn’t stop talking about our visit to Madame Tussauds for the rest of the day!

TIP: Madame Tussauds is an extremely popular attraction, so it’s best to book in advance. It will save you lots of waiting time as well. You can check availability and book your tickets here.

Let’s hear from the kids: Seeing Ronaldo was top, as well as James Bond. Sitting in a London cab was fun too. And… The wind and the water made the 4D experience so special. And… I wish I could have taken that sword home with me.

Madame Tussauds is a must if visiting in London with kids

On a bike with E.T.

 

3. The Royal Mews

I first heard about the Royal Mews when researching things to do in London with kids. Since Buckingham Palace is closed for visits during the biggest part of the year and Windsor Castle requires a whole day trip from London, I thought that visiting the Royal Mews might be a good way to shortly introduce the kids to the Royal side of England.

We visited the Royal Mews without knowing what to expect, and we were really glad we did. We all loved it! It’s a rather short visit, so perfect with kids. Also, it’s very affordable for London standards (you can find the prices and book the tickets here).

We saw the stables and a couple of horses, but the most impressive were of course the Royal carriages. Especially the eight horse-drawn Gold State Coach that has been used at every coronation of British monarchs since the late 18th century. You can also see the Glass Coach, one of the principal and most used coaches of the British monarch. The most recent addition – the Diamond Jubilee State Coach – dates from 2014.

Let’s hear from the kids: That golden carriage was really impressive. And… The queen’s Rolls-Royce is huge!

TIP: If you are visiting London in the month of September, don’t miss the chance to see the Buckingham Palace from inside. You can reserve your tickets here, make sure to book in advance!

The Royal Mews is one of the best British Royal sights you can visit in London with children

Gold State Coach

 

4. Coca – Cola London Eye

The London Eye is one of the absolute musts in London, with or without kids. The views are amazing, and especially around sunset when the light is really beautiful. Kids will definitely love riding Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel!

They also have a new 4d movie that is included with your ticket. It’s short, but really nicely done. I don’t want to spoil the experience, but you can expect some snow and other fun effects as well!

London Eye is probably one of the most popular attractions in London, so expect long queues. I strongly suggest to buy your tickets online in advance (it’s so much faster and it’s cheaper). If you can afford it, fast track tickets are really worth it. We passed a 2-3hr queue in just a minute. It saved us so much time and frustration because the kids were already tired after the whole day of sightseeing so it was great to be able to go up right away. Here you can check availability and book regular and fast-track London Eye tickets.

TIP: If you are planning to visit several London attractions from Merlin Entertainments group (Shrek’s Adventure! London, Madame Tussaud’s London, Sea life London Aquarium, The Coca-Cola London Eye and The London Dungeon), it’s best to buy a combination ticket – it will save you A LOT OF money. You can book Merlin’s Magical London tickets here.

Let’s hear from the kids: London Eye is the tallest Ferris wheel we have ever been on, almost like being on top of Burj Khalifa in Dubai. From the highest point people looked like ants. Just wonder why we had to get off after only one ride.

London Eye is an absolute must in London, with or without kids

London Eye is an absolute must in London, with or without kids

 

5. Sea Life London Aquarium

Sea Life London Aquarium is located just next to London Eye, in the County Hall building. In the same building you can also find Shrek’s Adventure and the London Dungeon.

We were looking for a kid-friendly experience and chose Sea Life as it looked like the best choice for our family. From what I read, London Dungeon is really not suitable for young kids. And Shrek’s Adventure looks really fun, but is not ideal if your kids don’t understand English.

So we decided to visit Sea Life and it was a good choice! Kids loved the aquariums, especially the one with the sharks, interesting exhibits, and interactive games. Sea Life London is not very big, so you’ll only need an hour – an hour and a half to visit, and it also means that kids don’t get bored for a second. It’s a really nice place to visit with young children, one they will truly enjoy. To be honest, I find the regular Sea Life ticket a bit too expensive, but in combination with London Eye and other attractions, it’s a great deal and definitely worth visiting. You can buy the tickets here or check here for the combination ticket.

Let’s hear from the kids: The best part was the sharks and the ‘pancake fish’ (stingrays) that has an ‘electric tail’. And…Remember where we could put our head between the penguins?! And.. Also that game where you could make your own jelly fish was really fun, I had over 40 of them in the water at one time!

Sea Life London Aquarium is a great place to visit in London with kids

Make your own jelly fish and see it come to life at Sea Life

 

6. Hop-on Hop-off with The Original Tour

Hop-on hop-off busses are probably the best way to see a big city with kids. First, it saves you (and the kids) a lot of walking. On top of that, you learn a lot about the landmarks and the less known places along the way. You can hop-off at the places you like to explore more, and then hop back on again.

