Kids’ Top 7 Places and Things to Do in London
London is not what it used to be. If you haven’t been there in 10 or 15 years, London is calling. The city is greener. The transportation is better. The food is much better. It is still a world-class city with great museums, historic sites, restaurants, and kid-friendly things to do.
On our recent three-city tour of Europe (Barcelona, London, Paris), I asked our family: Which was your favorite city? How do you think we voted? Mom and Dad liked Barcelona. Our two children liked London. Why was that? Our children (ages 10 and 15) said, “It was more fun!” There you have it. London was more fun! Here are seven of our children’s favorite sites and things to do in London and tips to see them.
#1 The London Eye
The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel that gives you a birds-eye view of the city. Initially, I was hesitant because Anthony Bourdain frowned upon it. “It’s the most popular tourist attraction. Why? I have no idea.” But it was my daughter’s number one thing to do in London. I’m glad we did it. We enjoyed the views and the digital display on-board that provided more information on the London landscape. I regained my most favored parent status if only for the rest of the day.
Tip: The lines get long for this 30-40 minute ride in the morning and afternoon. Go around dinner time or toward the end of the day where there is virtually no wait.
#2 Tower of London and Yeoman Warders Tour
The main event for many people at the Tower of London is seeing the Crown Jewels. They can be found in a room toward the end of a series of rooms displaying and explaining the history of the British Monarchy. The small room where the Crown Jewels are displayed can get very crowded. A walking conveyor belt allows visitors to view these ceremonial objects associated with the coronations of English Kings and Queens as they pass these magnificent pieces of art and regalia.
Take your time to visit the different towers and exhibits of the Tower of London. My 10-year old loved the displays and workshop of medieval weapons found on the lawn area.
Tip: Buy your family ticket online and save! Collect them near the entrance before the Tower of London opens. Get in line and make your run to the Crown Jewels before hundreds of people get there. We went on the conveyor belt three times before the crowds entered and breathing became uncomfortable. Also, take the free Yeoman Warders Tour. Our children loved the highly entertaining and informative tour.
#3 Shakespeare Play at the London Globe
I’m not going to lie. This was not my favorite stop. It brought back too many bad memories of reading Shakespeare in high school. But I’m glad we did it, and I’ll tell you why. We watched Antony and Cleopatra at the London Globe. The Globe was built as a replica of the original Shakespeare Globe building, which burned down twice. It sits only a few hundred yards from the original location.
Anticipating an early departure, I purchased the cheapest tickets possible which happen to be the closest to the stage. Back in the day, they allowed people with less to pay less — and stand. Actually, there is some seating for children in the standing area. My teen daughter and wife enjoyed it. I lasted about an hour. When our 10-year old started to get impatient, we left early and headed for afternoon tea at the Tate Modern nearby. Perfect.
Tip: Buy your tickets online as early as possible. Standing tickets are only £5. Arrive early to stake your spot. There are seats for children near the back (where the paid seats begin). They can still see from there!
#4 Afternoon Tea at Tate Modern
There are many places to experience afternoon tea in London. When doing my research, most people online recommended the traditional, elegant places such as Claridges, The Ritz, and The Goring. We picked a place that friends recommended as easy on the kids and the budget. We loved it!
Make a reservation at the Tate Modern Level 6 Restaurant. Afternoon Tea is only served Friday to Sunday. When you arrive, ask for a table next to the window for a great view of the River Thames and St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s worth the short wait.
#5 British Museum
The British Museum is a world-class museum for adults and children! For kids, they have an activity trail and a multimedia guide for rent. These devices provide a fun and understandable version for children aged 5 to 10-years old. There are seven guided tours and 58 objects in 30 galleries. These guides allow digital viewing of objects and audio explanations. We rented one of the kids multimedia guides and one adult version.
Tip: Allow children to view the British Museum website ahead of time and rent one of these devices when you get there. Some of our favorites were the Rosetta Stone, Flood Tablet, and Easter Island stone statues.
#6 Evensong Westminster Abbey Choir 5pm Daily
Westminster Abbey has been the coronation location since William the Conqueror in 1066. This is also the place where Prince William and Catherine Middleton were married. The cost for two adults and two children is £45 when purchased online for visits during the day. However, at 5 pm each day, you can join the evening service for free and enjoy the Evensong Westminster Abbey Choir.
#7 Buckingham Palace
You might not get the see the Queen but my 10-year old asked plenty of questions about the official residence and workplace of the monarchy. Check the website for the schedule and cancellations.
London Underground (Tube) Transportation Tips
Note that ticketing machines in London will only accept credit cards with the chip technology embedded in the card. If you don’t have a credit card with a chip, go to the service window where you can still use your non-chip, credit card to purchase tickets.
Want to save money? Purchase an Oyster card and load it with your credit card for a set amount like £25. This card can be used for the Tube, bus, and certain trains. This card offers an approximate discount of 40% on each ride, and there is a daily cap of £7.50 for shorter rides within Zones 1-3. This means that once you have reached that amount, you will not be charged more for riding within these zones. The amount is more if you travel further out from your origin. You will need to pay a deposit of £5 for this card, which you can get refunded before you return home. Or, keep the card for your next trip. Money on the card does not expire. Children ages 11-15 can get half price rates with their Oyster Card. Children under 11-years old travel free with a paying adult on the Tube.
You may also enjoy:
- Top 5 Must-Do’s for a Day in London
- Fun Things to do in London While Avoiding the Crowds
- Historical Sites in London for Kids
- Planning a Trip to London with Kids
- Search Hilton hotels in London
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Eugene lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife have taken their two children to over 10 countries for work and vacation. Eugene is…