The Best Things To Do in London With Kids
Here's our guide to the best things to do in London for kids... and big kids too
This capital is chock-full of incredible sites and experiences: you could easily while away weeks hopping between its abundant free museums, endless historic buildings, quirky markets and world-renowned restaurants. Although exploring London with kids in tow might seem overwhelming at first, it doesn’t have to be with this list of the best things to see and do. These places are buggy-friendly and easy to reach – and, most importantly, fun (yes, even for you) …
Walk in the footsteps of Harry Potter
Let your little wizards see for themselves the magic and artistry that goes into the making of the Harry Potter films on the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. There’s the chance to wander the Great Hall and saunter down Diagon Alley before taking a broomstick ride. Expect magic and photo opportunities at every turn, including wand-making demos, a chance to push a trolley through Platform 9 ¾ and board the Hogwarts Express. Children are given Harry Potter passports so help them fill them up with stamps as the tour progresses.
Spoil them with treats
A trip to London wouldn’t be complete without taking your child to the world’s biggest and oldest toy store: Hamleys. Prepare to spend at least an hour or two… or four at this Regent Street institution, and keep that cash or credit card ready – for within this wonderland of fun and frolics – complete with entertainers – there’s sure to be something that the little ones will want you to buy them. And don’t be surprised if you end up having just as good a time (no matter how much you want to deny it).
Equally bright and popular is the world’s largest LEGO store in Leicester Square, complete with a massive play area – perfect to occupy them on a rainy day. The world’s largest candy shop, M&Ms World is just across from it. The kids can take home souvenir candies with their faces printed on them: cool… if that's what you're into.
Catch a West End production
Attending a West End show is one of the best things to do in London with children. Later this year, Cinderella and 101 Dalmations are due to open on stage, adding to an already impressive roster of shows including Lion King, Matilda, School of Rock, Wicked and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s best to book in a few months in advance but some theatres reserve tickets for shows on the day for the spontaneous (read: last minute) among us. Just visit the Tkts booth in Leicester Square to find out what’s available.
Channel their inner scientist
Packed with hands-on, interactive displays about everything from outer space to aircraft and robots, the Science Museum in South Kensington is a winner when it comes to the best things to do in London with kids. While it’s free to enter and browse, one of the best places for children is the Wonderlab (entry fees apply here, shock), with its magical Chemical Bar, and eye-opening live science shows. If you don’t want to fork out for that special exhibit, the Pattern Pod, the Garden and the The Basement will provide hours of free entertainment, and they’re excellent spaces for the kids to let off steam.
Unleash the dinosaurs
Conveniently standing just next door to the Science Museum is the Natural History Museum. Of course, it’s got gigantic dinosaur fossils that children will love to gaze at, but it’s also home to 80 million other specimens: from the smallest insects to the biggest animals on earth. Go on a hunt to find the clock from the CBeebies show Andy's Dinosaur Adventures. Both of these museums are located in Kensington and Chelsea, two of the best neighbourhoods in London for children. They're popular for families not only because of their proximity to some of the city’s greatest museums, but also because nearby is the magical Peter Pan-themed Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens. Can’t make it to the museum? Take a virtual tour instead.
Learn life skills
Enter a mini city built just for kids at KidZania London. Just like they would in the real world, the kids can earn and spend money (Kidzos, not actual pounds) and try out a range of different careers, from being a TV presenter or chocolatier to working in a hotel or supermarket. It promotes independence as they’re encouraged to take part in the activities without you watching over them. While they’re busy, do a bit of retail therapy in Westfield shopping mall. You deserve it.
Feed the animals
Battersea Park Children's Zoo is home to lots of small animals and birds, so don’t go expecting the big five here. It’s ideal for families because it’s a much less crowded alternative to London Zoo – and there’s no way near as much walking involved – so little explorers won’t tire too quickly (and neither will you, for that matter). As well as petting and feeding the farm animals, wannabe farmers can try out a real-life tractor for size, and there’s a big adventure playground.
Kids under 12 eat for free at Gordon Ramsay’s British gastropub York & Albany. For something a little more luxe (depending on how good the kids have been, and how much that Hamleys trip set you back), tuck into a classic English meal in the Goring Dining Room. Its children’s menu includes Scottish beef burgers and soldiers and toast, plus desserts like knickerbocker glory.
For something more informal, London’s market-style eating spots are easy pleasers: Market Hall Victoria, Spitalfields, Borough Market, Box Park and Mercato Metropolitano have something for everyone. Take breakfast to a new level at Cereal Killer Café, which sounds super gimmicky, but the kids love it because it stocks every cereal under the sun. Let them mix and match to create their own colourful creations. Mexican restaurant Wahaca gives colouring sheets and pencils to keep kids busy, while Pan-Asian restaurant Inamo has tables that double up as entertainment centres where you can play games and order food with a tap. Hit two birds with one stone at American diner All Star Lanes, which has its own bowling alleys.
*Photo credit: Battersea Park Zoo