Ideas for London with Kids

We're planning a trip to London in July with our girls (ages 5 and 7). We haven't set the duration yet, but it will probably be about a week and will coincide with a multi-day business meeting my wife has scheduled. Does anyone have favorite sites, experiences, day trips, etc. that they would recommend for children this age? Thanks.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
644 posts

#1: London Zoo. Great place to spend an afternoon with kids. Behind the zoo runs Regents Canal. Hop on a canal boat and take a ride to Little Venice, a place where lots of beautiful boats are moored; then return trip to the pier behind the zoo. #2: Tower of London. All kids are interested in visiting a real castle, seeing the jewels on display, and hearing the grisly tales of the executions. #3: British Museum. All kids love seeing the Egyptian stuff, especially the mummies. #3: Tower Bridge Experience. Go up in it and the children will have a great view of the River Thames below and all the boats passing beneath the bridge. #4: Natural History Museum. Simulated volcanoes and earthquakes; dinosaur bones and a working, snarling, full size T-rex. Also Hamley's Toy store is great. Walking around the parks and feeding the ducks is fun.

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1629 posts

Time out has a section on things to do with kids in London. http://www.timeout.com/london/kids/ Most museums have itineraries for children eg quiz trails etc. This from the British Museum and the Natural History Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/visiting/family_visits.aspx http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/whats-on-kids/index.html The Museum of London is very child friendly and one of my favourites. http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/london-wall/ You will also find children's areas in the many Parks for them to let off steam from time to time.

Posted by Robin Z
Troy, Oh, USA
1634 posts

My daughters were that age their first trip to London. Talk to the girls before going tell them about London, all little girls like princess, tell them that they will be able to see where real princess lives, got married, etc. Get them disposable camera's let them take pictures of what ever they want, you will be surprised, my daughter took some great pictures. I wouldn't bother going to the zoo, you can see a zoo here. Take them to The Orangery at Kensington Palace for tea, our daughters loved it there. If you take the tube (undergroud/subway) to St. James Park station take the Broadway exit and follow the signs to the park, shortly after entering the park you will see a bridge over the lake about half way across you will be able to get a beautiful view of Buckingham Palace, walk thru the park up to the Palace. As you face the Palace, go to your left and walk down the side of the Palace to the Royal Mews, there your girls the see the Royal horses and carriages. They say that all the swans in England belong to the Queen (but its a myth) but they are protected, against the law to hurt one. While in the park let the girls feed the birds, ducks and swans. Hamley's toy store on Regent Street, is fun to visit. I would take them out to Windsor, get the train at Paddington Station it's a 35 minute train ride. Let them see Queen Mary's doll house, it's a seven story palace with electricity, running water and working elevators the details are incredible, it is well worth the trip to Windsor for your girls to see it. Take them to Westminster Abbey and let them see the Coronation Chair. They will have a great time. When you use the tube, show them on the tube map which stop you are at, then show them the stop you want to get off at, let the count how many stops between so they can tell you when it's time to get off, it's fun to let them do things like that. Send me a message if you have any questions.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1555 posts

Absolutely take them to Windsor, the dollhouse is fantastic as well as the dolls given to Elizabeth and Margaret and the doll clothes. I seem to remember they are in the same room as dollhouse. Also, don't bother with changing of guard, they probably will not see anything, go down the street to where horses assemble to see the parade. Also, go to top of the dome at St. Paul's which I think is called the Whispering Gallery, I could't reach it with broken toes but son loved it. Great fun. If you go to the Tower, which you should not miss even just for the jewels, I think you can get tickets ahead of time or if not, go very first thing in AM to avoid crowd. Take a double decker bus. Was not impressed with toy department at Harrods but just going there itself was an experience. Have memorable time.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2888 posts

The Science Museum has all sorts of great hands-on and interactive exhibits for kids. I suspect sitting on top of a double decker bus or taking the boat ride down the Thames would also be fun for this age.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
644 posts

Laura is right; the double decker buses are fun to ride. There are many double decker city buses to ride; different routes. Also consider taking one of the Hop On Hop Off bus tours that takes you all around the city with a narrator pointing out all the sights. It's a good way to get a glimpse of everything without running yourself ragged. Narrated tour lasts 2 hours, but your ticket is good for 24 hours, so you can hop off anytime you want, look at a sight, then hop back on the next Hop On Hop Off Bus that comes along, and continue listening to the narrated tour. Your ticket is also good for a boat ride on the river. Robin is right; you must take them to Westminster Abbey and out to Windsor Castle. If they are not afraid of heights, take a trip up on the London Eye. Wait until after you go to see a few other sights, such as Westminster Abbey or Buckingham Palace. That way, they can point to some things they recognize and say, "We went there!" More fun that way.

Posted by Robin Z
Troy, Oh, USA
1634 posts

Get tickets (in the stall area) to see The Lion King, I've seen it 3 times in London and twice here and love it every time. Took my granddaugher to see it in 2011 when she was 4, she loved it, she can't wait till it comes back to the area so she can see it again. If you do go try to get seats on the aisle, some of the performers come down the aisles when the show starts and after intermission.
Also, Covent Garden is a fun place for kids so they can watch the street performers.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
677 posts

Others have already suggested the best (apart from that thing about the Queen owning all the swans - it's an urban myth - HM doesn't and apparently Buck House gets a bit peeved having to regularly explain that dead swans are not her fault!). My suggestions are extras if the better ones above are not enough - a) I've not been with children, but a colleague tells me that Kew has many things aimed for younger children, though probably best saved for a dry day. b) if you are going to the Tower, then whilst in that part of London you could go to Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green - perhaps first check its website to see if that would interest your daughters, there is a large collection of dolls, children's clothes, toys and so on from various historical periods - some children love it, others are somewhat underwhelmed.
c) if you do go to the above museum, then about a quarter of the hour's walk away is Victoria Park - another dry day attraction, but often voted London's best local park (local in this context means not one of the royal parks). On a similar question earlier this week, I mentioned the Cutty Sark for boys, so at the risk of seeming an old fashioned sexist/misogynist, would your daughters like the ballet? ENB do productions aimed at children.

Posted by Rob
Dunwoody, Georgia
235 posts

Thanks so much everyone for the great ideas. I'm sure I'll be back with itinerary questions later in the year.