Your children will love getting hands on at this fantastic interactive museum, a place sure to spark their imagination. This museum celebrates science, technology, engineering and all round human ingenuity in the most presentable of ways. From historic aircraft to space flight, computing to astronomy there is so much to see and do here. Family trails help your family get the best out of their visit, while a trip to the Wonderlab is a must, an interactive experience to further fuel the imagination. Located in south Kensington, entry to this wonderful museum is free.
Natural History Museum
Let your children explore the natural world as well as take a trip back through time at this iconic museum. An incredible collection of animal specimens, plants, fossils and rocks has been gathered, all displayed in family friendly galleries. Take a trip through the dinosaur gallery and meet the fearsome T-Rex, or seek out the largest mammals the world has seen, including the spectacular blue whale skeleton hanging high above you in the Hintze Hall. Try out the earthquake simulator and feel the ground rumble beneath your feet. You will find cafes around the museum serving fresh food and hot and cold drinks when it is time for refreshments. Entry is free, and the museum opens every day of the week.
Churchill War Rooms
This is a hidden gem located beneath the streets of central London. You can take your kids on an atmospheric trip back to a dark time in British history and explore the underground bunker from where Churchill led the war effort. Listen to the tales of those who lived and worked here and see the cabinet war rooms, the map rooms and Churchill’s bedroom. This is all stirring stuff and a great way for children to learn about such a key time in British history. The Churchill War Rooms are located by the Clive steps on King Charles Road and is best served by St James’s Park and Westminster tube stations. Admission starts from £26.35 for adults and £13.15 for children aged 5 to 15.
Two million years of world culture can be explored at the British museum. There are so many priceless artefacts housed within the British museum including the Sutton Hoo treasures and the Rosetta Stone. The free Museum Missions will see your family complete challenges as you tour the galleries, including trips back to ancient Egypt as well as the days of the Roman empire. The explorer trails also help your family make the most of your visit, while at weekends you can pick up an activity backpack for the little ones. The main entrance in Great Russell street is just a five minute walk from Tottenham Court Road station. Admission is free, with donations welcome.
There are so many world class museums in central London that are ideal for family days out. The London Transport Museum may not be so well known as some of its more famous neighbours, but it is another fine museum for all the family to enjoy, including the immersive Hidden London exhibition where you can visit an ‘abandoned’ tube station underground.
A visit to London is not complete without a visit to the Tower of London. Although not strictly a museum, few places have such a connection with the history of London across the centuries. A palace, a fortress, an armoury and a prison, the tower has so many stories to tell about some of the most famous names in British history.
2. Parks and Zoos
Hyde park provides 350 acres of green open space where you can relax with a walk or enjoy the many family activities the park provides. You can enjoy a pedalo ride on the Serpentine lake or have a swim in the lido, where there is an adjacent cafe when its time for refreshments. Tennis and horse riding are further family activities available within the park. The Rose garden is a lovely tranquil spot to visit within Hyde park, while the South Carriage adventure playground is ideal when the kids want to be more active. Being so central, Hyde Park is easily accessible and opens from 5am all year round.
This is a lesser known gem, with the green spaces of Coram’s Fields centred around families. Indeed an adult can not enter this 7 acre park if they do not have a child with them. Located in Bloomsbury and free to enter, the park has a large adventure playground which includes a zip wire and a huge slide. There is also a children’s playground for the little ones, a sensory playground, paddling pool and sandpit. The lawns are perfect for picnics, while the wildlife garden with its two ponds is another highlight. At the weekend the park’s cafe is open, with proceeds helping to support Coram’s Fields.
This large royal park has plenty of grassland where the kids can run around and have fun. It is also a haven for wildlife, with a wetland area that attracts around 100 species of wild birds. Beautiful formal gardens and tree-lined paths make for lovely family walks, but once the kids need to let off a little extra steam there are also four children’s playgrounds to be found around the park. Regent’s Park also has a lake where you can hire a pedalo in the summer to take to the water, as well as tennis courts if you are feeling a little more competitive. There are plenty of places to grab refreshments, including the Boathouse cafe overlooking the lake.
Head to the northern tip of Regent’s Park and you will find the world famous London zoo. Follow the pink, orange and blue routes around the zoo to see all the animals including lions, tigers, gorillas, giraffes, zebras, camels and everyone's favourites, the penguins. There are hundreds of animals at London zoo to admire, with plenty of daily events such as the penguin talk and the lion talk to both entertain and educate your children. London Zoo opens every day from 10am, and Super Saver tickets start from £26.50 for adults and £17.25 for children.
More Parks to Explore
For a buzzing capital city, London is blessed with green open spaces where you can escape city life for a while. Green park is the smallest of the Royal parks, but its grasslands and mature tree lined walkways offer a peaceful retreat for the whole family. The daffodils in Spring as you look across to Buckingham palace are a particular treat.
St James Park is another lovely spot for family walks and picnics. The park is a great place to wander around while spotting some of London’s most iconic landmarks, and the walk over the Blue Bridge offers great views of Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. Keep a look out underfoot as you walk around the park for the plaques which mark the route of the Princess Diana Memorial walk.
