Although London is a city steeped in history and tradition, it’s not just for older visitors. There is plenty to keep children and families interested, whether they like adventure, movies, history and more. The experts at British Tours can customize a tour for tourists of any age, promising a day of adventure that will tire out the tiniest traveller. Operating since 1958, we’re the longest-established tour operator in Britain, offering private tours around and outside of London. Here are our top suggestions for the best London Day Tours for families on holiday.
1. Harry Potter tour
Wingardium Leviosa! Take your young Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs on this tour of the highlights of the Harry Potter books and movies. Start off at King’s Cross station where little wizards can have their photo taken at Platform 9 ¾ (that’s the entrance to the wizarding world, for muggles that don’t know). Stop by the Harry Potter gift shop to buy some Hogwarts paraphernalia, like robes and magic wands.
Then, it’s time to take the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Leavesden. A short drive from London, the tour includes the extremely popular Making of Harry Potter exhibit that reveals behind-the-scenes magic of the Harry Potter films. See sets used in the movies including Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Dumbledore’s office, and Diagon Alley.
Back in London, your British Tours guide can lead you around some of the city sights that were included in the movies. Follow the route of the Knight Bus over Lambeth Bridge or see the reptile house where Harry learned that he could speak Parseltongue. You might even decide to take in the West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The only word to describe this wizarding tour is, well, magical!
2. London’s Literary Characters
Harry Potter isn’t the only adored literary character in London. Childhood favourites from Paddington Bear to Mary Poppins have also called London home, and the British Tours team would be happy to design a tour around these fictional favourites. Visit the Winnie-the-Pooh statue at the London Zoo to see the real inspiration behind A.A. Milne’s classic stories. Close to the zoo in the area of Marylebone is the fictional home of the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. At 221B Baker Street, mystery fans can visit the site where Holmes and Watson were said to have lived, complete with a museum and gift shop.
Where would you go to see Paddington Bear? Paddington Station, of course! See the Paddington statue designed by Marcus Cornish, and from there take the Pawprint Trail to find more bear-ish surprises. Finish the day with a driving tour to see some of London’s landmarks, like the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral (made famous by the pigeon woman in Mary Poppins) or Big Ben, which Peter Pan flew past on his way to Neverland. Tell us your favourite London literary character, and our team will be sure to work it into the tour!
3. A Day At The Museum(s)
Museums are the perfect activity for a rainy day in London, and the city is home to several museums targeted towards children and families. The V&A Museum of Childhood at the Victoria and Albert Museum is geared specifically toward children and families. The collection contains childhood objects from the 1600s up to the present day, including toys, dolls and games, as well as objects relating to childcare, education and clothing. The V&A Museum of Childhood is guaranteed to appeal to children as well as former children, aka “adults”.
If your family is made up of budding explorers, consider a tour of the Natural History Museum which is right next door to the V&A. There are more than 80 million specimens at this museum showcasing the natural world, including a 25-metre blue whale named Hope and a rock as old as the solar system itself. Step back in time to see one of the world’s most impressive dinosaur collections, and learn what it’s like to go on a “dino dig” with archaeologists.
If your kids are fans of the Night at the Museum movies, take them to the British Museum, where the third movie in the franchise was filmed. We can’t guarantee that the statues will come alive like they do on screen, but we can promise plenty of interesting exhibits, like the Rosetta Stone or artefacts from ancient Egypt.
Finally, a stop at the Cartoon Museum is perfect for kids of all ages. The museum showcases Britain’s contribution to cartoons, with more than 6,000 artworks dating back to the 1800s. The museum also offers workshops in cartooning and animation, so ask your guide at British Tours what activities can be arranged for your family.
4. Airplane Adventure Tour
Great Britain has a long history of aviation, much of which has been preserved in museums and airfields. The adventurers in your family will love the chance to get up close and see some real airplane artefacts in this tour. British Tours has two tours designed around airplanes, the WW2 Airbases Flying Tour and WW2 Airfield Tour. Take a day trip from London with your private tour guide to visit one of nearly 70 World War II airfields. We also suggest exploring the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, which houses a collection of British and American fighter aircraft as well as civil airplanes.
When you’re back in the city, London has plenty for the aviation fan to see, as well. The Royal Air Force Museum in northwest London celebrates the history of the RAF with hangars full of aircraft, interactive displays and even a flight simulator.
While we can’t fly you directly to your hotel at the end of the day (there’s nowhere to park the plane), our guided tours can drive you back to your hotel door. We’ll also work hard to ensure that no airplane question goes unanswered during this action-packed day tour.
