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Guide to London with kids: family city break planner

I’ve spent decades exploring London – visiting as a child myself, before spending around 25 years living here, and now discovering the best of London with kids with my own daughter. Because this fascinating city always has something new for families to find.

Graphic with the words London and illustrations of Big Ben, London eye, Tower bridge and double decker bus, Police box, St Pauls Cathedral, guard, telephone box - my guide to London with kids, with everything families needs to know to explore the city
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But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of a family city break in London, whether it’s wondering how to use the London underground with kids, trying to work out where to visit first (and where to skip), plus tips on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do if it’s rainy (or in the middle of a heatwave), I’ve got the tried and tested answers you need below.

Along with essential information and some of the practicalities of London for families, you can also find things to do for toddlers and teens, reviews of family attractions, seasonal fun and special holiday activities, and even the best books to buy in my guide to London with kids.

For more advice, tips and ideas, check out the London with Kids Facebook group

Practical info

Collage image showing essential practical information as part of my guide to London with kids

Getting to London

If you’re travelling from within the UK or Europe, there’s a variety of transport options available to you, including train, coach, or plane. 

By train or coach

Trains are often the most convenient option when travelling from other parts of the UK. National Rail runs a comprehensive train network across the entire country. You can also compare ticket prices and check routes using sites like Omio.

National Express and Megabus also run coach services to London, which tend to be more affordable than the train. 

London has multiple major railway stations, including King’s Cross, Euston, Paddington, Waterloo, London Bridge, Liverpool Street and Victoria, as well as bus stations, in particular at Victoria.

View of platforms at Kings Cross station in London, looking down at the trains under the curved glass roof - one of several major rail stations if you're travelling with London with kids

These all then connect to the Transport for London (Tfl) network – it’s a good plan to make sure your hotel is close to the station you arrive into or has easy connections.

Scroll down for more tips on getting around London, including using the underground with kids, or check out this post

You can also get the Eurostar train to London from European destinations including Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.

By plane

London has five main international airports; Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, and London City. European airlines arrive into all of these airports, with many budget airlines focusing on Stansted and Luton.

If you’re travelling from the US, many airlines offer direct flights from major US cities to the larger London airports of Heathrow and Gatwick. However, if there’s no direct route, you can also take a connecting flight via somewhere else in the US.

There is a sixth small airport, called London Southend, in Essex but connections are not as good to the city so you’re unlikely to land here. For more information on how to get from London’s airports to the central London, check out this post for more details.

Advert showing an image of a printable scavenger hunt for London's iconic sights and the words 'click here to buy your scavenger hunt for finding some of the iconic sights of London with kids, only 99p'

When to go

London is a fantastic city to visit all year round so no matter what time of year you go, you’ll find plenty to see and do.

The peak tourist season in London is during the summer months from June to August. This is when the weather is at its hottest, with the lowest chance of rain. There are also lots of fun outdoor festivals and events taking place across the city during the summer. However, the crowds can be overwhelming, and hotel and tour prices are usually higher. 

The view of the city from Parliament Hill in north London, the highest point in the capital - whether you're visiting London with kids during summer or winter, there's plenty to enjoy

During the winter months, the weather is likely to be cold and rainy but the city is the least crowded and prices are at their lowest, so it’s a good time to visit on a budget.

The exception to this is the run-up to Christmas in December, which is another popular time to be in London. Amazing Christmas lights illuminate the entire city and there are loads of festive events taking place in every neighbourhood.

The best time to visit London is often during the shoulder months of March to May and September to October. During these months, the weather is often mild and pleasant, and there are fewer crowds and lower prices than during the peak periods – although school holidays for Easter, May half-term and October half-term are an exception.

It’s worth remembering that Britain’s weather is famously unpredictable, and London is no exception – the summer months could see heatwaves or unseasonably cool rainy days, while glorious sun in late September and early October isn’t unheard of.

For more tips on planning for London’s weather, scroll down

What to see

Most people know London’s most famous landmarks: Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye. But there’s so much more to the British capital than the postcard image. 

