A Peek at the Fun: If you’re planning a trip to England and need help with the itinerary, these fun things to do in London with kids are tried and true and a great way to spend your time in that great city. This includes both tips about what things kids might like best and what things are hard with the little ones so that your trip will be something to remember forever.
~Written by Amber~
Ask me the question “if you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?” and it’s always been London. I don’t quite know what it is about that place-maybe it’s the literature that comes from that country (Jane Austen!), maybe it’s that nearly all of my ancestors came from there, maybe it’s that it’s an easy first attempt at international travel for me, I’m not totally sure, but I’ve always wanted to go.
Luckily for me, my husband’s opinion was the same as mine. He dreamed of visiting London too.
A few years ago, our kids started mentioning how much they’d like to go to London (I think it was around when London hosted the Olympics that they got interested), so, with time ticking before our kids start to leave home, we decided it was time to plan a big trip…to London!
We’ve pounded the pavement of London with kids aging 16, 14, 11 and 8, so I’m ready to give you some tips about things to do in London with kids so that if you’re planning a similar trip you can make the most of it!
The thing is, I’ve now been to London and back and I think if I was asked that question again, my answer still may be the same! I feel like I just got a taste of London and the United Kingdom and rather than satiating my appetite for travel in that country, it only made it stronger. I’d like to go back and spend more time in London and then explore the countryside and the rest of UK! I fell in love!
But for now, here’s the lowdown on our trip and fun things to do with kids in London (and beyond) so that you can plan a great trip for yourself.
Things to Do in London with Kids:
I’ll tell you about the things we did in London with our kids and give you a little information about how each of them received it so you can hopefully determine if it would be a fun activity to do with your kids.
Tips for London with Kids:
A couple of quick tips before we get started-things we learned that might help you out.
- Plan in some downtime if you can! We had our schedule packed pretty full and it got hard! The kids were drained, we were drained, it would have been nice to have a little bit more time and to slow it down a tiny bit.
- Pack melatonin. This worked like a dream to combat jetlag. We also timed our flight to get in later in the day (it was a red-eye) so we took a few hours to do a couple of things, then went to sleep and had the kids take some melatonin gummies and 3/4 slept for over 12 hours. This helped a lot!
- There are no free public bathrooms in London (or anywhere in Europe), so be prepared to pay or go while you are at a restaurant. Same goes for water-it’s hard to find so plan ahead.
- Don’t expect to eat great food-eat what you can get quickly and easily (which for us was a lot of pizza) because the kids just needed to eat when they needed to eat. That being said, there are a lot of shops (ie. Pret a Mange) on corners where you can grab things like sandwiches, chips, and fruit easily. Also, pack snacks.
- The underground was very helpful to get around and not too hard to use.
- This isn’t necessarily a tip, but we couldn’t believe how friendly the people in London were and we LOVED it!
London Trip Highlights:
Double Decker Bus Tour: The first thing we did in London was a bus tour of the city. We hopped on a big red double-decker bus a few blocks from where we stayed, popped in some free (provided for you) earbuds with an ongoing tour guide giving all kinds of interesting information about the city, and enjoyed the views from the open top of that bus on a 75-degree day. It was wonderful!
My 14-year-old, in particular, loved this, but we all really enjoyed it. It was a great way to see all the major sites in the city without having to walk. It was easy to get on and off (there are stops all over) and we saw everything! I mean everything-St. Paul’s, Hyde Park, Westminster Abbey, Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and so much more.
I will warn that the traffic is heavy in London so it’s a little bit slow going. It ended up taking us the better part of the day just to do the main route and we’d hoped to do all of the routes they offer but didn’t get a chance! Plan on each route taking you several hours. Because of this, my 8-year-old got a bit restless around lunchtime, but he perked up once he was fed.
There are a number of companies that you can book through. We used The Original Tour in London and loved it but we also saw a lot of buses from the Big Bus Tour and we used this company in France and it was great too, so either should be fine. 5.5/6 of us recommend this!
Thames River Cruise: This is technically part of the bus tour, but it feels like a separate event and it’s one I HIGHLY recommend. Included with our bus tour were tickets to float on the Thames river and see the sites from there. The line was a bit long to get on the boat but it moved fast and we really enjoyed this! It’s neat to see London from that perspective. My kids had a blast on this! The tour guide was fabulous and the ride itself was only about 30 minutes, so no one got bored and with it being on the river, no one got hot. 6/6 of us recommend this.
The London Eye: We hadn’t planned to ride the London Eye (the big Ferris Wheel on the Thames) because we’d heard it was pricey and had long lines and might not be worth it. But as we took the river cruise and saw the Ferris Wheel, each of my kids expressed interest in riding it and we figured, why not?
Except…I am super afraid of heights so I chose not to do this!
The line was long but less than an hour and it was pricey (I think it’s about $30 a person) so only do it if you really think it sounds fun, but my boys loved it! You get great views of London and the ride itself takes about 30 minutes, so you get time to see it all. (I rode another bus tour route while they did this because I didn’t want to do it.) 5/5 who rode this recommend it.
Harry Potter Studios Tour: If you’re Harry Potter lovers (who isn’t?!), you might be considering a visit to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour to see where the movies were filmed. My family was really excited about this day. We took a bus from, wait for it…King’s Cross Station to the studios. How cool is that?!
