Britain’s capital city is one of the most popular and bustling destinations in the world – London welcomed a record breaking 17.4 million visitors last year. It’s hardly surprising, as The Big Smoke offers a host of museums, heritage sites and tours, making it the perfect place to soak up culture as a family.
From movie magic and dinosaurs to life-size teddy bears, London offers a host of diverse family activities that make for the perfect city break – and lasting memories. Here are our top 9 tourist attractions in London.
1. Movie magic with Warner Bros. studio tour
Do your children know their muggles from their boggart? If so, then a trip to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden is just the ticket – you’ll be able to visit iconic sets, costumes and props. The attraction is adjacent to the working film studios where all eight Harry Potter films were made, offering little wizards and witches the opportunity to go backstage, be wowed by animatronic creatures and look in awe at breathtaking special effects.
Nearest tube station: Watford Junction
2. Go wild in London Zoo
London Zoo has the largest penguin pool in England.
Situated in the leafy suburbs of Regent’s Park is London Zoo – home to an incredible 800 animal species. It’s the oldest of its kind and has plenty of interactive exhibits to get your teeth into – including an immersive tiger territory, a penguin beach and gorilla kingdom, where you may come face-to-face with male silverback Kumbuka. The zoo holds a number of activities and workshops throughout the year, such as animal life drawing classes.
Nearest tube station: Camden Town
3. Get spooked at the London Dungeon
You and your children can enjoy a spookily good day out.
The Dungeons have been delighting and spooking audiences for almost 40 years and it’s the perfect attraction for teenagers and older children who like a dose of history and a big scare. During a 90-minute tour guided by professional actors, you’ll journey through 1000 years of London’s past. Moving through the Dungeon from show to show, you’ll get up close and personal with Jack the Ripper and the infamous Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd. Keep an eye out for a familiar looking head on a spike, as Brian Blessed is currently making a cameo as the infamous monarch Henry VIII.
Nearest tube station: Waterloo
4. Roar with dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum (NHM) in South Kensington has more than 80 million specimens spanning billions of years. Many of its collections have great historical and scientific significance – such as artefacts collected by the renowned evolutionist, Charles Darwin. Best of all, entry into the NHM is free.
Nearest tube station: South Kensington
5. Education mania at KidZania
KidZania’s 75,000 sq ft child-size city in Westfield offers more than 60 role-play activities. While learning key life skills such as team work and independence, children can explore career opportunities and try their hands at being firemen, pop stars, chefs or even pilots. The educational attraction even has its own currency, helping children to understand the basics of financial responsibility.
Nearest tube station: Wood Lane
6. Visit the world’s biggest toy store
Established in 1760, Hamleys is London’s oldest and best-known toy store. It’s the largest of its kind in the world with seven floors brimming with everything from board games to computer games and even life-size teddy bears. The store, on Regent Street, also has special in-store events that are usually free and welcome children to get creative or even test out new toys.
Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus
7. All aboard HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast is one of only three surviving bombardment vessels from D-Day.
Your children can explore nine decks of war time history and climb aboard the HMS Belfast to learn about life at sea during the Second World War. Why not roam the heavily protected shell rooms and learn about the fast-paced life of its operations room? You’ll also be able to hear veteran’s stories in the Life at Sea exhibition.
Nearest tube station: London Bridge
8. Hidden Ears Ahead
A couple of years ago, Tim Fishlock, a hip London artist, carefully sculpted and installed small ears at several locations on Floral Street in Covent Garden to give an artistically literal slant to the saying ‘walls have ears’. Ever since, people have been wandering the street trying to spot one. Some even say that there are several more dotted around the city.
Nearest tube station: Covent Garden
9. Diana’s Memorial Playground
If your children love pirates, then take them to Kensington Gardens to play on the Diana Memorial Playground. The main centrepiece is a huge pirate ship with ropes and activities galore. There are also tepees, a sensory trail, a beach around the pirate ship and various toys and sculptures. Its design was inspired by the stories of Peter Pan, whose statue has stood in the park for more than 100 years – the park has had more than 1,000,000,000 visits since first opening in 2000. Be warned – it can get busy on sunny days, with waits ranging from 15 minutes up to an hour, so get there early.
Nearest tube station: Queensway
Published 23rd October 2015