Day One | What you will see: Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards, Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, sightseeing bus, Tower of London
Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, double-decker buses and Changing the Guard – that’s what everyone wants to see when they come to London for a couple of days. So the first day of this itinerary is going to squeeze in all four of those with as little walking as possible (because traipsing round London with your kids in tow can be a nightmare).
If it’s your first time in London then you’ll probably want to show your kids the landmarks, so start off in Trafalgar Square and show them Nelson’s Column. Then buy your sightseeing bus ticket from the Original Bus Tour shop on the corner (on Cockspur Street). We won’t be riding the just bus yet, but let’s get the ticket now so we can join the bus later.
Now walk down Whitehall until you reach Horse Guards. Take a photo of your kid standing next to a soldier and then walk through the central arch into the parade ground. Walk through St. James’s Park until you reach Buckingham Palace at the very far end. Now you need to find yourself a good viewing spot for the parade.
You might like to read Craig’s review of Changing the Guard at this point, because you might be surprised to find how busy it gets. You also have to get there quite early if you want to bag one of the best spots.
When the ceremony ends around 11.30 AM find the bus stop for the Original Bus Tour’s Yellow Route on the corner of Buckingham Gate (it’s down the lefthand side of Buckingham Palace). We’re now going to ride it past a load of London landmarks.
First up will be Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. It will then cross over the river for a look at the London Eye, and back over the river again towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. The route will differ now, depending on whether it’s Mon-Fri or Sat-Sun, but eventually you’ll end up by the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, which is where you should get off.
Hopefully the entire route will have taken around 50 mins, but sometimes you get unlucky with the traffic. Let’s assume that it’s now half-past 1, or maybe closer to 2 o’clock. Read Craig’s review of the Original Bus Tour
We normally recommend 3-4 hours at the Tower of London, but you don’t want to spend that long walking around with little kids so 2½ hours should be plenty. Highlights include Traitor’s Gate, the White Tower, Bloody Tower, Tower Green and the Crown Jewels. Read Craig’s review of the Tower of London
Day Two | What you will see: London Eye, boat ride, planetarium at the Royal Observatory
If you’re taking your kids to London for a couple of days then the London Eye is probably high on your list of things to do, so let’s give that a try today. The wheel only takes about 30 mins to go around and it’s not too scary (although it does judder around a bit). The scariest thing about it is probably the queue, because if you forget to buy your tickets online beforehand than you might end up waiting another 30-45 minutes on top. Read Craig’s review of the London Eye
When you get off the wheel find the ferry stop next door (literally right next-door) and catch one of the open-top sightseeing boats to Greenwich. We recommend catching a City Cruises boat. (The Thames Clippers go there as well, but they don’t have very many outside seats.)
Forty minutes later you should be pulling into Greenwich Pier, underneath the tall mast of the Cutty Sark. You might want to head into the town centre for something to eat at this point, after which you should walk across Greenwich Park and up the hill to the Royal Observatory.
Unless your kid is really interested in space it’s probably best to skip the museum because it’s primarily aimed at adults – what we’re here for is the planetarium round the back. It’s a proper planetarium and your kid will definitely enjoy the show. Read Craig’s review of the Royal Observatory to see what it’s like.
Day One | What you will see: London Eye, London Dungeon, London Aquarium, Shrek’s Adventure and a meal at Namco Funscape
The idea behind this itinerary is that you can buy combo tickets for four Merlin attractions (London Eye, London Dungeon, London Aquarium, Shrek’s Adventure and Madame Tussauds) and get them cheaper than buying them all individually. Unfortunately they don’t sell a combo ticket for all five, so you’re going to have to whittle the list down to four.
The first four attractions are right next-door whereas Madame Tussauds is a tube ride away at Baker Street. So if you take our advice then you’ll visit three of first four on day one, and save Madame Tussauds for day two.
Option 1: London Eye
We always recommend starting your child’s holiday with something exciting (to keep them in a good mood!), so how about a ride on the London Eye? It’s also quite a handy way for parents to show them lots of famous landmarks like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s (allow for 30-45 mins queuing, and 30 mins on the actual wheel). Read Craig’s review of the London Eye
Option 2: London Dungeon
The London Dungeon is a good choice for older kids (12 and over), but they have an annoying habit of selling you a timed ticket during busy periods which might mean you’ll have to return later in the day. Craig has visited this attraction a couple of times and it would be fair to say that he hated every minute of it, so you might want to read his review beforehand to find out why (allow for 30 mins queuing, and 1½ hours inside).
Option 3: London Aquarium
Everyone loves the London Aquarium. They’ve got lots of fish, penguins, a crocodile, an underwater sea tunnel where you can see the flatfish gliding over your head, plus a gigantic shark tank that is two floors tall (allow for 1½-2 hours). You can even walk across the top of the shark tank on a glass floor! Read Craig’s review of the London Aquarium
Option 4: Shrek’s Adventure
Shrek’s Adventure is good for the little kids – but only if they’re already familiar with the movie. There’s not much point otherwise because they won’s recognise all the goofy characters and locations from the movies (allow for 1½ hours).
At some point you will want to stop for dinner so head into the NAMCO Centre next-door to the aquarium. They’ve got a McDonalds in there and three floors of funfair and arcade game – they’ve even got a some ten-pin bowling lanes and a full-size fairground dodgems.
Day Two | What you will see: Waxworks at Madame Tussauds and London Zoo
Madame Tussauds is one of the busiest visitor attractions in London which might put you off a bit, but it’s also a very popular destination for families. We definitely recommend buying your tickets in advance, though, otherwise you could literally be queuing outside for an hour – and that’s not an exaggeration! (allow for 30-60 mins queue time, and 2 hours for the visit).