In London we chose for the Original Tour hop-on hop-off busses. They have five different routes that cover all the major highlights of central London. Some busses have live commentary which was entertaining and really good. The other busses are equipped with an audio guide that is available in 10 languages, and also offers a special ‘Kids Club’ commentary (only in English). Talking about kids, the Original Tour also offers a free Kids’ London activity pack that was handed to us by the driver of the first bus we stopped on. I don’t know if all busses have these though. Otherwise you might want to pick one up from their Visitor Centre.

We also took a river cruise (included in the 24hr ticket) and seeing London from the water was another highlight of the trip. If you have more time, you can also join one of the walking tours that are offered by the Original Tour.

My only regret was that we didn’t get the 48hr ticket. It would have given us more time to explore London and to really take advantage of this very convenient hop-on hop-off system. Longer duration tickets also include a river cruise to Greenwich, which looks like a really nice place to visit with kids.

TIP: Save time and book your tickets in advance. To save money you can opt for the combination tickets with the London Eye or with the Tower of London entrance ticket.

Let’s hear from the kids: It was fun that we could sit on top of the bus, you could see everything! The guide on the river cruise was really funny, he said not to forget your favourite kids when leaving the boat, because he was left behind and has been on that boat since he was 8.

The Original Tour hop-on hop-off bus is a great way to see the best of London with kids

Kids will love exploring London on a double decker bus

 

7. Kid-friendly Afternoon Tea at St. Ermin’s Hotel

Having a traditional English afternoon tea was a really nice experience for the whole family. St. Ermin’s Hotel did it all right: from stylish and delicious treats for adults to special menu’s for kids, accompanied by a visit to see the hotel’s bees.

Here you can read all about our afternoon tea experience in London with kids.

Let’s hear from the kids: I wish I had a double portion of the sweets (he never would have been able to eat it all, we already had to ask for a doggy bag for some scones ;)). And… I couldn’t believe how they got so many bees in this place, it’s in the middle of the city centre.

Yes, it is possible to find a truly kid - friendly afternoon tea in London for families

St. Ermin’s Hotel offers a truly kid – friendly afternoon tea!

 

8. See the main landmarks of London with kids

Of course, you also have to see the main landmarks when visiting London with kids. Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Tower of London, the Royal Guards … Below are our kids’ favourites.

Our boys were super excited to see the Big Ben tower for the first time. However, it was the Tower Bridge that left the biggest impression on them.

They also enjoyed watching the Royal Guards, and when one of them started to march, our boys would march next to him. I don’t how the guard managed not to laugh (I guess they are trained for that), but everyone else found it hilarious.

Let’s hear from the kids: I’m glad I finally saw my tower (Ben)! And… I can’t believe we couldn’t make those guards laugh, not even a smile. And… I wish they had those red phone booths here in Belgium; I just picked-up the receiver and someone was talking to me on the other side of the line.

Tower Bridge is one of the landmarks you have to see if visiting London with kids

Tower Bridge is not to be missed

 

9. Toy Stores of London

London has so many stores that are an attraction in itself. We just had to visit a couple! Kids loved the Lego store and the m&m’s store (both on Leicester Square), they could spend hours there!

Another favourite was the toy department at Harrods. However, all of us were just as much impressed with the Harrods’ fish and fruit departments, Egyptian escalator, and their luxury elevators.

One more store that kids will love is the 6-floor high largest and oldest toy store in the world – Hamleys. Hamleys is said to be the only store that sells the Playmobil Royal Guard figurines (although I think it might have changed now as I found them on Amazon UK too ;)).

Even I found all of these London shops really worth visiting; our kids were beyond excited! There is so much action there, especially at the toy departments, that it’s really something you should do when visiting London with kids! Just try to agree on the budget before you go. 😉 We managed to go home with just a sword from Star Wars and a Lego racing car each so not too bad considering how much fun you get in return.

Let’s hear from the kids: There were way too many toys, could never choose what to buy (luckily for mom and dad!). In the Lego store we could build our own Lego and then have a Star Wars fight using swords made of Lego blocks. Oh, and that colourful m&m’s wall – never seen so many sweets in my life! They said it was the world’s biggest candy wall.

Kids will love visiting toy shops in London

At m&m’s London

 

10. London Parks and Playgrounds

London has many parks and playgrounds that offer perfect opportunities to relax for the whole family. Our kids’ favourite was the Jubilee Gardens playground at the foot of London Eye (and next to our fantastically located hotel).

Another great park is St James’s Park, close to Buckingham Palace. The nicest area of Hyde Park is probably the area around Serpentine; you can even go boating there.

Let’s hear from the kids: The parks were great, as it was too hot in the city. And… Remember that squirrel that ran away with a piece of my cake!!! And… There were so many ducks everywhere, we even saw seven baby swans. And… That playground at London Eye had so many spider webs to climb, some parts were really challenging.

