24 of the Best Activities for Families in London

March 19, 2024

My wife and I love London – it’s one of our favorite cities in the world – and we recently introduced our boys, 12 and 15, to it. We felt they were ready for some international travel, and London was the perfect city to help them learn the ins and outs.

You could spend a lifetime exploring the city, but we put together 24 of the best activities for families in London – especially if you have teens or pre-teens!

1. Practice riding public transportation

A bigger city is great practice for kids learning to navigate public transportation like busses and subways. London’s Tube can certainly be busy and crowded, but with its abundant signage and color-coded routes, it’s also very user friendly. Have the kids learn the Tube map, and even let them lead the way in getting from one destination to another. The bus system is also very handy, and allows for more sightseeing as you travel.

Must Do: Download the CityMapper app to help you navigate the quickest routes!

2. Go pastry-hunting

London is home to many amazing bakeries. A quick Google search will lead you to many great options. Our personal favorite is Fortitude Bakehouse near Russell Square, but trendy spots like Le Deli Roubichon for square croissants are fun, too!

3. Search for relics at the British Museum

The British Museum can be busy and touristy, but it’s free and fun to spend even an hour there. Explore the huge collections of relics (including famous pieces like the Rosetta Stone), relax in the cafe, enjoy the beautiful architecture.

4. Savor an English breakfast

You have to try one of the UK’s signature meals, right? There are plenty of places that serve full English breakfasts. Some will be a little fancier and more expensive, so we try to gravitate toward smaller cafes and older stops. Our personal favorite is Regency Cafe in Westminster, although we had a lovely full English at Kozzy Cafe in Holburn.

5. Attend a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral

Along with Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of London’s most prominent churches. You can book public tours to see the interior of the church, but you can also attend any one of their services. We attended one of their choral evensong services (held most days at 5 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m.). They’re shorter services that feature the choir singing.

6. Walk the Thames riverfront

One of our favorite activities is a stroll along the Thames, especially in the evening. We like starting at St. Paul’s Cathedral, walking south and crossing the Millennium Bridge to land at the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern, then heading west to enjoy the views, stop in some shops, see the National Theatre, checking out the book market under the bridge, and ending up near the London Eye and Westminster Bridge.

7. Eat fish and chips

There’s no shortage of fish and chips shops in London, of course! We think it’s worth trying it at least once. There are all sorts of spots – some upscale, some retro-designed, some authentically old school. Poppy’s Fish & Chips has a few locations – they’ve been around for a while and are delightfully old school, although they are a little pricey. Rock and Sole Place near Covent Garden owns the title of London’s oldest chippy.

8. Shop the many markets

London is home to many markets that beg for a couple hours’ exploration. The Borough Market in Southwark is a popular stop (although skip the Instagram-popular stalls like the strawberries and chocolate). Camden Market has gotten much trendier, too, so it can get very crowded on weekends, but it’s still worth a visit. We enjoyed the Spitalfields Market in the City. It can be trendy, too, but the footprint is much bigger.

One to skip: Portobello Road Market. Yes, it’s been in lots of movies and it’s full of antiques, but because it’s just on Saturdays it gets very crowded, so you’re mainly just walking down the street in a big mass of people.

9. Take a canal boat ride to Little Venice

If you’re visiting Camden Market, we recommend booking a canal boat ride to or from it! You book them through London Canal Waterbus. We started at Camden Market and ended in Little Venice (an underrated neighborhood). The tour takes about an hour, is loaded with history, and hosted by funny and knowledgeable guides.

Bonus: if you end in Little Venice, stop for coffee and a snack in the cafe – in a canal boat!

10. Be a tourist at Covent Garden

Yes, Covent Garden is very touristy, but the neighborhood is near and dear to our hearts because it’s so central to all of our visits to London. Stroll through it at least once. Check out the market stalls, get a snack, enjoy the street performers.

11. Go see some theatre!

London is home to loads of great theatre, and a lot of it very affordable! You’ll find big shows on the West End, new plays and classics at the National Theatre, dynamic Shakespeare and other authors at the Globe Theatre, new and experimental work at the Tricycle Theatre and Donmar Warehouse, and many venues large and small throughout the city.

12. Tour the London Transport Museum

Located just off Covent Garden, the London Transport Museum is a must for any fan of transportation (like yours truly). If features old busses and Tube cars, interactive exhibits on the history of the Underground, and much more.

13. Explore Seven Dials Market and Neal’s Yard

Near Covent Garden is the Seven Dials, a neighborhood named for the convergence of seven roads, and the picturesque Neal’s Yard. The area is loaded with shops and restaurants. We highly recommend a stop at Neal’s Yard Dairy for stilton and other specialty cheeses, plus a stop at nearby by bakery for bread.

