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Early/late activites in London

We are early risers when traveling, eager to get every minute of enjoyment out of every trip! Planning a trip to London this summer (first trip with our kids) and I'm frustrated that NOTHING opens before 10 and then EVERYTHING closes at 5. Even things I would expect to be open early, like Borough Market, open at 10. Any secret tips or attractions we aren't aware of to make the most of the hours from 8-10 and after 5? The only 'night' activities I have on my list are Covent Garden and maybe the London Eye for the kids (though I don't feel the need to do that again).

We have 4 nights days in London. Thank you for any advice!

Posted by
6816 posts

If you just want to walk around, Little Venice, Camden Lock, Leadenhall Market, walk across Tower bridge, Abbey Road. In the evening, Parliament and Westminster abbey are nice when lit up.

Posted by
11491 posts

How about some time in a park? Hyde Park or St. James are lovely for a stroll. Also, I think the Tower of London opens at 9:00. Perhaps an evening seeing theatre would appeal?

Posted by
3994 posts

Here is a link for the fantastic TimeOut magazine late opening article.

Parks are open early and sometimes late. There are a few London Walks tours which are evening based. There are great plays and musicals in the evenings. I hope you can find plenty to excite your family and make some wonderful memories. What time of year will you be there and what are your children's ages? That might help us think of more possibilities for you.

Posted by
5688 posts

Being early risers may be perfect for you if you start your trip in London. Keep in mind that 10am is 5am East Coast time. Just don’t make a big effort to get over jet lag and adjust to the time zone change on arrival.

What days of the week are you there? How old are your kids?

As a night owl, I never have problems finding things to do. There is theatre, London walks has evening pub walks and ghost walks, and many of the museums are open late one night a week. I must admit that I have never looked for things to do in the early morning as I prefer to avoid the tube during morning rush.

Posted by
884 posts

Maryon Park is very nice in the morning - anytime, really.
Take your might be surprised what you see.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you all! Going in late July, kids are 6 and 11.

Separate from the early/late question, I'm also trying to decide if we can do Kensington Palace and the Zoo. Both are a bit 'out there' from our other activities location-wise but my daughter really wants to do the Zoo, and I really want to do Kensington! I did get the London Pass, and we have Buckingham Palace State Rooms tickets. Thank you!

Posted by
893 posts


Google The Tower of London Ceremony of the Keys.
We did this years ago, with our two sons and it was a highlight!
The Yeoman Warders lock the outer gate to the Tower in a Ceremony that you are inside the gate watching. They have done this over 700 years without missing, not even once. One time during WWII
it was delayed by a nearby bomb, but they did complete it. There is a smaller door that you depart from and then that door is locked.

I didn't see in your post how old your kids are, so I don't know if they are too young to stay up that late.
The ceremony starts at 9:52 pm. STARTS. You must reserve and I don't know how far ahead they reserve.
This is one of the things that we did late at night and my boys are in their mid 30's and still talk about it when we talk about London.

The Tower of London Ceremony of the Keys on google.

Let me know if it's something that you check out and are interested in.

Either way I hope you have a Great Trip!


Posted by
13 posts

The Keys at the Tower sounds amazing, and I can't believe I had never heard of that before on previous trips. It is all sold out, sadly, but it will go on my list for next time. Thank you!

Posted by
8876 posts

Hyde park opens at 5:30am. At least it did last November when I would take sunrise strolls
by the Serpentine. Swimmers would swim ( 37 degree weather) at the Lido. Loads of people out jogging and walking their dogs.

Check this website For all the great London Parks.

Check all of the websites for what I’m suggesting to confirm opening times but...
I believe the Monument to the great fire opens at 9:30am. Good cardio climbing the nearly 115 steps to the top for the view.

Double check but I believe St Paul’s opens at 8:30am.

Tower of London is open at 9am Tues thru Saturday.

Westminster Abbey at 9:30am.

As far as the Zoo and Kensington you’ll be pleasantly surprised that by using the tube and your collective two feet you can get to both in a decent amount of time. Use the tfl travel planner to plot your route. as well as Google Maps satellite view you will easily discover how close many of the iconic sites are to one another.

