Kid-friendly tea times, Harry Potter experiences, and free museum visits await
London is one of the most visited cities in the world for a good reason. This vibrant city is full of history, culture, and endless unique neighborhoods ready to explore. It’s also very family-friendly and easy to get around.
This guide has all the London info you’ll need including money-saving tips, the best ways to experience British traditions like high tea in a way kids will love, and where to stay to access all the city has to offer. From wow-worthy playgrounds to where to get the most unique ice cream in London, we have tips and trips and tricks to make your London visit the best one ever.
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How to Get Around London with Kids
No trip to London is complete without a ride on a double-decker bus and hopping on the Tube to hear the iconic “Mind the Gap” announcement. Since public transit in London is so easy to use, rides aren’t just for the novelty. We took the tube and bus everywhere around London using the TfL Go app to plan our journey. The easiest way to pay is by using tap technology. Riders just need to tap a credit card or app like ApplePay to get in and out of the Tube.
The best news for families is that riding the Tube is very affordable. Kids under eleven ride free and kids 11 and up can get their own Oyster card with Young Visitors Discount that allows them to travel on the Tube for half price and on busses for free. The Citymapper app can also help you navigate the city on foot if you prefer.
The Best Things to Do in London with Kids
Free Museums in London
When planning a trip to London with kids, you’ll definitely want to hit up some of the amazing museums like the Natural History Museum for dinosaurs, the British Museum to see antiquities from Egypt, and the hands-on Science Museum. Other favorites include the Victoria & Albert Museum, Tate Modern, and the National Portrait Gallery. The best news is that many of these museums are free to visit.
Many museums have kid-friendly self-guided tours available so be sure to ask for guides at the information desk. Checking out these free world-class museums can free up hundreds of pounds in your budget for other activities. London has over 170 museums so everyone should be able to find one (or 10) that interests them.
Some museums, such as the London Transportation Museum, charge admission for adults but are worth a visit. Most free museums allow visitors to book times to visit in advance so that you can ensure they have availability during your visit.
Tips for Visiting the Tower of London & The Crown Jewels with Kids
The Tower of London has a dark past as the site of numerous beheadings and a prison. However, today it’s a must-see attraction to learn about Royal history, knights, and life in Tower going back to the 11th Century. The Tower is the most complete example of an old fortress still standing in Europe. Kings and Queens lived at the Tower for hundreds of years and it was last used as a prison in the 1950s.
Despite its checkered history, the Tower of London is very family-friendly with several interactive exhibits, including knight’s helmets that children can try on and a great exhibit about the many animals who lived at the Tower over the centuries. A recent highlight was a very funny tour given by a Beefeater, which is included with admission. The Tower is also a great place to catch a smaller changing of the guard ceremony for those who can’t make it to Buckingham Palace. Insider tip: The Tower also houses the Crown Jewels and you’ll want to head to see the jewels right away because the line tends to get longer as the day goes on.
How to See Shows in London at a Discount
London’s very own Broadway has an almost endless number of shows to see. Check what’s playing at London’s theatres and pick a show or two. Then, get the best deals on same-day tickets from TKTS London. Tickets are released at 12:01 a.m. London time every day. If you are flexible about where you are willing to sit, this is a great way to get tickets to amazing shows for less. On a recent visit, we were able to get three Hamilton tickets for about the same price as one ticket in the United States. However, tickets aren’t guaranteed so it’s good to have a backup plan in case you can’t get into your first choice show.
Also look for other specials such as Kids Week, Theatre Week, and occasional discounts on children’s tickets during UK school breaks. As a special treat, many West End theaters serve ice cream during intermission which kids love. TKTS also has a booth in Leicester Square staffed by West End experts. It’s a great place to go for discounted tickets and expert advice about which shows your kids will love. Most theaters have two shows a day, at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. making it possible to see a production and still get your kids to bed at a decent time.
Tips for Visiting Buckingham Palace with Kids
Most visitors to London stop by Buckingham Palace to take in its grandeur and imagine what it would be like to be Queen or King for a day. It’s also possible to go inside— if you time your visit correctly. The palace is open to visitors in the summer, only when the Queen (or King) is not in residence. You may be able to tour the state rooms where the royal family receives official visitors, entertains, and dines. Along the way, visitors see an astounding collection of art that rivals world-class art museums.
