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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
5. Sea Life London Aquarium
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
11. Family-friendly musicals
TIP: book your London musical tickets in advance, that way you can choose seats and show times that suit your family best.
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.
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.
- London zoo
- Boat ride on the canals of the Regent’s Park
- Natural History Museum
- Tate Modern
- HMS Belfast
- Covent Garden
- Portobello Road flee market
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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