Guide to Visiting London with Toddlers

Beautiful view on London's southern part: cityscape, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Thames river. Photo by cromary/Adobe Stock
Beautiful view on London's southern part: cityscape, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Thames river. Photo by cromary/Adobe Stock

Historic, iconic and royal, London brings to mind sites such as the Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, not to mention cultural spots like Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern. And it’s full of charming neighborhoods with flower shops, pint-size cafes and trendy bars.

Is it possible to soak up some of this atmosphere in with a toddler in tow? Yes — a resounding yes. It may require adjusting expectations, but seeing London with a toddler will rouse a sense of wonder in both parent and child.

Visiting London with Toddlers
Toddlers are enthralled with a bird’s-eye view of southern London, including Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Photo by cromary/Adobe Stock

Children, especially toddlers, are inherently curious, not to mention intrepid! They’ll turn a corner and lead you down a new path, walk up to strangers, stroll through the Tube car with a grin on the their face.  True, it takes patience and flexibility to navigate a 607-square-mile city, home to 9 million, with a little one. But to see your toddler’s eyes fill with awe as a double-decker bus whizzes by or as they approach the Princess Diana Memorial playground — better known as the pirate ship — in Kensington Gardens is also a memory to cherish.

Below are some tips and suggestions for seeing London from a young child’s eyes.

Visiting London with Toddlers
Hyde Park offers room to run, duck and geese to watch and much more toddler amusement. Photo by jovannig/Adobe Stock

Essential Tips for Visiting London with Toddlers in Tow

Parks and Gardens

You’re likely thinking you didn’t come all this way simply to visit a park or garden, but the British, in fact, have a national obsession with gardens themselves. Gardens have long been places for respite, places to express creativity, and of course, places to host garden parties. And so, Kew Gardens, officially the Royal Botanic Gardens, is a great place to take toddlers.

Don’t miss Hyde Park either. A green oasis in a teeming city, much like New York’s Central Park, the 350-acre park was created by Henry VIII in 1536. With ponds, fountains and statues galore, Hyde Park is wonderful to stroll and explore as an attraction on its own or for some downtime after a busy morning.

Visiting London with a Toddler
The Royal Mews makes an easy alternative to Buckingham Palace. Photo by Alena/Adobe Stock

Historic Sites, Museums and Toy Stores

Though it is challenging to see some of the top historic sites with a toddler, there are alternate ways to experience them. Rather than trying to take a serious and guided tour of the interior of Buckingham Palace, head to the Royal Mews, which serves as the Queen’s garage. It’s home to her collection of cars and carriages, as well as horse stables. Transport vehicles and animals are a guaranteed hit with any toddler!

A few other sites that are easier for younger ones include walking the Millennium Bridge and riding the London Eye, or ambling around Trafalgar Square. And while it might feel like a bit of a tourist trap, a hop-on/hop-off double-decker bus may well be the highlight of a 3-year-old’s day and a fantastic way to get a quick overview of the city.

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Another favorite of local parents, the hands-on London Transport Museum is perfect for curious toddlers. Showcasing 200 years of London’s transport history with colorful maps and displays, the museum houses double-decker buses, old trams, Tube cars and trains, all just waiting for toddlers to climb aboard. The museum’s gift shop is also top-notch, with plenty of Tube and Mind the Gap paraphernalia.

For more toys and gifts, consider Hamley’s Toy Shop, a seven-story toy emporium dating back to 1760 in the heart of London’s shopping district along Regent Street. You’ll find it hard to escape without a toy in hand, but many of the unique and special toys are set out for toddlers to try and play with. Plus, the top floor features the royal family made out of Legos!

A Children’s Tea

Afternoon tea is the quintessential British experience as well as a chance to dress up and feel special. Several London restaurants and hotels now offer a tea for the petite crowd. Typically, a children’s tea will be shorter than a traditional version but will still include plenty of finger sandwiches and cakes. Consider the one at Fortnum and Mason, the legendary British teamaker. There’s even a Peter Pan-themed tea at Aqua Shard and a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed tea at One Aldwych Hotel. Advance reservations are required for most teas, so it’s best to book beforehand.

Visiting London with Toddlers
Choose a home base within easy reach of toddler-friendly attractions like the London Eye. Photo by Tomsickova/Adobe Stock

Practical Points

  • Be strategic about where you stay. Being within walking distance or a short Tube ride of the attractions and areas you plan to visit makes a world of difference with a toddler; you don’t want to spend too much time getting where you need to go. Both Mayfair and Kensington are central areas with many hotel and stay options across price points.
  • The Tube isn’t very stroller-friendly, and many stations don’t even have elevators. If traveling with a stroller, go for the light umbrella kind, which is easier to carry around town.
  • Londoners don’t mix fine dining and kids. Typically, parents will get a sitter if they intend to have a longer, more elaborate meal. Travelers will therefore want to seek out informal eats that are still plenty delicious. The Borough Market food hall is a great place for families, with dozens of stalls and purveyors.
  • The traffic around Heathrow can be quite horrendous, making for a long taxi ride into the city. If you can will yourself and your toddler to hop on the Heathrow Express train, you’ll be in town in 20 minutes.

Relevant Links:

Browse all family-friendly accommodations and things to do in London on Ciao Bambino

Get our best tips and ideas for traveling with babies and toddlers

52 tips for traveling in England with kids

Best playgrounds and parks in London for kids

The best London museums for families

5 fantastic neighborhoods for a family vacation in London

Best restaurants in London for families

8 favorite day trips from London with kids

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