Things to Do in London with Kids

Westminster Abbey in London, England (Jennifer Miner - The Vacation Gals) Things to Do in London with KidsLondon is one of the most popular cities in the world for travel (along with Paris, Rome, and New York City). Clearly there’s plenty to do in this cosmopolitan and historic city; from romantic travel to family vacations, London is the top choice for city vacations in the United Kingdom. We went there for our summer vacation and our children weren’t bored for a minute. Things to do in London with kids include tourist standards like the London Eye and the Natural History Museum, but thankfully our kids are also moderately interested in history and pomp. And shopping. Things to do in London with kids such as these can range from the meaningful (British Museum!) to the material (Harrods!) in one afternoon. The important element was that we were together, having a wonderful vacation and enjoying each others’ company.

We were in London for a week, and managed to see and do everything we wanted to except for picnicking in one of London’s eight Royal Parks. We had plenty of things to do in London each day as a family; here is what an ideal weekend might look like for a busy family vacation in London.

Arrive at Buckingham Palace early for a great viewing of the Changing of the Guard. There are a few ideal spots for this; we got to Buckingham Palace 20 minutes before the Changing of the Guard, and while a crowd was beginning to form, “front row” spots (these aren’t seats; you stand up in the crowd) were easily found. The Changing of the Guard is easily one of London’s top tourist attractions, so if your family vacation coincides with peak travel season, remember to get there with time to spare.

Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace (Jennifer Miner)

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace (Jennifer Miner The Vacation Gals)

The Tower of London is a tube ride away from Central London, on the North Bank of the Thames. Travelers with a keen interest in English history will enjoy standing here and exploring the former prison. In its earliest days it was a royal residence build under the reign of Richard the Lionheart in the 1100’s, but the Tower of London is most known for being a prison. Anne Boleyn was one of the notable people imprisoned (and executed) at the Tower of London.

London Bridge Things to Do with Kids in London (Jen Miner The Vacation Gals)

The London Bridge spans the Thames (as does the modern Millennium Bridge, which my kids found more interesting due to its destruction via Death Eaters in the last Harry Potter movie). It was the first bridge over the Thames until the Westminster Bridge was constructed. Also, pictured, the Tower Bridge is very close to the Tower of London, hence, a good “two-fer” if you’re scheduling a busy day.

British Museum in London, England (Jennifer Miner The Vacation Gals)The British Museum is a really interesting one; there are truly so many museums in London, but I’d recommend that international tourists skip the Museum of Natural History and focus on the more human history-centric ones for their London museum quota. The sheer amount of world artifacts housed at the British Museum is astounding. The famously contentious Elgin Marbles are here, as are the Rosetta Stone and many, many more antiquities. Consider this, Americans; the British Museum was founded in 1753, before the signing of our Declaration of Independence. This concept awed my children. Watching them digest the magnitude of this fact was a great moment as a parent.

Other museums that an especially museum-loving traveler should spend time at are the Tate Modern, National Gallery, and Victoria and Albert. We made it to the Victoria and Albert Museum on our last day, and the jewelry collection was amazing. The focus is on arts and design here.

Big Ben isn’t so much a thing to do in London as it is a thing to see. It is, of course, the large clock and bell in the Palace of Westminster. Because it is iconic, a family may as well walk by and take a look. It’s not  accessible to the public, though, so take that photo and move on.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theater isn’t the original, which burned down in 1613. It opened in 1997 but is a faithful reproduction of the original theater. There are live theatrical productions held each summer at Shakespeare’s Globe; we saw a play in Piccadilly Circus instead, but it must be a fun experience to sit in Shakespeare’s Globe theater and watch actors perform great works.

