London is one of the most incredible cities in the world and there are no end of amazing things to do, especially if you’re traveling with kids. From palaces to museums to playgrounds to some of the best food around, families will find no end of ways to entertain kids of all ages, including the littlest travelers.
We just got back from a few days in London with a three year old so I have some tried and tested tips for London with a toddler! If you’re planning a trip to London with young kid, then take a look through this guide for 10 of the best things to do in London with toddlers.
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1. Visit a palace and see the guards
While touring a palace with a toddler might not be realistic (although some toddlers have longer attention spans than others, most won’t stay interested in palace history or interiors very long), you can still see the most popular palaces from the outside and if you’re lucky, you might see a soldier.
When my eldest son was a toddler, all he wanted to do in London was see a soldier and we finally got to see one marching (really just changing position) in the Tower of London – but there are various places you could see this.
One of the coolest experiences is to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace; this is an elaborate ceremony where the Old Guard changes with the New Guard that lasts about 45 minutes and is fascinating to watch for children of any age. Dates and times can be found at the official website and it can be a popular event to watch, so be sure to be there early to get a good spot.
2. Find the best playground in London with toddlers
My number one activity when traveling with a toddler anywhere is to find a really great playground; not only does this allow them to burn off some energy, but it’s a familiar activity in a place that might be unfamiliar, giving them a sense of security. We’ve found amazing playgrounds all over the world, and London has some of the best!
Our personal favorites from our trips include:
1. Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens
2. St James’s Park in Westminster
3. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford
4. Battersea Park Adventure Playground in Wandsworth
5. Greenwich Park Playground in Greenwich
3. Use all of London’s public transportation
If your toddlers are anything like mine, you could skip all of the amazing attractions that the city has to offer and pretty much just ride around on the public transportation the whole time! On our latest trip to London, we went on a double decker bus, the tube, the train, and a clipper boat – and my kids loved every single minute!
Double decker bus rides can be in the shape of a hop on hop off bus tour (a great option if you want an overview of the city or plan to hit some of the main tourist spots) or you can just jump on a local double decker bus to go a couple of stops, and then get off. Riding on the top of on open air bus offers the best views and the most authentic experience, but you are open to the elements so bear that in mind!
Riding on a tube can be a daunting experience if you’re not used to underground systems, but it’s really no different than the subway in places like New York City or Washington DC. If you have a toddler in a stroller, elevators can be scarce (and when you do find them, they’re not always working) so try to stick with a lightweight stroller; this is what we use and when we reach the stairs or an escalator, one of us will carry the toddler and one of us will carry the stroller.
The tube can also be crazy busy so keep a tight grip on your little ones hand, and try to take a look at the map so you have an idea of where you’re going ahead of time. Other train systems can be less overwhelming and usually less busy, so they might be a good option too.
We took a clipper boat to Greenwich for an afternoon and my kids loved this! Clipper boats go pretty fast so they’re really fun for little ones, and you get to see some amazing views of places like Tower Bridge! It’s also a quick way to get around, and great for a warm day where you might want to catch a breeze.
No matter what form of public transportation you use, get an Oyster card ahead of time – either order one online in advance or pick one up on your first day – so you can use this to get around; Oyster cards will work for buses, tubes, trains, and the clipper boats! I would also recommend downloading the City Mapper app; this will tell you the quickest way to get from A to B using all of the options available to you.
4. Hunt down the best sweet treats in London
One of my favorite things about visiting any new destination is finding the best snacks to eat in that place; things that the place is known for as well as local favorites and I often spend weeks before a trip searching Instagram – following local foodie accounts from the places you’re visiting is a great way to find what everyone recommends and I followed the hashtags #londoneats and #londonfoodie for some great options.
Snacks are one of the best things to seek out when traveling with a toddler because a) you don’t have to go into a restaurant and sit down, you can grab something on the go and b) these can be great options if your toddler is napping and you have the chance to grab something quickly! From ice cream to donuts to cake and pastries, there are no shortage of sweet treats and other amazing snacks in London!
