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3 Full days in London with teens

Hello,
I was wondering if anyone has advice on an efficient way to see London sites with teens and what is recommended. My teens are not Harry Potter fans and not super into history but can suffer through some :) Any specific walking tours or tours we can do on our own? We are not bus tour people. Thx laura

Posted by
5239 posts

As a family review the variety of London Walks.
www.walks.com

As you say your children are teens I will assume you will be traveling during the Summer months when schools out. London will be massively crowded then so book ahead for “ must sees; “ such as Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Windsor Castle, London Eye. I’d also start booking your accommodations fairly soon. The Premiere inn at County Hall is ideally situated, as it’s next to Jubilee Gardens and the London Eye as well as a short stroll over Westminster Bridge to Parliament Square.

Remember that Elizabeth’s Tower with the Big Ben bell is in scaffolding although you can still see the clock face.
Each of you will need Oyster Cards for usage on the Underground, Overground and busses.

If your travel dates include a Saturday get to Portobello Road market by 8 am.
Brick Lane and Spitafields Market should be included on your itinerary.
Cruise the Thames
Picnic in Hyde, Regent or Battersea Park
Visit the Horseguards Parade Ground
Visit the Museum of Water and Steam
Visit the Alexander Fleming Museum
Visit the Treasure Room at the British Library
See a play at The Globe Theatre
Enjoy a pub lunch; The Dove near Hammersmith Bridge, Ye Olde Mitre or The Angel Pub in Rotherhithe are interesting pubs.
Walk along the Thames path
See a play ( look at the theatre monkey website) and note that Witness for the Prosecution which is staged in an actual courtroom is right next to the County Hall Premiere Inn.
Look for the green parrots in Hyde Park or watch the pelican feedings in St James Park. https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/st-jamess-park/things-to-see-and-do/wildlife/pelicans. Note from there it’s a pleasant stroll to Buckingham Palace.
If not afraid of heights climb the O2 dome
https://www.theo2.co.uk/faqs/up-at-the-o2
Try the Tower Bridge Experience.
https://www.towerbridge.org.uk/opening-hours/

Also check for lift times: https://www.towerbridge.org.uk/lift-times/
Visit Carnaby Street
Take a street Art walking tour
Explore Camden Lock Market.
See what’s on at the Wilton Music Hall
Visit Greenwich
Shop at Liberty
Enjoy a cream tea

Posted by
506 posts

What an awesome reply! I wasn't two paragraphs in before I thought "I wonder if this is from Claudia?"

Teens should be helping plan the trip. They can start by dividing up Claudia's list and looking at the relevant websites or TripAdvisor (mine weren't much for reading guidebooks). Here's a day planned by one of my sons in 2013: start at Kings Cross for the Platform 9 3/4 (sorry, Potter fan), then to Colindale for the RAF museum, then a brief rest at our hotel, followed by a play (Matilda). Not an efficient day but we had fun.

For efficiency, get a map and see what sites are near each other. You save time and energy if you're not dashing from one end of the city to the other every day. Use the river (https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/river/) for a chance to catch your breath and enjoy the scenery if you're visiting a Thames-adjacent site.

Posted by
16771 posts

Truly, London Walks will make life easier for you. I've lost track of how many I've taken; it must be around 10. They have all been great. I wish the descriptions were not so cutesy; it's hard to ferret out which would be A+ for your particular group. But you really can't go wrong. And you don't need to book in advance, so there are no weather concerns. I think the nighttime Jack the Ripper Walk would be appealing to the teens, and it wouldn't cut into your daytime sightseeing time; I liked it and I'm 68. I imagine Camden Market (which I've also taken) would also be enjoyed. I know there's at least one Beatles walk and probably a Sherlock Holmes walk. I also like the neighborhood-oriented walks, because they usually get you into little back streets you'd never stumble on yourself.

Posted by
11153 posts

You've said what they don't like, but what is it that they do like? Whatever it is, they can probably find something in London to satisfy that interest.