View across Tower Bridge and the Thames to the skyscrapers of the city of London on the skyline - the best views of London with kids, including free viewpoints and historic sites

From world-renowned museums to beautiful green spaces like Hyde Park, vibrant markets to quirky immersive attractions, there are endless things to see and do with kids in London.

Below is a round-up of some of our favourite neighbourhoods:

WestminsterIconic landmarks, Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Bridge
SouthbankRiver Walk, The London Eye, Sea Life London Aquarium, Shrek’s Adventure, The London Dungeon, Tate Modern, The Globe Theatre
West EndLondon’s Theatre District, Shaftesbury Avenue
Leicester SquareCinemas, Lego Store, M&M Store, Chinatown
Covent GardenCovent Garden Market, Street Performers, London Transport Museum 
South KensingtonNatural History Museum, Science Museum, V&A Museum, Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, Princess Diana Memorial Playground
CamdenCamden Markets, Street Art, Live Music, London Zoo, Regent’s Canal River Walk, Views from Primrose Hill
GreenwichThe Cutty Sark, The Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich Park, 
Image showing a graphic of the London Eye on the Essential Guide to London with kids ebook cover, and the words 'click to buy my 33-page guide to London. Itineraries, tips and all you need to know before a visit to London with kids' linking to my the London with kids shop page

Guide to London with kids: detailed articles

For more tips and inspiration if you’re visiting London with kids, check out some of my posts:

Planning a visit to London

Visit London without breaking the bank – save money on days out in London with kids

London in the heat – the best places in London with air con

Visiting the Warner Bros Studios? My tips for the Harry Potter Studio tour, London

The best kids’ books about London, including guide books and fiction for toddlers, children and teens

Tips for visiting London’s museums with toddlers and kids

Where to stay in London with kids

Where to stay in London with kids

Family hotels sleeping 5 in London

Family hotels near Harry Potter Studios, London

Getting around London with kids

London Underground with kids – tips for using the tube

A London Underground sign with the words underground on - my guide to London with kids includes tips on using the tube for families

Tips for using the London underground with toddlers

How to travel from London airports to central London

Things to do in London with kids

The best things to do in London with kids

The best free things to do in London with kids

The best things to do in London in the rain with kids

Unusual things to do in London with kids

The best things to do in London with preschoolers and toddlers

My ultimate London landmarks walking route

The best playgrounds in London with kids

The best bus tours in London with kids

The best boat trips in London with kids

The best views in London with kids

Gilded gates and front view of Buckingham Palace - the best of the many royal places in London to see with kids

Royal places in London with kids

Visiting Buckingham Palace with kids – tips and essential info for the tour of the state rooms

The top Harry Potter locations in London

The best Roman sites in London

A Great Fire of London walk with kids

Where to find Paddington Bear in London

London neighbourhood guides

The best things to do in Camden with kids and teens

The best things to do on London’s South Bank with kids

The best things to do in South Kensington with kids

The best things to do around Leicester Square with kids

The best things to do near Tower Bridge with kids

The best things to do at Wembley Park with kids

The best things to do in Greenwich with kids

Things to do on the Thames with kids

View of Tower Bridge in London seen from across the river on a sunny day with red phone boxes in the foreground - my guide to London with kids includes the best things to do near Tower Bridge

London family attractions

Visiting the Natural History Museum with a toddler

Visiting the Science Museum with a toddler

Tips for visiting the British Museum with kids

Tips for visiting the V&A with kids

Visiting London Transport Museum with kids

London Transport Museum depot – open day with kids

Visiting the Museum of London Docklands with kids

Visiting Twist Museum London

Visiting The Horniman Museum in London

London’s Museum of the Home with kids

Penguin stands by the edge of the pool at London zoo waiting for feeding time - my guide to London with kids includes animal attractions like the zoo

Tips for visiting London Zoo

Day out at Battersea Park Children’s Zoo

Kensington Palace with kids

A day out in Greenwich – visiting the Cutty Sark

Terrible Thames review: the Horrible Histories boat tour

Explore London by water – GoBoat self-drive boat tour

Tips for visiting Kew Gardens with kids

London Wetland Centre in Barnes – family day out

Visiting the Golden Hinde – an escape room aboard a Tudor galleon and the Night Voyage sleepover