5. Visit the Sky Garden
The Sky Garden is an amazing place to visit in London because it’s completely free – and that’s important when visiting one of the most expensive cities in the world! The Sky Garden is a rooftop garden high above the city that offers up the most amazing views over the Thames and beyond in a tropical atmosphere.
An elevator takes you up to the 35th floor and then you can walk around both the interior and the exterior for as long as you like. There are several steps so it’s not totally stroller friendly, although we did take our lightweight stroller up and managed to carry it up and down steps easily.
The exterior has high glass walls so it’s perfectly safe, and there are bathrooms and places to get something eat or drink.
6. Take a trip to Greenwich
Greenwich is one of my latest – and favorite – finds if you want to head slightly outside the city center for a few hours. Greenwich is home to the Cutty Sark, an authentic sailing ship you can climb aboard and tour, as well as the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum – these are all great options with older kids, but with a toddler, we headed straight for Greenwich Park.
This is a huge green open space great for letting kids run around and play to their hearts content – something that might be much needed in the middle of a busy day of sightseeing.
We climbed to the top of the hill by the Royal Observatory which offered beautiful views over the Old Royal Naval College and beyond, and found a great little café selling coffee, cakes, and ice cream.
We also found one of our favorite playgrounds (as mentioned above), the Greenwich Park Playground which had multiple swings, slides, and climbing structures, as well as a sand box, a water play area, and even a pond where you can rent a pedal boat. This is the perfect place for toddlers to play!
7. Find a family friendly museum in London with toddlers
Although not every museum in London is going to be appropriate for toddlers, there are quite a few with more than enough exhibits to keep your little one entertained.
I’ve found that we can usually spend a couple of hours touring a museum before my toddler gets fed up, so we try to go for places that are free (or just require a donation), that have lots of space for toddlers to move (without worrying they’re going to knock over something priceless!) and the more interactive experiences, the better!
These are our top picks for the best museums in London for toddlers:
1. The British Museum in South Kensington
2. The Natural History Museum in Bloomsbury
3. The Science Museum in South Kensington
4. The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden
5. The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green
8. Have a toddler friendly afternoon tea in London
Although the words “toddler” and “fancy sandwiches and hot tea” might not seem to go hand in hand, if this is an experience you really want to try in London and you’re going to be visiting with a toddler, you’ll be glad to know that there are numerous family friendly afternoon tea options.
Some of the best options include the Peter Rabbit Afternoon Tea at Le Meridien Piccadilly, the Little Prince and Princess Tea at The Milestone Hotel, and The Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson – these offer child friendly food and drink options so there’s a good chance your little one will find something they like, and there will be plenty of other kids there so you don’t feel out of place.
9. Take a trip on the London Eye
The London Eye is a great way to see the city from a bird’s eye view and on a clear day, you really can see for miles. The whole experience is a lot of fun for toddlers as they get to ride in the individual pods as they rise over the city, and they’ll get a kick out of being able to see so far!
The whole experience does take a little while as the wheel makes a full rotation so if your toddler is antsy that’s something to bear in mind – there’s also obviously no bathrooms so bear that in mind too if you’re traveling with a potty training toddler – but the experience is so much fun and a great way to see as much as possible all from one place.
10. Try some kid friendly restaurants in London
As much as people like to joke about British food, London has some of the best food in the world – from English classics to world cuisine, you can find pretty much everything there!
If your toddler is an adventurous eater then this is a great place to try some different flavors and foods from places that you might not have visited yet, but even if your toddler likes their food a little more familiar, there are plenty of family friendly restaurants with classic kids food on the menu like pizza and chicken nuggets.
If you’re looking for traditional British food, then family friendly pubs are a great option; they almost always have a kids menu with more familiar choices, and they’re a great place to try English classics like fish and chips or shepherd’s pie. Some pubs even have a playground where toddlers can run around until the food arrives!
We’ve also found a couple of really great chain restaurants that offer a mix of traditional English food and more adventurous options, both on the kids menu and the adult menu. Giraffe and Bill’s both have locations throughout London and we’ve had great experiences at both.