Spoilt for choice! Greater London for Families
I’ve lived and worked in London all my life – and it still feels like I have yet to discover even half of the amazing things the capital has to offer. But that’s the problem sometimes: There is so much to see and do, it can be hard to narrow down options.
London offers famous attractions, museums, zoos, city farms and parks, to outdoor swimming, urban beaches, and even pop-up fairgrounds. Don't forget the latest craze of trampoline parks and climbing in London for active families. You honestly have an endless supply of things to do to keep the kids entertained at all times of the year, come rain or shine.
And not all of them have to be tough on the wallet. One of my favourite walks is just along the South Bank - there’s always plenty going on down by the Royal Festival Hall and my son just loves running across the Millennium Bridge and spotting all the boats that sail past. It also means we can wander the huge Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern and grab a spot of lunch in the café - did you know that the Tate Modern offers free meals for kids?
Here are some of my top picks of what to do in and around London with the kids:
For older kids
If you have thrill seekers in your family, head to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, where you can enjoy dizzying heights in the world’s longest tunnel The slide the Arcelor Mittal Orbit.
If more panoramic views are what you’re after, then a trip to the viewing platform in the world’s tallest building is a must. Head to The View from The Shard in London Bridge for a unique experience.Some 20 minutes away in Greenwich, The Emirates Air Line cable car crosses the River Thames between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks – and not only is it an exciting ride, it gives the most spectacular views across London.
Teenagers will want to hang out with the trendies and discover the hang-outs for hipster kids. In my youth, my pals and I frequented Top Shop in Oxford Street, as well as browsing the shops in nearby Carnaby Street. Meanwhile, those who head east to Shoreditch will not only be able to follow a street art trail and see works by the likes of Banksy, but there is a eclectic mix of great cafés and shops.
In North London, Camden Market is a great place to pick up bargains and mingle with the cool crowds.
Learning can be fun
There are London museums to suit every age. The British Museum in Great Russell Street is also a popular choice - I’ve always had a morbid fascination with the Egyptian mummies.
But if you want to get away from the tourists and crowds, there are several others that are well worth your time including the Horniman Museum ad Gardens in Forest Hill, which has a brilliant dinosaur exhibition and aquarium.
Wannabe sleuths and fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous character should head to the The Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street, while those with more of a grisly fascination will love The Hunterian Museum in The Royal College of Surgeons, Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Find out about the gory history of surgery and medicine with gruesome instruments and preserved specimens.
London may be an urban jungle, but there are large pockets of open spaces that are not only filled with vast parklands but in some cases, boating ponds and lakes, the most iconic in Central London being Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.
Our favourite is Battersea Park, in South London. It’s unique position by the River Thames and its Battersea Park Childrens Zoo make for a winning combination. My son loves the otter viewing pod, as well as riding the tractors and fire engine in the play park.
Another gem we’ve discovered are the vast array of life-sized sculptures of dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park, SE20. We enjoyed finding them all and then heading to the play area where our boy was super happy swinging on bones and sitting on a giant egg!
There are also playgrounds galore. We are repeat visitors of the Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens, the main draw – a huge wooden pirate ship. Meanwhile, Corams Fields just off Russell Square has seven acres of kids-only fun - really! Adults can only enter with a child and there isn’t just one playground but several, as well as a small farm that is suitable for all ages. When the weather perks up (eventually), you can even 'holiday' in the city and splash about in the best of London swimming pools.
Stately Homes and Gardens
As a family we love visiting stately homes and gardens, and London has them in droves. From Kenwood House in Hampstead, North London, which boasts amazing architecture, stunning flora and fauna, and dedicated family zones, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were deep in the countryside. Head further south and you’ll have a stunning day exploring the extensive grounds of Chiswick House in West London, where you can picnic by the lake and marvel at the themed gardens.
To enjoy London, you just have to decide what you fancy doing and go for it! You’re never going to be able to do everything, but the fun is in the trying. And my best piece of advice? Wear comfortable shoes – you’re going to need them.