Other kid favorites of a Buckingham Palace visit are seeing some of the Queen’s jewels, including her many tiaras. We definitely recommend the kid-friendly audio to supplement your visit. Even if you can’t tour the palace, catch the changing of the guard outside every day at 11 am. This is a free event that is very popular so be sure to arrive early for a good viewing spot.
View this post on Instagram(Video) Family Travel Tips - 11 Lessons Learned On Our Trip to London With Kids
Princess Diana Memorial Playground and Fountain
Princess Diana loved children and there is now a huge playground near Kensington Palace where she lived with Prince Charles. The Diana Memorial Playground has several big attractions, including an enormous pirate ship and teepees. There is a concession stand at the edge of the playground that serves kid-friendly food like pizza and ice cream so it’s a good spot to grab lunch.
The Diana Memorial Fountain is about a 20-minute walk away and it’s a great place to cool down on a hot London day. You are welcome to splash around in the fountain in your street clothes or come in swimming attire if you prefer.
Westminster Abbey is where Royals have held coronations and been married for centuries. It’s also the final resting place for notables through English history from Kings to playwrights. A fantastic audio tour with a family-friendly option, led by a Royal lion, is included with admission. Kids will love going through the tour and completing seek-and-finds throughout the magnificent cathedral. Westminster Abbey is across the street from Parliament and Big Ben so be sure to combine seeing all three during the same outing to save time.
The Best Things to Do in London for Harry Potter Fans
Fans of Harry Potter flock to London to see where the young wizard lived.
- If you have the time, you can get tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play in two parts. The play gets rave reviews but be aware that seeing both parts is an all-day affair taking over five hours.
- Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition in Covent Garden features not just iconic photos from films but also larger-than-life props perfect for selfies. This is also the only spot in London that has its own Butterbeer bar.
- The Warner Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter is the place to experience Harry Potter. The studio is a short drive from London and includes sets, props, costumes, and more from the making of the films. Look for special events, such as Dark Arts demonstrations around Halloween and Hogwarts in the Snow around the winter holidays.
Related: If Your Kids Love ‘Harry Potter,’ Read These Books Next
Best Ice Cream in London
Milk Train, in the heart of Covent Garden, has the best ice cream in London. They have a huge sundae selection, or you can make your own creation. Be sure to ask for the candy floss with your order. That’s the British of ensuring a huge, floating cloud of cotton candy is served with your cone or shake.
Must Visit: Wagamama
This iconic London restaurant has locations all over London. A trip to Wagamama, inspired by Japanese ramen bars, is a must-do. It’s a casual restaurant with a great kids’ menu making it a perfect choice for families.
Kid-Friendly Teas in London
It wouldn’t be a visit to London without teatime! If your kids won’t sit through a stuffy, formal tea don’t worry as London has plenty of kid-friend tea times. Check out the Science Afternoon Tea, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea, or the Peppa Pig Afternoon Tea Bus Tour.
Where to Stay in London with Kids
London is huge and it’s key to stay in a great location near a Tube station otherwise you risk spending hours of valuable vacation time getting where you want to go. Canopy by Hilton London City is a great choice with a vibrant East London vibe. It’s is ideally situated within walking distance of must-see sites including the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. It’s also directly across the street from a Tube station with two major lines. It has two restaurants, both of which are family-friendly. Breakfast is expansive with everything from a full English breakfast to American staples like cereal and toast—and unlimited lattes for tired parents. Canopy has a variety of room options, including a family suite. The hotel also has some great perks including the use of complimentary bikes to explore and a rooftop lounge with fantastic views of the city.
Eurostar to Europe
A trip to London is a fantastic vacation on its own. Thanks to the Eurostar, it’s also the perfect jumping-off point to explore the rest of Europe. A trip on the Eurostar to Paris will take you just over two hours. The high-speed train also goes to other destinations in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Tickets start at around €39 and go up in price as more tickets are sold. For the best deals book as soon as you know you want to travel because ticket prices rise quickly. Eurostar also offers some great deals on package train and hotel reservations. Sometimes the cost of adding a hotel to your ticket is minimal so it’s worth exploring this option.