London is one of the most popular family travel destinations in the world with 37.9 million visitors in 2018 alone. In addition to being a fantastic gateway to the rest of Europe, there are a myriad of things to do in London with kids that are educational, fun, and wildly popular.
What you’ll do is spin a visit to top London attractions so that it caters to kids’ interests with tips from this list in addition to sprinkling in a few activities that might appeal just to them as a compromise for being patient with your spin through Harrod’s or fancy afternoon tea.
And, by the way, we lived in London and return often. We made an entire Harry Potter vacation out of our last trip and I was pleasantly surprised by how you can sightsee meaningfully using a themed itinerary.
Tip: Save money on London sightseeing with The London Pass or The London Explorer Pass.
Tower of London
The Tower of London, built on the orders of William the Conquerer in the 1070s, plays a critical role in London’s history. Think Crown Jewels, an infamous prison, royal palace, ravens, Anne Boleyn, Guy Fawkes, Beefeaters, and more.
Visiting this World Heritage Site is a fun way to brush up on history with your kids. Also, don’t miss the famous ravens who are thought to guard the Tower.
Take advantage of Yeoman tours and the family-friendly activity trails and digital missions where you’ll help characters solve historic problems on the free Time Explorers app. The clues are around the Tower for you to find with your kids.
The missions are on an app and let you meet characters and go with them around the Tower on a mission to help them solve a problem from history. The clues are in the Tower for you to find with your kids.
Tip: The Tower of London is steps from Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square. The hotel has an arrow marker in the lobby that showcases how far an arrow from the Tower of London could reach when archers were a threat.
The London Eye is a cantilevered observation wheel that provides stellar views of London its location on the South Bank of the Thames river. One revolution takes about 30 minutes.
Tip: Buy London Eye tickets in advance as the ticket lines can be quite long. You can buy a Fast Track ticket to use an expedited boarding line (also recommended). They also have a champagne experience!
Visit the world’s oldest scientific zoo. London Zoo, located in Regents Park, opened in 1828 and is a lovely way to spend a day outside.
London Zoo offers daily tours that give you and your kids the chance to get to know the animals. Tour the Reptile House (like Harry Potter). Meet the new meerkats. Find out why a coati is such a crafty character. Get an up-close (and safe!) look at the lion pride. Find out about some little-known skills of the tiger. Elevate your day by booking one of their tours, workshops or sleepovers.
Tip: Buy London Zoo tickets in advance to avoid this also lengthy queue.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
This tour is a must-do for Harry Potter fans and anyone interested in how movies are made. Scenes from the actual Harry Potter films were made at this studio, which opened to the public since 2012.
You can see sets, costumes, and how visual effects were created. Also, you’ll learn about how the animals were trained and take a photo of you riding a broom like Harry.
You will need to buy tickets well in advance either directly through the studio or with a tour company to avoid disappointment as this is one of the most popular things to do in London with kids. I enjoyed this tour much more than I thought I would.
Hamley’s Toy Shop
Founded in 1860 by William Hamley, the world’s oldest toy store is every kid’s delight. Step in the door of the flagship Regent Street, the store’s location since 1881, to explore seven stories of wonder.
They often have demonstrations, exhibitions, and stunning new window displays that change with the seasons.
Tip: There’s a duty-free Hamley’s at Heathrow Airport and the Regent Street store sells Harry Potter wands.
Archaeology, history, and art abound in this wondrous museum filled with fantastic kid-focused activities and guides.
Go on a treasure-filled scavenger hunt, pick up a kids’ backpack (weekends only) at the Family Desk inside the Great Court. It’s filled with activities to complete during your visit. Kids also love seeing the Egyptian mummies and their mummified pets, the Rosetta Stone, and much more.
The British Museum is free, open daily, and centrally located at Russell Square. We have a guide specifically for visiting the British Museum with kids based on lots of personal experience.
Step onboard this nine-deck Second World War Navy warship that is famous for firing some of the first shots on D-Day. You’ll be able to see these guns and the engine rooms that are 15-feet under sea level while hearing stories from sailors.
This is a fantastic treat for kids that love history and want to see a real HMS ship.
Shrek’s Adventure London
The world of Shrek comes to life at Shrek’s Adventure London, which is also near the London Eye. You’ll ride a 4D bus driven by Donkey, look for Shrek in his swamp, navigate a mirror maze and much more.
Tip: Skip the queues with Fast Track entry.
Natural History Museum
Curious kids and parents can explore nature and science with more hands-on, fun learning experiences at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, (conveniently also steps away from both the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. These museums are also free things to do in London with kids).
Here, kids can stomp like a T. Rex as they learn about how these giant creatures lived, explore the nature trail with a guided tour, and pull out a magnifying glass in the science center to break things down to the smallest level.
The Clink Prison Museum showcases crime and punishment during Medieval, Tudor and Elizabethan times at England’s oldest prison.