5. King Arthur-Inspired Tour
Knights of the Round Table, grand castles and fire-breathing dragons* are some of things that come to mind when we think of the legend of King Arthur. An Arthurian tour designed by our team of professional tour guides will be sure to appeal to most members of your family, from kids that dream of fairy tales to dads who watch Game of Thrones.
Start the tour with a trip to Stonehenge, less than two hours from London. This monument dates back to 3000 B.C., and its mysterious origins have been attributed to everyone from the wizard Merlin to giants. From Stonehenge, it’s a short drive to Glastonbury where King Arthur and his true love Guinevere were said to be buried. Walk up Glastonbury Tor and enjoy the majestic views looking out over the English landscape. The hill is often attributed to the Avalon of Arthurian legend and one story even claims it to be the site of the Holy Grail, but we’ll let you decide with your own eyes.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a royal tour without visiting at least one castle. England is home to more than 1,500 castles, many of which date back to the age of William the Conqueror. But if you only have time to see one castle, we recommend HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s home, Windsor Castle. Located just 22 miles outside of London, our tour guides will have you back to your hotel in time to get a full night’s sleep dreaming about castles and kings.
*Dragons not guaranteed on this tour.
6. Rock n’ Roll London Tour
Show the teenagers in your family that there’s more to music than Taylor Swift. London has served as home to a number of music icons, from Mick Jagger to Amy Winehouse. It was also one of the birthplaces of punk rock. And perhaps you’ve heard of a tiny little music group called… the Beatles? (Whatever happened to them?)
Our team has put together a four-hour tour of London’s rock n’ roll landmarks, which we can also tailor to your own musical interests. See the homes of musical greats like Pete Townsend, Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury. See David Bowie’s birthplace and childhood home in the neighbourhood of Brixton, South London. Visit the Abbey Road Studios where the Fab Four played their last public performance, and even recreate the famous album cover for yourself. Our guides will provide you with stories and anecdotes about the rock n’ roll scene, but don’t worry, we won’t sing unless you ask us!
We can also provide you with suggestions about where to listen to some live music, either with the whole family or once the kids are in bed. From the legendary 100 Club to the Roundhouse in Camden, London continues to feature some of the best up-and-coming bands.
7. Helicopter Tour Over London
If the kids are getting restless on this trip, maybe they just need a change in perspective. Take to the skies with a helicopter ride high above London. Our London by Helicopter tour starts with a half-day driving tour to sites like Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, followed by lunch at a spot recommended by your tour guide. Then, it’s off to High Wycombe airfield for a one-hour private helicopter flight high above of the city.
See the city’s most well-known landmarks from above, like Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace. Our tour guides will point out all of the sites so you’ll be sure not to miss anything, and they’re ready for all of your questions. Travel above the River Thames and see an aerial view of how the map of the city grew and expanded from Roman times to today. Or choose a helicopter tour at night in order to see the lights of London - our tour guides will return you to your hotel in time for bed.
This helicopter tour can be done on its own, or with our Airplane Adventure Tour exploring aviation in Britain. The sky's the limit with these tours!
8. Tower of London Tour
No trip to London would be complete without a trip to the Tower of London. This iconic structure is over 900 years old and has served as a prison, military fortress, royal residence and more. Aspiring princes and princesses will be most interested in seeing the Crown Jewels, a collection of royal crowns, sceptres and jewels dating back hundreds of years. You’ll see more than 20,000 sparkly stones on this tour, and more than a few armed guards protecting it all!
The Tower also lets visitors get in on the historical action with daily guard-changing ceremonies, historical re-enactments, and more. You’ll want the whole family to get a photo op with the famous Beefeaters, more formally known as the Yeomen Warders. These guards, easily spotted by their bright red uniforms, have been guarding the Tower since the time of Henry VIII.
You can also learn about some of the darker aspects of the Tower’s history (and of course, our tour guides will be happy to work with your parental guidance as far as the scary stuff is concerned.) The site has a long history of murders, plagues and hauntings, including the story of two royal princes who were said to disappear in the frighteningly named “Bloody Tower.” But don’t worry, our guides will make sure everyone leaves this tour safely!These eight ideas are just some of the educational and entertaining day tours that you can do with your family when visiting London. The team at British Tours is made up of 47 professional tour guides that specialize in a number of areas from history to architecture, and they speak several languages. We love to work with families of young children, or any group that has specific needs. Our team can create flexible, private day tours for you, so be sure to let us know what you’re most interested in seeing during your visit. Contact us in advance of your trip to discuss how we can make your holiday more enjoyable with a London day tour.