Best things to do in London with kids

Jubilee Gardens playground

 

11. Family-friendly musicals

Going to see at least one musical is a must in London. We always enjoy it a lot. Some of the best family-friendly musicals running in London at the moment are the Lion King, Aladdin, and Matilda.

TIP: book your London musical tickets in advance, that way you can choose seats and show times that suit your family best.

Lion king musical - one of the best things to do in London with kids

Lion king musical one of the best things to do in London with your family

 

12. Harry Potter filming locations & studio tour

This is one thing we didn’t get to do in London with kids, because they were simply too young for Harry Potter at the time of our visit. Also, they didn’t speak English yet…

However, if you are in London with somewhat older kids, I really think that visiting at least some of the Harry Potter filming locations would be the highlight of their trip.

There are Harry Potter filming locations walking tours in the city and also bus tours that cover all the main Harry Potter sights in London. However, if you have a day to spare, by far the best thing you can do is take The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studio Tour near London. The studios are located outside the city, but most tours includes bus transfers.

This highly-rated Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studio Tour departs from Victoria Coach Station in the city center. There is also a tour departs from King’s Cross and another tour that offers private transfers from London.

This is the first thing on our list when we go back to London with kids. Everyone I know who’s done this studio tour said that it was an amazing experience for the whole family, and is well worth the time and the money.

London with kids - visit Harry Potter studios

Harry Potter studios near London – one of the best day trips you can make with kids

 

12+. More ideas for things to do in London with kids

As I said, London has so much to offer that you could stay there for a month and still not see everything that you want to. Here are some more ideas of the things we really wanted to see and do in London with kids, but didn’t have the time for.

But also the other London attractions that are away from the city centre (but rather easy to get to):

 

Where to stay in London with kids

In order to get the most of your family vacation in London, it’s best to stay in the city centre, within walking distance to the main attractions.

We recommend Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London for families visiting London with kids. It has an excellent location close to the London Eye and Wesminster Bridge that is perfect for exploring London with kids. This hotel also has really spacious family rooms for up to 4 people (some with views of Big Ben) and even an indoor pool.

***Read also our guide to London off the beaten path and tips for visiting London for the first time***

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London with kids - best things to do for tourists
 

London with kids - what to do and see if visiting London with the family for the first time

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your trip with us it is really helpful .

    1. Author

      Glad to hear that, Alejandra. Enjoy your trip to London!

  2. This was fantastic! We never would have stopped by the Royal Mews after the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and we all loved it! Great tip!

    1. Author

      Glad you enjoyed it, Katie. Thanks for coming back to the blog to share your experience.
      Happy travels!

  3. Hi thanks so much for this … it’s a great informative and fun blog which I as a single mum of 2 boys aged 8 and 11 plan to follow for our up coming trip x thanks again to you and your family x

    1. Author

      Have a wonderful time in London with your boys, Catherine. You’ll all love it.
      PS if they are Harry Potter fans, you may want to visit Harry Potter film studios near London – everyone I know who’s been there says it’s an amazing experience.

  4. Hi Jurga!!
    Your article is really interesting and helped me a lot on my trip to London my kids. I planned my trip according to your suggestion because it’s my first visit to London. Following your tips, I booked a stay in central London, close to Hyde Park.

    1. Author

      Glad to hear you found the tips useful, Olive. Have a great trip!

  5. Hi, I will be traveling to London soon and landing at Gatwick airport. I’m just curious about what hotel I should stay at with an infant from gatwick and if its hard to get to that hotel from Gatwick

    1. Author

      Hi Johnathan, it’s really difficult for me to answer this as I have no idea what you are planning to do in London. If you are visiting the city for a few days and want to do some sightseeing, I’d definitely not stay close to the airport, but go straight to the city centre.
      Here you can find more tips for visiting London for the first time. Here you can find more information about how to get to the city centre from Gatwick airport.
      PS We recommend one of the best price/quality hotels in the city centre – Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London, very close to the London Eye.
      Hope this helps.

  6. You have picked out some of my very favourite things to to in London with kids. The toy stores are really cool, not just for kids either! The Royal Mews is a great place to visit especially when you stop by Buckingham Palace. The London Eye is great too. The Tate is worth a visit as well as they have an observatory that is free as well as some great exhibitions that kids will enjoy

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing your experience in visiting London with kids, Zena. I heard great things about Tate Modern indeed, will have to check it out next time we’re in London!

  7. Jurga,

    Did you drive or take the train from Belgium I’m planning on a trip from Belgium to London. Where did you stay?

