It’s really no surprise that London is a top vacation destination. It’s full of history, culture, food, shopping, theatre, nightlife, royalty and more all lumped together in England’s capital city. And you don’t have to look far to find countless family attractions there to entertain the entire clan. We recently spent 5 days in London with our tweens. While it wasn’t nearly long enough to experience all the kids attractions in London, we were able to visit many of our must-see spots.
Getting around London is easy with the extensive public transportation system. We alternated between the bus and tube, depending on where in the city we wanted to go. Grab a tube map when you arrive to help navigate all the different lines. We found everyone to be super helpful and willing to answer our questions when we weren’t sure how to get to our destination. Having the Oyster Card made it easier (and cheaper) to get around as well. The city is also extremely walkable. While we used public transport to get us to from point A to point B, we walked whenever possible.
For our London itinerary, we tried to balance the wants of both parents and children. We typically strive for at least one youth activity and one adult activity per day. As my kids are older, this is a lot easier than traveling with little ones. Many of the attractions listed will be fun for teens as well as adults traveling without kids. Keep reading to find the best family attractions in London.
Family Attractions in London:
Fun things to do with kids in London
- Platform 9 3/4
- Hamley’s Toy Store
- Piccadilly Circus
- British Museum
- Changing the Guards
- Westminster Abbey
- Big Ben
- Kensington Palace & Princess Diana Memorial Playground
- Tower of London
- London Bridge
- Shrek’s Adventure
- London Eye
- Sea Life London Aquarium
- Afternoon Tea
London Day #1 – Apartment, Relaxation & Cars
Lucy and I stayed in the apartment during our first day in London. Lucy was on a high dosage of pain medication from her surgery, so she was sleepy and spent the day resting.
Derrick & K explored the Chelsea neighborhood with the goal of seeing how many exotic cars they could find. They couldn’t get over how crazy it was to see $200,000+ cars parked all along the street! I think Derrick wanted to go around with a bucket and sponge to wash the dirt and grime off the high priced McLarens and Bentleys parked throughout the neighborhood.
Prior to the accident, our plan was to take a sightseeing tour of London which included an early look at the Crown Jewels and watching the changing of the guards. The tour would have lasted until 12:30pm. Afterwards we planned to have lunch at Piccadilly Market, then wander around sightseeing for the rest of the day.
If you don’t want to take a tour and would like to follow the rest of our itinerary, you could visit the ZSL London Zoo and Platform 9 3/4 for my fellow Harry Potter fans. The Camden Market is near the zoo, so that’s an option for another activity if you have time.
London Day #2 – Hamley’s, Harrods, Chinatown, SoHo and Piccadilly Circus
We still had to take it easy with Lucy, but we explored a few London neighborhoods and went shopping on day #2. First, we wandered around SoHo exploring the shops and admiring the architecture. Then it was off to Chinatown. While it’s significantly smaller than the Chinatown in NY, it’s still worth a visit. This would be a great spot for lunch – dumplings anyone?
Afterwards, we went to Harrods and the 5-level toy store, Hamley’s. Hamley’s is the oldest and largest toy store in the world. It’s huge and should be on your list of places to visit in London with kids. You’ll encounter demos all over the store and even large LEGO displays. I’d suggest having a chat with kids prior to entering the store about your budget. We did find it a bit overpriced, but just looking around was cool. I’d also advise trying not to visit on a weekend and to plan your visit for later in the evening when the day trippers have gone home.
I could have spent the entire day wandering through Harrod’s. You seriously need a map to find your way around. We had to stop to ask directions several times – in a department store! Harrod’s not only carries clothing and shoes, but has a massive toy section including an official Disney Store plus furniture and electronics. There is also a restaurant in case you need to refuel after all that shopping. Lucy spent most of her time in the Disney Store while I practically had to drag Derrick & K out of the electronics section. The latest TV’s, gaming systems and personal submarines really have an appeal for guys and techies.
One of our goals during our outing on day #2 was to find Halloween costumes for the kids. Londoners love Halloween! Everywhere we looked we saw decorations and the costume shops were packed with kids and adults getting ready for the 31st. K ended up with a pretty cool Frankenstein mask. We purchased Lucy’s Halloween costume at Hamley’s.
We also wandered around Piccadilly Circus where the kids enjoyed watching the large screens. Because it was a school holiday, the British Museum was extremely crowded. Our plans included a visit there, but we had to pass as Lucy didn’t have the energy for more walking and standing in a queue as well.
London Day #3 – Changing the Guards, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, & Kensington Palace
Lucy was feeling much better by our 3rd day in London. She was still in some pain, but it was a huge improvement over the days before.
We decided to take one of the cool double decker buses to Buckingham Palace instead of riding in the tube again. While it takes a bit longer on the bus, riding one of these is a tourist must-do in London. And it’s nice to be able to look out and view the cityscape as you pass by.
