Oh, London. One of my favorite cities in the world and truly one of the most kid-friendly places we’ve ever been – there are just so many things to do in London with children! Brits have a reputation for their “stiff upper lip” but we honestly found them so warm, helpful, and accommodating to children.
If you’re looking for an easy, comfortable first international trip with kids, I think London would make a fantastic choice! Stay tuned later this week for some tips on fun things to do in London with kids, but for now, here are 7 reasons why it’s a great place to travel with kids.
1. INEXPENSIVE (FOR KIDS). London has a long-standing reputation for being crazy expensive. And some things can be! Accommodations definitely tend to be pricey, especially if you want to stay in the city itself. But it turns out that while lodging is pricey, you can manage it in such a way that most everything else is not – especially for families.
London has a million markets and street food options, there are a zillion (free) parks and playgrounds, and most museums and attractions are FREE! You undoubtedly won’t have enough time to check out all the free attractions. And even when there’s a charge for adults, kids are often free. So the more kids you have, the better deal it is. 😉
2. GREAT FOR IMAGINATION. London is so great for exploring with all age groups – there are even tons of things to do in London with toddlers! What kid doesn’t like dreaming of princesses and princes? With multiple very accessible castles right in the city, it’s pretty dreamy if you have children who love to dream. Kensington Palace has lots of little activities throughout the tour for little ones, and our kids were delighted by the beautiful dresses in the Princess Diana exhibit. Plus, the gardens are beautiful and perfect for kiddos who like to run!There’s also a wide array of London museums for kids who love to imagine. Exhibits include everything from the Rosetta Stone to royal gowns – perfect for sparking some imaginative play. I’ll have to do a whole separate post on the best museums for kids in London, but for now, know that pretty much any of them will have something for kiddos to enjoy.
3. FOOD. England sure does have a lot of reputations, doesn’t it? Another you’ve surely heard is that of bad food. Well, while British food might not be my very favorite (although we had some excellent pasties this trip!), London is incredibly diverse with its food offerings. So if you have picky eaters or children with specific needs, you won’t have any trouble at all. There are just so many options!
Plus, there are lots of cheap things to pick up and take back to a hotel or Airbnb if needed. While we were traveling in Norway and Denmark, it was difficult to find food to pick up – most places were sit down, which meant they tended to be expensive and time-consuming. London felt so much easier in that regard – we could grab food on the go much more easily.
On the subject of food, my kids were just so so delighted by afternoon tea. All the tiny sandwiches and treats and endless cups of warm tea or hot chocolate was pretty much their idea of heaven. There are also several fantastic markets (Borough Market is my fave), which are always really fun with kids – samples, variety, interesting things to see.
4. PUBLIC TRANSIT. Does public transportation get better than in London? Economical, efficient, and FUN. The London public transit system is vast, and will get you to pretty much anywhere you need to go. Between buses, subway (the Underground), and various other tram and rail systems, it’s highly convenient (and clean) to get around to most parts of the city.
On top of that, kids 10 and under ride anything that uses an Oyster card (including buses and subway, which is what you will likely use most) for FREE!! Compared to Paris, where kids 4 and over must pay, this saved a lot of money. Longer trains (including to/from the airport) have different age requirements, so be sure to check.
Oh, and let’s not forget that public transit in London is just dang fun. Who doesn’t love seeing the Underground signs, or stepping onto those iconic red double deckers?
My friend Vanessa wrote a terrific post on public transit in London with kids – there are just so many options!
5. ACTIVITIES TAILORED TO KIDS. I’ve never visited another city that is more tailored to kids than London. It was remarkable. Just a few examples: The National Gallery had MULTIPLE free self-guided kid tours on their website, as well as tours in person. They also had the widest selection of children’s museum guidebooks that I’ve ever seen. The Victoria & Albert Museum had a wide selection of children’s backpacks to check out (again, for free) to tour different sections of the museums. The backpacks contained mp3 players/headphones with accompanying music, sketch paper, explanation cards, and more. As far as toddler activities in London, many of the museums had special games or toys to engage even the youngest visitors.
Most spots for afternoon tea had a special children’s menu, and often wouldn’t charge for children under a certain age. And even for the few tours we did, the host really went out of his/her way to include the kids and engage them. So don’t fret about the weather – there are so many indoor activities in London with kids that you’ll have plenty to occupy your time. I could go on for ages about London museums for kids (not to mention all the other activities), but just know that Brits really go out of their way to welcome and include children.
6. BOOKS AND MOVIES. There’s just something magical about being in Harry’s homeland. Before going, we’d finished reading the first illustrated book as a family, and had just started the second. Even though my kids haven’t watched the movie yet, they loved just being in London. We stopped by Platform 9 3/4 (even though we didn’t wait in the huge line), ate pasties, imagined the Knight Bus, etc. SO fun!
We’ve also read (and LOVED!) a fair amount of Roald Dahl – in fact, we started listening to Matilda while we were there! We also imagined Charlie and Mary Poppins and so many more.
7. OUTDOOR SPACE. Especially for a large city, London has really curated its outdoor space SO well. There are gardens and parks galore – Kensington Gardens has lots of open space, ponds, the parakeets that will come right up to you, and the amazing and huge Princess Diana Playground built just for little ones.
The Millennium Bridge is interesting and fun to cross, Hyde Park has acres of space, the Kew Gardens are beautiful and peaceful…the list is never-ending. Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of opportunity to burn off energy in gorgeous spaces for adults AND kids.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! There are SO many fun things to do in London with kids and it’s one of those magical cities that is amazing for all ages. Have you been with your kiddos or is it on your list?