For a bigger meal, visit the Seven Dials Market, a newer food hall built out of an old warehouse. It features a couple bars and a huge variety of vendors. Beth’s personal favorite was the cheese counter with a conveyor belt of cheese!

14. Take a walk in the many parks

London is home to many beautiful parks and squares, so even in the big city you’re able to find quiet green spaces perfect for a stroll. Try St. Jame’s Park across from Buckingham Palace, the massive Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath for a quieter spot north of the city. For a unique adventure, book a tour of Highgate Cemetery, a Victorian plot that was abandoned and overgrown for decades.

15. Go mudlarking!

One of the most fascinating things we did was go mudlarking on the banks of the Thames. Mudlarking is combing the shores for relics and other artifacts. It’s illegal to do it without a permit, and all artifacts need to be left where they’re found or turned over to the London History Museum. But you can go on permitted tours with the Thames Explorer Trust. We chose the Limehouse tour; you meet the guide at a designated point, they go over what you’ll find (mostly pottery and pipe stems), then walk you down to the river for an hour. It was amazing to be picking up pieces of Roman, Elizabethan, Victorian ceramic!

16. Enjoy the best Indian food

There’s no shortage of great Indian restaurants around London. Walk around any corner and you’ll find a place worth checking out. We discovered Chambeli Indian Restaurant in our neighborhood. We especially recommend reservations at Dishoom, an upscale Indian spot that’s out of this world. They have seven locations around London.

17. Go for early morning coffee

If one of your kiddos is an early riser, take advantage of some quiet time together! Take a short walk and stop at a coffee shop for a bit.

18. Tower Bridge and the Tower of London

The Tower of London and Tower Bridge can be very touristy, but I think they’re worth exploring at least once. Purchase your tickets in advance (highly recommended) and pair the visits together. We first toured the bridge, where you can climb the stairs to the upper level, and then took a tour of the Tower, which is led by one of the Beefeaters. The crown jewels are a popular stop inside the Tower, but the line can be incredibly long, so we explored on our own.

19. Tour Westminster Abbey

We do highly recommend a tour of Westminster Abbey! Book your timed tickets in advance. The audio tour provides loads of engaging details and walks you through the entire space. It takes about an hour. You’ll see the tombs of kings and queens, enjoy splendid architecture, visit the graves or memorials to famous writers, scientists, and actors.

While you’re visiting the Abbey, you can stroll the neighborhood and get photos of iconic sights like Big Ben and Houses of Parliament.

20. Go to afternoon tea

Making at least one stop for afternoon tea is a must! There are plenty of options, from the famous department stores to the Savoy Hotel. Years ago we enjoyed tea at The Orangery at Kensington Gardens.

This year we found a cheaper (but no less fun) option for afternoon tea at the Georgian Tea Rooms, on our day trip to Bath.

21. Ride the Thames Uber Boats

The Thames Uber Boats are a fun way to get around that give you a new view of the city. You can purchase tickets at one of 24 piers along the river. We took it on our way back from Greenwich to Embankment pier.

22. Spend an afternoon in Greenwich

Greenwich makes for a lovely half day trip. You can reach it by the Thames Uber boats or by the Docklands Light Railway, an overland train that connects to the Tube on the east end. You can explore the Greenwich Market, tour the Cutty Sark, visit the National Maritime Museum, enjoy the park, or climb the hill to the Royal Observatory. The Prime Meridian passes through the observatory, and while you can buy tickets to tour it there are other demarcation spots you can stand on for photo opportunities, outside the museum grounds.

While you’re there, we highly recommend a stop for lunch at Goodards at Greenwich. They’ve been serving traditional pie and mash since 1890!

23. Take a day trip to Bath

One of our favorite day trips from London is Bath. It’s about an hour away by train (leaving from Paddington Station), and features a cute, historic downtown that’s fun to explore. The Roman Baths are the big draw (book in advance), but you’ll also find a fun market, coffee shops, cafes, boutiques, the beautiful Abbey, and parks. In addition to the Baths, we had tea at the Georgian Tea Rooms, admired Roman and Victorian architecture, picked up buns from Sally Lunn’s (where you can also have tea).

24. For the parents: hit up a pub!

This is just for the parents of older kids, but if your kiddos are okay to be on their own for an hour, walk over to the neighborhood pub (I promise there’s one a block away from wherever you’re staying) for a quick pint to wind down the day.

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FOOD + TRAVEL WRITER

I go by Dr. Breakfast, but in addition to restaurants and recipes, I write about family travel, breweries and distilleries, the arts, outdoor fun, and so much more.

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