Visiting London with kids : 10 must-see !
London, with its iconic pop culture, cabs, telephone booths and colorful markets, has outstanding assets to please teenagers; however, the younger ones also have a lot to fuss about!
Here is a snapshot selection of 10 places that will delight the kids and allow them to discover this huge city under its various aspects and layers of history.
1. Visit centuries of history at The Tower of London
This Tower, a 1.000 year-old castle in excellent shape, in fact, is a unique opportunity to connect to the city’s, and country’s, history.
In a vast domain, comedians wander around playing little historical scenes ; the famous Beefeaters guards are scolding those who don’t listen well enough; ravens are still being bred as part of an ancient legend stating that as long as the Tower is inhabited by those massive black birds, the city will be protected ; the spookiest dungeons can be visited (you’d expect some dusty skeleton to fall on you at any time !) and the Queen’s jewels can be seen in an unusual manner, by standing on a conveyor belt, to prevent anyone staying dangerously long in front of some of the world’s biggest gems ever !
These are parts of some of the experiences you go through at the Tower of London, in the very center of the city: quite a nice way to get ready for more !
2. Have a blast at the London Dungeon
Another exquisite way to visit the history of England, for those above 12, though in a much more recent place than the Tower of London, this historical attraction states that « Fear is a funny thing ». Or maybe should it state that fun sometimes includes a good dose of chills?
This dungeon, an « oubliette » in the most classical sense of the word, is a long and dark walk through a tunnel which depicts, by the help of supercharged comedians, the darkest aspects of the London history.
The Great Plague, the beheading of the wives of Henry VIII, parodies of legal hearings – with a very special mention for the overexcited judge, which wig has a very hard time staying in place– or Jack the Ripper : the city’s darkest moments will no longer bear any secret for the kids, who will no doubt be as much amused as impressed by the excellent quality of this show-in-the-visit!
3. Jump into contemporary art at The Tate Modern
After the darkness, humidity and delicious chills provided by London’s history, it is time to turn to contemporary art, room and light ! Not far from the London Dungeon, along the (bank side), the Tate Modern is a wonderful space to enjoy some of Europe’s most prominent art exhibitions altogether with very kid-friendly spaces and activities.
Actually, the Tate makes state-of-the-art visits of the museum for the kids, and provides various useful tips to enjoy a family visit: why not take your children take the lead ? make noise, it’s OK to talk at the Tate ! find a portrait of someone you know; and remember, you don’t have to do it all ! And kids and families events are regularly held in the galleries, which exhibits some of Europe’s finest art collections.
Last but not least: special exhibitions are free for under 12s accompanied by an adult.
4. Forget your shyness at Madame Tussaud’s !
One of the finest wax museum you can dream of ! A highly energetic place where you can « meet » some of the world’s most famous personalities from the arts, history and politics. But most of all, a very funny and entertaining visit due to an exquisite stage direction which creates a lot of fuss around all the wax statues.
Several activities are held, allowing you to sing with Jim Carrey or to shoot with David Beckham, after having been caught in a series of flashes prior to ‘meeting’ Madonna, Julia Roberts and Freddy Mercury, among others !
Due to its huge success, it is mandatory to book your tickets well in advance in order to avoid a long wait in line.
5. Visit Sherlock Holmes’ house at … 221b, Baker Street
Few fiction characters have their own house !! Here is Sherlock Holmes’ museum house, located exactly where Sir Conan Doyle imagined it would be, now just a step-stone away from Madame Tussaud’s.
Every single detail has been cautiously displayed to create an authentic 19-century atmosphere (so quite different from the TV series). His hat, his pipe, his chimney, photographs, letters: everything is in place to make you feel at home with Sherlock. Even the museum personnel is dressed as in his days, turning the visit into a jump into the past. No Benedict Cumberbatch to be seen around yet, but who knows ?!
6. Discover the world at the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum
Both museums are very kid-friendly, and located in South Kensington, next to Albert & Victoria Museum. Those sciences museums are clearly oriented towards a young audience.
The Science Museum offers tons of fun activities, workshops, fun displays and « things you can touch and test ». And it is not just about touching, but also about having extreme sensations, such as those provided by a flight simulator or an IMAX movie theater ! Plus, nights at the museums are regularly organized for the children !
The Natural History Museum has a “kids only” section, with games organized around such themes as the dinosaurs, the Earth, space, fossils and volcanoes. Among the star attractions are the huge diplodocus in the entry hall, and the shaky “earthquake room”. In order to prepare the visit, a scrapbook of dino goodies can be prepared online.
7. Discover the hidden scene of WWII at the Winston Churchill War Cabinet
Another historical landmark of London : here is a tiny, hidden corridor where Sir Churchill and his staff have worked days and nights to fight for freedom during the Second World War. The room allocated to Charles De Gaulle to lead operations for the France Libre movement can also be seen.
The simplicity of the place, compared to the results obtained, is stunning.
8. Discover Chinatown at night
Not far from very crowded Piccadilly Circus is China Town, much more quiet and engaging, with all its red lanterns hanging in Gerrard Street and around. Filled with Chinese restaurants and drugstores, Chinatown offers at night time a very special and relaxing atmosphere.
9. Have fun in world-renowned children’s theaters
London has a world-renowned stage production, including for the younger audience. Several locations are dedicated to presenting shows for the kids, offering them a very unique experience, even if they are just spending a few days in London – just beware the fact that they might be a bit tired in the evening, depending upon your program.
10. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace AND the visit of the Parliament in Westminster
Having a look at the change of guards is a must, OK, but what brings a sense of completion to this amusing and colorful peek into the political life of England is a visit of the Parliament in Wesminster, which can be easily organized.
Little Goguette’s bonus: here are some web sites to investigate and prepare your London trip with kids :
- The Curious Mum is a lovely website dedicated to weekly reviews of what’s fun to do in London with kids in the cultural sphere.
- Time Out London for Kids suggests great things to do in London “for kids, teens and families”
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