Taking in the city views from the London Eye, speedboating down the Thames, and casting spells at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, are just some of the top things to do in London with kids – I’ve got lots more below.
No matter how many times I return to London, I find there is always something to see or do that I haven’t experienced before, and even wandering around the iconic sights is a special treat. London is particularly popular with families due to the huge range of family friendly attractions, and children love seeing famous sights from their schoolbooks come to life right in front of their eyes. These are some of my favourite things to do in London with kids, which include some free experiences in the city.
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It doesn’t matter if it’s summer time, where you enjoy a picnic in the park between sightseeing, or a winter wonderland short break with your family, there’s never a bad time to visit London. There are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities available to cater for all types of weather, so I suggest staying a few days to make the most of this vibrant city.
And whether you’re looking for an hotel, an apartment, or to base yourself near Legoland, I’ve got some recommendations on where to stay in London with kids too. Note some of the links below contain affiliate links where I receive a commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.
1. Take in the Skyline in the London Eye
Surely no trip to London is complete without a ride on the iconic London Eye – it is certainly one of the best things to do in London with kids. Europe’s tallest observation wheel has been welcoming tourists since 2000 and although the height might put some people off, I can vouch that it honestly doesn’t feel scary. It could possibly be down to the slow speed or the space inside the pods, but it feels so safe once you’re in there.
During your 30-minute ride, enjoy 360-degree views where the kids can spot many of the most famous landmarks London has to offer, including Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, St. Pauls Cathedral, and the Tower of London.
On a clear day, the views stretch as far as 40km away to Windsor Castle! While you are in the area, I recommend a picnic stop in the adjoining Jubilee Park & Gardens – it is a lovely spot to chill out with a takeaway lunch in beautifully landscaped surroundings. The kids will also love the free adventure playground in the park.
Tickets to the London Eye can be purchased on their own, or as part of various combination ticket options to include Madame Tussauds, London Dungeon, SEA LIFE London and Shrek’s Adventure.
2. See The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
Learn the secrets and magic of the making of Harry Potter, during a visit to the Warner Bros. Studio in London. Fans of the movies will be blown away as you take a visit to Dumbledore’s office, step into the Great Hall and walk down Diagon Alley™. You’ll see actual costumes and props from all eight Harry Potter films, and the kids will love the opportunity to ride a broomstick in the green screen experience!
The full duration including return transport from London is around 8 hours. The coach is included in the cost and departs from Victoria Station. A top tip for those looking to take the Warner Bros. Studio Tour is to stay around the Victoria area of London. You will be within walking distance of many of London’s top landmarks, such as Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, as well as being close to the coach departure point. Also, if you fly to London Gatwick Airport, the Gatwick Express will take you directly to Victoria Station.
If a day to Warner Bros. Studio is not enough for your family, bring a little more magic to your trip and stay in Georgian House, a Harry Potter themed hotel in Victoria.
3. Shop London’s Toy Stores
Although free to enter, you might feel a pinch in your wallet by the time you leave! London has an incredible selection of toy shops, the most famous being Hamleys with seven floors filled with a mind-blowing 50,000 toys!
The Harry Potter Shop is home to all the merchandise you could possibly think of, including wands and time turners.
In Leicester Square you’ll find the largest LEGO Store in the world, with a London tube carriage made from 600,000 Lego pieces. Even if you don’t want to purchase, a visit to the LEGO store in London is one of the most popular things to do in London with kids.
One of the most famous department stores in London, Harrods, has a toy department on the fourth floor that has been impressively designed into eight colourful suites each dedicated to a toy category. The iconic Harrods teddy bear is also a popular souvenir.
4. Everything is Awesome at LEGOLAND Windsor
Designed for children aged between 3 – 12 years, LEGOLAND Windsor features over 55 interactive rides, live shows, and spectacular LEGO creations. This is either a destination on its own for a family weekend – where you could easily spend two full days exploring the resort, or an exciting day trip during a short city break to London.
Some of the highlights include the new DUPLO brick Dinosaur rollercoaster, the thrilling LEGO Dragon ride, and the 3D behind the scenes animation of THE LEGO MOVIE set. With its popularity with the young (and young at heart), for the last decade, LEGOLAND Windsor has earned its place in the top 10 most popular theme parks in Europe.
