Introducing your children to the mad and bustling city of London is one of the biggest favours you can do them. Not only are they treated to the atmosphere of one of the most legendary cities on the planet, but it also boasts dozens of attractions that can be enjoyed by members of every family – young or old.
If you’re staying in West London – say, in a hotel near Paddington station – you’re within easy reach of everything we have described below. The city’s famous Underground – affectionately nicknamed the Tube thanks to the circular shape of the passageways – snakes its way to stations close to all of these and we’ve included some helpful transportation tips with each attraction.
The Tower of London
This is a fantastic option for kiddies young and old, since the resident Beefeaters – who offer hour-long tours of the historical landmark throughout the day – absolutely delight in making the children laugh. True, they sometimes look like they’re having a little bit too much fun to be entirely healthy when describing brutal murders and gruesome public executions, but the kids love it all the more for that.
London’s spectacular South Bank is one of the places in the city where you can certainly bank – pardon the pun – on something interesting happening. As well as numerous dancers and street entertainers, you’ll find the nearby Southbank Centre is an absolute hive of culture and art. Much of this is displayed outside alongside the Thames. It’s also the place to be during the festive period, with a spectacular Christmas market set up towards the end of November featuring hand-crafted gifts, sumptuous treats and more.
You can get to the South Bank by hopping on the District or Circle lines from London Paddington and then getting off at Embankment and using the footbridge to cross over the Thames.
The Museum Quarter
Kensington’s Museum Quarter is one of the most popular areas for families in the city, boasting three major attractions that are renowned for making their exhibits as fun as possible to keep the children interested. In the Science Museum, they’ll be intrigued by the earthquake simulator and the fascinating factoids about everything from the Earth’s crust to the defence mechanisms of various species. The Natural History Museum, meanwhile, has dinosaur skeletons to get photos of, and the V&A, which showcases all kinds of interesting exhibitions based around art and design, all go to extraordinary lengths to make their exhibitions and presentations palatable to children’s tastes. Speaking of the V&A, its sister venue The Museum of Childhood is an absolute must for those who want to compare their toys to those of previous generations.
You can get to London’s Museum Quarter from Paddington by walking through the attractive Kensington Gardens (40 minutes) or by hopping on the District and Circle lines to South Kensington Station. A tunnel near the main ticket office takes you straight to the middle of the Museum Quarter. However, the Museum of Childhood is located in Bethnal Green – your best option is to walk to nearby Queensway and hop on the Central line.
London’s glittering West End offers a plethora of shows that are great for children and adults alike. It’s difficult to know where to start. Children’s author Roald Dahl is still going h2 with sit-down productions of both Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory providing entertainment aplenty. Children will also be delighted by Broadway smash hit Wicked, which features a new take on the Wizard of Oz story that puts the witch in the role of the protagonist.
If you want to be absolutely sure they’ll love what they see, take them along to The Lion King, a Disney favourite that will leave them utterly awe-inspired. The inclusion of children in the lead roles also helps them to relate to the action. Billy Elliot: The Musical is another show that has this to its advantage but it might be best to save it for teenagers due to the conflict and swearing involved.
Getting to the centre of London’s West End is easy, but be sure to check exactly where the show is taking place as some of the theatres are nearer to the middle of Theatreland than others. The vast majority are walkable from Charing Cross, Leicester Square and Covent Garden Tube stations, but it’s always wise to check.
Few cities sport a menagerie as magnificent and varied as London Zoo. Its incredible animals are only part of the story – although you’ll definitely want to see lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), the attraction itself has a long and extraordinary history that has seen it helping out with World War One and inspire renowned literary figures (Pooh Bear, anyone?). Interestingly enough, the attraction was once set up as a means for scientific study, but was opened to the public in the mid-1800s. If you want a really special experience, apply for one of the keeper experiences, which allow you to get up close and personal with some of the residents.
London Zoo is in Regent’s Park, which has its own Underground station on the Bakerloo line. If you’re heading there from Paddington Tube station, you won’t even need to change lines.
Few aspects of London are more famous than the British Royal Family, which manages to shine whether it’s courting controversy (we’re looking at you, Prince Harry and Prince Philip) or entertaining foreign dignitaries (Kate’s ability to look interested in anything is extremely well-crafted). While you might not get to meet any during your visit, kids will love learning about the lore and traditions of the Royals.
Buckingham Palace is among the most popular destinations to learn about Their Majesties, with attractions and exhibitions all year round, including the legendary Changing of the Guard. But don’t neglect other attractions where you can discover the truth about Britain’s ruling family, such as Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hampton Court Palace. The aforementioned Tower of London is also a great place to learn about those who the Royals sent to their deaths – a bloodthirsty attraction that the kids will undoubtedly adore.