Jolly good… it's London! The capital city of England and the UK is full of history, architecture, and famous names and families, like Shakespeare and The Royals, which makes it a perfect international family vacation destination.
It is home to iconic landmarks such as the Tower of London and Hyde Park, where visitors can explore its rich history, participate in activities, and enjoy stunning city views.
The countries of England, Scotland, and Wales make up Great Britain, and Northern Ireland makes up the United Kingdom (UK).
When KeeKee, AAA’s Family Travel Mascot and star of the award-winning children’s book series KeeKee’s Big Adventures, visits London, these are her favorite things to do and see.
LOOK, KIDS, BIG BEN!
The iconic Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster, often called Big Ben, is actually Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is the name of the Great Bell INSIDE the Tower. Weighing 14 tonnes, the bell is the size of a small elephant. The world-famous clock has kept the exact time for the nation since 1859. Tours are only offered to UK residents.
You can tour the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, where you’ll learn about the history of the building and find out about the work of the UK Parliament.
RIDE THE HIGH LONDON EYE
Just across the River Thames, the longest river in England, running through the middle of London, is the huge observation wheel towering over the city. It’s as tall as the Pyramid of Giza.
While some may consider it a bit touristy, it is worth the ride for the fantastic views over the city. And it’s entertaining for kids.
Boating on the River Thames is also a great way to see the city. There are all kinds of tours you can take by day and night.
While London is a big city, it is super easy to get around on foot, by Double Decker bus (a must-do for the kids), or on the Tube, the subway system.
Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Queen or King of the United Kingdom and a working royal palace. The British monarchy has lived here since 1837, beginning with Queen Victoria.
Did you know? When the King is at home, you can see the royal flag, the Royal Standard, flying above the Palace. Look to see which flag is flying while you’re there.
Five regiments of Foot Guards guard Buckingham Palace wearing red jackets and tall, furry hats called bearskins. You can see the Changing the Guard each morning at 11 am (10 am on Sundays). The Palace is open to visitors during the summer.
While Changing the Guard is on everyone’s list, KeeKee loves Changing the King’s Life Guard on Horse Guards Parade. Life Guards on horseback have been standing watch at the entrance to Buckingham Palace since 1660. The majestically dressed horses and cavalry perform their ceremony daily at 11 am weekdays (10 am Sundays). There are smaller crowds and no railings, so you get amazing views.
The Royal Mews are the Royal Stables built 500 years ago. A mews is a group of stables, typically with rooms above. They are still a working stable today that you can visit (February – November). The Mews are home to the Royal Family's state coaches and other carriages, royal cars, and about 30 horses that the Queen named.
Kensington Palace first became a royal home in 1689 and is best known as the former home to Diana, Princess of Wales. Open daily, and you can book a ticket in advance and walk in the steps of royalty.
FANCY A CUPPA?
An excellent highlight when visiting London is having Afternoon Tea. England’s afternoon tradition tea dates back to 1840 when the seventh Duchess of Bedford asked for a tray of tea, bread, and butter to be served in the afternoon to tide her over until the later dinner. It became a habit, and she started inviting friends to join.
You can have afternoon tea at many spots around London. Our favorite is when visiting Kensington Palace. You can pop next door to the Kensington Palace Pavilion and Tea Room for a delicious cuppa tea overlooking the Palace grounds.
There are so many options for food in London, whether you're looking for scones, fish and chips or want to try traditional Indian cuisine. The kids will love many of the names for food, like Toad in the Hole (sausage baked in batter) and Bubble and Squeak (boiled potatoes and cabbage).
MEDIEVAL CASTLES & TOWERS
The Tower of London is the historic 900-year-old fortress sitting along the Thames River. It served as a palace, prison, armory, and zoo, so there is much to explore here.
The Tower of London is home to the Yeoman Warders, or “Beefeaters.” The 37 ceremonial guards wear uniforms like those from Tudor times and are responsible for guarding the Tower and the Crown Jewels.
The Crown Jewels are the most valuable collection of gems and artifacts in the world, including the royal scepter with one of the largest diamonds in the world!
The Tower of London is also home to the iconic Ravens. Legend states that the monarchy will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the Tower. The Raven Master takes care of the birds and feeds them a special diet of beef, bird seed, and treats.
Tower Bridge, the iconic and most well-known bridge in London, opened in 1894. It’s named for the two tall towers on each riverbank. It’s a great place to visit for panoramic views above the River Thames, including looking down through the Glass Floor! You can also explore the Engine Rooms, which is super fun for kids.
Tower Bridge is often confused with London Bridge. When over this way, you can also walk across London Bridge, made famous by the English nursery rhyme. While it has been rebuilt many times over its 2,000-year history, the current bridge is not falling down! ;)
TAKE A WALK IN THE PARK
London also has lots of green space and parks like Hyde Park, the largest and oldest park in central London and one of eight Royal Parks. Its 350 acres include a large lake and the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.
And make sure to check out Kensington Gardens’ Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground and the Diana Memorial Walk leading to Hyde Park.
Here are some other great options depending on your kid’s age and how much time you have.
- British Museum – You can explore over two million years of history and culture in over eight million works for free. Our favorites are the Rosetta Stone and The Egyptian Collection.
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theater - The historic indoor/outdoor theater was originally built in 1599 by Williams Shakespeare, the famous playwright and poet, and his theater company. The current theater is the 2nd reconstruction of the original Globe theater. The original burnt to the ground in 1613.
- Churchill War Rooms - Beneath the streets of Westminster, you can explore the underground bunker where Winston Churchill directed Britain’s World War II efforts. The rooms are frozen in time, and there’s something for everyone to explore.
- London’s West End – The theater district has entertained people for over 350 years.
London is a great place to visit as a family, with so much to explore! It’s a perfect international family vacation full of fun and adventure.
London Adventure Awaits!