The trip involves wandering through the Great Hall, seeing sets like the Gryffindor Common Room, props like clothes and wands that characters wore and even seeing masks and wigs and how they did the makeup and effects. And Hogwarts! It’s tiny but it’s what they used for all the scenes of the outside of the castle. It was all pretty neat to see.
That being said, this wasn’t a major highlight for everyone in our family. My husband loved it and would have spent 8 hours there easily. My 8-year-old, who hasn’t even read any of the books or seen any of the movies yet says it was his favorite part of the trip. The rest of us were a little bit lukewarm about it. The tour bus drops you off about an hour before your tour so you have a lot of time to kill before going in, and then doesn’t pick you up again for like 6-7 hours, so it’s a long day. Which is good if you want to see everything! It was a little bit exhausting for us. The price was as much as a day at Disneyland, so it’s a steep price.
This is a fun day if you are HUGE Harry Potter lovers and think it sounds amazing! 3/6 rating from us.
Day in the Countryside: This was the day that I was most excited about from the beginning…and it did not disappoint! We paid for a tour that would take us to 4 areas outside of London and take the full day. It was pricey and we took a chance hoping the kids would like it and it would be worth it. And it was! Even the kids loved it.
We started out about 7:45 am at a bus station in London and hopped on a double-decker bus that headed out for 4 stops. It was a rainy, drizzly day which sort of added to the magic and felt very appropriate for a day in the English Countryside.
First stop, Windsor Castle. First of all, let me say that we had an AMAZING tour guide who talked to us while the bus drove past interesting things, while we waited in line at the places, and just overall gave us so much information and was wonderful. So while we waited to get into Windsor we learned a lot about British royal history. Then we had about 1 hour in Windsor to see a few things. This was VERY fast-paced. You could spend a half-day here easily, so we were moving fast, but honestly, with kids (and my short attention span), that was just fine! The views from Windsor were incredible, the rooms were intricate and amazing to see and we got to end with the changing of the guard which was also fun!
Next, it was on to Bath. First of all, the drive was unbelievable and the highlight of the day for me. It was gorgeous with rolling green hills and breathtaking views. (The rest of my family slept while I was glued to the window and the views.) Again, lots of commentary from the tour guide while we approached Bath which was very interesting. I was unprepared for just how much I would love Bath! It was a beautiful city and as a Jane Austen lover (hello Persuasion), I was enthralled.
We grabbed a quick ice cream cone (yum!), saw Bath Abbey, then high tailed it to the Royal Crescent building because when in Bath, you’ve got to see that don’t you?!
We also had time to grab Brioche buns (something Bath is famous for) and see the river quickly and then it was back on the bus (this was all again in just about an hour).
Next up was the part of the trip I was the very most excited for. I dreamed of visiting the Cotswolds and honestly would have loved to stay overnight there, but I didn’t think my boys would be as interested as I was, so this was a nice compromise. We hit Lacock for a pub lunch and then a wander through this quaint English village. This village is used in movies (Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter for example) because it’s such a traditional English village. I couldn’t wait to see it!
First off, we had the pub lunch (fish and chips, cottage pie) and it was as gross as expected. I knew my kids weren’t likely to love the food…and they didn’t! My husband did and my 8-year-old did, which was expected, but the others didn’t. No worries though because it was a fun chance to try British food at a fun pub that’s been there for hundreds of years!
Then we got to walk around the little village for a few minutes (it was small enough that that’s all it took). It was just what you’d expect from a small English village and I loved it! (Saw some Harry Potter houses too!)
Last we headed to Stonehenge. I wasn’t sure this part would be that exciting, but it was rather fascinating. We were lucky enough to get a headset that told us about Stonehenge while we walked around and it was interesting and neat to see. My boys loved it! My husband, again, would have stayed forever (do you see a theme here-not enough time for him anywhere we went).
Honestly, what a fun day. A long day to be sure (about 13 hours total), but very memorable. 6/6 on this one!
Tower of London: The last thing we did in London was a visit to the Tower of London. Mostly we did this because people had said we should. It was more historical than a lot of the things we did and it was a good experience for us. We were tired that morning and our moods were struggling, but overall, I’m glad we did this. We got to see the crown jewels, we saw how they used to torture people, we got to take part in a reenactment of what it was like to be in the tower as a prisoner, we saw all kinds of armor and weapons, overall a very interesting experience. If we had had more time and better moods I think we would have enjoyed this even more. Overall I’d say it was about a 4/6 for us.
- Our flat was about .2 miles from Buckingham Palace and it was really fun to walk around there and see it. We didn’t tour it, just went and saw the outside, but it was neat! You can also see the changing of the guard but be warned-it’s PACKED for that! We tried and couldn’t see much.
- We’d hoped to bike in Hyde park but ran out of time. If you have time for this, you can rent bikes there and go for a ride, which would be really fun!
- The LEGO Store was a major highlight for my 14-year-old. Of course, we could visit plenty of those in America, but he thought it was fun to see a London one, plus it’s in Leicester Square which was fun to see and worth the trip!
- My son and I ran by Crumbs and Doilies, a little bakery near Picadilly Circus because we follow Jemma, the owner, on YouTube and it was yummy!
- The Eurostar train (under the channel to France) is super great if you are wanting to hit Paris too. Very convenient, very cool, very peaceful and a great chance to see both the French and British Countryside.
Hopefully, all of these tips for visiting London with kids are helpful to you!
Have a FUN trip to London!
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