London is a fantastic place for children. The city’s museums will fascinate all ages, and you’ll find theatre, dance and music performances ideal for older kids. Playgrounds and parks, city farms and nature reserves are perfect for either toddler energy-busting or relaxation.
Central London Kid Picks
- Hyde Park & St James’s Park
Open spaces, playgrounds, water and wildlife.
- The West End
- London Transport Museum
Drive the tube, trains and buses and then have a London Underground–themed smoothie in the upstairs cafe.
- Coram’s Fields
Sandpits, swings, animals and areas for all kinds of acrobatics (www.coramsfields.org).
- Kensington Gardens
- South Kensington
East London Kid Picks
South London Kid Picks
- Southbank Centre
Car-free and full of fun, there are also music and theatre events at the Royal Festival Hall for teens, toddlers and those in between.
- Battersea Park
Leafy park with a small children's zoo.
- Horniman Museum
Fantastic museum with an array of free-to-touch objects, such as puppets and masks.
- Vauxhall City Farm
Animal petting and picnicking on the grass (www.vauxhallcityfarm.org).
- Imperial War Museum
After older kids are done checking out the battle aeroplanes, the whole family can picnic on the vast green outside while the little ones play at the adjacent playground.
North London Kid Picks
Parks & Playgrounds
London's parks and gardens are manna from heaven for parents of young children.
- St James's Park
Admiring the ducks and squirrels and watching the pelicans’ teatime at this park is a must, followed by running around the rocky playground and sandpit.
- Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens
Row your boat on the Serpentine lake or hire a pedalo. Rent a bike to ride around the park. Otherwise, take little ones to splash about the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain or play at the excellent Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground.
- Science Museum
Really! Head down to the basement of this museum where 'the Garden' is a dedicated interactive play zone for tots aged three to six. The water area is especially popular (waterproof smocks are provided).
- Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
From the sprouting fountain patio in which kids frolic to the amazing Tumbling Bay Playground (complete with tree houses, sandpit and wobbly bridge), this park will keep kids busy for hours.
This working city farm near Canary Wharf has lots of animals, meadows and plenty of activities for kiddies.
- Coram's Fields
Almost 3 hectares of lawns, sandpit, shallow pool, animal yard, swings and other contraptions are all yours at Coram’s Fields, a local favourite (www.coramsfields.org).
- Battersea Park
A leafy haven that contains a small children's zoo and provides some great playing opportunities.
- Regent's Park
A truly wonderful park with lots of peaceful green spaces for your kids to run wild. It's also home to ZSL London Zoo, which makes it cool without even trying.
City Farms & Nature Reserves
City kids need a regular fix of their animal buddies, and London obliges with the UK’s most diverse pick of the animal kingdom through its city farms, zoos and nature reserves.
- Freightliners City Farm
A fantastic working farm (www.freightlinersfarm.org.uk) in the inner city that’s home to cows, sheep, pigs and giant Flemish rabbits. It’s also a community centre with a cafe and opportunities to buy eggs and veggies grown on the farm.
- Hackney City Farm
A retreat from the urban East London surroundings, Hackney City Farm has goats, sheep, pigs and a donkey named Larry.
- Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park
The perfect place to meander on the marshland paths and bird-watch. Lose yourself in nature in the midst of industrial London. See www.tcv.org.uk/greenwichpeninsula.
- Kentish Town City Farm
London’s oldest city farm (www.ktcityfarm.org.uk) has been going since 1972 and was the example for the rest of the capital’s farms. Apart from petting the animals, kids can get involved in feeding and cleaning; there are popular pony-riding and pottery-throwing workshops too.
- Highgate Wood
Highgate Wood is a huge woodland area that feels worlds away from the traffic-laden streets of London. The entire place is just heavenly for kids with its carefully thought-out playground and outdoor storytelling sessions and treasure hunts.
- Mudchute Park & Farm
There are daily activities, including a 9am duck walk, and a great picnic area at London's largest city farm.
- Epping Forest
Twelve miles in length and nearly as many across, Epping Forest (www.visiteppingforest.org) is popular for horse riding, cycling and walking, and is also the place to spot a grazing cow. Best for older kids and their families, and those keen on getting plenty of exercise.
Best for Kids
There is so much to see and do that you won't know where to start.
- V&A Museum of Childhood
Dressing-up boxes, toys from times gone-by and interactive play areas.
- Natural History Museum
Dinosaurs, animals, more dinosaurs, planet earth and the role of scientific research – all fascinating stuff at this museum.
- London Transport Museum
Twenty London Transport buses and trains are on display and available for climbing on and general child-handling at this museum.
- Greenwich Park & Royal Observatory
First there is the park, which you need to gambol through to get to the observatory; then there are the Astronomy Galleries and the Planetarium, which kids will marvel at, as well as the Camera Obscura.
- ZSL London Zoo
Want to see your kids saucer-eyed with wonder in London's largest menagerie? Well, they can do that here.
- Golden Hinde
Kids go wild for the treasure hunts, the tall tales of pirates and mutinies, and the incredibly evocative interior of this replica 16th-century galleon.
- Horniman Museum
An aquarium, a hands-on music room, natural history galleries and huge grounds – this museum offers endless fun.
Best for Teenagers
London punches above its weight when it comes to entertaining blasé teenagers.
- ArcelorMittal Orbit's slide
This 178m-long corkscrewing slide is one of London's most adrenalin-inducing experiences, with superb views.
- Science Museum
The sensational displays about space, information technology, flying and more will have teenagers enthralled at the Science Museum.
- Tate Modern
The Drawing Bar at Bloomberg Connects at this modern art museum has digital sketch pads where teens can express their inner Rothko.
