It has been several months since our trip to London, but it is often still on my mind. We did so many memorable things during our 8 days in London, but we’ve still only just scratched the surface of this city filled with history, culture, adventure and great food! London is a city that can be visited over and over again and you’ll still find new and exciting things to do and see.
That is especially true if you’re traveling with children. London is an amazing city to visit with kids. No matter what your kids are interested in, you’ll find something to entertain them, teach them, and spark their imagination in London.
Our high-energy Little Dude loves history, science, math, skyscrapers, and playing hard. So, we tried to plan a good mix of things to do and see that would appeal to his interests and also keep me and Hubby happy. Here are 10 of our family’s favorite London attractions and activities.
Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower
One of our first stops was a visit to the Elizabeth Tower, at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, along the River Thames. Inside the clock tower is Big Ben, the huge bell that rings every 15 minutes. Everyone just calls the whole thing Big Ben and it’s one of the most famous landmarks in London.
Since our visit, a refurbishment of the tower has begun. That means parts of the tower may be covered by scaffolding and the bell will not be rung, except for special occasions, for the next several years.
Still, we consider it a must-see landmark. It’s also close to so many other London attractions, including Westminster Abbey and the London Eye, so it’s super quick and easy to visit. Little Dude still talks about how cool it was to see the Elizabeth Tower up close and in person.
Best For: All Ages
Nearest Tube Station: Westminster
We spent a good part of a day at London’s fantastic and FREE Science Museum. Located in the upscale neighborhood of South Kensington, the Science Museum is right next door to the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Both are fantastic as well, but for our science- and history-loving kid, the Science Museum was a great choice!
Entry to the museum is free, but there may be a charge to enter special temporary exhibits. Donations are welcome and we were more than happy to put a few pounds in the box for a full day’s worth of entertainment and education.
There are so many cool exhibits here. We loved the Information Age Gallery, which celebrates more than 200 years of innovation in communications and technology. We got to see early telephone switchboards, practice our Morse code on telegraph machines, check out early radios and radio broadcasts, see a satellite up close, and see a variety of old home computers.
The Making of the Modern World exhibit was interesting, too. It features iconic objects from 1750 to today that changed our world, such as the Apollo 10 space module, the first Apple computers, and even everyday objects like writing instruments, toilets, and clocks.
The Flight Gallery has lots of lots of original and replica aircraft, as well as displays outlining the history of flight.
Atmosphere explores the history and future of Earth’s climate.
Little ones, ages 3-6, can enjoy The Garden, an interactive play space. Older kids will enjoy the hands-on engineering games in Engineer Your Future and the interactive gallery Energy: Fuelling the Future.
There is so much more than that to see at London’s Science Museum. If your kids are into science, technology, and history, be sure to allow several hours to explore this great museum.
Best For: Ages 3+
Nearest Tube Station: South Kensington
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s, an Anglican cathedral, is built on the highest spot in the City of London. The original church was founded in AD 604, but the current cathedral building, with its iconic dome, dates from the late 17th century. Amazingly, it survived the Blitz during World War II with only a bit of damage. Both kids and their parents might remember seeing the cathedral in Mary Poppins, during the song “Feed the Birds”.
The cathedral is open to visitors every day, except Sunday. St. Paul’s still has daily services and is open to worshipers wishing to pray. Visitors should be quiet and respectful as they tour the cathedral.
Some children, especially younger ones, may not be interested in a detailed tour of the cathedral floor, the smaller chapels, or even the crypt downstairs with its memorials and tombs of many famous people in history. So, you may wonder why this is one of our favorite attractions in London with kids. The draw for us is the awe-inspiring dome.
St. Paul’s has the second largest cathedral dome in the world. There are 3 galleries within the dome to visit, each reachable by stairs. The first, the Whispering Gallery, was our favorite. A fun quirk of its construction is that a whisper against the dome wall on one side of the Whispering Gallery can be heard by a person sitting on the other side. We had fun whispering silly messages to each other, and even saying hello to other visitors sitting all the way on the other side of the dome.
The next level up is called the Stone Gallery. The top level, with beautiful panoramic views of London, is called the Golden Gallery. To reach the Golden Gallery, you will climb a total of 528 steps from the cathedral floor!
The cathedral also has a cafe located on the crypt level, in case you need to refuel after all that climbing.
