Favorite Family Friendly Things to See and Do in London

Family Friendly Things to See and Do in London

London is one of our favorite cities to visit in the world.  It’s relatively easy to travel to from the US, as most major cities have a direct flight.  There is no language barrier (obviously!) and the public transportation is excellent.  London is also a great jumping off point to combine with any other major European city or region.   We have been to London twice as a family, once when the kids were young, and then again for spring break one year when they were teens.  We love the history and architecture that is London and all that there is to see and do.  Because of our extensive time here, covering a large span of kids’ ages, we have compiled a list of our favorite family-friendly things to see and do in London.

Afternoon Tea

You can’t go to London and not have a proper afternoon tea!  As an American coffee drinker, the idea of an English tea was definitely something we wanted to try.  I took the girls, who were 18 and 12 at the time, for a lovely afternoon tea at The Goring Hotel

We booked our tea ahead of time online and when we arrived we were greeted by the friendly staff who walked us right in to the dining room.  We were seated at a table with a white tablecloth and given a menu with a variety of teas to choose from.  Once our tea orders were placed, we were brought tiered trays of tiny sandwiches and little desserts.  For my daughter with a food allergy, she had the exact same food as us, but prepared without allergic ingredients.  That was fantastic for her to get to experience a proper English tea safely! 

The service here was impeccable – they were friendly and helpful while also allowing a relaxing environment for us to dine peacefully and take our time.  We spent almost two hours enjoying the ambiance of this lovely English tradition.

This is the perfect place for an afternoon tea for the entire family!

A Day Out in Windsor

We actually prefer to stay in the town of Windsor when we visit London.  Windsor provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of London, which is welcomed to come back to at the end of each day.  It’s very easy to head into London for a day of exploration from Windsor Station, so it gets our vote as a great place to stay.

As for things to do in Windsor, we love to meander the shops on Peascod Street and form a picnic from either Marks & Spencer or Waitrose and take it to the Long Walk in front of Windsor Castle. 

The lovely Long Walk

When the kids were little, they enjoyed feeding the swans at the River Thames.  And park equipment is always a little different than what we have at home in the U.S. so we were sure to frequent the vast array of parks, especially in between castles and museums!

While in Windsor, a visit to Windsor Castle is a must.  It is the oldest continuously operated castle in the world! 

Windsor Castle guards

During the tour, one sees an impressive array of weapons, short and stout King Henry VIII’s suit of armor, and can finish with a visit to St. George’s Chapel, which is the site of many royal events.  King Henry VIII is actually buried there and you can stand right above where he is laid to rest. 

TIP:  One can attend services here at the chapel.  See this website for more information.

In front of Windsor Castle

Hampton Court Palace

Another castle, this one teeming in history!  This castle was once the home of King Henry VIII, first belonging to Thomas Wolsey, King Henry VIII’s right hand man.

Henry VIII’s castle – Hampton Court Palace

It’s a haven for kids to explore, with its courtyard and recreated rooms from times of occupancy.  A large spit over a two-story fireplace actually cooks meat daily, just as they did back in the day of operating during King Henry VIII’s court. 

The kids had a blast running through the castle! (Notice Ava is wearing a princess robe, courtesy of the castle!)

A re-creation of the butcher’s room

The basement wine cellar is complete with dirt floor.  The smell of the cool dirt in the musty castle basement felt a bit creepy!

The basement wine cellar

Outdoors, the kitchen gardens deserve a visit, and you’ll be sure to pass some fruit trees along the way.  Get lost (and found!) in the 17th century Hedge Maze, the oldest in the world.  And the Magic Garden is an imaginative play garden, perfect for families to explore.

When our kids were little they enjoyed dressing up in some children’s period costumes they had on site.  Full on princesses and knights ready explore for the day!  Hands on history at it’s finest! 

A medieval feast!

Westminster Abbey

It’s impossible to put into words how incredibly beautiful Westminster Abbey is.  Once you absorb the beauty you are then are amazed at its history.  A plethora of royal events have taken place here over the years and into modern times, including weddings and funerals.  Many notable folks are buried here, including Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, and many, many more.  

We purchased the add on ticket to visit the Queen’s Jubilee Galleries, located upstairs in the abbey.  The stunning stained glass exterior windows surround the enclave.  Looking out of the open alcoves upstairs, you see Westminster Abbey 52 feet below.  The beauty of the church is even more remarkable from high up above. 

Over 300 treasures are on display in the Queens Jubilee Galleries, reflecting the 1000-year history of the Abbey.  It was definitely worth the additional ticket fee to view these treasures as well as take in the beauty of the abbey from up above.

The incredibly gorgeous Westminster Abbey

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is synonymous with medieval London history and absolutely warrants a visit during a trip to London.  

Beginning outside, visit the portcullis, the thick iron gates that were the prisoners’ first view of the Tower of London as they were meeting their fate.  

The Traitors Gate

Next up is the White Tower, probably the most recognizable building of the Tower of London.  Yeoman Warders, also known as Beefeaters, are the ceremonial guards at the Tower of London.  They are approachable and love to share in the history of the Tower.

Head to the Bloody Tower to view the Tower of London’s most infamous prison.  The fate of two young princes are said to have ended in murder by their uncle, the future King Richard III.  The mystery is still just that – an unsolved mystery – which adds to the eerieness of this tower.

Braden meeting his fate at the Tower of London!

“If the ravens leave the tower, the kingdom will fall…”  Did you know that ravens are kept at the Tower of London to this day?  You will see one of the current seven ravens flying about, protecting their fortress to ensure that the kingdom does not fall!

The ravens, still protecting the Tower of London to this day!

