If you are planning to travel to London with your family soon, you will surely want to plan some activities during your stay so that the children can also have fun and make the most of this experience.
There is a wide range of leisure activities in the British capital and there are many things to see and do there. To help you choose, in this post you'll find several suggestions and tips to enjoy London with the kids to the fullest. We're sure that when you get back home you'll have lots of fantastic anecdotes and memories to tell!
1. Get on the tour bus with the kids to explore London
London is one of the largest cities in Europe and there is often a long distance between the different tourist attractions.
Wandering up and down the city sightseeing to get to each of them can be a very appealing plan for adults with an explorer's soul, but for children it can be extremely tiring, especially for the little ones. Especially for the little ones.
So that they can also enjoy the most touristy side of London without tiring quickly and can save their energy for visits to the different museums and monuments of the city, I recommend you to get tickets for the London sightseeing bus.
It will allow you to discover the main places of interest of the British capital while you travel comfortably seated during the route, being able to get on and off at the stop you want to visit a certain area.
Besides, the little ones will love riding on a huge red double-decker bus! It will be like a little adventure for them. If you would like to use this transport during your trip to London, I recommend you to read the post The best tourist buses where you will find all the details about this activity.
2. Book your tickets for the West End musicals in advance
Attending one of the West End musicals is a must-do in London with children one afternoon during a holiday in the city. After spending the whole day among museums, monuments and shops, the little ones also need a little time to have fun during the trip.
The best way to end a day of sightseeing with parents is to immerse yourself for a few hours in the fantasy worlds that musicals transport them to with their fabulous stories, staging and musical numbers full of lights, magic and colour.
West End musicals are some of the best in the world (with Broadway's permission!) so many people want to attend a performance during their stay in London. If you're planning to do the same for a surprise for the kids, my advice is to get your tickets in advance to secure your seats for a particular show on the date you want.
And how do you do that? The best way is to buy your tickets online as it allows you to book them from home before you travel. This way you can avoid queuing for ages with your children at the theatre box office and spend time making other plans with them around London.
Don't be shy if you don't speak English. Many of the musicals on the bill have a film version (Mary Poppins, The Lion King, Cinderella, The Prince of Egypt, etc.) so even if you don't speak the language , you'll be able to follow the plot easily. It'll be an experience the kids won't forget!
3. Experience the magic of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studios
While on holiday in London, the kids will be thrilled to visit the Harry Potter Studios Park, where all the Harry Potter films were filmed - it's a magical place!
They'll have a great time touring the original sets of the films (the Gryffindor Common Room, the Great Hall, the corridors of Hogwarts, etc.), learning how the films were made and the special effects that were used to recreate this fantasy world. For a moment you will feel part of the story as if you were a student at the famous wizarding school.
In fact, you don't have to visit the Harry Potter Studios Park dressed as Muggles, but you can dress up as witches and wizards to immerse yourselves in this special atmosphere even more. I'm sure the kids will think it's a fun idea and you'll get some great photos too.
But do plan ahead as this is one of London's most popular attractions and tickets are going fast. If you want to know how and where you can buy them, don't miss the post Harry Potter Studios London Park Tickets.
4. Take them to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham to learn about local culture
I'm sure the children have seen a picture in a book or leaflet about the Foot Guards and have asked you who are those people in the red coats and big black furry hats.
If these soldiers catch their eye, take them to meet them at Buckingham Palace during the famous Changing of the Guard- they'll be amazed!
What is the experience like?
It's a very colourful military-style parade lasting about 45 minutes which takes place at the main entrance of Buckingham Palace to relieve the Queen's Guards who are responsible for the security of Queen Elizabeth II's residence.
During the ceremony you will see regiments of guards on horseback and on foot who are accompanied by a military orchestra who play some of the most unusual music to liven up the display (The Lion King, The Beatles, Star Wars, etc.) It's great fun! And it's free, as no ticket is required for the Changing of the Guard.
For children, this will be a very original and entertaining way to get to know British culture. They are sure to love the experience.
5. Visit Hamleys, London's oldest toy shop
I'm sure the kids will be thrilled if you buy them a souvenir of your trip to London, but where can you find the ideal souvenir for the kids? If you want to get the gift right, I recommend you go to Hamleys, one of the oldest toy shops in London, which is over 250 years old. That's nothing!
If you've ever been to New York, Hamleys probably reminds you of the famous FAO Schwarz, but in a British way. It's a shop with several floors divided by areas: outdoor toys, teddy bears, video games, board games, sweets and much more.
