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

10+ Best Things To Do in London With Kids

In Europe, Traveling with kids, UK by Jurga18 Comments

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 kids that no list could possibly ever include all of them. It’s also a complete coincidence I have selected a nice round number of 10 things to do in London (it could have easily been 17 if we had another three days).

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 kids (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.

Our family’s take on the best things to 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. But 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.

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.

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!

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. We saw the stables and a couple of horses, but the most impressive were of course the Royal carriages.

The most impressive was probably 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!

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 faster and it’s cheaper, the only disadvantage is that you don’t know how the weather will be on the day of your visit). If you can afford it, fast track tickets are really worth it.

Tip: If you are planning to visit several London attractions from Merlin Entertainments group, it’s best to buy a combination ticket – it will save you a lot of money.

Let’s hear from the kids: It’s 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 just 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 one or two other attractions, it’s a great deal and definitely worth visiting.

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: We have partnered with the Original London Sightseeing Tour, so if you are visiting London in 2017, you can use the ‘fullsuitcase2017’ promo code for a 20% discount of the regular 24hrs or 48 hrs tickets on the Original Tour website.

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 … Here are our kids’ favourites.

Our boys were super excited to see the Big Ben tower for the first time. But it was the Tower Bridge that left the biggest impression on them. They enjoyed watching the Royal Guards, and when one of them started to march, our boys would march next to him. I don’t how he 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. The 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 find them on Amazon UK too ;)).

Even I found all of these 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 hotel). Another great park is St James’s Park, close to Buckingham Palace. The nicest area of Hyde Park is probably close to the 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

 

10+. More ideas for things to do in London with kids if you have more time

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.

  • Family-friendly musicals: the Lion King, Aladdin, Annie,…
  • 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:

  • The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
  • Windsor Castle
  • Greenwich

Watch the Lion King musical in London with kids

Disclaimer: 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. As always, all opinions are our own. This post also contains affiliate links.

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Selection of 10+ best things to see and do in London with kids. Whether you've been to London before or are visiting for the first time, you will definitely find some new inspiration in this post. Check it out!

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10+ Best Things To Do in London With Kids was last modified: June 4th, 2017 by Jurga

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Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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. 🙂

  3. 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 🙂

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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 😉

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  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.

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