If you’re taking a weekend break to Legoland, flying to London Heathrow is the most convenient option as it is located just
20km from Windsor.
5. Marvel at Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds has been of London’s top attractions for over 200 years! Rub shoulders with the rich and famous at Madame Tussauds, which features over 250 lifelike wax figures including the Royal Family, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, and the newest addition to the sports zone – Anthony Joshua.
There is a Marvel Super Heroes 4D movie that kids will love, and they can pose for photos with their favourite heroes and villains afterwards. You can also enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at how sculptors create the figures. The whole experience should take about two hours.
6. Get lost in the London Dungeons
Over 90 minutes, the London Dungeons will take you through 1000 years of some of London’s most gripping stories. This is certainly not for the faint hearted, and the thrilling experience is aimed at children from 12 years old due to its scary nature!
You will join a cast of 20 actors on a journey to The Torture Chamber, Jack the Rippers Whitechapel, and many other scarily true tales from some of London’s darkest days. There are also two optional underground rides including Drop Dead: Drop Ride. The London Dungeon tickets can be purchased alone or part of a combination ticket with Madame Tussauds and the London Eye. This is one of the most popular things to do in London with teenagers.
7. Book a Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour Including River Cruise on the Thames
There are not many cities you can visit these days without the option of taking a hop-on -hop-off bus tour. Although you may think it’s an overdone, cliché tour to take, I firmly believe it’s one of the best things to do in London with kids, or any city for that matter.
I took this bus tour when I visited London recently with friends. I always recommend bus tours on the first day of your break in a new city – not only will it give you your bearings, but it’s also am inexpensive mode of transport to get you to the main hotspots you’ll want visit.
The Big Bus in London offers four-routes, with live guides on the most popular Red Route, which includes the highlights of Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square. You can purchase 24-, 48- and 72-hours tickets with the added bonus of a river cruise on the Thames included in all tickets. On a sunny day in London, there’s no better way to play tourist than sitting on the top deck of a traditional open top bus!
8. Be amazed at Buckingham Palace:
The Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace is one of the most iconic experiences in London. It takes place on certain days at 10.45am and although currently postponed, once it resumes you can check the schedule on this link.
The changing of the guard attracts a huge crowd, so make sure you arrive early to grab a good spot with a clear view. This is without a doubt one of the most popular things to do in London – and it’s free!
9. Tigers: Enjoy a high speed boat trip through London
Families seeking a more adrenaline pumping tour need look no further than a high-speed boat on the Thames. Judging from the almost full house of 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor, this alternative exciting way to see the city is definitely one to consider! Your skipper and guide will take you at high speed down the River Thames.
Zoom past iconic sights such as the Millennium Bridge, London Bridge, the Tower of London, and the Shard, during a 45 minute sightseeing tour with a difference. I recommend taking along a GoPro if you have one to capture all the action, allowing you to enjoy the experience without feeling the need to reach for your camera. This is one of the best things to do in London with kids over 8 years.
10. Take a Football Stadium Tour
Football fanatics will love the opportunity to visit their favourite clubs’ ground while on a short break to London. The two most popular being the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal fans, and Stamford Bridge for the Chelsea supporters. From the centre of the city, the tube is a great option for either stadium with the Emirates reached in under half an hour, and Stamford Bridge taking about 40 minutes.
Just for one day, both big and small football fans in your family can get a taste for what it would have been like to live out those childhood dreams of being a Premiership Footballer, as the tour gives you access to the changing rooms and the chance to go down through the tunnel to the pitch. Tickets also include entry to the clubs’ museums.
11. Visit Shrek’s Adventure
Journey through Far Far Away joining Princess Fiona, Shrek, and Donkey on an interactive walkthrough experience. The tour takes approx. 1 hour 15 minutes and combines live shows, a 4D ride, dramatic special effects, and a DreamWorks Game Show. Conveniently Shrek’s Adventure is located just a five-minute walk from the London Eye, making it one of the most popular things to do in London with kids of all ages.
