It’s one of Europe’s most popular bucket list cities and beloved worldwide. London is iconic for its regal heritage and distinct city skyline, and the capital is packed with unique and exciting days out. But is London family-friendly? And how should you spend five days in the city with the kids?
London is easy to navigate with its robust public transport system, and you can see everything between Shoreditch and Soho in five short days. We think the city is also largely family-friendly, so there’s no reason that neither you nor the kids should miss out on any of London’s fabulous sites.
There’s plenty to do from the museums to the London Eye that the whole family will enjoy. So grab your Oyster card because there’s no time to spare in our London five-day family itinerary. Let’s get into it.
Day 1: Bus Tour and The London Transport Museum
Whether you’re jet-lagged or recovering from a long drive down from elsewhere in the UK, the first day in a new city should be light. After you’ve checked in to your accommodation or left your luggage in a storage room, the best way to kick-start your adventure and trial London’s transport system is to jump aboard a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour.
You’ll get a view of the city and the most impressive landmarks London has to offer from one of the city’s most iconic double-decker buses. See everywhere from Westminster Abbey and Piccadilly Circus to the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Tower Bridge from a thrilling open-air top deck.
Wherever you’re staying, it’s not hard to find a bus stop where you can board the tour anywhere in the city. If you’re outside the center, just locate your nearest train station and make your way to Charing Cross, London Bridge, Victoria, or Waterloo for the best starting points.
You can book either a 24, 48 or 72-hour pass to the Hop-On Hop-Off bus and enjoy a guided tour wherever you go while making the most of the convenient transport!
Hop-On and Off where you please but finish your ride in Covent Garden for an afternoon at the London Transport Museum. After a day on the buses, you and your kids will surely be interested in learning a bit more about London’s road and railway history, and you can do so in an immersive and interactive way here. Better yet, it’s free for children under 17 and £18 or $24 on the door for adults.
Covent Garden is a great place to base yourself, so finish your first day at one of the area’s many kid-friendly restaurants below before heading back to your hotel.
Where to eat in London with kids:
Giraffe $$- For flavors from all around the world but with a kid’s menu catering to the fussiest of eater’s. Giraffe’s Southbank location is strategically located in reach of the city’s best galleries with stunning river views.
Gordon Ramsey’s Heddon Street Kitchen $$$- Pioneered by the famous British chef, kids eat free here and at many of Ramsey’s other restaurants around the city.
Wagamama $$- For Japanese-inspired Asian delights that parents will love, but kids will savor too. Wagamama’s eclectic and sophisticated menu is easily adapted to suit even the plainest of palettes.
Local Pubs $-$$- A trip to England wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a pub, but this isn’t only for the adults. Many of London’s bustling heritage bars welcome families with their warm atmospheres and kid-friendly menus, offering sandwiches, fish and chips, and local pub grub for youngsters to enjoy.
Day 2: The Tower of London, the River Thames, and Piccadilly Circus
With tons to explore in the incredible UNESCO world heritage site, the Tower of London is a place for kids and history buffs alike. A Tower of London Family Tour is the perfect way to start your second day in the city, with an expert guide who can captivate the kids and educate the whole family as you wander around the grounds.
Hear the gory stories of its inhabitants, visit the vault of the Crown Jewels, and set the kids loose on the grass as you relax in the on-site cafe after a morning of exploring. You can even book an archery lesson set to the backdrop of the raven-guarded tower, perfect if you’re kids are in their teens. Or enjoy an exciting hour on the famous ice-rink if you’re visiting around the festive season.
Make sure you snap a family picture in front of Tower Bridge to commemorate your trip before venturing the short distance across the iconic drawbridge for a boat ride on the River Thames. From the Tower of London, you’re ideally situated to view London Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and the London Eye from the river, all within a short 30-minute boat ride. You may even have the boat ticket included from your bus tickets the day before. If not, you can buy them easily on the riverfront for around £12 or $16 per adult and £7 or $9 for children.
After your short journey up the river, disembark in Westminster and walk the short distance to Piccadilly Circus. Revel in the impressive lights from the 2,000 square foot advertising display, the largest of its kind in Europe, and dip in and out of the shops. The interactive M&M Store and Madame Tussauds Exhibition are a favorite among kids. But the Hard Rock Café has something for the whole family and is a great place to stop for a late lunch.
Next, venture up Regent’s Street for the real treat. Hamleys Toy Shop is one of the best free London attractions for kids, and the games, slides, and toy demonstrations are mesmerizing enough that you don’t have to come away with a basket full of souvenirs. Still, it’s a great place to pick up a stuffed Paddington Bear to remember the trip after a good hour exploring the multilevel toy extravaganza.
Have a leisurely dinner at your hotel or in any of the kid-friendly restaurants we recommend on your way back to your accommodation.
Day 3: Harry Potter Studio Tour
Not many kids and parents alike aren’t enthralled by the iconic Harry Potter Film Series, and the Harry Potter London Studio Tour by Warner Bros. is a must-see if you’re in the city. This is a full-day experience and the perfect way to spend your third day in London, making an exciting day out for the whole family.
