We have been living in London for 2 years and I have two very young kids, 3 ys and 18 months old. I know that visiting a city with little ones might be stressful unless you plan it carefully and follow some tips. I am here to tell you that your London first visit with kids can be enjoyable for all the family.
I suggest to arrange to visit a big destination per day, choosing the most “boring” for them while they are having nap. Arrange short transfers among the various points of interest, so that they can be done on foot or by bus. Leave the longest journey back to the hotel at the end of the day.
Slow down and consider the following list, an easy guide to stress-free places for kids where spend some hours, or think over them as a child-friendly filler at the end of the day.
If you are planning a trip to London, you might be interested in reading How to organise a trip to London with kids
WHAT TO SEE IN LONDON THE FIRST TIME?
SOUTH BANK is a good start to visit the city. There is s pedestrian path along the Thames and several places of interest including the London Eye and the London Sea Life Aquarium (in both cases, I suggest to book online), the Shakespeare Theater, the Tate Modern and the Borough Market. If you continue along the River, once left the Borough Market, you cross the London Bridge and you can continue till the Tower of London. Close to the London Eye there is also a nice playground!
DOUBLE DECKER BUS
A DOUBLE DECKER BUS is always an exciting thing to do with kids! It’s free for young children and I think this is also a good way to visit the city instead of paying a very expensive sightseeing!
Visit COVENT GARDEN early at the weekend, one of my favorite places in the heart of London. It’s a great starting point to visit Soho or Leicester Square, with its Lego shop. In Covent Garden there is also the London Transport Museum which is full of fun for children! It’s good to know that the Covent Garden tube station has the elevator!
WHICH PARKS TO VISIT IN LONDON?
LONDON PARKS are a good escape from the tourist schedule and city traffic. London is full of beautiful parks you can choose from. The best moments during sunny days, but even if the weather isn’t great they are hard to beat. Holland park in Kensington, Kew Gardens in Richmond, Regents’ Park, Hyde Park and Battersea park are among our favorites. If you are around Hyde Park, don’t miss the Princess Diana Memorial playground and its pirate ship with sandpit.
See the popular Changing the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace, that it’s a tradition that dates back to 1660. The horses, the band, the march with the guards in uniform, is a moment that strongly characterizes the city. As it’s in the morning, it could be easier to wait for a little while with your kids. The Guard is changed every thirty minutes during the summer (April 1 to Sep 30) and every hour during the winter (Oct 1 to Mar 31). It’s also free.
Go to HAMLEY’S, the Greatest Toy Store in the World. I know that this seven-floor-cathedral full of toys can be full of hordes of people and it’s supposed that you buy something. But it’s like a indoor wonderland and you can agree them upon a small budget to spend. If your kids are Lego’s fun, on their 5th Floor there is a brand new area to celebrate 60 years of the Bricks. It’s on Regent St. just a short walk from Oxford Circus. There are also changing tables in all the restrooms and a cafe.
A FREE MUSEUM?
You can choose among Natural History Museum, British Museum, Science Museum, Tate Gallery, V&A, and Tate Modern. Anyway a little donation is always suggested. Both Science Museum and Natural History Museum are great for kids.
Your London first visit with kids | Where to eat with children?
London is my top pick for children: changing tables everywhere, food chains ready to have children and easy accessible with buggies. You often receive, the second you are given a table, some busy things to let the kids entertained.
Some of our favorite places where to eat with kids are Wagamama for ramen and sushi, Bill’s for a brunch, Franco Manca for pizza, Byron for hamburgers, Kerbisher and Malt for fish and chips.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT LONDON?
I suggest to avoid peak tourism season, like summer, and the during Bank Holidays or Easter time (you can check UK school holidays), because the city can be too busy and you can find queue for everything. I think that Autumn is a great season for London, because of the cheap flights as it is low season. Read my post what do to with children in autumn in London for more information.
Regarding the weather, there isn’t really a better time, because it can be rainy even in summer! Christmas is really magical in London as well.
You can read also: Christmas at Kew Gardens, a magical experience.
HOW GET AROUND LONDON WITH KIDS?
Central London is not as huge as one imagine and you can easily get around on foot. Bus are the easiest way for buggies, but you can choose the tube and check the step free stations map from here. You can also check in the Citymapper app which is the step free path to reach a destination. You can read more about the best apps to visit London here.
London public transport can be expensive, but consider that children can travel for free till the age of 12.
If you think to use tube or any other public transport a lot, with Oyster or travel card the cost is capped. I have written a post about which is the best solution among Oyster, Travel card and Contactless.
WHAT ARE THE NON TOURISTY THINGS TO SEE IN LONDON?
FIRST TIME IN LONDON: WHERE TO SLEEP
As I LIVE in London, I have never slept in a hotel, but I can recommend some, either because they are in a good area or have a good value for money, either because friends or relatives stayed there.
If you want to have a truly unique experience, why don’t choose a mews flat? Like this Mews house in Notting Hill, for a medium budget.
LOW BUDGET: YHA London Earl’s court (it’s an hostel with high reviews), The Z Hotel Shoreditch in Islington, rooms from 69£, The Britannia Hotel in Hamstead, a very good position close to Primrose Hill and with rooms starting from 49£.