Travelling to London with a 4 year old + fun things to do in London with kids
It wasn’t long ago that the very thought of travelling to London with kids was pretty much my idea of hell. I knew there were loads of things to do in London with kids but I still thought of it as an ‘adult only kind of place’. I lived in London for 3 years and my time there revolved around bars and nightclubs and I couldn’t imagine my little boys slotting into London life! Just last year and my kids were both toddlers and the thought of negotiating the Underground, getting through the crowds and avoiding toddler tantrums at epic landmarks was too much.
‘No chance,’ I thought to myself. ‘I would never put myself through that kind of torture!’
But when my eldest son turned four, something miraculous happened. He stopped being hard work and was an absolute joy to spend the day with. He holds my hand in crowds, he goes out for dinner and sits nicely through a meal, he doesn’t shout or scream when things don’t go his way and he’s stopped showing his underpants to strangers (he has some particularly fetching Paw Patrol pants he likes to show people!)
Around this time (the time he stopped acting more like a human and less like a demon) I received an email asking me if I’d like media tickets to take my family to watch Peter Rabbit at the theatre. A day later I had another email asking if I’d be available to review a new apartment style hotel in London. And the day after that I had an email from an old friend asking if I fancied catching up in London. That last email was the final push I need to go ahead and book a trip to London with a 4 year old.
So today I’d like to tell you about my trip to London with a young child, some of the fun things to do in London with kids and a fabulous ‘hometel’ perfect for families. If you aren’t sure what a hometel is, don’t worry, I’ll get to that!
What is the best age to take a child to London?
I think any age from 4 is great. George was young enough to be amazed by everything but not so young anything was difficult. My younger son is two and I left him at home for a reason! He would have been a pain and it’s also more difficult when you need to factor in nap times and the fact toddlers get bored so quickly.
I wouldn’t worry about taking a pushchair to London. As long as you have a small, lightweight pushchair you’ll be fine. It’s even easier if your child is actually big enough to get out and walk up any steps while you carry the pushchair – but someone will usually help you if you need it. I recommend the BabyZen YOYO+ for cities because it folds up so small and folds away quickly and easily. You could fold it away, throw it over your shoulder and then carry your child up the steps too if you needed to.
What are the best things to do in London with young kids?
Here were some of our favourites things to do in London. You’ll notice there aren’t many museums on the list and that’s because George was just about kept entertained at the Natural History Museum but was ready to leave after an hour. I don’t think he’s quite old enough for the others (and tbh, there are lots more fun things to do than look at stuff in glass cabinets!) I also haven’t included any tours like the Harry Potter Warner Bros studios because they’re really expensive and I don’t think you’d be there long with a younger child (you definitely wouldn’t get your money’s worth!) I also haven’t included the zoo or aquarium because there are zoos and aquariums all over the country.
- Ride on public transport – a necessity but don’t forget this will be exciting for kids who don’t normally take the bus or train. Even the enormous escalators on the tube and the buskers in the stations were exciting!
- Ride the Thames Clipper
- Go to the Natural History Museum
- Ride on the London Eye
- Walk along The South Bank (lots of entertainers and pop-ups and you’ll see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament)
- Visit Covent Garden (lots of street entertainers)
- Ride the Emirates Cable Car
- Possibly the Changing of the Guard – I’ve put ‘possibly’ because this is fun for about 4-5 minutes and then gets boring
- Visit the park (any park – there are so many!)
- Dine at the Rainforest Cafe
- Visit Piccadilly Circus and buy them a treat at M&M World (I know, I know! But kids love it!)
- Visit the LEGO store (in Piccadilly Circus – it’s the biggest in the world)
- The London Transport Museum
- Go to the theatre (if you’re kids are young, do a bit of research to find one for their age group)
Peter Rabbit Live at the Theatre
While we were in London we had media tickets to watch Where is Peter Rabbit?
George was the perfect age for this production as he was enchanted with the characters and the music. There were younger children in the audience who didn’t sit still and older children who were clearly bored, so I’d say ages 4-7 are just about right.
A trip to the theatre was a much-needed break for us in the afternoon too and gave us a good excuse to sit still for a few hours, so I highly recommend breaking up day with a trip to the theatre for this reason alone!
Where is Peter Rabbit? was a gorgeous production that George and I both loved. The only downside was that Peter Rabbit wasn’t in it much. As the name suggests, it’s about finding Peter Rabbit so he doesn’t come into the show until the end (spoiler alert: they do find him eventually!) But for me, it was a show without the main character because they spent the play looking for him. It was a bit like watching Harry Potter without Harry.
Where to stay in London with kids?
I stayed at room2 and it quickly became one of my favourite places to stay in London. It has exactly what I look for in a London hotel and so much more than I didn’t even know other hotels were missing.
I stayed at room2 in Hammersmith which is currently their only property in London. I really hope they open more about the city! room2 isn’t specifically a family-friendly hotel but it was perfect for visiting London with kids.
room2 is a ‘hometel’, so it’s similar to an aparthotel but with a friendlier, informal and homey vibe. It’s a bit like a modern day bed and breakfast for millenials.
The property felt like a very, very large town house with individual rooms inside. The rooms all have kitchenettes with everything you’d need to make a proper meal. There isn’t a reception desk or staff around so you’re emailed a pin code to enter the building and a pin for your room. If you have a problem you can email them but everything seemed really well organised and I had no problems.
Our room at room2 was spacious and modern and comfy. It had a surprisingly big bathroom and I loved the little touches that made this a ‘hometel’. The welcome note was hand-written, there were balloons for George and the information sheets had that bit extra such as local restaurant and bar recommendations and a map for local amenities like supermarkets and there was a discount voucher for the restaurants across the road.
There were fun quotes and postcards around and enough to make it feel homey without feeling cluttered.
An extra single bed was placed in our room for George and my bed was super comfy.
The hotel is less than 10 minutes from Hammersmith tube station, which is ideal because Hammersmith is on the Piccadilly Line, the Circle Line, Hammersmith & City Line and the District Line so it’s easy to get around London from here.
room2 Hammersmith is in a residential area so was quiet but not quiet you’d feel unsafe!
What to pack when visiting London with children
My main tip is to check the weather and, if necessary, be sure to pack clothing you can wear in the rain. London is best enjoyed outdoors so unless it’s torrential rain I’d always try and be outside. There are a lot of indoor activities in London but you’ll get wet travelling between them so make sure you’re prepared.
On that note, make sure you have an Uber account set up so you can quickly order an Uber if you get stuck in the rain or your little one gets really tired.
Pack as light as you possibly can, especially if you’ll be taking public transport to and from your accommodation. If you’re unfamiliar with the tube it can be a little stressful, especially at rush hour. Add a young child into the mix and it’s worse. Add a heavy suitcase into things and you’ve got a journey from hell! I travelled with a backpack so I had both hands free and could easily negotiate steps.
All of these child-friendly activities are informal so your kids will be able to wear comfy trainers, jeans and jumpers so just pack whatever you’d normally wear at home.
Don’t forget that no matter where you’re staying you won’t be far from convenience shops so you’ll be able to pick up everything you need when you arrive.
Travel Hack Tip
If you’re going to be taking the train into London with your kids, don’t forget to check prices for a family train ticket. Children under 5 travel for free so I didn’t need to buy a ticket for George but I found it was cheaper to buy a return family ticket then it was to buy an adult single. With an adult single I was restricted to off-peak times (which wouldn’t have worked for us) but the family ticket didn’t have any time restrictions!
The East London Hotel review – Another great and budget friendly hotel
clueQuest escape room – great for older kids!