Family Vacations to London

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London – Family Vacation Guide

London can also be surprisingly affordable or exceptionally luxurious depending on where you choose to say and how much advantage you take of the many free things to see and do all over the UK capital.

London’s museums and galleries are some of the most popular attractions in Europe and you can go visit dozens without paying anything. From the fantastic Royal Parks to pretty gardens, riverside walks and even legendary cemeteries, there’s acre upon acre of green space to explore.

You can get about the city by train, bus, tube and boat with affordable family travel cards. And there are more safe, easy and fun places to cycle popping up all the time. Or you could just walk about, admire the sights and watch the people because nowhere is more mesmerising to look at than London.

Why Go?

  • Europe's Largest

    London is Europe’s largest city and the second most-visited in the world.

  • Cultural Highlights

    Several of England’s most popular attractions are here including the British Museum, Tower of London and Tate Britain.

  • Royal Parks

    The city has eight Royal Parks including Hyde Park in the city centre, immense Richmond Park and Bushy Park on the edge of Hampton Court Palace.

  • Historic Underground

    London Underground is a design masterpiece, easy to understand and has stations within walking distance of almost everywhere in the city.

  • Family Accommodations

    Whether you want to stay at The Ritz, a heritage house in Kew or a riverside apartment on the Thames, there’s family accommodation of every sort in and around London.

  • One for the Kids

    The world’s oldest toyshop, Hamleys, is on Regent Street.

  • Harry Potter

    The city’s Leadenhall Market stood in for the young wizard’s shopping mall, Diagon Alley, in several Harry Potter movies, and within a train ride away is the Harry Potter film set, now available for touring.

Where to Go

The City

The heart of London and the city’s wealthiest “square mile,” this is where the Ancient Romans founded Londinium and the capital rebuilt after the 17th century Great Fire. Busy with business all week long, the City’s much less hectic at the weekends and good for sightseeing St. Paul’s Cathedral, Leadenhall Market, the Gherkin and The Monument (climb to the top for a spectacular view).

  • Famously expensive hotels are found in this area, along with equally pricey shopping and restaurants.
  • Visit the Tower of London, Museum of London, the Barbican Centre and the Lord Mayor of London’s Mansion House (there’s a tour every Tuesday at 2pm).
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From Westminster Abbey to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, don’t miss grand Westminster, even on a flying visit. If you are short on time, take a moment to stare at the Parliament buildings, admire the impressive clock tower and then walk up the Mall to Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Park. The Changing of the Guards is usually between 11am and noon on weekdays.

  • 5-star hotels like the Goring and Corinthian set the tone for Westminster’s exclusive accommodation.
  • There are excellent guided tours of the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace is open to the public in August.
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Leafy Bloomsbury is where you’ll find the British Museum, some of London’s prettiest garden squares and a sea of Blue Plaques in memory of its many celebrated former residents – including Charles Dickens.

  • There’s a good choice of small independent 4 and 5-star hotels in Bloomsbury, some in fascinating older houses.
  • Visit the Charles Dickens’ Museum, wander round Russell Square (one of the best Georgian garden squares in London).
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Covent Garden

Novello, Drury Lane, Lyceum and the Royal Opera House are just a few of the theatre names in Covent Garden. But you don’t need tickets to enjoy performance all over this characterful part of London – watching the crowds is a day’s entertainment in itself.

  • Cosy boutique hotels, brand names like Radisson and aparthotels are all easy to book here.
  • This is the area for shopping in Covent Garden’s historic wrought iron market, London Transport Museum, Somerset House ice skating in winter and amazing children’s theatre, especially at Christmas.
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Notting Hill

Best known for its late August Carnival, movie appearances and celebrity residents, Notting Hill is just as shiny and exciting in reality as it is on screen.

  • Close to the city centre sights but more affordable for names like Hilton, 4 and 5-star heritage hotels, smart self-catering apartments and quaint designer guesthouses.
  • Portobello Market is an incredible experience, stay hungry and tour the food stalls – gourmet in everything but attitude and freedom to snack (healthily) for kids.
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More sedate than some of the city centre, Pimlico isn’t dull. Tate Britain is here and you can stare over Vauxhall Bridge at the MI6 Headquarters – a must for mini James Bond fans.

  • A quiet pocket of the city for townhouse hotels and international brands in historic London buildings.
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South Kensington

Even if you stay elsewhere in London you have to be in South Kensington at least once to see the magnificent Natural History Museum or the Science Museum – or both.

  • This characterful district is very central but feels like a friendly village and has a wide choice of charming hotels on gorgeous, traditional terraces.
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What to Do

  • Kew Gardens, Richmond-upon-Thames
    World Heritage Kew is a wonderful day out, even in the heart of winter.
  • Tate Modern, Bankside
    Outstanding art collection, magnificent building and all very kid-friendly.
  • Trafalgar Square, Westminster
    Loved for iconic Nelson’s Column, it’s also the square for the National Gallery and just about every major city celebration from Chinese New Year to Christmas.
  • ZSL London Zoo, Regent’s Park
    Go for the gorillas and stay to see everything from new cubs to penguins.
  • Sherlock Holmes Museum, Marylebone
    Time to let the kids meet the real (almost) Sherlock Holmes.
  • London Eye, Lambeth
    Scope out the city from its best vantage point – near neighbour to Sea Life Aquarium.
  • Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford
    Remarkable sport and leisure complex on the 2012 Olympic Games’ site.
  • V&A Musem of Childhood, Bethnal Green
    As exhibition-rich as its parent but higher on the fun scale.
  • Madam Tussaud’s, Westminster
    The original and best even at 200 years old.
  • London Dungeon, Lambeth
    Really as chilling as they claim, not for the too young or fainthearted.

Educational Value for Kids

  • Visit Hampton Court Palace and spend a fun day finding out about the Tudors.
  • London’s notorious Whitechapel district keeps its infamous past in museums and galleries these days.
  • Younger children love the up-close adventure of Battersea Park Children’s Zoo.
  • The Barbican is Europe’s biggest multi-arts’ centre and has events all year round.
  • Discover Shakespeare, close to original, at the Globe Theatre.
  • Sail down the Thames to Royal Greenwich and tour the Cutty Sark.
  • Spend a weekend browsing London’s street markets – a fun-shopping first for younger kids, a delight for teenagers.
  • Spend an afternoon in Highgate Cemetery and spot the famous permanent residents. Or visit Postman’s Park for heroic tales.

Getting Around

The Underground takes you almost everywhere and trains, buses, boats and taxis are there as back-up.

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