Despite being British, our kids have grown up in Malaysia and have never seen the famous London landmarks. So, it was top of our list during our recent trip to the UK.
First up – getting there. There are many ways to get into and around London once you arrive in the UK, but we’ve always found the easiest and quickest way is by train. An off-peak family travelcard which allows you to use the train, underground and buses is probably the most cost effective if you know you will be hopping on and off the tube all day. Another bonus is that many of the London attractions offer 2for1 on ticket prices, so this way we were able to get a discount on our Tower of London tickets making them considerably cheaper. Just be aware that if you have young children and are using the tube, it can get awkward if you have a pushchair as there are lots of escalators, so check out which stops have lifts before you go! We booked through the Trainline and collected our train tickets at the station on the day.
These legs were made for walking…
One of the best (and free!) things to do in family friendly London is simply to walk around, checking out the landmarks and soaking up the atmosphere. First for us, was Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard which happens at 11am every day in the summer months (although do check the times for when you are going). It’s fascinating to see the guards in all their pomp and splendour marching up to the gate in their red and black uniforms. Even though we turned up a bit late we were still able to see most of the action – however, be prepared for some crowds. For more info, Tripadvisor has some good advice.
If you have the energy, it is fun to take the 10 minutes walk down to Westminster, here you’ll find Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament Square. Our kids were most keen on seeing Big Ben so we made our way towards the Houses of Parliament until we could see it rising up before us. We could have spent a lot more time here – we didn’t even get to Westminster Abbey – but decided to hop back on the tube to Tower Bridge for the Tower of London. If you’re interested in seeing inside Tower Bridge, you can get your tickets here.
Of armour and jewellery
Once you emerge from the tube station, you can see the Tower buildings right in front of you, so finding the entrance is easy. Obviously, the main draw is the Crown Jewels. We were worried that it would take a long time as there was a rather large queue, however, the guards are very efficient at moving people through and we were soon ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ at all the beautiful crowns and royal jewellery. If you have any history buffs in the group they will absolutely love this day out, our son (age 8) loved walking up on the battlements and seeing the suits of armour.
Despite seeing most of the different towers, even we couldn’t cover everything in one afternoon, so you could easily spend a whole day here. The place is very well set up for families too with toilets, cafés and buggy areas, although do note that some of the ground is cobbled and uneven. Food wise, like most cities, are expensive. Most of the attractions in London have picnic areas and there are also plenty of parks so bringing your own snacks is sometimes easier and cheaper.
Museums for free in family friendly London
Our second day in London was a little more budget friendly as we dedicated it to exploring the museums, most of which are free to enter. If you get the tube to South Kensington you can walk down the long tunnel which takes you directly to the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the V&A Museum. We plumped for the Science Museum since our kids always enjoy this kind of thing.
The free exhibits are interesting although lacking interaction which meant that the children raced through them rather quickly. Don’t miss the exhibition on Space which has some fantastic rockets and space shuttles on display. However, if you want something more ‘hands on’ your best bet is to pay to visit the Wonderlab which has a range of interactive activities and is geared more towards children. We watched a show about liquid nitrogen and the staff presented the experiments in a really engaging way. Another bonus is that Wonderlab is opposite a café and picnic area so we could have a cup of tea and eat our picnic straight after.
After two days of hardcore sightseeing we were all pretty tired. There is so much to see and do in London that we barely scratched the surface, but our kids were glad that they finally got to see some of the most famous sights in their home country.
Another way of seeing London is on the Hop-on Hop-off London Big Bus Tour.
If you’re looking for tips on planning your holiday, read our holiday hacks!
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