3. Palaces, Cathedrals and Historical Attractions
There is no building more synonymous with London than Buckingham palace. Your kids will have seen it many times on the television, and now is there chance to walk along its gilded corridors. Highlights of the tour include the famous grand staircase, the Throne room and the State rooms where the Queen receives and entertains her guests. You will see many treasures from the royal collection as you wonder round, while a visit to the palace gardens is also a must. There are two ticket types available, the State Rooms ticket and the Royal Day Out ticket. A family discount is offered when booking direct which could save you at least £25.
Westminster Abbey is a spectacular building which is sure to leave children of all ages in awe. The abbey has played a key role in 10 centuries of British history, and over 3,000 great Britons have their final resting place here. Highlights of a visit include the royal tombs, the Coronation chair, Poets Corner and the stunning Lady chapel. As well as a shop, the abbey has a restaurant plus a kiosk outside if you want a lighter snack. A family ticket for one adult and one child costs £25, with a multimedia guide included in the admission.
The chance to explore an historic warship will thrill most kids. HMS Belfast served at the D-Day landings, just one part of its illustrious service career which now sees this famous warship moored between London bridge and Tower bridge as a museum open to the public. Immersive installations help provide a flavour of what life was like on board, while the little ones will love the chance to steer the ship down in the heart of HMS Belfast. There is so much to see and do onboard, as well as panoramic views across the city from the upper decks. Open Wednesday to Sunday, adult admission is from £22.70, with child admission from £11.35.
A Further Recommendation
The dome of St Paul’s cathedral is an iconic feature of the London skyline. There is also much to see and admire within this famous old building. Whether you take a guided tour or a self-guided tour, the history of St Paul’s is a rich one, with the crypt the final resting place of some of the county’s leading figures such as Lord Nelson. There are family multimedia guides available which will offer activities and provide the talking points to help your family get the most out of their visit.
This unique attraction may not be one for children who are easily scared, but most will love the dark tales of London’s past narrated through this immersive experience. Actors help set the stage as you meet some of London’s most notorious characters. Descend to the dungeons in the ‘medieval’ lift before experiencing the Tyrant’s boat ride, Conspirator’s Walk, the torture chamber, the Gunpowder Plot and so much more. The sights, sounds and smells provide for a thrilling visit. Admission costs from £27 for adults and £21.50 for children when bought online.
Sea Life London Aquarium has 14 zones to explore, containing over 500 species. This undersea world is sure to delight the little ones as they get the chance to see all manner of sea life, including rays, turtles, penguins, octopus and the mighty sharks. Indeed. you start your visit with the shark walk, where you can watch these stunning creatures swim beneath your feet. Another highlight is the glass Ocean Tunnel, where turtles and shoals of fish will swim around you as you pass through. The London Aquarium is located next to the London Eye, and tickets bought online start from £27 for adults and £24.50 for children.
Also close to the London Eye is Shrek’s Adventure, an interactive fairytale experience with everyone’s favourite ogre. Enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of Far Far Away as you venture through 10 themed live shows. Hop aboard the 4D flying magic bus driven by the loveable Donkey, visit Shrek’s swamp and encounter Puss in Boots at the Poison Apple pub. Your kids will also get the chance to meet and have a picture taken with Shrek. A short walk from Waterloo and Westminster tube stations, tickets start from £24 for adults and £19 for children.
Recognising famous faces and taking selfies with their favourite A-Listers is always fun for the kids and a prime reason why Madame Tussauds remains an ever popular attraction. Staged across different zones, you will meet royalty, musicians, actors, sports legends, superheroes and more. The diverse range of famous people represented at Madame Tussauds and how regularly they are updated is what keeps Madame Tussauds fun and fresh. Located on Marylebone street and just a two minute walk from Baker Street station, family tickets start from £24 per person.
5. Adventure Playgrounds and Iconic Toy Stores
Among all the hubbub of central London is this little gem of a playground, suitable for children up to the age of 12. You will find Horseferry playground in Victoria Tower Gardens, behind the Palace of Westminster, making it an ideal stop while visiting London’s major attractions with the kids. A sandpit, swings, a wide slide and a water play installation are some of the features of the playground to help keep the children entertained.
Diana Memorial Playground
This playground, opened in memory of Princes Diana, offers a series of activities, toys and sculptures to spark the imagination. Since opening in 2000, children have flocked to this playground which is inspired by the stories of Peter Pan, with a centrepiece wooden pirate ship surrounded by an urban beach. The backdrop of trees is lovely too, and a sensory trail provides a further connection to nature for your children to explore. The playground is suitable for children up to 12 years old, but it can get busy at times and a queue system is put in place when the playground has reached its capacity.
Hamley’s Toy Store
Admittedly, this one could be dangerous for the wallet, but it is hard to visit central London with kids and not visit this famous toy store. The flagship Regent’s Street store is set over seven floors, providing magical displays of toys of all descriptions. However, the store is more than just a toy store, with family events and entertaining demonstrations held through the year to help spark imaginations and creativity. The store is open from 10am every day, with the exception of Sunday when the doors open at 12pm.