Overview: This mostly walking tour is designed with kids from 6-12 in mind, although teens would probably enjoy it as well. There are plenty of ... more »
Overview: This mostly walking tour is designed with kids from 6-12 in mind, although teens would probably enjoy it as well. There are plenty of ... more »opportunities to let off steam in St. James' Park and Trafalgar Square, to exercise some creativity in the crypt at St. Martin's-in-the-Field (also a decent place for lunch) and to wheedle a few pounds out of the parents at some terrific museum gift shops (not to mention London's premier toy store). Framing all of the above is British history as embodied by some of London's most famous buildings and landmarks. less «
Tips: Make this a leisurely day by letting the kids set the pace for the most part. There are plenty of places along the route to rest, eat ... more »and play. The nearest tube stop to the first point of interest is Green Park. Should the weather be warm and you want to bring a picnic to St. James Park, a convenient place for tasty sandwiches and salads is Pret a Manger. There's one at 84 Piccadilly, very close to the station. If you decide to end the day at the London Transport Museum, the Covent Garden tube is a short walk away. If you wish to see the Changing of Guard at Buckingham Palace and you're not visiting during the summer months when the guards march daily, check the schedule on the Royal Collection website. less «
A great deal older and a great deal smaller than Buckingham Palace down the road, St. James' Palace has housed a great many royals since 1536. Henry VIII decreed it built and both of his daughters (Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth) spent time here. While most of the palace was restored after a devasting fire in 1809, the octagonal turrets on either ... Moreside of the gate house are, for the most part, original.
St. James' Palace actually remains the official residence of the sovereign, although subsequent queens and kings have lived in Buckingham Palace since 1837. Most recently, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall (aka Camilla) lived here until moving over to adjacent Clarence House after the Queen Mum died in 2002. If your timing is right, you may find one or two guards at the gate house who perform a mini-version of the Changing of the Guards.Less
The famous British architect John Nash designed Clarence House, which was finished in 1828. Although you can't see the building properly from the Mall, you can watch the two guards in front do their thing before heading up to Buckingham Palace. The ground floor is open to the public in August if you are an avid fan of stately homes.
Not exactly a fairytale castle in the Disney sense, but certainly imposing, Buckingham Palace (all 600 rooms) is the London home of Queen Elizabeth. You'll know she's "in" when you see the royal standard flag flying in the breeze.
Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to call the place home, although it was her uncle, King George IV,... More who insisted on building a bigger and grander residence on the grounds of Buckingham House, where his parents had lived.
You can tour some of the state rooms in late summer, but most tourists stand around the gates waiting for the Changing the Guards ceremony around 11:30am. If you can't get close enough to watch, consider instead heading over to the Horse Guards Parade at the other end of St. James' Park to watch the 11am Changing of the Guards there.Less
St. James' Park is the oldest royal park in London and my personal favorite. The views are stunning, the lake is peaceful, there is a plentiful array of birds and it's just the right size.
The compact playground at the top of the park is strictly for younger-than 12s; adults aren't allowed in unless accompanied by a child. It's a convenient... More place for a toilet break for kids by the way--adult restrooms can be found in other areas of the grounds. There's a snack bar close by and a few picnic tables if you've packed some sandwiches. Given the vagaries of London weather, however, you may want to hold out for lunch elsewhere. I suggest the Café at the Crypt (see St. Martin's-in-the-Field). It's good value, casual and atmospheric.Less
If you hear the beat of a marching band around Birdcage Walk, follow it to the Wellington Barracks, staff headquarters for the five regiments of Foot Guards soldiers. You'll find the Guards Museum close by, and, even better, the museum gift shop.
Fans of soldiers--real and toy--will be entranced by the exhibits and the model soldiers in the gift ... Moreshop are irresistible. Kids can have a photo taken in dress uniform and there's no entrance fee for under 16s. Despite what it says on the sign,the museum is closed on Mondays. Check the website for other possible closures for private events.
Kids younger than 16 FreeLess
Don't tell the kids, but someone attached a nose--OK, a reasonable facsimile of a nose--to the northernmost arch that separates the Mall from Trafalgar Square. Why? Only the nose knows, but some say it was done by the army to thumb their collective schnozes at the navy. After all, the structure, built in 1910, is named Admiralty Arch. As you walk ... Morethrough it, ask the children if they notice anything peculiar.Less
There's a great deal of history to Trafalgar Square, but in the main, kids are mostly interested in figuring out how to climb onto one of the lion sculptures flanking Nelson's Column. Do look around for the miniature former police station (pictured) and the fourth plinth (a base for statues, but this one doesn't bear a historical figure) to the... More north of the National Gallery. Commissioned artworks are displayed upon it and many have provoked lively commentary. Don't bother with the café on the square as there are far better places to eat nearby.Less
This early 18th century church offers a full schedule of free concerts at 1pm many days of the week and regular evening concerts. But for the purposes of this outing, you'll want to go directly to the crypt where you can have lunch, afternoon tea or a snack and the kids can try their hands at brass rubbing. It's a good place to rest before heading... More off to Covent Garden.
Eliza Doolittle's heirs haven't hawked a flower in Covent Garden in more than 50 years, but this bustling area has been home to traders of one sort or another since the middle of the 17th century. There's tons of shopping and in the afternoons you'll usually find street performers on the main plaza entertaining the tourists unless the weather is... More particularly miserable. Look around and then amble over to the Transport Museum, an interesting and highly enjoyable space for anyone curious about how Londoners get around and about. The museum also has one of the best shops around for kids as well as adults.
Tip: The walk from the Transport Museum to Hamley's, the final stop on this tour, is too far for anyone with tired feet or little legs. I suggest, instead, that you walk to Charing Cross Station and take a bus (the 13, 15, 23 or 139) to Regents Street. The buses stop right on the Strand, and all stops are marked with yellow signs. It's four stops from Charing Cross Station to Hamley's. If you haven't got Oyster cards, you'll need to purchase a £2 bus ticket from the machines at the stop. Kids younger than 15 are free.
Monday-Thursday, Saturday-Sunday 10am-6pm
Children younger than 16 Free
It's been a long day, and if you decide to bypass this huge and likely crowded toy emporium, it's understandable. If you do go, I recommend placing a time limit on the kids as you could lose them among the countless games, art supplies, dolls, puzzles, etc., and never see anything else of London. Your choice of course.
188-196 Regent St.
... More Hours
Monday-Wednesday, Saturday 10am-8pm