Have you ever wondered how to spend a weekend in London with kids?
Quite honestly, there are so many things to see and do in London for children that we were spoilt for choice when deciding on the itinerary for our family weekend. With monuments, museums, historic buildings, family attractions and parks on offer, we knew we could never see it all in one go. However, we wanted to make the most of our family time in the capital, so included as many of the best iconic London sights as possible.
In this post, we share our 2-day itinerary in London and guide you through our route. We walked most of the way so that we could maximise what we could see.
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London 2-day itinerary: DAY ONE
London Dungeons, South Bank
Our family weekend in London started at the London Dungeons on the South Bank. This was the children’s first choice of things to do in London and somewhere none of us had been. It is a 5-minute walk from Waterloo Station.
The London Dungeons is one of London’s most popular attractions and far exceeded my expectations. You pass through a series of small rooms where live actors use special effects to re-enact stories from 1000 years of London’s dark and macabre past. Imagine tales of London’s ghastliest characters such as Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper. Or relive some of the bleakest events in London’s history, like the Black Death and Great Fire of London.
The London Dungeons is a fantastic place for adults and children alike, though is not particularly suitable for younger kids. However, there are several alternative famous London attractions for little ones next door, such as the London Aquarium and Shrek Adventures.
The London Eye
Just minutes from the London Dungeon on the water’s edge is the London Eye. Since its arrival at the start of the millennium, the London Eye has become one of London’s most iconic landmarks. A ride on this giant Ferris wheel will give you great views of London, but we were happy just to look from below.
Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament & Big Ben
A short walk along the South Bank and across Westminster Bridge gave us an excellent outlook over some more of London’s most magnificent buildings. From the bridge, we had a fabulous view of the Palace of Westminster and Elizabeth Tower, home to Big Ben.
The Palace of Westminster is a beautiful gothic structure and home to both UK Houses of Parliament. Big Ben is currently undergoing renovation work and there’s lots of scaffolding outside. However, you can still appreciate what a splendid building this is. Westminster Abbey is just behind the Palace, but we turned in the other direction to Trafalgar Square.
The walk down Whitehall leads to Trafalgar Square where Nelson stands proudly on his column.
Although there’s a quicker route to St James’ Park, this route led us past more of London’s famous attractions. The children saw the Cenotaph, the entrance to Downing Street (home of the Prime Minister) and Great Scotland Yard (former home of the Metropolitan Police).
We stopped for a look at the Horse Guards Parade, closely guarded by two very serious guards on horseback.
Trafalgar Square is one of the most popular plazas in London and is easily recognisable by the magnificent Nelson’s Column. This is a tribute to Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, one of Britain’s greatest naval heroes since commanding the British fleet during the Napoleonic Wars.
Surrounding Nelson’s Column are four famous bronze statues of lions, often known as the Landseer Lions.
After lunch, we walked through the Edwardian Admiralty Arch and up the Mall. This is the grand avenue, which leads up to Buckingham Palace. I have seen it many times for ceremonial occasions on television.
There are several significant statues to look at on the way, including the impressive Queen Victoria Memorial in front of the palace.
Buckingham Palace is one of the must-see places in London. No matter how many times I visit, I am always impressed by its elegance and grandeur. Well of course, it is fit for a queen!
Built in 1703, Buckingham Palace is the main residence of our sovereign, Queen Elizabeth. You can tell if she’s in residence, by looking for the Royal Standard flag flying above the palace. Although it’s her official London home, Queen Elizabeth also likes to spend time at nearby Windsor Castle in Berkshire.
Although you can visit the lavish state rooms in Buckingham Palace, we were happy to peer through the gates. From the first time this summer, the Queen also opened her gardens to the public and many were able to enjoy a picnic on the royal lawns.
St. James' Park
One of the best things to do in London with kids is visit the Royal Parks. St James’ Park is one of the best London parks and is a brilliant place to see birds and wildlife.
With an apple and patience, one twin soon had a green ring-necked parakeet eating from his hands. The other wasn’t so lucky and just had a pigeon sitting on his head! Unfortunately he has banned us from sharing this superbly comical photo!
Around the other side of the lake, we spotted great white pelicans on the central island, Duck Island. If you are lucky, you might see them wondering along the paths too. The pelicans are resident in St James’ Park, since they were gifted by the Russian ambassador in 1664.
From St James’ Park we walked directly across to the smaller Green Park. But this time it wasn’t birds we were looking for, but elephants! No not real ones. They were last seen at London Zoo in 2001. We were on the hunt for a herd of 100 life-size, wooden elephants.
Spread across 8 London locations, the visiting elephants were part of a temporary exhibition. The aim was to promote awareness about elephants and human-wildlife co-existence. What a fantastic idea! The sculptures were amazing to look at and a real crowd-pleaser.
Our final London Park of the day was Hyde Park. This was probably one park too many, as we were exhausted from so much walking. However, we did have enough energy to eat an ice-cream and watch the pedalos on the Serpentine Lake.
London Accommodation - The Ibis Styles Hotel, Southwark
From Hyde Park we took the underground to London Bridge Station. From here it was a 5-minute walk to the Ibis Styles Hotel in Southwark.
The Ibis Styles hotel is the perfect mid-range hotel for a family weekend in London. It has a theatre theme which adds character. It’s in a great location for getting to the Tower of London, the Globe, the Shard and Tate Modern.
The kids loved the hotel, especially the hot chocolate machine and popcorn maker! Read our full review of the Ibis Styles Hotel in London.
Borough Market is of the best street food markets in London and has something for all food tastes. It is very close to the Ibis Styles Hotel, so this is where we headed for our evening meal.