Our first planned adventure of the day was to see the Changing the Guards at Buckingham Palace. We had time to kill beforehand, so we relaxed in Hyde Park until it was time to find a place to watch the Changing the Guard ceremony. It was insanely crowded, but interesting to watch as the New Guard became The Queen’s Guard. The ceremony lasts 45 minutes and typically takes place daily from April until the end of July at 11:30am. Changing the Guard occurs on alternate days for the rest of the year, so check the schedule online. If you want a good spot, you must arrive early.
Afterwards, we went to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and viewed the London Eye across the bridge. When planning your trip, keep in mind that Westminster Abbey is closed on Sunday.
Did you know that the biggest clock bell is actually referred to as Big Ben, it’s not the name of the clock? The 150 year old tower is officially named the Elizabeth Tower.
Afterwards, we went to Kensington Palace and let the kids play at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. Not that Lucy could really play, but it’s a great park for kids. Our day ended with dinner at Whole Foods. There is a huge eating area on the top floor of the Whole Foods. For around 20£ we were all able to pick what we wanted for dinner – Mexican, Japanese, sandwiches or pizza. It was a quick and inexpensive spot to grab a bite to eat before heading back to our apartment.
London Day #4 – Tower of London & London Bridge Plus Halloween Fun
If you want to see the Tower of London, you should reserve your spot online in advance by either booking online or having the London Pass. This will make things so much faster and a little cheaper. At the Tower of London, visitors can see the Crown Jewels, explore the fortress and see what life was like in Medieval times. Take time to let kids see the historical re-enactments, find the Tower Ravens and learn through the interactive displays throughout the fortress.
Later, we went on the Tower Bridge Exhibition and wandered along those high walkways looking down through the glass floor. It was a great tour with fantastic views of London and the Thames River. The historic Tower Bridge was built between 1886 & 1894 and has since become one of the iconic symbols of London. I was surprised at how well the done the exhibition was. It’s a great value with a reasonably priced family ticket.
Afterwards, we spent Halloween night in London!
How do you know if you can knock on the door and ask for candy in London? Instead of looking for the porch light to be on, you look for a pumpkin. The kids were very confused by this at first, but quickly caught on. It was an extra special Halloween because we went out with French kids that had never been trick or treating. They were super excited to dress up and get candy! It was fascinating to see how other countries celebrate holidays.
Last year the kids celebrated Halloween in France and this year they celebrated in London. After trick or treating with friends, we all had a super late dinner along the River Thames.
*Many attractions from days 3 and 4 are included in the The London Pass.
London Day #5 – Shrek’s Adventure, London Eye and Sea Life London Aquarium
On our final day, we experienced 3 awesome family attractions in London. Our first stop was DreamWorks Tours: Shrek’s Adventure, a virtual trip to the Kingdom of Far Far Away where Donkey took us on a 4D bus tour through London. After exiting the bus in Far Far Away, we met several characters such as the Muffin Man, the Ugly Stepsister, and Sleeping Beauty as we tried to escape from witches and Rumpelstiltskin. Afterwards, the kids were able to pose for pictures with Shrek and take over the airplane controls like the Penguins in Madagascar.
My kids were approaching the top recommended age for this attraction. They thought it was fun and recommend it to other kids, but both agreed that younger kids will find it especially entertaining. The adventure is interactive and kids were able to participate throughout the experience. Lucy & I, of course, had to do a bit of shopping after the tour in the DreamWorks shop. My credit card was happy that I didn’t have much available space in our luggage.
After a quick lunch, it was time to head up in the the London Eye. It was a cloudy day, but the views were still amazing! The London Eye was one of my must-visit attractions, so I’m glad we were able to go up in the giant wheel along the bank of the River Thames. Interestingly, it’s the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe and the highest public viewing point in London. If it’s in the budget, I’d suggest purchasing the Fast Track ticket allowing you to jump the queue. This is particularly great if you have kids or only have a short time in London. After passing through security, we were able to walk right onto the London Eye – no waiting for us!
The 30 minute rotation allows plenty of time to capture those spectacular 360º views of London. There is a bench in the middle of each capsule which many of the guests (including ourselves) started out sitting on, but soon everyone was up and moving about getting pictures and looking out over London. Up to 28 people will be together in the capsule, but we only had abut 15 people total during our November visit. In addition to the views, it’s interesting to look at the other capsules and the construction of the London Eye. The size is shocking.
Our last stop of the afternoon was SEA LIFE London Aquarium. The kids loved seeing all the sharks including the unusual looking Lesser Spotted Dogfish. The aquarium even has Penguins which is a rare treat for us! The kids are always excited to see these adorable birds goofing around. I think my personal favorite was the Green Sea Turtles They are incredible animals.
I also enjoyed all the conservation information throughout the aquarium. It’s great for the kids to see and learn about various sea life, but it’s just as important for them to be aware of the need to protect these creatures. A large focus of SEA LIFE London Aquarium concerns the protection of sharks. However, you’ll also find information on their ray and coral breeding programs, big fish rescue and cleaning efforts in the River Thames.
