We kicked off our 1-year world journey by heading across the pond over to London, United Kingdom. A 5-day stay in London with kids allowed us to explore the city and bit of the surrounding area.
London was first on the list for a few reasons. First, it was an easy transition for all of us being English speaking and only 6 hours difference for time zone. This lets us get adjusted to a few differences without having major culture shock for our kids. Secondly, the flight from Regina, Saskatchewan to London was a winner! The flight duration was less than 10 hours so we didn’t have a terribly long haul and the price was less $400 per person. A reasonable price and entry into Europe, to kick it off. Lastly, most of our family had never been so it would all be new!
London has a vibe to the city that makes it extremely welcoming to families. It was easy to find local parks, playgrounds, and space for the kids to just be kids. We always tried to balance the touring with just being a kid type stuff.
In order of preference, from the kids, this is our Top 8 picks of Things to Do in London with Kids:
What You'll Find in This Post
- 1. The Making of Harry Potter
- 2. London SeaLife Aquarium
- 3. Riding the Tube & Water Buses
- 4. Princess Diana Memorial Playground
- 5. London Eye
- 6. Wimbledon
- 7. Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, Bucking Palace (and the playground)
- 8. South Bank Walk
- Where to Stay in London
- Best Food in London
- Useful Tips for London:
1. The Making of Harry Potter
Of course, this would be first. Luca had been waiting for months to go to The Making of Harry Potter Studio. Enter into the magical world of witchcraft and wizardry to find out how the seven Harry Potter films were made. The amazing behind the scenes of everything you can imagine brought the kids (and us) into the movies. This place did not disappoint and you could spend all day there if you wanted to, but we could only handle 3 hours at Hogwarts. Everything from props, sets, costume, makeup, creative design, architecture to Butter Beer! It is truly amazing how they used their creativeness to replicate the imagination of J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter Series. A post will be coming soon just on The Making of Harry Potter since it was unbelievable and so much more to tell!
2. London SeaLife Aquarium
The aquarium provided a much-needed break from the extremely warm weather during our visit to London. But, to the kids, they just love to see animals so it was a win for both of us. The aquarium was filled with a shark tank, jellyfish exhibit, penguin area and all kinds of tropical fish. Their favourite was the turtles and the penguins. This is right beside the London Eye, so finding it will make it easy and less walking for the kids.
3. Riding the Tube & Water Buses
We all loved riding “The Tube” aka underground train. To the average Londoner it is a necessity and part of the regular day, but to us, it was an experience we don’t have at home. Finding our way up and down escalators and looking down corridors made riding the Tube feel like we were on a mission to explore versus getting where you needed to go to. Super easy to get around on with kids and the most affordable transportation. The kids loved seeing the school kids riding the tube to get to the museums in their fluorescent orange/yellow vest, just as they would take a yellow bus for a field trip back home! Seeing how other kids live in other places is exactly what this trip was about. We also tried out the waterways with their water buses!
4. Princess Diana Memorial Playground
This playground was inspired by Peter Pan and the magical message of never growing up is engrained in this playground. Filled with a ship to climb aboard on, secret passage ways and tunnels shaped into the bused, instruments to create music and even a Fairy meeting post! The innocents of make believe and pretend came alive in my kids eyes when we spent an afternoon in this park. Located in Kensington Gardens, it is an easy walk from Kensington Palace with lots of green space and trees we decided to find a tree to picnic under. It appears, from the parks we went to in London, they are all fenced in with heavy gates to keep kids in and bathrooms for kids – very smart ideas!
5. London Eye
Get a bird’s eye view of London. 360-degree views of the city provided a great way to see where things are in the city and get a feel for the surroundings. The kids liked that it because it went slowly so they could check things out on their own. Plus, no hand holding and a bit of a break for us to know exactly where they were for 30 minutes.
We survived the queue! We knew Wimbledon was going to be on while we were in London, and Jamie is a tennis fan, so we decided to take our chances with not booking anything in advance and see if we could get in. The kids did better than I expected to stand in a 2-hour queue to get inside. Jamie was all smiles when we got in to check this off his bucket list of experiences. We walked around and took in the atmosphere of this elite sporting event. The ambience was remarkable at Wimbledon. We took it all in and waited to find out what court our Canadian Eugenie Bouchard was playing at, and finally was able to score some tickets for court 2 to watch her match. Unfortunately, she lost but watching the sheer professionalism of the athletes and staff was jaw-dropping.
7. Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, Bucking Palace (and the playground)
We walked around the area right by Westminster tube station and strolled along the streets to check out Big Ben, the Parliament buildings, Westminster Abbey and then through St. James park to Buckingham Palace. A full walking morning but the kids were excited to find a park just outside Buckingham Palace to burn off some more energy. The classics of what to see while in London is a must. We didn’t venture into any of the places just took a stroll through the streets to see the sights.
8. South Bank Walk
Walking along the River Thames on the South Bank provides insight into London’s life. Restaurants, pop-up book stores, street performers, skateboard park, bars and artwork have an eclectic vibe. Walking along the bank and not knowing what is around the next bend provided us with a free afternoon to wander and get lost. The kids enjoyed an old-fashioned carousel ride and once again another park we stumbled upon. Good drinks, slushes and ice cream cooled us off from the hot summer day.
London is filled to the brim of things to do and there is so much more that can be explored, but 5 nights in London seemed to be the right amount of time for this big city for our family. I think the best advice I can give is to visit London like you will go back; try not to fill it all in and enjoy what you were able to experience.
Where to Stay in London
- We used Airbnb for the first time in London and it worked wonderfully for our family. Click here for more information on Airbnb and possbily save a little money. A little bit of extra space, able to cook for ourselves and laundry. We also like the idea of staying where the locals live, using the grocery stores and parks. We stayed in Earl’s Court area, which had plenty of access to the tube, buses, restaurants, grocery and other amenities. It took about 10 minutes by tube to get down to Big Ben area.
- Anywhere generally in the Greater London Area when searching for hotels will work. I like using the map feature when using Booking.com to see where the Tube is located for easy access to anywhere in London. The further you go out from central London the more cost effective it will be so find something that works with your budget. We found some to fairly cost efficiecent if you were willing to ride the Tube for a few minutes.
- If you looking for more of a Hotel stay check out some of these options in London:
Best Food in London
- We ate all our breakfasts, late night snacks and most of our suppers at our flat. But, our favourite place for lunch was to pick up healthy snacks from PRET and find a spot for a picnic! Nados, Grilled Burger and fish & chips in Trafalgar Square were a few places we ate at.
Useful Tips for London:
- If you plan on staying in London for more than 3 days, it is worth getting an Oyster card for the tube. It works like a top-up card that offers discounts on transportation.
- Travel the tube during “off-peak” hours to get cheaper fares.
- Kids under 11 ride for free, but be sure to use the family gates when you tap in and out of the tube so you don’t get slammed by the doors.
- Use Uber for cheaper rates than taxis – it worked out to be cheaper for our family of four to use Uber to/from the airport versus train system (plus easier with luggage).
- If you plan on doing more than one attraction in London there are discounts when you buy more than one at the same time ex. London Eye, Aquarium, etc
Check out more of our Trip Itineraries from other spots in the world.
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