A visit to London doesn’t have to be expensive, even with children in tow. Here are six new ideas to try this summer, without needing a Lotto win.
Children under 11 travel free on the London Underground and buses, while 11-15 year olds get reduced fares. You didn’t hear this from me, but the number 12 bus follows roughly the same route as the sightseeing tour bus! Right, let’s go.
1. Museums & Galleries
Despite the unavoidable crowds in the school holidays and weekends, you can’t beat the hands-on exhibits these free museums have to offer. We’re fans of the space section of the Science Museum and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Most run special children’s events so check and book online in advance. We’re planning to give the National Portrait Gallery’s family art workshops a go.
2. Covent Garden
The bustling market with stalls, street performers and cafes appeals to all the family. A free walking tour leaves from Covent Garden Piazza every day at 10am, 11am and 1pm. Train enthusiasts will enjoy the All Aboard fun zone (and driving a tube train!) at the London Transport Museum. It’s free for children (Adults £17.50 but allows access all year), and is a great rainy day option.
3. Splashing in water fountains
Just remember to pack a change of clothes! We discovered the fountains on the cobbles of the courtyard at Somerset House by accident and it felt like we stumbled on a secret. The fun Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park keeps kids happy for hours. Granary Square’s new fountains near Kings Cross even light up as the sun goes down.
4. Quick march!
Enjoying a royal spectacle needn’t cost a king’s ransom. Watch the pageantry of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Get there early to secure a space as the event draws huge crowds. We like the steps of the Victoria Memorial for a good view. It takes place daily at 11.30am April-July, and every other day from August, but check the online schedule for details beforehand.
5. Follow your dreams
Have a gloriumptious time following the BFG Dream Jar Trail from 8th July – 31st August. To coincide with the release of The BFG movie this summer, fans of Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant can spot magical giant dream jars around the city, each containing dreams of celebrities.
6. Carnivals and parades
Pop along to the Southbank Centre on Saturday 2nd July for a free dragon costume making workshop at 1pm, then gather later with your costume for a carnival-like parade, or watch the festivities, from 4.30pm. View the colourful parade of calypso dancers and steel bands of the Notting Hill Carnival on Children’s Day, Sunday 28th August (10am- 8.30pm).
And finally…I’ve often used this triple studio with kitchenette, en suite and wifi near Hammersmith Underground £88 per night, ideal for small families choosing to stay in the capital a little longer.