Destination: England: London
London is one of our favorite cities for family travel. Historic landmarks like the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben and newer sites like the London Eye and the Tate Modern make it a city that reveals its history and its energy in a wonderfully accessible and entertaining way to all ages.
We have designed itineraries for so many families (and benefited from their feedback) that we have created a Mapped Out: London Essential Three-Day Itinerary for Families. In it, we highlight what to do and see in the British capital with kids in easy-to-follow itineraries that include hotel, restaurant and shopping suggestions.
For those who want a custom itinerary planned, which will include our favorite guides as well as special family activities such as the Harry Potter tour, a private boat on the Thames, back-stage theater visits or private palace visits, contact our bookings team.
Read more about our Mapped Out Series
Going with a Guide
One of our favorite ways to explore London, or any city full of colorful history, is to discover it with engaging docents, i.e. scholars and practicing professionals in place of standard issue guides. The result? Tours that members repeatedly report amongst the best they’ve tried. Family-focused walks include a tour of the National Gallery with an art specialist who introduces children to the magical myths that inspired many of the museum’s paintings, while active adults might want to try a runner’s tour of London with an athletic magazine editor and Oxford grad. A guided tour of the Tower of London is also a great way to cover the history of the city while exploring palaces and prisons. It is also possible to tour the surrounding areas, including to medieval Canterbury and the Queen’s villa in Greenwich. Contact our advisory team for more information or to book a half-day, full-day or multi-day itinerary.
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
Winter Wonderland returns to Hyde Park from Saturday, November 22 to Sunday, January 4th, 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Even bigger than last year, the Winter Wonderland will double the size of the Christmas Market, add more rides (yes the bungy dome will be back), feature a larger ferris wheel and a longer toboggan ride than last year’s. Its ice skating rink was already the city’s largest, but book tickets early as they sold-out quickly last year. Admission is free but rides require tickets and advanced tickets for the ice skating rink is suggested. For VIP access, contact 212-988-2611.
You Asked: What to do with a 5-year-old in London?
London is one of the cities in Europe that most easily captures the imagination of young children. Many of its best-known tourist sights appeal to kids such as the London Eye, the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels as well as the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace.
We would recommend getting a guide for a half-day to visit the Tower of London and to inquire if there are any “enactments” going on, as they really bring the history to life for kids. (Friends who visited recently returned for a second afternoon at the Tower because they loved it so much, and still rave about what they found in the gift shop.) A guide can arrange for advance tickets as well for the London Eye, which provides the thrill of a giant ferris wheel and a fantastic perspective on the city. We’d be happy to recommend a guide who relate well to families, if you call our bookings department at 212-988-2611.
Another popular family spot is the Royal Mews, which is where the Queen’s horses and carriages are kept. To ready your grandson for the visit there, you can read him Bemelmans’ Madeline in London, which features equestrian escapades in London. (It’s also available on DVD in a charming animated version.) Another great title is Miroslav Sasek’s This is London. And don’t forget to ride on a double-decker bus, which even sophisticated pre-teens think is “cool.”
Friends who live in London with young kids say that they never tire of the London Zoo, the Science and Imperial War Museums and riding paddle boats in Hyde Park or going to the Chelsea Market and stopping for pizza lunch.
A great activity that will allow you to mix an adult art tour with something that kids love is to take the Tate to Tate Boat. You ride in a catamaran, conceived by the artist Damien Hirst, between the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain. Don’t miss going into the Tate Modern, which often has exhibits in the Turbine Hall Gallery that amuse all ages because of their vast scale alone.
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