While the dastardly lived here, it’s actually educational and kid-friendly. Tours are suitable ages 4 and up and you’ll visit for an hour or so at the most.
Take a break from city life in the famous Hyde Park, located in the heart of Central London. Kids will love paddling boats out into the Serpentine lake amid the swans. Bring a picnic (we often enter the park on the Knightsbridge side after picking up food at Harrod’s) to enjoy along the shore and take advantage of the playground.
Kids also like to walk along and in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain which is a shallow ring of rippling water that ebbs and flows up and down like her life, located at the southwest corner of Hyde Park.
Keep in mind that the park is 350-acres so while you might be keen to walk or jog the trails through the park, you may want to enter closest to the Hyde Park attractions that you’d like to see.
Yes, you can travel down zip lines and climb along treetops at a high octane adventure course in the city. It’s one of the popular things to do in London with kids that are a bit older.
Go Ape offers various courses so that guests can pick a suitable challenge level and be comfortable while climbing ladders, crossing rope bridges, traveling across zip lines, and traversing treetops.
Choose between three Go Ape locations in London: Battersea Park, Alexandra Place, and Chessington.
Kids love the London Science Museum because it’s full of roll-up-your-sleeves hands-on activities. There are engineering demonstrations, 50 hands-on exhibits in the Wonderlab, and they can watch real lightning strike at the Chemistry Bar.
The museum is also home to “Billy,” the oldest steam train in the world. Museum entry is free.
Enjoy 1000 years of perilous English history for the whole family. Actors in full costume relay fun and fascinating stories about Black Death and the Gunpowder plot during 19 interactive shows.
Then, get your thrills on the two underground rides including a vertical free fall (put this on your London with kids who are older itinerary) and the Henry’s Wrath boat ride.
Visit at Least One Palace
Okay, let’s be honest. Touring palaces don’t necessarily rank high on a child’s bucket list but it’s an experience that can make their history books more relatable and one that they’ll remember.
Kids tend to enjoy (though you will need to arrive early for a good viewing point) the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. It’s a 45-minute ceremony that happens at the forecourt of the palace daily at 11:00 a.m. sharp. You can also see the throne room at Buckingham Palace.
At Kensington Palace, kids can go on a discovery adventure with a character from history and win a badge, also through the Time Explorers app. They also have storytime for the ages 7 and under featuring a different tale from the palace’s history each time.
Princess Diana Memorial Garden
Visit Kensington Palace and then take the kids to Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground in the adjacent Kensington Gardens.
Here, kids can play on a giant pirate ship, check out sculptures, journey down a sensory trail, explore teepees, and play with toys inspired by Peter Pan.
Paddington Bear Tour
You can take a Paddington Bear tour around London to visit all the spectacular spots where Paddington adventured starting where he arrived from Peru as a young bear — Paddington Station.
The all-day experience continues around the city to include boating on the canals to visit Primrose Hill, the film location of Windsor Gardens where Paddington and the Browns lived. You’ll stroll Little Venice to see where Paddington and his buddies went on a high-speed chase and more.
Take a Harry Potter Tour (Tours for Muggles)
Straight from the Department of Tourism and Muggle Relations comes an adventure into the world of everyone’s favorite wizard and friends (and enemies) on the magical side of London.
If you can do one Harry Potter-centric activity in London, this is the one where you’ll see the most sights (and get the most value as it’s fairly inexpensive).
You’ll walk or tube to various points around town where magic and muggles meet while reveling in Harry Potter trivia and learning some London history along the way. Book with Tours for Muggles.
Tower Bridge Glass Floor
You can also walk across the Tower Bridge on most days unless they have to lift it to let a boat through.
The Tower Bridge crossing is free but be sure to grab a ticket that lets you cross the glass floor walkway and visit the steam room and exhibition that showcases the bridge’s history.
The glass floor walkway connects the two towers and offers spectacular views of the city if you look up and the river if you look down (they even offer yoga classes on the glass floor walkway).
In addition to Hamley’s already mentioned above, retail therapy is fun when in London with kids.
Teens and tweens will enjoy Primark’s fast fashion and there are outlets all over the city.
London with Kids for Less with Sightseeing Passes
The London Pass
The London Pass is a very popular way to save on the attractions you want to visit. It’s a digital sightseeing pass that allows you to visit over 80 attractions for one low price.
Decide on the number of days (1, 2, 3, 6, or 10) and purchase the pass ahead of time online. All you need to do is show the pass at each eligible attraction and you’ll receive free entrance plus some perks like fast track entry at select attractions.
London Explorer Pass
London Explorer Pass is a flexible sightseeing pass that allows visitors to choose from 3, 5, or 7 attractions to visit within a 30-day period. It’s a good option for those who like to tour at a slower pace.
Tip: Children under the age of 11 ride for free on most public transportation with a fare-paying adult.
What are your favorite things to do in London with kids?