When we knew we would be moving back to the US, we decided to spend the last 10 days living in a flat in central London. We were up to the task of exploring London with a toddler, right?

When we first moved to the UK in 2014, we decided to rent a flat in Chelsea, even though that meant Jordan would have a three-hour commute. It was worth it to get the chance to live in the heart of our favorite city in the world. After a few years, the commute became too much and we spent the next 2.5 years living in a small town outside the city, settling for day trips back in to see the sights. 

While we had spent time in London with Henry, we usually never spent more than a few hours at a time in the city with him. I’ll admit, playing tourist for the last week with him took a little adjustment. He’s 16 months old, which naturally means his attention span is limited. But we took a balanced approach to explore the city and all of us — adults and toddler — thoroughly enjoyed our stay. 

I’m sharing six days of our 10-day stay to give you some ideas that will make for an amazing trip if you’re visiting London with a toddler or older kids. 

 

Day 1: River Thames Cruise, Borough Market, and Southbank walk

We started out our time in London with a home run. Henry loves the water so any chance to be near it is an obvious win. We jumped on the Thames Clipper in Vauxhall and took in the sights from the river — Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, the London Eye. The boat ride was a big hit.

Hopping off the boat at London Bridge City Pier, we took a quick walk down to Borough Market, one of the most popular food markets in London. Henry isn’t yet a very adventurous eater (he has burritos on repeat), so Jordan and I grabbed a few fun dishes and Henry happily gulped down some fresh watermelon juice. 

After Borough market, we took a long walk visiting sights along the river like Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and  Millennium Bridge. Henry fell asleep at this point for a quick catnap so it was a leisurely stroll until we hit the Southbank Centre. At Southbank Centre he was able to get out of his stroller and walk along the Thames path, getting out some of his energy. We debated going in the London Eye, but as we were getting close to lunch and nap time, we decided to skip it. Though I think it would be a great activity for someone else visiting with a toddler.

Once nap time was over we spent the afternoon running around the palace green in Kensington Gardens.

london with a toddler

 

Day 2: Science Museum and the Diana Memorial Playground

We woke up to a grey, rainy morning, and the thought of entertaining Henry inside all day seemed like a terrible idea. So we packed a backpack and headed to the Science Museum. One of the best budget-friendly things about London is a number of the museums are free, including the Science Museum. Henry spent a good hour looking around different exhibits and watching Jordan get very excited about the space section. It’s safe to say Jordan enjoyed the museum the most, but Henry definitely enjoyed himself.

In the afternoon we took a chance with the rain — which looked like it was stopping — and we took the tube to the Diana Memorial Playground. The playground, which is right by Kensington Palace is huge and has so many things to keep kids occupied. A warning to all parents: this place is incredibly crowded. Henry steered clear of the pirate ship area but loved walking in and out of the teepees. 

 

Day 3: Richmond Park

Richmond Park is on the outskirts of London, so we hopped on the tube to get out there. I was worried that Henry might get a little antsy strapped into his stroller for the 30-minute tube ride, but he was completely entertained by the scenery the entire journey. 

After the tube, a short bus ride took us to the entrance of the park. The park is massive — it covers over 2500 acres — and there is plenty to see. We took a quick walk through Isabella plantation, played peek a boo in a fern grove, and spotted deer everywhere. Henry could roam freely, which he loved. After we’d all had enough walking we stopped at a little cafe in the park for snacks. 

London with a toddler

 

Day 4: Army Museum Soft Play and Pub

We woke up to another rainy morning (it is London, after all) so we looked for another indoor activity. Henry had energy to burn so we booked tickets at the Army Museum soft play area. Aside from Hyde Park, I’d say this was Henry’s favorite activity. He bounced around the soft surfaces, pretended to cook in the play kitchen, and climbed through tunnels. After an hour of intense play, we got him lunch their very kid-friendly cafe. 

Henry dozed in his stroller while we grabbed a pub lunch. While a lot of pubs in the city are kid-friendly, doesn’t do well sitting for too long (do any of them?) I’d recommend finding a pub slightly outside of the city center that has a garden. Or, going while they’re asleep.

We capped off the day with a run through Green Park. 

Fun fact: London is 47% green space, which means your kids will have ample room to roam and explore. 

london with a toddler

 

Day 5: Cafe hopping, Diana Memorial Fountain, and St. Luke’s Playground

We were greeted with a sunny and warm day so we started the day out strong. We picked up coffee (and a babyccino) as well as croissants from this cafe near Hyde Park (highly recommend!). After finishing our incredibly healthy breakfast, Henry was ready for a splash in the Diana Memorial Fountain, so we slowly meandered through Hyde Park to get there. Water can keep this kid busy for hours, so naturally, we spent a long time there, soaking up the scenery and the London Planetrees.

After lunch and a nap at home, we headed out for a stroll through South Kensington and Chelsea, making our way to St. Luke’s playground. Henry was ready to run and climb and he spent 45 minutes racing all over the playground. As a side, I’ve never seen so many public playgrounds in the center of a city. If you’re looking for one, check nearby churches, parks, and commons.

When he was ready to be pushed around more, we picked up ice cream from the Chelsea Market and walked along the Thames River before hopping on a double-decker bus. Front row on the top, obviously.  

London with a toddler

 

Day 6: Natural History Museum, Kensington Palace Sunken Garden, and Hyde Park

For our last tourist day, we started off at the Natural History Museum. Another free entry museum, so we weren’t worried about how long we stayed or whether or not Henry was interested. We entered through Hinze Hall, where a 25-meter skeleton of a blue whale hung suspended in the air. While we marveled at it, Henry took off in search of stairs to climb. That pretty much sums up our time there — Henry climbed and twirled while we looked at exhibits. A good day out had by all.

After that, we wanted to spend our last day in Hyde Park, as it was a gorgeous day. Before getting there we walked across the street to the V&A Museum Cafe and grabbed a quick bite in a gorgeous setting. Then we walked up Exhibition Road to the park entrance. This walk is everything I love about London: gorgeous buildings, a buzz on the street, and an impressive gate marking the park entrance. 

We spent the afternoon walking around the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, the Rose Garden in Hyde Park and walking along the Serpentine with Henry. 

London is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I was beyond happy to find that enjoying it with Henry was even better. Yes, we had to take a slower pace at times and find places for him to roam, but the city made it easy. I can’t wait to take him back to see it again when he’s older.

 

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Erica Gellerman Bio The Worth Project

Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project: personal finance and family travel. website. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom, and Lifehacker. When she's not writing about personal finance you can find Erica exploring Europe from her temporary home base in London.

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