London seasonal highlights

February half-term in London with kids

Things to do at Easter in London with kids

May half-term in London with kids

Summer holidays in London with kids

London attractions with air con for summer

October half-term in London with kids

Thrilling things to do at Halloween in London with kids

The best places for Bonfire Night in London with kids

Tower bridge seen through an arch of baubles at Christmas on the River on the south bank of the Thames in London - find tips for festive fun in my guide to London with kids

Things to do for Christmas in London with kids

The best Christmas theatre in London with kids

Festive lights with kids at Christmas in London

The best Christmas markets in London with kids

Places to ice skate in London with kids

London’s Santa Steam Express: review

Eating in London with kids

The best desserts in London with kids

The best hot chocolate in London

A donut tour of London with kids

Days out from London with kids

The best things to do in Windsor with kids

View across the river to Windsor Castle as a boat cruises along the water - my pick of the best things to do in Windsor, one of the best days out from London with kids

The best things to do in Kingston with kids

Visiting Hampton Court Palace with kids

The best day trips from London with kids

Image showing a graphic of the London Eye on the Essential Guide to London with kids ebook cover, and the words 'click to buy my 33-page guide to London. Itineraries, tips and all you need to know before a visit to London with kids' linking to my the London with kids shop page

Travelling within London

The most convenient way to travel within London with kids is by using the city’s comprehensive public transport network – the Citymapper app is one of the best to help you navigate, as well as the Tfl Go app and Google Maps (which is particularly good if you’re using buses).

London is well-served by public transport, with the tube (London Underground), buses, overground trains, and river boats available to get you wherever you need to go at all times of day. You can use your contactless card or an Oyster Card to use London’s public transport. 

Contactless payment (including contactless payment by phone) is the easiest and cheapest way to travel.

Always make sure you use the same card or device throughout to get the maximum fares capped, and always tap the yellow card readers at the start and end of a tube journey (even if the gates are open) or at the start of a bus journey. Each traveller needs their own separate card or device.

If your contactless card charges you fees to use it abroad, then an Oyster card may be a better option. There’s a £7 charge for the Oyster card itself and you can then top up credit to pay as you go – fares are capped at the same rate as using contactless cards.

Tube roundel with the words Underground against a blue sky in a London street - my tips for the London Underground for families

While paper travelcards are still available, these are almost always a significantly more expensive option, unless you are staying for long periods and also travelling outside the central zones 1-2.

Children under 11 travel free across the network with a paying adult – make sure you go through the wider accessible/luggage gates together to use the tube as the individual gates close quickly.

Kids aged 11-15 can get half-rate fares with a young visitor discount added to an Oyster card by tube staff. If you do visit London regularly, it’s worth looking at a Zip Oyster card – these cost more and are more complicated to apply for, but it saves having to set up the discount for each trip. There’s no way to get the reduced fares using contactless payment.

Within the different neighbourhoods, walking is a great way to get around. But it’s probably best not to attempt to walk from one area of the city to another (unless they’re next door). London is HUGE and it’ll be too much walking for little legs. 

Driving within London is possible but we definitely wouldn’t advise it. Not only will you spend most of your time stuck in traffic, but you’ll also need to pay a £15 congestion charge to drive within the city centre and potentially £12.50 to drive in the Ultra Low Emission Zone. Parking is also extremely hard to come by, and expensive when you do find it.

Flight resources

Skyscanner is the website I tend to start with to compare rates for my flights.

Money-saving tip: Don’t input any dates to scan the best available times to go OR simply input ‘LON’ instead of a specific airport – you may get a much cheaper flight!

Accommodation resources

When I plan a city break with kids, I often prefer my own apartment – and along with as well-known favourites such as AirBNB, I’m a big fan of Plumguide which has a range of accommodation that’s been individually vetted and there’s a good choice of AirBNB alternatives in London.

You’ll find plenty more self-catering accommodation as well as family-friendly hotels.  Booking.com usually offers the best deals, including free cancellation, but you can find more inspiration on where to stay in London with kids here.