Borough Market is very different in the evening and has a fantastic outdoor eating area. We chose Mei Mei, an acclaimed Singaporean restaurant where we enjoyed a very flavoursome Cantonese roast duck dish and cocktails.
The evening skyline in London
We ended our 2-day itinerary in London with a walk by the Embankment to get a view of the night time skyline. The kids loved seeing the illuminated landmarks and enjoyed the bustle of the evening atmosphere.
London 2-day itinerary: DAY TWO
For the second morning of our two-day London itinerary, we booked tickets for the Tower Bridge exhibition. However, firstly we took a quick detour to Cross Bones Garden which was close to the hotel.
The Cross Bones Garden is one of the more unusual places to visit with kids in London. In medieval times it was an unconsecrated graveyard for prostitutes. Later, in the 18th Century it became the burial ground for paupers, who couldn’t afford a plot.
Local people have now converted the graveyard to a garden of remembrance and memorial shrine to “The Outcast Dead”. Unfortunately, it’s only open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, so we couldn’t go in.
From Crossbones Graveyard we crossed London Bridge and headed towards the Monument. The 202ft column was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London, which destroyed over 13000 houses and 87 churches in 1666.
The Monument’s height represents the distance from the site of the bakery in Pudding Lane where the fire began. It is one of London’s most popular landmarks and normally you can climb to the top. It is temporarily closed, but still worth visiting. You can also walk past the Monument to see Pudding Lane.
St Dunstan's in the East
Another unconventional place to visit with kids in London is St Dunstan’s in the East. However, I’d seen lots of photos and was keen to have a gander.
The original 12th Century St Dunstan’s church was damaged during the Great Fire. Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt the church, adding a new gothic steeple and tower. Unfortunately, these were destroyed during the 2nd World War. They decided not to rebuild the church, but to transform the ruins into a public garden.
Today it is a beautiful, tranquil space which provides a great outdoor sanctuary from the bustle of London life.
Tower of London
The Tower of London has 1000 years of history and is one of London’s most famous landmarks. Officially a royal palace, it has served as a prison, fortress and even a zoo. Nowadays it is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the best places to visit in London with kids.
Children will love seeing the Crown Jewels, beefeaters and ravens and hearing shocking stories of the Tower’s history. We have visited with the kids before and they loved it, but this trip we were heading to Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge is not only one of London’s most beautiful bridges and iconic landmarks, but an amazing feat of Victorian engineering. We booked tickets for the Tower Bridge Exhibition, giving us access to inside both towers and the engine rooms.
One of the most fun parts of the exhibition for children was the glass walkway. You can take cool selfies or peer down over the passers-by, vehicles, and boats travelling below.
Click here for more details of a visit inside London’s Tower Bridge.
St Paul's Cathedral
Next stop was a look at another of London’s famous historic landmarks, St Paul’s Cathedral. Famous for its spectacular domed roof, St Paul’s has dominated the London skyline for hundreds of years.
If you want to go inside you can book tickets online to see the Stone Gallery and Golden Chapel. It is not open for visits on Sundays, so we just admired it from the outside.
After a return to the hotel to collect our bags, we revisited Borough Market to buy some lunch. It has a very different atmosphere in the day and it’s fun to browse the stalls. We bought some extremely delicious pasties at the Ginger Pig and took them to eat by the river.
This is a great stretch of the South Bank to walk with children. You can see the old walls of Winchester Palace, the Elizabethan galleon, Golden Hinde and the magnificent warship, HMS Belfast.
The Clink Prison Museum is a fun place to visit to find out about London’s prisoners of old or you can see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
If you are travelling with kids in London, you are likely to see street entertainers here.
The last stop on our 2-day itinerary in London was at the Tate Modern, London’s fabulous museum of modern art. There’s a great choice of family-friendly museums in London, especially in Kensington, where you’ll find the amazing Science Museum and Natural History Museum.
We’ve been to the Tate Modern several times, and it is one of the best free things to do in London with kids. However, on this occasion we had tickets to the Yayoi Kusama “Infinity Mirror Rooms” exhibition.
The Infinity Mirror Rooms were two installation pieces of art, by Yayoi Kusama, one of Japan’s most prolific artists. We only had 2 minutes for each installation, but it was a unique experience of light and mirrors and definitely worth it.
Other fantastic places to visit in London
Obviously, with so much choice of things to do in London, it’s impossible to visit everywhere in one weekend. Some of the other best things to do with kids in London are:
- Covent Garden
- The British Museum
- Camden Market
- China town
- Leicester Square (especially the Lego shop!)
Getting around London
We spent most of our weekend in London on foot, as you can see more sights this way. However, we did walk a really long way. If you’re travelling with younger children, consider using a Hop-on Hop-off bus. This way you can see plenty of London sights without little legs getting tired.
Alternatively, London has a great network of underground trains, buses, and boats.
Guide books for London
If you’re looking for more information on the best things to see and do in London, we always find the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guides very inspiring. As the name suggests, the Top Ten travel guide to London provides top ten lists to everything, from museums and monuments to restaurants and bars.
Another good option for helping you get the most out of your visit is the pocket Rough Guide to London. These travel guides come in a handy, pocket-friendly format, so are ideal for popping in your bag or pocket. And you can never go wrong with the Lonely Planet Guides, which provide practical information from locals.
If you are looking to enthuse younger children about your visit to London, try the 50 things to spot in London activity cards. It will help them discover all the iconic landmarks on your sightseeing day.
Where are your favourite places to visit in London with kids? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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