The curious thing about Hamleys is that as well as being able to admire thousands of toys on the shelves, the shop staff also give live demonstrations and even organise games with the children. This is something you don't see very often and the kids are sure to love the idea of being able to have fun with so many toys - they won't want to leave!
If you want to take a tour of the toy shop, you'll find it at 188-196 Regent Street, one of the most popular shopping streets in central London.
And if you like interactive games, I suggest for you and your children this other virtual exploration game experience with which you can explore the Mayfair neighbourhood and discover its mysteries and legends. All you have to do is download the app and you can discover the most hidden places in London by following the hidden clues.
6. Avoid night cruises with children
Night cruises on the Thames are ideal for enjoying London's illuminated landmarks and seeing the city from a different perspective. There are even dinner cruises with live music, but these are designed for a romantic and intimate evening (an anniversary, Valentine's Day or birthday) rather than a family activity.
In fact, they tend to take place late in the day when children are more tired after an exhaustive day of sightseeing and some of these evening cruises do not allow children under the age of 12, so they are not the best option when you go with children.
Which cruises are best suited to children?
There are daytime Thames cruises, where there are special prices or rates for children's tickets and the duration of the cruise is shorter than night cruises.
This way, children can feel the thrill of riding a boat and navigating the river while having fun seeing the monuments posted on the banks and imagining they are intrepid explorers.
If you are interested in doing a cruise in London with the kids, I recommend you to take a look at the post The best cruises on the Thames where you will find some very cool proposals to do with the family.
7. Go and play in London's playgrounds
London is a fast-paced city where there are always a thousand things to do, even if you decide to visit the British capital as a family. But in the midst of so much activity, it's always nice to take a break and find a moment to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of tourism.
One place I love to enjoy a quiet atmosphere is London's parks. If it's a sunny day and the temperatures are warm enough, a fun family day out is a picnic in one of the many gardens and parks around the city.
As well as snacking on the grass or soaking up the sun, you can enjoy the views of the landscape and greenery while listening to the birds chirping. And, of course, you can have a great time playing with the kids. They'll love having a bit of free time between all the sightseeing to jump, run and play to their heart's content.
Here are some of the coolest playgrounds you can take the kids to:
- Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens.
- Coram's Fields in Camden.
- Timber Lodge and Tumbling Bay Playground in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
- Kilburn Grange Adventure Park in Kilburn Grange Park.
- St James's Park Playground in St James Park.
8. Marvel at the wax figures at Madame Tussauds
If after visiting some of London' s museums for cultural visits you feel like spending a different kind of time in a museum, don't miss Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city since it opened in the 19th century.
This is an experience where children will have a great time and one they will always remember because, unlike other museums, at Madame Tussauds all visitors can interact with the wax figures that form part of the exhibits. There they will find their favourite artists and fictional characters such as Taylor Swift, Little Mix, One Direction, Spiderman, Captain America or the Hulk, among many others, with whom they can take all the photos they want in the museum's sets.
And that's not all! Inside Madame Tussauds there are also several "interactive experiences" that will make your visit much more fun. On the one hand, in Alien Escape you can climb aboard the Covenant ship to face the fearsome Alien and in 'Kong: The Skull Island' you will come face to face with the gigantic King Kong.
On the other hand, if they like superheroes, the kids will be thrilled with the 'Marvel 4-D Cinema Experience', a film with amazing special effects that will make you feel as if you were fighting side by side with these characters in a battle.
9. Stroll among the sharks at the Sea Life Aquarium.
All children love animals and spending some time with them is sure to be a great way to spend time with them. That's why one attraction you can't miss during your trip to London is the Sea Life Aquarium, the largest aquarium in England.
It is located in the heart of the city and is the perfect place to spend an afternoon with the family enjoying underwater nature. It is home to more than 500 different species of animals, including sharks, seahorses, octopuses, penguins and manta rays, to name but a few.
They are divided into themed areas where you can learn a lot of interesting facts about their habitat and way of life, although, in my opinion, the most impressive part of the visit is the glass tunnel of the Sea Life Aquarium, a corridor submerged in the water where you can walk through while you are accompanied by ferocious sharks and other aquatic creatures. It is an amazing experience!
10. Step inside the HMS Belfast
If you decide to take a cruise on the Thames with the kids, part of the way along the river you'll see the HMS Belfast, a huge destroyer ship that was involved in many naval operations during World War II and the Korean War, anchored on one of the banks. If the kids like boats, this is a visit they'll really enjoy, so don't hesitate to add it to your agenda
. The outside of the ship is impressive and the inside is really cool! The trip to London is a great opportunity to see an attraction as different as this one.