- Madame Tussauds
With its celebrity waxworks this museum is selfie heaven, be it with Luke Skywalker, David Beckham or Benedict Cumberbatch.
- Bond In Motion
The James Bond car collection steals the show, but there is plenty more film memorabilia to enjoy here.
- London Transport Museum
The A to Zs and nuts and bolts of London transport told in fun fashion. The museum also stages Hidden London tours (from 14 years) taking you down into secret shelters and disused tunnels across London (book early).
- HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast was a light cruiser that served in WWII and the Korean War. Amazing displays bring those history lessons to life.
- Changing the Guard
Soldiers in bearskin hats and red uniforms, military orders and all the pomp at the Changing the Guard – everyone will gape.
Off-beat Activities & Courses
If you’re a London resident, or if you’re just after a bit of off-beat fun for your children, take them to one of these courses.
- Children’s Cookery Classes
Try La Cucina Caldesi (www.caldesi.com) in Marylebone, where courses are aimed at kids aged from six to teens, or Kiddy Cook (www.kiddycook.co.uk) in Twickenham, where those aged two to 11 can get busy with raw ingredients.
- Children & Youth Dance
The Place has great term-time courses for young people between the ages of six and 15. Some toddler classes too. Best for London residents.
- Mushroom Foraging
Fungi to Be With (www.fungitobewith.org) runs trips to Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest and Wimbledon Common.
Plans rain-checked by London's famously unpredictable weather? As well as myriad museums and galleries, here are some ideas to stay warm and dry.
- BFI IMAX Cinema
Documentaries and blockbusters in 3D for a different cinema experience.
- Queens Ice & Bowl
Get your skates on and go spinning around the rink, or have the kids aim for a strike in the bowling alley.
- West End matinee show
The West End has plenty of plays and musicals children will love, from Matilda to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Tickets are often available on the day.
- Treetop Walkway
Go underground and then up 18m into the canopy for an unforgettable encounter with nature at Kew Gardens.
- Mayfield Lavender
Wander among the lavender flowers in a magically beautiful landscape.
- Thames River Services
These river cruises may be less thrilling than a high-speed boat, but there will definitely be more sightseeing.
- Hampton Court Palace Maze
It takes the average visitor 20 minutes to find the centre of the maze – can your kids beat that? Look out for summer events such as jousting and falconry too.
London’s museums are nothing if not child friendly. There are dedicated children or family trails in virtually every museum. Additionally, you'll find plenty of activities such as storytelling at the National Gallery, thematic backpacks to explore the British Museum, pop-up performances at the Victoria & Albert Museum, family audio guides at the Tate Modern, and art and crafts workshops at Somerset House, where kids can dance through the fountains in the courtyard in summer. The Science Museum has a marvellous interactive area downstairs called 'the Garden', where tots can splash around with water; however, some kids never get past the fantastic shop at the museum. Older kids will be thrilled with the flight simulators at the Science Museum too.
In winter (November to January), a section by the East Lawn of the Natural History Museum is transformed into a glittering and highly popular ice rink; book your slot well ahead (www.ticketmaster.co.uk). Somerset House also sparkles with a fantastic ice rink in winter.
Remember, many activities are free (check websites for details).
Museum & Attraction Sleepovers
What better fun than sleeping at the feet of a dinosaur? Museum sleepovers are very popular and must be booked at least a couple of months in advance.
- Natural History Museum Snooze under the watchful eye of the blue whale in the Hintze Hall, having first explored the museum’s darkest nooks and crannies with only a torch to light your way. Monthly; adults welcome too!
- Science Museum Each month kids aged seven to 11 get the chance to experience a night of hands-on workshops, science shows and an IMAX 3D film.
- British Museum Sleepovers give kids aged eight to 15 the chance to bed down next to Egyptian sculpture.
- ZSL London Zoo Don't let the bedbugs bite! Sleepovers for kids aged seven to 11.
Eating with Kids
OK, it’s not Italy, Spain or France, with their uber-relaxed approach to small diners, but most of London’s restaurants and cafes are child friendly and offer baby-changing facilities and high chairs. Pick your places with some awareness – avoid high-end and quiet, small restaurants and cafes if you have toddlers or small babies (and those with the ‘No Children’ signs on the doors). Go for noisier restaurants and more relaxed cafes, and you’ll find that you’ll be welcomed and probably even given that rare London treat – a smile.
London is a great opportunity for your kids to taste all the world’s cuisines in close proximity to each other, so pick from good-quality (and MSG-free) Chinese, Italian, French, Mexican, Japanese and Indian restaurants. Many places have kids’ menus, but ask for smaller portions of adult dishes if your children have a more adventurous palate; you’ll find that most places will be keen to oblige. Items on kids’ menus range from the usual burgers, pastas, sausage and mash and so on, and cost anything from £3.50 to £7.50.
This chain (www.wagamama.com) is much loved by kids for its noodles and general buzz. Fresh juices and sugar-free ice lollies are favourites, and your little ones get to master the chopsticks.
Nando's (www.nandos.co.uk) branches are everywhere and are excellent for kids of all ages, except tots. They serve peri-peri chicken, and you can order to taste. The bottomless drinks and frozen yoghurt are a perennial favourite.
- Frizzante Cafe
Good cafe (www.frizzantecafe.com) for a big lunch before or after animal sightings at the adjacent Hackney City Farm.
Need to Know
- Transport Under-16s travel free on buses, under-11s travel free on the tube and under-5s go free on trains. Steps and escalators mean some stations are hard to access with buggies (strollers) – buses are a safer bet. Transport for London has accessible-transport details (www.tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility).
- Walking The best way to see London is by walking – public transport can be crowded and hot in summer.