12. See a West End Show
With so many adaptations of classic children’s movies and books, there’s sure to be a musical to suit all the family in London’s famous West End. The buzzing atmosphere around the theatres sets the scene for an evening the kids are sure to talk about long after they return home. Considering there are a myriad of options to choose from, these are a few of my top suggestions:
The Lion King, is a hugely popular choice running in the West End since 1999. The spectacular animal costumes alone
are just mind blowing.
Matilda is a great option for fans of Roald Dahl’s spell-binding storybooks and the kids will enjoy watching as the wicked Miss Trunchbull gets her comeuppance.
Back to the Future, The Musical, is brand new to the West End from August 2021. The Adelphi Theatre will be where you’ll be transported back to 1955 with Marty McFly and Doc. The tagline reads ‘Book your tickets yesterday!’
13. Love London’s Museums:
London has a wealth of museums that offer free entry. My two top picks are the London Science Museum and Natural History Museum which are conveniently located next to each other. Both offer a very interactive experience where children can enjoy hands-on exhibits and galleries.
14. Visit SEA LIFE London Aquarium
Coming face to face with over 7000 marine creatures, SEA LIFE London Aquarium will take you on a journey through the Amazon Rainforest, the Polar Antarctic, and the depths of the Pacific Ocean. The sharks are one of the main attractions, swimming just inches from you through the glass ocean tunnel, and if you’re lucky enough you might get to see one of the divers jumping in to join them.
Kids will easily be occupied for an afternoon between the 17 themed zones and the impressive list of creatures, including penguins, starfish, sea turtles and crocodiles. It’s encouraging to see the strong emphasis at SEA LIFE on conservation, particularly in rescuing injured creatures and protecting endangered marine species. The Aquarium is located next to the London Eye and tickets can be either purchased separately or as a combination including both the London Eye and Madame Tussauds.
15. Walk London’s Historic Landmarks
Grab a map, comfortable runners, and a bagful of snacks! Around every corner in London there is an iconic building, monument, or bridge to discover. A few sights I recommend you include on your self—guided tour:
Tower Bridge: The bridge lifts around 800 times a year. Enter your dates here to see if you’ll get the opportunity to see it during your visit.
Covent Garden: Stroll through London’s West End soaking up the atmosphere of Covent Garden, a popular district to enjoy world class street performers and eclectic entertainment. This is a really lovely way to pass a summer evening while the whole family are entertained.
Westminster: Within the district of Westminster, you’ll have the opportunity to spot so many of London’s most renowned landmarks including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and 10 Downing Street, all within a 10-minute walk. A stroll through St. James Park will take you to Buckingham Palace. with a pit stop to feed the ducks or visit the playground.
Where to stay in London with kids
3-Star Morgan Aparthotel
The beautiful and stylish area of Bloomsbury is home to the Morgan Hotel, offering apartments for up to two adults and three children. This property is really convenient for a family, just a ten-minute walk to the West End and less than a five-minute stroll to Oxford Street.
4-star Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London Hotel
Kids are well catered for at the Park Plaza, from receiving a goodie bag at check-in, to the impressive kids menu at Brasserie Joël. The modern studio rooms are a spacious option for a family of four. Located south of the River Thames, you can walk to the London Eye, SEA LIFE Aquarium and London Dungeons in less than five minutes.
4-star Citadines Apartments Trafalgar Square
Right in the heart of all the action in London are the Citadines Trafalgar Square apartments. Suitable for larger families, the two-bedroom apartments will sleep up to 2 adults and 4 children. Walk any direction from the apartments and you’ll reach many of the most famous landmarks in London within 15 minutes, including Covent Garden, London Eye, Piccadilly Circus and Big Ben.
4-star Castle Hotel, Windsor for Legoland Break
Located in the heart of Windsor, less than a ten-minute drive from Legoland, Castle Hotel is a lovely option to base yourself close to the Theme Park. The hotel is a short stroll from plenty of shops and restaurants and just a two-minute walk from Windsor Castle. Superior Family Rooms will sleep two adults and two children.Check prices here
If you prefer to stay inside the Legoland theme park you can check package rates including accommodation and park tickets here.