No clue how you’ve set up your itinerary but on the London zoo day you could start the morning at Regents Park. Climb Parliament Hill to see a view of London then have coffee and a nosh the Regent Park Cafe and off to the London Zoo. Alternatively for Kensington Palace start the morning in Kensington Gardens, grab a coffee at Montparsee Cafe On Thackery and stroll over to the Palace. Cafe opens at 8:30am. Walk to the Round Pound and enjoy all the waterfowl while waiting for the place tour.

Now if trying to see both one day it’s about an hours ride via the tube between both. So it can be done.

As far as night activities, theatre, theatre, theatre. Go to the half price ticket booth ( can look on line) to get your same day tickets.

London bustles at night. Try a London Walks Jack the Ripper or ghost tour.

Have fun. Great city.

Posted by
4475 posts

I have been to both the Zoo and Kensington Palace and prefer the zoo. I would never have gone there if our college daughter hadn't wanted to go, but they have lots of animals that American zoos don't-maybe because of their Empire? KP is just rooms of furniture.

Posted by
27426 posts

Some of the large museums are open late one night a week--usually Thursday or Friday. That can be a good way to squeeze in a few additional sightseeing hours. Just be aware that in some cases it's not the entire museum that stays open (often just the ground floor), so always enquire when you arrive so you can plan your visit strategically.

LondonWalks has some evening walks, but you'd have to read the descriptions to see whether they'd be suitable for your children.

The theatre is great. The TheatreMonkey website has very useful information on seat quality (you don't want to sit at the front if it means loking at the performers' ankles), scoring cheap tickets, etc.

Posted by
6377 posts

The Portobello Market opens at 9:00. It's a great way to spend at least half a day, and there are some great food choices for lunch. Street food, ethnic food, etc. If 9:00 isn't early enough for you, just plan to walk there from your hotel or, if that's not convenient, Kensington Gardens.

Posted by
11294 posts

Looking at Rick's Daily Reminder section of his London book, I see the following:

Monday: the Houses of Parliament may be open as late as 22:30

Tuesday: the British Library is open until 20:00, and the Houses of Parliament may be open as late as 22:00. On the first Tuesday of the month, Sir John Soane's Museum is open until 21:00

Wednesday: the British Library is open until 20:00, and the Houses of Parliament may be open as late as 22:00.

Thursday: the British Library is open until 20:00, and the National Portrait Gallery until 21:00

Friday: Sights open late include the British Museum (selected galleries until 20:30), National Gallery (until 21:00), National Portrait Gallery (until 21:00), Victoria and Albert Museum (selected galleries until 22:00), and the Tate Modern (until 22:00).

Saturday: The Tate Modern is open until 22:00

I agree that theater (sorry, theatre) is a great thing to do in the evening. There is a tremendous number and variety of shows on at any time - you're sure to find something of interest. There are also movies - London has a greater variety of both current films and revivals than almost anywhere else.

Besides the London Eye, there are other great viewpoints, some free, some not; some open in the evening, some not. Again, Rick has a list on pages 90-91 of his London book.

Posted by
6816 posts

Visited KP last November because my wife wanted to see it. Compared to other palaces and chateaus throughout Europe that I’ve visited, I wasn’t impressed. Had it not been for the Lady Diana exhibit, I would say it was a complete rip-off. It is fairly pricey for what you see. Haven’t been to the zoo.

Posted by
31 posts

The first time we went to Europe, our youngest was 8. It's a lot of walking for the younger kids, though he could do it easily. My suggest is to throw in some "normal" non-touristy things.

For example: Pedal boats in Hyde Park. We did this in Germany and ended up just floating around the lake aimlessly, which drove the kids nuts but was quite fun. Hyde Park opens at 5 (though the boats do not open until 10-- but are open later- until 8).

Playgrounds: The Internet says the Hyde Park playground is 5am to 12 am.
Diana Memorial Playground is 10-645.

As already mentioned- the Little Venice canals are nice for a walk. We have that planned for London (in June).

Ruins/Gardens: St. Dunsten in the East is open 8am-7pm. Crossrail Palace roof garden is 6am-9pm.

If the kids enjoy Harry Potter, there's filming locations you could visit that are public (such as Claremont Square aka Grimmauld Place) and open whenever you'd like to view from the street.

Have a fun trip!