Explore My City with Guest Cathy Winston
Today’s Explore My City guest is Cathy from Mummy Travels. Taking us through the ins and outs of tackling one of the world’s largest and most popular tourist destinations – as well as the place she calls home – London
London is big. Really big. After living here for more than 15 years, and as a child visiting my grandparents who lived in the city, I’m still slightly taken aback by how long it can take to get around the capital.
It’s one of London’s strengths: no matter how many times you visit, there’s always something new to discover, always something fascinating around the next corner.
The downside is that it can feel overwhelming or you can find yourself rushing around while still not ticking off your whole wish list. Not great with toddlers & younger kids in tow!
But having explored London over the last four years with my daughter, it’s more child-friendly than you might expect Here are my tips on how to see London with toddlers.
1. Find the right accommodation
Kids are a lot to handle, especially when travelling. Upon arriving in London, the first thing to do is find the best accommodation. For accommodation suitable for families with small children, you can check this hand-picked selection of hotels by Little City Trips. If it’s your first time visiting London, your family deserves to feel the luxury of travelling, so see this lovely selection of luxury rentals in London from Homelike!
Since you’ll be travelling with a toddler everywhere in London, the best strategy in picking your hotel is the right location. Hotels close to train stations and points of entry enable accessibility, convenience, and time-saving. Also, it’s best to choose a hotel with more than a bed as its amenities. Look for Wi-Fi access, adequate wall outlets, transportation information, spa and wellness amenities, kid-friendly amenities, and the like.
While heading to online travel accommodation sites is the usual option, you’re more likely to score a better deal by booking directly from a hotel in London. Before booking, don’t forget to look through reviews from reliable platforms, particularly the one- and two-star reviews.
2. Make the journey part of the exploration
Although you’ll probably need to take the underground at some point, it’s not the most buggy-friendly option – expect steps, escalators, busy trains and commuters who are less helpful than the ones I encountered in Paris. This can be a more feasible option if you’re travelling without a toddler.
Instead, try the bus. The traditional hop-on-hop-off sightseeing buses include a kids’ tour from The Original Tour or head up to the top of a double-decker. Kids under 10 travel free, and route 15 takes you from St Paul’s Cathedral to the Tower of London, while the 11 travels past Westminster Abbey and the Horseguards parade, for example.
Looking for great affordable accommodation in central London? Check out London Archway Premier Inn
3. Plan your day in advance
One big plus for London is the number of parks in the centre, so plan ahead, start early and factor in some green space. The Natural History and Science Museums are right next to each other and are completely FREE to visit.
You can download maps in advance to plan which bits to visit – don’t try to see all of both; the Garden Room and Pattern Pod are both aimed at toddlers and younger kids in the Science Museum. The Diana Memorial Playground at Kensington Gardens isn’t far away afterwards.
Or if you’re looking for a long walk at nap time, start at Buckingham Palace (don’t go in) and walk through St James’s Park towards Big Ben and Westminster, then over the river past the London Eye, the Aquarium and along the South Bank, where there’s often plenty going on.
One paid museum we wouldn’t miss though as little ones love it so much is the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. You only pay for the adults, kids go free and it’s an annual pass so you can come back again! Definitely one of the best things to do in London with toddlers.
Not all London’s attractions are in the heart of the city. Try hopping on a boat along the Thames and heading down to Greenwich, where the Cutty Sark is very family-friendly. Or try an overground train to southeast London and discover the Horniman Museum, with its small aquarium and natural history exhibits, plus outdoor space – perfect for pre-schoolers.
Or head west to Hampton Court Palace, to dress up in velvet robes and get lost in the maze. You could also while away a whole day at Kew Gardens, where three-year-olds and under are free. Kew Gardens is one of the best places to take kids at Christmas in London with a fabulous light display.
There are some great London day trip ideas and a comprehensive itinerary for London with kids in this guest post “The Perfect 7 Day London Itinerary for Families”
5. Skip some of the big names
Some places pop up on every list of things to do in London, but if you’re a Londoner you probably avoid them like the plague – even if you want to shop, steer clear of Oxford Street. And while the dancing fountains in Leicester Square are nice enough, there’s really no reason to push through the crowds.
I’ve never seen Madame Tussaud’s without huge queues outside: older kids might enjoy it, but leave it off the list with little ones. The same goes for the Changing of the Guard. Unless you’re there early to get a good spot, you won’t see much, and getting there early means a lot of waiting around, not something most toddlers have the patience for.
If you want a taste of the experience, Changing the Queen’s Life Guard on Horseguard’s parade is less crowded with no railings blocking the view.
Travelling the beautiful city of London is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While travelling with a toddler may seem stressful at first, the key to enjoying your adventures while keeping your child comfortable and happy is to plan ahead and consider the tips discussed in this article.
Thanks to Cathy for some of this invaluable advice on London with Kids.
- For more on touring London with older kids see this Guide to 20 Things to do in London with Wanderlust Crew
- Looking for the best toddler attractions? See the Merry-Go-Round Slowly guide to London with toddlers
- Seeking more European destination ideas? Here are 7 of the best for summer from Everyday Wanderer
About the Blogger
Cathy Winston is a self-confessed travel obsessive and the author of the award-winning blog MummyTravels. Determined not to give up travelling when she became pregnant, she started the blog to find out if you can keep travelling with a baby, toddler and pre-schooler in tow. As her daughter prepares to turn four, she’s taken 15 overseas trips, including a cruise, and several long-haul flights and gets very excited about going on the London underground.