The HMS Belfast is currently a ship-museum of the British Royal Navy that opens its doors to show you what life on the high seas was like on a ship of this kind in the past.
The tour is more entertaining than it seems at first, as in addition to learning the history of the ship you can also enter the rooms where soldiers and sailors spent much of their time during the missions, such as the control room, cabins, the infirmary, the kitchen and the cellar, among others. You won't have seen anything like it!
Other fun activities to do with children
But that's not the end of London's endless fun for kids. Here's a selection of other plans for the whole family to enjoy:
- The London Zoo has more than 750 species and you'll be able to walk through the gardens of what is considered the oldest animal park in the world. You'll love meeting the family of silverback gorillas!
- Your children can't miss the incredible experience of the interactive city of Kidzania in London, where there are endless activities for them to enjoy imagining what they will be when they grow up: they can dress up as their favourite professions.
- Shrek's Adventure is a great theme park where you can meet the most popular characters from the magical world of Dreamworks.
- Culture and fun are not incompatible either. That's why the National Gallery has an exclusive guided tour for children, where they will show the impressive works in the collection in an educational but very entertaining way.
Take advantage of reduced prices for children on tours and tickets
London is not exactly a cheap city. So if you're travelling there as a family, you'll probably want to know how you can save a bit of money on your holiday.
One good way is to take advantage of the reduced rates on children's tickets to the various tourist attractions. Babies up to the age of 3 are usually free, but it depends on the activity and the age range. In any case you can find very interesting prices for children. Here are some examples:
- London Eye: From 35 € for children's reduced rate tickets (between 3 and 15 years).
- Sea Life Aquarium: From €28 for children's reduced price tickets (between 3 and 15 years).
- Madame Tussauds Museum: From €32 for child concession tickets (3-15 years).
- Harry Potter Studios Park: From €46 for child concession tickets (5-15 years).
- HMSBelfast: From €14 for child concession tickets (5-15 years).
For example, when you book your tickets online in advance on websites such as Hellotickets, you can select the age group of the children, so that the reduced rate you will have to pay for each of them is calculated instantly.
As for babies, although they can access a multitude of activities for free, it is advisable to also select their free admission, as this will avoid confusion when it comes to accessing monuments, museums and other places of interest.
Get London Sightseeing Passes to get the most out of your trip
If you're planning to visit a lot of places on your holiday to the British capital, London tourist passes can help you fulfil your plans without going broke trying.
will give you access to a multitude of attractions while saving you money as you don't have to pay for each ticket separately and children's passes come at a reduced price.
- London Pass: From €48 for the child pass.
- London Explorer Pass: From €22 for the child pass.
- Merlin's Magical London Pass: From €47 for the child pass.
It's also a great option to consider when travelling with children because they have special offers in many theatres, restaurants, shops and other entertainment venues, something that always comes in handy. What's more, with these tourist cards you can avoid the queues at the entrance gates. As you can see, they are all advantages!
If you visit London with children I recommend you to choose the London Explorer Pass, the Merlin's Magical London Pass or the Magic London Pass, although if you want to know in detail about these tourist passes don't miss the post The best London tourist card where all of them are analysed in depth.
Schedule your visits better in the morning and give them time to play
When it comes to sightseeing as a family, the best time of day to schedule your outing is early in the morning as children tend to be early risers and wake up with lots of energy. This way they will be more awake and active for excursions and cultural visits.
Also, early in the morning, London's tourist attractions do not usually have as many visitors or large groups, so you will avoid the crowds that tend to form at peak times and that can test the patience of the little ones when there is a queue.
Finally, I suggest that in the afternoons, when they are more tired, you plan an activity where the children can have fun before going back to the hotel to rest and recover their strength for the next day. For example, go for a trip to the toy shops in London, Madame Tussauds Museum or the Sea Life Aquarium.
Plan your meals in plenty of time
If you're planning to spend the whole day out sightseeing on your London holiday, it's a good idea to plan ahead for the kids' meals.
This is not a trivial matter because although the city has a great gastronomic offer, it is also a very touristy place and in the central hours of the day (especially on holidays or in high season) it is not easy to find a free table in certain areas if you don't have a reservation.
This could be a problem if you don't know much about London and at the end of an activity you have to walk around the city centre looking for an available place because everything is full. The children could end up losing patience and have a tantrum if they are very hungry!
That's why it's always a good idea to carry some snacks in your bag and, of course, to know in advance some good restaurants where to eat near some tourist attractions like the London Eye, The Shard or the Tower of London. It will help you a lot when the time comes!