Lodon with kids


What do do in London that will make the whole family happy

First off: Skip the obvious sights that seem aimed at famlies but are, in fact, a snore.

The Changing of the Guard bored me to tears at age 11 (still does), and Madame Tussaud's is an insanely overpriced house full of waxy mannequins of famous people the kids probably never heard of anyway. The London Dungeon is a lame attempt to make history ghoulishly fun (think: mediocre haunted house exhibits) and also grossly overpriced.

Much more exciting would be a Beefeater tour of the Tower of London (lots of good, bloody history to recount, and they try to make it particularly entertaining for the lads and lasses).

You must, of course, make a pilgrimage to Kings Cross Station to look for Platform 9-3/4, from which the Hogwarts Express leaves in the Harry Potter books. (The station, showing a whiff of whimsey, has sliced a lugagge trolly in half and planted it in one out-of-the-way brick wall, as if in the process of pasing through it.)

There are other Harry Potter filming locations scattered around London that will be of varying interest to fans (die-hards can even take a Harry Potter Tour, or head of town to visit some of the Harry Potter sets on the Warner Brothers Studios lot).

Take a boat ride out to Greenwich to see the magnificent Cutty Sark clipper ship, then picnic and play on the grassy lawns of the city park leading up to the now-free Royal Observatory where they can set their watches by the official Greenwich Mean Time clock and have fun jumping back and forth between hemispheres on the Prime Meridian.

The Churchill War Rooms are pretty cool—a warren of hallways forming the underground bunker from which Churchill and his aides waged World War II, an odd mix of avant-garde interactive exhibits that go way beyond touch screens and frozen in time mannequins-and-maps tableaus in (you may have to explain what a "telephone" is to younger kids when they see the line of color-coded Bakelites in one room).

Children visiting London might also enjoy romping about the stalls of Portobello Road flea/antiques market on a Sunday, climbing to dome of St. Paul's to gaze out over the city—or do the post-millennial version, a ride in the massive Thames-side London Eye Ferris wheel.

And you know, even though it's a museum, all the mummies and gigantic Persian statuary and the cool mummified dude from the bog and the glasses of glittering Celtic gold and other awesome stuff inside the (totally free) British Museum tend to be a highlight of a London trip for kids of all ages.

Kid-friendly food

When it comes to meal time, pub grub is a perennial favorite.

Also check out Belgo Centraal (sausages and mashed potatoes, roased chickens, and other hearty Belgian grub served at communal picnic tables by waiters dressed as monks); Pollo (cheap, heaping platters of spaghetti and other classic Italian favorites); and Japanese noodle house Wagamama (if they like Ramen, tell them this is the real thing, stocked with real meats and veggies, not just powder from a pouch).

Family tours

Here are tours focused specifically on entertaining the tykes:


Tips & links



Useful London links & resources
How long to spend in London?

Planning your days in London: You can see many of the greatest hits of London in 3 days (though 4 days would be better—a week, if you can manage it).

That said, if you only have 1 day or 2 days to spend in London, we also have itineraries to help you cram in as much as possible into as little or as much time as you have.

» London itineraries

Get the London Pass

The London Pass grants free entry to more than 60 sights across London, including such top attractions as St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, the Churchill War Rooms, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Tour, Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle, Kew Gardens, and London Transport Museum—as well as some nifty tours by bike, canal boat, and foot.

If you upgrade to the Travelcard option (an extra £9—or $16—per day) you also get unlimited rides on all public transportation (Underground/Tube, bus, and light rail).

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London tours

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