I want to second the suggestion of Brick Lane and Old Spitalfields Market. For anyone, of any age, who wants to get away from "ye olde" stuff, these are a great view of modern London. I'm not a "market person" but I really enjoyed these.

Here are two reports of what people did with teenagers in London, that should give you and your kids some ideas:

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/england/7-days-in-london-with-15-year-old

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/8-days-in-london-with-my-10yo-grandson

Posted by
24 posts

OMG, I am so humbled and appreciative of all the information, THANK YOU! I had to giggle at the comment "but what do they like?". Great question, I'm not sure they even know... they are teens. It always looks better on Instagram, am I right? With all those ideas, I am sure we will come up with something. By the way, what is an Oyster card? Is it necessary for 3 days? thanks again, you are awesome, Laura

Posted by
11153 posts

If you're asking what an Oyster card is, it's time to get a guidebook (or two). Rick's London book is an excellent one for a first-timer; he has lots of logistical details about getting around, what to see, suggested walks, etc. He will also have answers to questions you didn't even think to ask.

Your kids should also be reading guidebooks, looking at videos, etc. And while things may not look the same as on Instagram, it's also a way people learn about things, so they should certainly check it out. There's undoubtedly spots in London that are, currently, the Instagram must-haves for teens, and yours will probably want them too.

Rick's videos are here (scroll down to Great Britain): https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/tv-show

An Oyster card is how you will pay for transportation. Each person needs their own; you tap it on entry and exit when using the Underground (Tube), and tap on entry only on buses. It costs £5, and you then load it with credit. It keeps track, and never charges you more than a certain maximum amount per day (based on which zones you travel in). For three days, put £15-20 on each card. If you run low, you can "top up" at any station. When you leave, you can save it for a future trip - yours or someone else's. Or, you get a refund of the £5 card cost plus remaining value on the card before you leave - provided you have used the same method to buy it and load it every time (cash or the same credit card).

There are helpers in the stations who can assist you with any questions (including the Tube station at Heathrow airport, if you're taking the Tube into London upon arrival).

Posted by
1068 posts

How old are the teens? If they’re near college age, have them reach out to the study abroad program of a nearby college or university, the student ambassadors that have been to London will be more than happy to talk about it.

Regardless of their age, have them get on YouTube and look up London. They may want to hang out in Shoreditch or Soho rather than one more Ye Olde.

London Walks are amazing and the guides are pretty good at tailoring the tours to their audiences. If there’s a bunch of teens on the tour they won’t dig as deep into the weeds about history as they would for a bunch of visiting scholars. If they’re in high school and likely to be reading (or have read) Dickens or Shakespeare, those tours would be great.

Posted by
1062 posts

To add to Harold's post, depending on the age of your teens (you haven't said) you may be able to get the "young visitors discount" applied to their oyster card(s):
https://www.londontoolkit.com/briefing/london_transport_child_fares.htm
Scroll down to "The Young Visitor Discount - for children between 11 & 15 in London less than 15 days" section, ignore any mention of "zip cards" on the website as they are designed for children living in London.

Posted by
5817 posts

Good luck with getting a teenager to read a guide book! :-)

Get them googling. If you can get them to choose one place they really want to visit or something they really want to do, you are winning. A good place to start is the TimeOut website which lists everything going on in London. Even if they just want to take a cool insta ( I’m so down with the kids) at some random sight it will probably mean more to them than being dragged around an old building. I’m not saying don’t drag them to old buildings, it’s your trip as well and being bored never killed any one, just maybe look wider than the usual sights.

One thing my teenage nephews liked doing when they came to visit me was choosing where we ate.
What they wanted they could have. Over the years choices ranged from KFC to lobster and they got such a kick out of it!

There is so much more to London than all the historical “stuff”. It isn’t going anywhere! So they can always come back when they are older and more inclined to be interested in old churches or Winston Churchill. :-)