The crowning glory on visiting the Tower of London is in fact the crown jewels.  This is heavily guarded, of course, and you will file in and end up on a moving walkway to view the jewels without lingering.  It gives everyone an equal chance to view the jewels in an efficient manner. 

NOTE: No photography is allowed in the Jewel House.

The British Museum

If you want to see two million years of human history as well as culture and artifacts from six continents, a visit to the British Museum is a must.  While there are always ongoing new exhibits and events, some of the highlights are The Rosetta Stone, mummies, Samurai armor, and the Dinosaur gallery – featuring a Triceratops skull and various dinosaur fossils.

This museum has something for everyone, due to its vast array of treasures from around the world and across centuries.  Did I mention it’s free?!

The British Museum is an incredible place for kids

The Prime Meridian 

Want a chance to stand at Zero Longitude, with one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and one in the Western Hemisphere?  That is what you can do if visiting the Prime Meridian in Greenwich.  Just a short jaunt from London, one can take their iconic photo on the Prime Meridian and visit the Royal Observatory.  In the Observatory view the sky from one the of the world’s largest telescopes, an impressive sight in and of itself.  See the Harrison Clocks up close and take in a planetarium show at the Peter Harris Planetarium.  There is so much to see and do here, you’ll end your time here with the best view of London.

NOTE:  This was the furthest trek we made in London, as the Prime Meridian and Royal Observatory are to the far east of London.  We had to take multiple trains and it made for a generally long day.  However, visiting Greenwich Park afterwards was a great respite!  The kids had a blast running around the vast part area, including taking a peek at “Elizabeth’s Oak”, a tree that Queen Elizabeth I played in as a young girl.

If you are short on time this is one place I would consider cutting out of your itinerary.

Big Ben and Parliament

So you want to see Big Ben?  Well, that is actually the name of the bell inside the tower!  That might be hard to see, but you can see the clock tower, the name being Elizabeth Tower.  But we all know the whole tower, clock, and bell as Big Ben so that is what we will call it! 

The best views of Big Ben and Parliament are from the Westminster Bridge.  The bridge has sidewalks on either side, although the left sidewalk is a slightly better spot to grab the iconic photos.  

If you want epic views of Big Ben and Parliament, consider a trip on the London Eye, Europe’s tallest ferris wheel.  It’s located on the south bank of the River Thames, right next to the Westminster Bridge.  You’ll get incredible views as you rise high in the sky.

Braden, Ava, and I on Westminster Bridge

NOTE:  When we visited recently, in 2019, Big Ben was unrecognizable, completely covered in scaffolding.  Be sure to check Big Ben’s current conditions if you are hoping to see it in all its glory!

The Museum of London

I’ve saved the best for last as this is actually my favorite museum in London.  It’s a walking, tangible timeline of the city, starting in Roman times.  It’s not overwhelming in terms of things to see and do, but rather captivating as you literally walk through the history of London.

The beginning of civilization of London took place during Roman times, when it was known as Londinium.  Then comes the medieval time period, beginning after the collapse of Rome and through the time of Queen Elizabeth I.  Continuing on, you learn about The Plague and The Great Fire of London, which is believed to have helped end The Plague.  Moving on, you continue walking through the rebuild of the city, Victorian times, and ending during the 20th century.  

This museum is interesting from start to finish and another excellent example of hands on history.

A firefighter hat and bucket, used during the Great Fire of London in 1666

Coins used to attend Shakespeare performances at The Globe Theatre

Medieval childrens clothing

Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the museum is the old Roman built London Wall that still stands outside the museum.  There are observation windows to view it.  The address of the Museum of London pays homage to it’s Roman beginnings:  150 London Wall – how cool is that?!

The old London Wall, which still stands outside the Museum of London

NOTE:  The Museum of London is currently closed with an expected opening date of 2025.  The Museum will then open at its new location in Smithfield.  It will then go by the similar, albeit different, name, The London Museum.

London is one of the greatest cities in the world with beautiful architecture, incredible history, ceremonial guards, some of the world’s greatest treasures, and of course castles and royalty.  There is so much to see and do here for all ages which is why it remains our favorite international city, especially great for a first-time visit to Europe! 

Read More!

London makes a great gateway city to also explore more of Europe.  We have visited both London and Paris one a trip for Spring Break one year and thought it worked great to combine these two cities.  Read the post, Guide to Visiting Two of Europe’s Greatest Cities, London and Paris, to learn how to do this itinerary along with our suggestions for what to see and do in both cities during a week-long combined trip. 

For detailed daily itineraries, check out our article, How to Organize Your Time in London.  

Dietary Notes

As always, everyone’s needs are different.  At press time, my husband is grain-free and two of our kids are allergic to nuts and eggs.  Although we encompass a fair amount of dietary restrictions, we can only offer advice as to what pertains to our own family, as that is where our expertise lies!

We have always stayed in an apartment (flat) when visiting London.  Being able to cook and eat in makes it a lot easier most of the time.  London and Windsor, where we always stay, have small grocery stores where you can easily form a picnic to eat at a nearby park.

During our last visit to London, the Goring Hotel deserves a shout out for how seamlessly they handled our daughter’s food allergies.  When booking the afternoon tea, I simply wrote a note stating that my daughter had an allergy to eggs and nuts therefore would just be enjoying the tea.  Never a word mentioned until they brought out her tiered tray with tiny sandwiches and delectable desserts.  They quietly and happily informed me it was all safe for her.  To say we were appreciative would be an understatement.  I cannot recommend this tea enough if you have dietary restrictions!

We ate at various restaurants throughout the city and all were able to accommodate.  As is typical with Europe, their ingredients in their menu items are very transparent which makes it easy to work around.  

Overall, London is a very easy city to dine out in with dietary restrictions.

For more on traveling with dietary restrictions, be sure to check out our guide:  On the Go with Allergies.

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