    1. Author

      Hi Candy, if you are just going to London city, I wouldn’t drive. Parking is expensive and I think there are certain rules as to entering the city by car. We took the train, it takes less than 2hrs from Brussels.
      We chose to stay in the heart of London, right at the London Eye. There are several hotels there. We recommend Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London – one of the most affordable good quality and highly rated hotels we found in central London. The hotel is very good and the location is amazing. It allowed us to see and do so much more with kids than we would have been able to do if staying further away. We hardly had to use public transport – most attractions were within walking distance. We only took the metro once – to get to Madame Tussauds, and we took the cab from and back to the railway station. It was surprisingly affordable (12-15 pounds) and so much easier with the suitcases and the kids than the tube.

  8. Hey, Jurga is really a beautiful experience I am so glad that I finally find your Blog. That how I can manage by London Trip with my Kids. It’s really amazing that you share your personal experience with us. Really Thank You.

    1. Author

      Thanks Scarlett, glad you found this useful.

  9. Great list! I would add a day trip to Greenwich to the list as well especially if the kids love astronomy and science!

    1. Author

      Thanks for a great suggestion, Nate! We were considering Greenwich, as it looks like a great place to visit with kids, but ran out of time. Next time.

  10. What a super awesome comprehensive list. I pinned this for when we get to London with our kids. Loved the high tea – my kids would go crazy for that.

    1. Author

      Thank you, Dawn. Yes, definitely try to have an afternoon tea when in London – it’s such a typical English thing to do.

  11. Being a Londoner with no kids it was freshing to read what the kids thought about places that often us locals can dismiss especially since we see it all time. Given me ideas for my niece and nephew.

    1. Author

      Glad to hear that, Tayo. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. I love that you managed to see so many awesome things in London! I’ve wanted to visit for such a long time. I don’t have kids, but so many of these things I’d love to do anyway! Haha 🙂 Great post 🙂

    1. Author

      You’re absolutely right, Rhiannon. Most of these things I would recommend to adults as well. I’d probably only skip the toy stores 😉

  13. I have poo-poo’ed Madam Tussauds before but I had no ideait had rides too, I may need to reconsider going there. And I will definitely booked the hop-on hop-off tour with your discount – thanks! Fantastic comprehensive post Jurga.

    1. Author

      You’re not the first person who said this made them reconsider Madame Tussauds, Alex. If you have never been, then I’d say definitely give it a try next time you’re in London, we really enjoyed it. P.S. I saw that your favourite walk in London (the one next to the canal) was very close to Madame Tussauds and I even had it in my planning, but in the end we didn’t have the time to get there. The area looked really nice, so maybe next time!

  14. Love it all! We are going with our 2 boys (6 & 7 yo) to London for a week in the beginning of July and much of our plans match with yours. I hope our boys enjoy it as much as you did!
    One thing that I had excluded from our plan is the Madame Tussauds, Now, after your good review, I am reconsidering it.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Author

      Thank you for your feedback, Erika. I’m sure you will love London, there is so much to do there with kids!
      As for Madame Tussauds, just as I said, in the beginning the kids were not really impressed with all the Hollywood stars, but it got better and better and in the end they loved it. The 4D movie was really well done, and Star Wars was of course a big success too. If I can give just one piece of advice – try to visit on a somewhat calmer day, best not on a weekend, as it’s really busy. I think that buying tickets online in advance helps to skip some lines (and save money). Just ask one of the staff when you arrive where to queue because they do have separate queues depending on your ticket (groups, etc). Enjoy!

  15. This is such a fun post to read and I think there are great ideas for adults as well. I especially enjoyed reading the comments of what our children have to say. What a lovely idea.

    1. Author

      Thank you, Melissa. I was hoping it would help other family travellers to see London attractions through the eyes of a child. Once you have kids, you have to try to make your travel itineraries in such a way that everyone would have fun… There could be nothing worse than 3 grumpy kids on a city trip 🙂

  16. Sounds like you managed to see almost all the major things in London! I personally disliked the Mews, though 🙂 The Buckingham Palace was sold out 3 weeks in advance, so I also went there because it was very close…. and wasn’t impressed 🙂

    1. Author

      Like with most popular places, I can imagine that you would need to book Buckingham palace tickets well in advance. After all, they are only open for a couple of months. But I would still visit the Royal Mews, even if the palace was open, and certainly with kids. I know for sure that my boys would prefer seeing carriages and horses at the Mews than some fancy furniture and paintings at the palace. 🙂

  17. Wow Jurga I can’t believe just how much you managed to fit into 3 days! Action packed with loads of great activities! Love the London Eye! I would recommend the Harry Potter studios tour next time you are in the UK as it was fantastic! Glad you all had a wonderful time in our beautiful capital.

    1. Author

      We did our best, Tracy ;). We were also contemplating on the Harry Potter studios, but it was a full day trip and we would have missed too much in the city centre. And since the kids are a bit too young and are still too scared to go past Harry Potter book 2, we decided to leave it for the next trip. But yes, I hear from everyone that it’s really worth a visit. Just one of the many reasons to come back to London again!

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