You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the original sets, props, and magical movie techniques used to bring J.K. Rowling’s fictional world to the big screen. Stroll through the great hall, window-shop down Diagon Alley and snap a picture in Ron’s flying car. From the Hogwarts Express snack trolly to Butter Beer, there are tons to feast your eyes on and tuck into.
Getting your hands on tickets for this experience can prove difficult, so always book online in advance. You can reach the studio located in Watford, Northwest London, by tube, but we recommend booking an advance return bus ticket from Victoria, which includes entrance to the studio. Several companies provide this option.
Once you’re back in Victoria by the late afternoon, head to Harrods if you still have the energy. Perusing the luxury aisles, toy shop, and food hall is a great evening activity and perfect for a snack-like dinner after an indulgent day before collapsing back at your hotel.
Where to stay in London with kids:
Most hotels in London are kid-friendly so that you won’t be limited for choice, but some hotels better accommodate families and will situate you in the best areas for accessing the city.
Marriott Marble Arch $$$ – With rooms for families of four, this centrally located hotel is right across from Hyde Park, perfect for morning strolls and excellent transport access to the rest of the city.
DoubleTree by Hilton $ – Just across from Kensington Gardens, this hotel is located in one of London’s most upscale and delightful neighborhoods. Within walking distance to Notting Hill and several tube stations, you can easily get around and come home to the beautiful residential architecture of this area.
The Resident Covent Garden $$- Located right in the center of Covent Garden, you can soak up the vibrant hustle and bustle of London’s West End from these snug family rooms complete with kitchenettes and free Wifi.
You’ll also find great vacation apartments in London’s trendy suburbs on AirBnb. Or check out Booking.com for more hotels.
Day 4: Hampton Court Palace and Memorial Playground
Hop on the train from London’s Waterloo Station and enjoy a day out of the city center at Hampton Court Palace. Just 30-minutes away from the capital located in East Molesey, Hampton Court Palace has a country feel but is still in the Oyster Card catchment in Zone 6!
These stunning grounds, which are actually home to two palaces, have housed royalty like King Henry VIII and William & Mary. This interactive attraction is much more than an old castle. You’ll find a fiery Tudor Kitchen with cooking demonstrations, costume dress-up rooms, and an eerie poisonous herb garden.
Under 5’s go free, and prices start at £12.60 or $17 for children and £25 or $35 for adults. You can easily spend the best part of a day exploring Hampton Court Palace, and the experience will be worth it.
Once you’re ready to head back to the city, keep the regal theme going and stop off at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens. But don’t worry, this isn’t another heritage attraction to kick-start the kids’ moaning. Instead, this park is home to the city’s most exciting playground themed after Peter Pan with a life-sized pirate ship taking center stage, and treehouses, teepees, slides, sandpits, and a sensory trail all to be found in the park.
If Hampton Court Palace didn’t do the trick, the Memorial Playground will tire everyone out for an early evening finish to Day 4.
Day 5: The London Eye and a West End Matinee
Start your fifth and final day in London with a stroll through Hyde Park before exiting through the Wellington Arch gates and feasting your eyes on Buckingham Palace on your way to Westminster. After this on-foot adventure through the city, you can take to the skies in the London Eye, an unmissable attraction and dominating presence on London’s skyline.
The London Eye costs £25 or $34 for children and £33 or $45 for adults if you book in advance. This way, you’ll also miss the mid-morning queues with the option to fast-track to the front. A round-trip on the London Eye lasts just 30-minutes and is one of the best ways to see the city from above. After your trip, walk through Southbank, enjoying the smells, sites, and street performers before crossing Waterloo Bridge into the West End.
Depending on how slow or fast-paced you’ve decided to take your morning, you can catch a matinee or grab some evening tickets to one of London’s West End shows. The best place to buy these is at any of the official Box Office booths in Leicester Square, where you’ll find great on-the-day discounted performances.
There are many kid-friendly shows to see, but make sure to double-check with the sales assistant about the age restrictions. The Lion King is a favorite of tourists, but don’t expect any discounts when it comes to sell-out shows like this one!
If you have time to kill before heading to the theater, wander around Somerset House, which is within ten minutes of all London’s leading theaters. Tonight is also an excellent opportunity to visit Gordon Ramsey’s Heddon Street Kitchen before or after your show. This restaurant is right on the doorstep of St Martin’s Lane and Leicester Square, and kids eat free.
London 5 Day Family Itinerary: Conclusion
This brings our exciting London five-day family itinerary to a close, but there are plenty more attractions you could pack into your trip to London if you manage to whiz around these fast enough. Check out London Zoo and the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace for younger tots or the Globe Theater and London Dungeons if you’re traveling with teenagers. Depending on your preference and where you choose to stay, you can swap out days from our guide as you please. Still, all these attractions are in reach of London’s best neighborhoods and should entertain every crowd from toddlers to teens, and moms and dads too.