Here’s how the day broke down:
11am – Shrek’s Adventure! London
2.30pm – Coca-Cola London Eye
3.15pm – SEA LIFE London Aquarium
K also wanted to visit the London Dungeons, but I didn’t think it was age appropriate. He’s 12 which is the minimum recommended age, so maybe we’ll let him go in a couple years. If you’re traveling with teens, this will likely be high on their list. K and his friends had been talking about the London Dungeons prior to our visit, so it’s definitely something kids are interested in. I don’t do scary, so Derrick would have had to take the boys in for this attraction. Lucy and I could have gone for tea.
Also on the South Bank is the River Cruise. We didn’t have time on our trip, but I would have loved to see London from the water.
To save money, you can purchase tickets together. The more attractions you visit, the greater your savings. You can save up to 50% by booking online!
And since these are all in the same area, you could easily fit in four attractions in one day. To visit five attractions, I would suggest adding one to the day when you visit The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Choosing an evening River Cruise to finish out your day would be a great option.
*Please note you need to book a time in advance for these attractions! It will not only save money, but save time as well.
On another visit to the city, we discovered a family friendly London tea house – the Charles and the Chesterfield Afternoon Tea that will be a great experience for kids. This Wonka themed tea included fizzy lifting cake, a Scrumptious Bar, sandwiches and homemade scones.
There is still so much more we want to see in England’s capital city. We definitely need to start planning another visit to experience more of the seemingly endless family attractions in London. Regardless of age, there are plenty of attractions to keep everyone happy.
Before we arrived in London, we spent a week long road trip in England. Take a look at what we did and how to get out of the city and visit the Cotswolds from London.
:: A fun thing to do with kids would be to get the Mission London book. It’s a scavenger hunt through the city specifically designed for kids. My kids have done these in Barcelona and Rome, and I can’t believe I forgot to download one for London!
:: Another cool book for kids is Not For Parents London. We have the Not For Parents Europe and Lucy loves reading the facts and doing the activities.
Save Money Visiting These Attractions:
Want to save money and get fast entry access into attractions? Purchase The London Pass, an all-inclusive sightseeing card, that grants pass holders free entry to the top London attractions based on the duration or credits purchased. Even better? Many of the attractions include skip-the-line access!
Have you ever been to any of these family attractions in London?
I reeally like London, Usully I am doing there ma fav walk which end next to Themes. I think also street art walk in Camden might be nice for families!
Dana Zeliff says
Thanks for the street art tip in Camden. We’ll add that to our list for next time.
You covered quite a bit in 5 days! I love all the museums and attractions you’ve listed. My first visit was to see the Crown Jewels and I’ve been hooked ever since!
Dana Zeliff says
It was a busy 5 days! The crown jewels are a must and hooked me in as a child as well.
Wow, you really have the ultimate London trip all figured out! I still haven’t managed to make it there, but it’s a destination that is surely on my list. A world class city that I’ve gotta explore! It’s great to see that you can do it as a family and I’m sure I can transfer your trips over to couple travel 🙂
Dana Zeliff says
Many of the attractions would also be great for adults. Pretty much everything except for Shrek’s Adventure – unless you really like Dreamworks 🙂 The Aquarium can be subbed in for the London Dungeons.
Carol Colborn says
My daughter lived in London for a year so I got to know the city quite well. You hit good spots.
Dana Zeliff says
What a great place to live! I’d love to live in London for a year.
Me and my husband are 32 each, but we have been in half of the places you have listed here 🙂
Actually, when I plan a trip, I always search for the tips the guides give for who is traveling with children, because I can usually find many interesting spots! We are not big fan of art museums so we are always looking for something different but still fun to do: in april we will go back to London again to visit the Star Wars exhibition 🙂 and last September we took a 24 hours trip just to visit the Harry Potter Studios near London (and I loved the tip from Katy Clarke above my comment about the Willy Wonka Tea Room!!)
Hope your girl is doing good!
Dana Zeliff says
The Star Wars exhibition sounds so fun! We plan to visit the Harry Potter Studios on our next trip. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan 🙂
Katy Clarke says
Wow you covered a lot of ground with this itinerary. I am a Londoner and I think the one activity I would add in is a traditional afternoon tea. There are some great themed teas that would suit children like the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tea at the Chesterfield
Dana Zeliff says
Now I know what I’m doing next time! We had hoped to have afternoon tea, but ran out of time. My kids would adore the place you suggested – thanks!
London is a perfect travel destination for all age groups including children. I love that the museums are mostly free along with many other public attractions in spite of this being a very expensive city to visit.
Dana Zeliff says
Exactly, the city can be expensive but having free museums and other attractions makes it more affordable for travelers.
Megan Indoe says
Ahh, I just love London! I have been wanting to go back since my very first trip back in 2007! I am like you and could have spent an entire day wandering through Harrods! All of these activities sound awesome, I never even thought of renting a fun sports car either!
Dana Zeliff says
Ha, we want to go back already too. It’s a great city with so much to offer.
Vishal Vashisht says
Good timing, I will be in London (for the 1st time) in about 4 months. Your post is very well timed for my research.
Dana Zeliff says
I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time! There is so much to see and do in London, I don’t think we’d ever experience it all.