Four happy kids lying on a white duvet on a bed smiling - if you're wondering where to stay in London with kids, I've picked out the best family hotels in London in my guide to London with kids

For larger families, there are also family hotels in London sleeping five as well as some great hotels near Harry Potter Studios if you’re planning to visit the Warner Bros Studio tour and prefer to stay outside the city centre.

The usual major hotel chains also have plenty of options for family friendly hotels for different budgets – the Park Plaza hotels from Radisson are great, while Hilton has everything from the Waldorf to cheaper central London hotels near major attractions, as well as the Doubletree and lower budget Hampton by Hilton brands.

Safety tips

London is generally a pretty safe place to visit. But like any big city, it’s crucial to take precautions to ensure your own safety. 

Always be aware of your surroundings, keep your valuables out of sight, and be cautious of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas such as on public transport and around popular tourist attractions. 

Money saving tips

It’s certainly no secret that London can also be an expensive place to visit. But with a little bit of planning, it’s possible to enjoy everything the city has to offer without breaking the bank – see my complete set of tips to save money on days out in London with kids here.

Model red doublechecker bus with red postbox, phone box, model of Big Ben and jar marked travel with money inside - my tips on how to save on days out, in my guide to London with kids,
  • Visit during off-season to save on flights and accommodation.
  • Use the city’s excellent public transport system rather than taxis.
  • Find a free walking tour, but do leave a tip if you can.
  • Take advantage of free activities, such as visiting museums and parks.
  • Use discount ticket websites to get good deals on big attractions. 
  • Book combination tickets for multiple attractions. 
  • Save money on food by looking for meal deals in supermarkets (usually including a sandwich, snack and drink) as well as discounts for restaurants using a Taste card.

For more tips on ways to save on a city break with kids, including city passes and finding cheap (or free) tours, check out this post.

Packing guide for London with kids

When packing for London, it’s important to prepare for the unpredictable British weather. While weather extremes are rare, it’s worth checking forecasts in the run-up to your trip – don’t be surprised if you’re faced with sunshine, clouds and rain, sometimes during the same day.

Even during the peak summer months, rain and milder days are still possible, so ensure you have a few extra layers and a light raincoat or umbrella with you.

Make sure to pack comfortable shoes for walking around the city too as you’ll be on your feet a lot. A day bag for carrying layers, water, and snacks is also a great idea.

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Book list

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to books about London – from the best guide to London with kids to fiction for toddlers, children and teens, you’ll find something to suit the whole family.

Check out my complete list of the best books about London for kids here

The City Trails series from Lonely Planet Kids are one of my favourite guidebooks for children – we’ve used them in other European cities and City Trails London is just as packed with quirky facts and sights.

Horrible Histories addicts will be delighted to discover that there’s a London book in the series –Gruesome Guides: London – with all the fascinating and foul, gruesome, gory and downright weird facts you’d expect.

Younger kids will love Paddington’s Guide to London, which makes a fun way to get them excited about the trip in advance too. Or the Pop-up London book from Lonely Planet Kids is another colourful option for little ones.

Concept graphic showing London icons coming out of the turning pages of a book, including bus and houses of Parliament - my top kids books about London in my guide to London with kids

For something a bit more interactive, there are more than 130 London sights to find in the pocket-sized i-spy London, with plenty of facts to discover as you read and explore.

Or the fabulous Usborne lift-the-flap books includes a London option: Look Inside London is packed with information about the city’s key sites – including Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London – as well as London’s other famous sights, such as red phone boxes, black cabs and double-deckers buses.

From the same publishers, See Inside London takes a journey through time (rather than geography), showing London throughout its history from Roman times to the Middle Ages, the Black Death and during the Blitz in the Second World War. A great companion to the Look Inside London book.

Covid resources

Check here for current covid rules in the UK. For more general health information visit the NHS website, and download my family travel first aid checklist.

Disclosure: This guide to London with kids contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission

Penguin/Tower Bridge at Christmas images copyright MummyTravels, all others courtesy of Depositphotos


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