Photographs are not permitted inside St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, you can always take pictures outside with the pigeons and have your own Mary Poppins moment!
Best For: Ages 6+
Cost: £18 for adults, £8 for children 6-17, £44 family ticket for 2 adults + 2 children
Nearest Tube Station: St. Paul’s
Museum of London
The Museum of London, located just a few blocks north of St. Paul’s Cathedral, was my pick. I wasn’t sure if our son would be very interested in the exhibits, but it turned out to be very kid-friendly and held his attention for several hours.
The Museum of London lets you discover this great city through its history, from prehistoric times to the present day. There are ancient artifacts, paintings, miniatures, housewares, clothing, weapons, jewelry, life-size scenes, and so much more to look at. There is a real cell from a debtor’s prison, complete with prisoners’ etchings on the walls. They have a walk-through of a Victorian shopping street. A film explains the cause and result of the Great Fire of London in 1666. There is a cool map of London from 1558! And, so much more!
The museum is set up in a series of galleries in chronological order, from earliest times to present time, so you can see how the city changes. Kids will get more out of the experience if they can read the information at each display, but it’s not necessary. Along the way, there are staff members available to answer questions and engage kids at their age-level and interests.
If you get hungry during your visit and don’t want to leave, there are 3 restaurants on site. We liked the simple cafe near the front entrance.
And, the best part is that the Museum of London is open daily (except on a few holidays) and it’s FREE! Of course, donations are welcome. If you have a few pounds in your pocket, put them in the box to help them maintain this amazing museum.
And, on your way in or out, be sure to stop by and see up close the remains of the London Wall next to the museum. The wall was built by the Romans around the 3rd century. It’s cool to see something so old in the middle of all of London’s modern buildings.
Best For: Ages 7+
Nearest Tube Station: St. Paul’s or Barbican
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground
Even with all the interesting sights and museums in London, kids still need some free time to run around and play. We visited several playgrounds in London and we all agree that the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground is the best.
This fantastic playground is located in the northwest corner of Kensington Gardens, one of the city’s beautiful Royal Parks. It’s open daily, except on Christmas Day, starting at 10:00 am. Closing times vary depending on the time of year, usually mid-afternoon in winter, and later in the evening in summer.
There are fun things to do for children of all ages and abilities. The centerpiece is a pirate ship for climbing and imaginary play. There are slides, swings, and sand for digging, as well as see-saws to ride and tunnels to explore. There is also a sensory trail.
Adults cannot enter alone, and children cannot leave without an adult. On weekends, or days with great weather, the playground can get so busy that there can be a wait to enter. We didn’t experience that, though.
The rest of Kensington Gardens is lovely for walking. There is a Peter Pan statue on the east side of the gardens. Kensington Palace, home to many members of the British Royal Family, is on the east side of the gardens. There’s lots of open space to run around, too.
Best For: Ages 2-12
Nearest Tube Station: Queensway
If your kids are as fascinated by skyscrapers as ours, you’ll have to check out all of the unique buildings in London. A recent building boom has seen the addition of some very interesting-looking skyscrapers in the City of London borough. The locals have given some of them nicknames based on their appearance, such as the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater, and the Walkie Talkie.
A great way to explore them is to first walk around the neighborhood to see them from ground level, then head up to the top of one of them for a cool view of London.
One of our favorite high rise observation decks is the Sky Garden, located inside 20 Fenchurch Street, also called the Walkie Talkie building. The Sky Garden is about 35 floors up, and offers 360 degree views of London. There is a large indoor space with some plants (hence the name Sky Garden) as well as a large outdoor terrace. Be aware that the outdoor terrace is closed after dark and in inclement weather.
The best part about the Sky Garden is that it is free! The second best part is that it is very kid-friendly. There is lots of seating and clean bathrooms, as well as a place to order snacks and drinks, if you want. We went in the late afternoon and enjoyed coffee while our son had a tasty muffin. It was just enough to hold us over until dinner.
It’s important that you book your free tickets for the Sky Garden in advance. A limited number of tickets are released on the Sky Garden web site on Monday mornings for the next week. They do have walk-in times Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 11:30 am and from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm, but you are not guaranteed entry and you may have to wait in a long line.
Best For: All Ages
Nearest Tube Station: Monument
The Shard, a 95-story skyscraper, is the tallest building in the United Kingdom. The Sky Garden offers a lovely view of The Shard, which is located on the south side of the River Thames. But, our skyscraper-crazy kid didn’t just want to see it, he wanted to go to the top!