Outside the Globe Theater Property in London (Jennifer Miner The Vacation Gals)

Inside the Globe Theater Property (Jennifer Miner The Vacation Gals) Things to Do in London with Kids

After all this, a weary and footsore traveler can treat herself (and her older children) to a visit to a spa. London has quite a variety of day spas and hotel-based ones, with a wide range of quality. Don’t worry about breaking the bank; cheap spa breaks  in London won’t ruin a travel budget; a little research before a trip to London can help with spa break deals. it’s also a nice way to get freshened up before a night at the theater or upscale dinging experience.

The Royal Parks of London are beautifully manicured, and distinct from each other. We wanted to picnic at a Royal Park but ran out of time, however, one of the hotels we stayed at bordered the Green Park. It was a lovely respite from urban London, to stroll through The Green Park, St James’ Park, and Hyde Park. The other Royal Parks are Bushy Park, Greenwich Park, The Regent’s Park, Richmond Park, and — probably the most renown — Kensington Gardens.

London Eye, St. James Park in London (Jennifer Miner The Vacation Gals)

There are, naturally, lots of other things to do in London during a family vacation. These highlights should go a long way towards giving children and first-time visitors a solid idea of London’s place in world history, and a good foundation for a return trip to England’s most prominent city.

This post is sponsored by Wahanda, a reliable online source for London day spas.

11 Comments on "Things to Do in London with Kids"

  1. Awesome post! I have been to london but I haven’t gotten a chance to visit the Shakespeare theatre, and now adding that to my list. Thanks!

  2. Good that many of those things are free, since costs can really add up for a family, especially with the exchange rate. We have a list of Free Things to do in London, most of which are great with kids: http://www.changesinlongitude.com/free-things-in-london/

    Cheerio 🙂

  3. I lived in London for 15 years before I got round to visiting the Tower of London – not cheap, but it really is an excellent day out.

  4. I am 26 yer old from London but I am not Seeing London All Sights.Nice post Thanks for sharing with us.

  5. Thanks for a great article about London – I’ve lived here for many years and there is lots to do with families for sure, many free as you mentioned. One small point – that’s Tower Bridge (in your photo) next to the Tower of London, not London Bridge which is a little further up the Thames.

    The pound sterling has dropped in value (drastically for us!) in the last few months against most currencies including the US dollar so now is a great time to visit London. Hotel rooms can still be expensive but there is an alternative – swap homes with a Londoner! Being based in London, there is a very large choice of homes available for swaps in the city many are family homes and it’s ideal to swap with a family with children of a similar age to your own as the house or flat will be well equipped for children. Your children may even find local playmates and your exchange partners will often be able to recommend places off the beaten track to go with your children.

    Cheers!

  6. I first traveled to London as a kid and knew I’d always be back. I still make it to the museums and Harrod’s as an adult! Great ideas, Jen.

  7. i love london – especially in the summer, when there’s so much going on. great list!

  8. London is “brilliant” for a family vacation. President’s week vacation is a great time to visit. It’s low season for airfares so you can save a few “quid”. Due to their milder temps, all of the spring flowers are in bloom and no long lines at tourist attractions. My favorite things are the 700 year old ceremony of the keys at the tower of London (you need advanced reservations) and a visit to Hamley’s toy store. Hamley’s often sponsors special events so do check their calendar. My kids may not agree but mom’s absolute favorite thing to do in London is high tea at the Dorchester!

  9. Not having kids yet, I’ve never thought how visiting London with family could be. I love that city and there is so much to do and see that as you pointed out it wouldn’t be so difficult to keep kids busy and interested. I still have to see the Shakespeare’s Globe Theater myself, next time I guess.

  10. nice article: yes the British Museum is free – SO COOL!

    Which show did you see? There is a book called London Theatre and Theatre Breaks (which is free) and is generally about going to the theatre in London. it has a great chapter about taking the kids to the theatre in London. you can get it at one of the theatre breaks sites: can’t remember which: maybe theatrebreaks.com

    K

  11. British Museum was a very nice museum. I used the Rick Steves audio guide which was very helpful for a quick but informative visit.

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