It’s full of waxwork pop stars, sports stars and film stars, but the bit that will most interest your kids is the Spirit of London ride. What they do is sit you down inside a time-travelling taxi and whizz you through 500 years of London’s history. They’ve also got a 3D IMAX cinema which is currently showing a Marvel Superheroes movie. Read Craig’s review of Madame Tussauds
Assuming that you got there when it opened it should be around midday by the time you leave Madame Tussauds, so you can either take a 25-min walk through Regent’s Park or catch the number 274 bus from Dorset Square to London Zoo (if you catch the bus then you’ll have an extra 5 mins walk at the end).
There are no rollercoaster rides at this zoo, it’s just a totally normal zoo with lions and tigers, giraffes and zebras (but no elephants!), plus some impressive enclosures like Gorilla World, Rainforest Life and the Mappin Terrace, which looks like a towering desert terrain. They’ve also got an aquarium and a giant walk-in bird aviary (allow for 3-4 hours). Read Craig’s review of London Zoo
Day One | What you will see: Clink Prison Museum, London Bridge Experience, then climb up the Shard
The idea behind this 2-day itinerary is that you can treat your kids to some thrills and chills on the first day, and then hit them with the educational stuff on the second day.
If you want to your kids to learn some of the grisly history of London then take them to the Clink Prison Museum (allow for 1 hour). Think of it as a mini-London Dungeon. It’s good for little kids who might find the other place too scary, or for families who don’t fancy spending a hundred quid on entry fees (the London Dungeon is one of those tourist traps that charge crazy prices).
Inside you’ll find a load of waxwork prisoners trapped inside rat-infested cells, with the sound of clanking chains coming out of the speakers. And along the way you’ll learn about London’s most notorious crimes and criminals. Read Craig’s review of the Clink Prison Museum
If your children found the Clink Prison Museum too scary then you might want to think twice about taking them to the London Bridge Experience, because this place is billed as the UK’s scariest attraction. We definitely recommend looking up some photographs on the internet beforehand just in case, because you need to be sure that your kid can handle it. They do allow kids aged 5-and-over inside but trust us: check the pictures first! (allow for 1¼ hours)
The day out continues with a climb to the top of The Shard. One look at this thin pyramid disappearing into the clouds will tell you what you already suspect: it’s London’s tallest building by miles. The top of it stands 1,016 feet above the city, and the observation decks are on floors 68-72 (that’s nearly double the height of the London Eye!).
You might want to read Craig’s review before you go because he found it genuinely terrifying (but he is a bit of a wuss when it comes to heights). The viewing levels have got floor to ceiling windows which means you can put your toes right up against the edge, and the highest level has got a few spaces that are totally open to the sky so you can hear the roaring wind and the jet engine roar of passing airplanes (allow for 1-1½ hours).
Day Two | What you will see: Dinosaurs and spaceships at the Natural History Museum and Science Museum
Day two is where you can teach your kids some science. If they are interested in dinosaurs then they will love the Natural History Museum. The dinosaur hall has got a full-size skeleton of a Pterodactyl, Stegosaurus and tank-like Triceratops, plus some animatronic robots of a Velociraptor and a life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex striding around a misty swamp. As you round the corner you’ll see him swinging his big concrete head at the crowd and roaring.
The Natural History Museum also has a huge collection of stuffed animals. It’s almost like a zoo inside with lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, polar bears, grizzly bears, pandas… everything! They’ve got fish, insects, tropical birds… every animal you can imagine.
After that comes a section about earthquakes and volcanos and a bank vault full of precious jewels (allow for 2-3 hours). Read Craig’s review of the Natural History Museum
The Science Museum starts off slow with a gallery full of steam machines and industrial engines, but after that comes a gallery full of spaceships. If your kid has an interest in space then they will love it: they’ve got a mock-up of the Eagle lander from the Apollo moon missions in there, plus some rockets and space probes like Sputnik, and Britain’s brave Beagle that crash-landed on Mars.
The rest of the museum is filled with cars, trains, planes and boats, and examples of early clocks and computers – but what makes this museum great for kids (and husbands) are all the push-button displays they can fiddle around with. It’s a very interactive museum. They’ve also got a few flight simulators and a 3D IMAX cinema (allow for 2-2½ hours). Read Craig’s review of the Science Museum
<< Drag table for the travelcard prices >>
|Cash||Oyster & Contactless||Travelcards||London Pass|
|Peak||Off-peak||Peak||Off-peak||Anytime||Off-peak||Just pass||With Oyster|
|Train (z1)||£4.90||£2.40||£2.40||£6.80||£6.80||£12.70 (z1-4)||£12.70 (z1-6)||£34.10 (z1-2)|
|Train (z1-2)||£4.90||£2.90||£2.40||£6.80||£6.80||£12.70 (z1-4)||£12.70 (z1-6)||£34.10|
|Child aged under-11 and accompanied by an adult, or with a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard|
|Bus & Train||free||–||–||–||–||–|
|Child aged 11-15 with a Young Visitor Discount applied to their Oyster card|
|Bus & Train||–||Half the adult fare||–||–||–|
|Child aged 11-15 with an 11-15 Zip Oyster photocard|
|Train (z1)||£2.40||£0.85||£0.75||£3.40||£1.50||£6.30 (z1-4)||£n/a (z1-4)||£17.10 (z1-2)|
|Train (z1-2)||£2.40||£0.85||£0.75||£3.40||£1.50||£6.30 (z1-4)||£n/a (z1-4)||£17.10|
Note: For Oyster and contactless ‘off peak’ is outside the hours of 6.30-9.30 AM and 4-7 PM (Mon-Fri). For travelcards it’s after 9.30 AM (Mon-Fri) and all day Sat-Sun. Prices are based on what time your journey begins – not when it ends
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