Unfortunately, the narrow spire that helps give The Shard its unique appearance is not habitable. The observation decks, called The View from The Shard, are located on floors 68 through 72. High enough for me!
The elevators up to the observation decks are super cool, so be sure to pay attention! They use wizard magic (okay, video screens) to make it look like you are rising through the ceilings of some famous London buildings and up into the clouds. On the way down, it looks like London is getting closer and closer into view.
There are two viewing galleries that give visitors a 360 degree view of London and beyond (in good weather). There are also some interesting restrooms with a view and the highest gift shop in London.
Tickets are a bit pricey, but children 3 years old and under are free. The View from The Shard also offers a guarantee that if the clouds spoil your view, you can return for free.
Best For: All Ages
Cost: £22.95 for adults, £16.95 for children 4-15, £64.95 family ticket, purchased online, in advance
Nearest Tube Station: London Bridge
Tower of London
The Tower of London, an amazing castle, is located on the north bank of the River Thames near the famous Tower Bridge. It was founded in 1066! Over the centuries it has served as a grand palace, a fortress, a royal residence, a prison, an armory, the Royal Mint, and home of the Crown Jewels of England.
There is a lot to see here and so much history to learn about, so allow several hours to see it all. There are towers to climb and displays of armor, weapons and torture devices. Historical reenactments occur throughout the day in various parts of the property. Yeoman Warders give free tours of the Tower of London, leaving every 30 minutes from just inside the main entrance.
The collection of Crown Jewels is a must-see. They are under guard and still in use today by the Royal Family for ceremonies and other events. Unfortunately, photographs of the jewels are not permitted.
Kids will enjoy seeing the ravens that live at the Tower of London. The Legend of the Ravens says that the Kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave. There are currently seven ravens living at the Tower of London, the six required and a spare.
Best For: Ages 7+
Cost: £22.70 for adults, £10.75 for children 5-15, under 5 free, £57.80 family ticket for 2 adults and up to 3 children, purchased online, in advance
Nearest Tube Station: Tower Hill
The Tower Bridge is an iconic symbol of London and fun and educational place to visit. It’s definitely one of our must-see London attractions.
The Tower Bridge Exhibition’s entrance is on the west side of the northern tower. Once inside, you can cross the elevated walkways between the bridge’s towers. Glass floors have been installed, so you get a super cool view of the cars crossing the bridge below as well as the River Thames.
The history of the bridge, which was built between 1886 and 1894, is explained in a film, as well as photos and interactive displays along the walkways.
Once you exit the south tower, you can visit the Victorian-era engine rooms, just a short walk away. The steam-powered machinery housed in the engine rooms once powered the lifts that would raise and lower the roadway to allow taller ships to pass under the bridge. They were in operation for many years, but were replaced in 1976 by hydraulic lifts powered by oil and electricity. There is also a film here to explain how it all works.
The bridge is still opened for ships. You can check the schedule on the Tower Bridge web site if you want to see the bridge in action.
Best For: All Ages
Cost: £8.70 for adults, £3.80 for children 5-15, under 5 free, purchased online, in advance
Nearest Tube Station: Tower Hill
Hamley’s Toy Shop
Hamley’s is considered the oldest and largest toy shop in the world. Its flagship store, with 7 floors of toys and games, is located on Regent Street in the Soho neighborhood of London. Hamley’s has had a store on that street since 1881!
The store is great fun for “window shopping”. Each floor has toy demonstrations and play tables for kids to try out a variety of toys. Kids can also do a meet and greet and get pictures with Hamley and Hattie Bear at 12:00 pm, 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm daily.
A lot of the toys are the same as the ones back home in the United States, but there were also some differences. It was fun to explore all the options! There are items in all price ranges, so if your little one just has to have something to take home, you’ll find something at Hamley’s Toy Shop to fit your budget.
Best For: All Ages
Cost: Free to window shop
Nearest Tube Station: Oxford Circus
Those are our current favorites, but there are countless more family-friendly attractions, monuments, activities, shops, parks and playgrounds to explore in London. So, if you’ve been dreaming of a visit, but weren’t sure about bringing your kids, we say, “Go for it!” London is fun, vibrant, educational, and welcoming. We are looking forward to another visit very soon!
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