To make a family trip to London less daunting and more comprehensive, the British capital should be seen as a collection of distinct neighborhoods, each rich in cultural and entertainment attractions, as well as great shopping opportunities and outdoor spaces. Whether you’re staying for a weekend or taking a week-long vacation with the kids, here are some ideas of what to do to get a real feel for this fascinating metropolis — combined with great tips from local parents.
During the day wander around historic Covent Garden, whose piazza is a great place to watch jugglers and other performers. Kids love the brilliant Transport Museum; and to admire British grandeur, a walk from Trafalgar Square up the Mall to Buckingham Palace is a must.
If yours kids are history buffs, take them to Westminster Abbey, a gem of gothic splendor where some of the most lavish ceremonies of the British monarchy have taken place, including coronations and more recently Prince William and Kate Middleton’s fairytale celebration. Another moving experience is to visit Churchill War Rooms, where the prime minister and his government worked and lived during WWII.
Teens will thank you for a trip to Carnaby Street, the heartland of the Swinging Sixties. The groovy vibe of its 1960s heyday might have been diluted by trainer outlets and fashion chains, but the legendary street remains one of the most popular pedestrian thoroughfares in the city.
Meanwhile, South West London is home to wonderful (and free of charge) museums including the National History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), and Science Museum. And to chill out, there’s no better place than Hyde Park. Spread across 350 acres and with more than 4,000 trees, Hyde Park was once the hunting ground of King Henry VIII. You can rent a boat and sail on the lake, join the skaters, or listen to the famous Speaker’s Corner’s participants. Other highlights include the Serpentine Modern Art Gallery, Kensington Palace, and Apsley House. Kids will be captivated by the great variety of waterfowl in the Hyde Park pond and enjoy feeding the ducks in the Serpentine.
A trip to London is not complete without a night out (or matinees if you have young children) at one of the vibrant Theatreland’s venues. The West End doesn’t play second fiddle to Broadway with its spectacular shows sure to charm adults and kids alike — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Lion King are hits with theater-goers.
Local moms recommend: Princess Diana Memorial Playground for its boat, water play, and sand (warning: at the weekends there’s a long queue). The V&A has a brilliant paddling pool for kids. Take scooters to Regents Park, home to great playgrounds, or rent pedal boats.
The leafy district is home to intellectuals and artists that favor the calm, elegant streets and lanes lined with cottages around Hampstead and Primrose Hill. Both parks are a major pull for visiting families….