As the summer holidays lurk around the corner, Dina Maktabi, founder of Kensington Mums, comes to the rescue with 15 great places to visit in London with children
1 Battersea Park Children’s Zoo
This zoo is designed specifically for children. It’s not too big and there is not too much walking. You won’t find any of the big five here as Battersea Park Children’s Zoo is home to smaller animals, reptiles, and birds. Feed the farm animals and spot the otters. There are lots of different interactive play areas for different ages including a real tractor and fire engine.
Train: Battersea Park or Queenstown Road
Cost: Buy tickets online for a discounted rate: adult £9.95, kids £7.95 (under 3s free)
2 Children’s Garden at Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens has a huge Children’s Garden, measuring 10,000m2 – that’s about the size of 40 tennis courts! Here, kids can explore all the things plants need to grow – earth, air, sun and water – via trampolines, water pumps, a living bamboo tunnel, ‘worm-hole’ slides, windflowers, hammocks and periscopes, all leading to a 4m high tree-top walk wrapped around a 200-year-old oak.
Tube: Kew Gardens
Age: 3-9 years
Cost: Buy tickets online for a discounted rate (adults £16.50, kids 4-16 £4.50, under 4s free)
3 Diana Memorial Gardens – Kensington Gardens
The Diana Memorial Gardens in Kensington Gardens next to Kensington Palace have been designed for less able and able-bodied children to enjoy playing together. At the centre of the play area is a huge pirate ship with a sand beach around it inspired by Peter Pan it’s a fitting tribute to the late Princess. There is a sensory trail, teepees and sculptures among the trees and plants. Plenty of seating around. Expect it to be busy on sunny days.
Tube: High Street Kensington & Queensway
Age: Up to 12
4 Emirates Air Line – Cable Car
The Emirate Air Line is a cable car that links across the River Thames an easy way to get across from Greenwich to the Royal Docks. Amazing views of the O2 and the whole of London and the City. It takes up to 10 minutes each way but if you board after 7pm then you can enjoy an extended night flight with music and video in the cabin. Be sure to check out the urban beach at the Royal Victoria Docks side, which is open from late July to late August.
Tube: North Greenwich (Jubilee) and Royal Victoria (DLR)
Cost: Adults £4.50, kids £3.20 (single fare, discounts available with an Oyster Card)
5 Holland Park & Kyoto Garden
Right in the centre of the 22 hectares of London’s Holland Park is the Kyoto Garden. Home to the famous peacocks, a tiered rock waterfall, stone lanterns, Japanese maple trees and a pond full of koi carp that the kids will love spotting. A tranquil and peaceful Japanese garden for reflection and relaxation, the Kyoto Garden is perfect for a summer picnic. Check out more of west London’s most beautiful outdoor spaces here.
Tube: Holland Park
6 London Transport Museum
Buses, trains, trams, tube carriages. Discover the history of London’s world-famous transport network at the London Transport Museum, which transports you through from the 1800s to present day. Enjoy bus and tube simulator rides and interactive games and activities for all ages, and check out the latest interactive kids workshops and activities on offer every school holiday.
Tube: Covent Garden
Age: 3 and up
Cost: Adults £18 (discounts for online bookings), ages 17 and under go free
7 Mudchute Park & Farm
Mudchute Farm is a large urban park and farm set in 32 acres of countryside just south of Canary Wharf in Cubitt Town on the Isle of Dogs with over 100 animals and fowl. It is one of the largest urban farms in Europe and is a community charity with a working farm, stables, a children’s nursery and a range of educational activities. You can picnic and take in the fantastic views of City of London among many feather friends.
DLR: Mudchute Farm
Cost: Free, donations welcome
8 V&A Museum of Childhood
A branch of the V&A group of museums, the Museum of Childhood will take you back through the years on a fascinating journey of toys. For adults, it’s great to see the toys of your childhood and for your children it’s fascinating for them to see the most popular toys from the 1600s to present day. Check out Rachel Whiteread’s celebrated artwork Place (Village), a permanent display showcasing a ‘community’ of around 150 dolls’ houses. There are usually special activities for the school holidays too.
Tube: Bethnal Green
9 National Gallery – Magic Carpet Story Telling
Fly away on the magic carpet this summer as it comes to land in front of a different painting every Sunday at the National Gallery. Hop on the carpet and enjoy interactive stories inspired by the gallery’s paintings, created and led by professional storytellers and specifically designed for the under 5s. Once a month there are musical magic carpet stories with a specialist early years music facilitator.
Tube: Charing Cross
Age: Under 5s
10 National Maritime Museum
Discover amazing stories of exploration and human endeavor that made our world today. There is lots for families and the under 7s here in the playful, immersive AHOY! children’s gallery – dress as a pirate, stoke the boiler of a steamship, load cargo, fire a cannon and buy fish in the marketplace. Find out about the most notorious ship wrecks, and what life was like on the high seas for explorers and sea captains in days gone by. Kids can also Journey across the Great Map, navigating with one of the museum’s tablets.
DLR: Cutty Sark
Age: 0-7 and older
11 Royal Observatory & Planetarium
Greenwich Park, with amazing views over London, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home of Greenwich Mean Time and a great family day out. As well as the National Maritime Museum (above), it’s home to the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium. Visit the Royal Observatory gardens for free. Set your watch by the Shepherd Gate clock. Journey through space and time and explore the universe and space in the Planetarium and its 360 degree cinema (book in advance). Brilliant for any budding astronomers, with special shows for the under 7s.
DLR: Cutty Sark
Cost: Free in parts, otherwise adults £16, kids £8 (additional entry for the Planetarium)
12 Sea Life London Aquarium
Sea Life London has over 500 species of marine life in 14 themed zones and houses a magnificent 2 million litres of water! Walk among seven species of shark in the shark walk and discover thousands of sea creatures. Walk along the Ocean Tunnel and the Shark Reef. A great place to visit on a wet day as you are immersed in Europe’s largest collection of marine life.
Cost: Buy online for discounted rate (adult from £22, kids £18, under 3s free)
13 Sky Garden
The Sky Garden, at the top of the Walkie Talkie building at 20 Fenchurch Street, is London’s highest public garden with an incredible viewing platform offering 360 degree views of London. On arrival, you go through airport security scanners before being whisked in the lift up to Level 35 where you can wander around observation decks of landscaped gardens and terraces. There are restaurants and bars here, as well as an open-air terrace. Tickets are free but the majority have to be booked in advance.
14 ZSL London Zoo
One of London’s oldest and best loved zoos, ZSL London Zoo has over 650 species of animals with trails and quizzes. Have a spider selfie in Europe’s only walk-through spider experience. Visit Penguin Beach, Gorilla Kingdom, Rainforest Life, Tiger Territory and Land of the Lions, where you can find yourself face to face with an Asiatic Lion. London Zoo has something for all ages.
Tube: Camden Town and Regent’s Park
Cost: Book online for a discounted rate (adults from £23.40, kids from £15.21, under 3s free)
15 The Kensington Museum Triple
It’s an obvious one but a goodie. The Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the V&A provide a triple whammy of fun for curious kids. The Natural History Museum (ages 5+) has dinosaurs and Hope, the huge blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling, the Science Museum (ages 5+) has lots of multi-sensory activities to help younger and older children explore the universe (there’s also an IMAX cinema that can be booked in advance), and the V&A (ages 3+) runs lots of hands-on workshops, games and activities in art, design and performance, as well as trails around the museum.
Tube: South Kensington
Age: 3+ to 5+
Website: nhm.ac.uk; sciencemuseum.org.uk; vam.ac.uk
This article has been updated to correct prices as of August 2019