London: a family weekend guide

By Harriet Cooper

Photography by parhawk4242/Getty Images

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October 2017

From fairytale palaces and fearsome dinosaurs to spellbinding wizardry and scrumptious ice-cream sundaes, there’s never a dull moment when you’re out and about with kids in London. Here’s how to make the most of your time if you only have 48 hours to spare.


15:00 – A lazy sundae

Restore energy levels after your journey by heading straight to The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason, which offers a lip-smacking ice-cream menu. The Knickerbocker Glory is a classic or you can create your own sundae – plus there’s plenty of artisan coffee for Mum and Dad to enjoy, too.

17.00 – Play (London) Eye spy

It’s a leafy 30-minute walk through St James’s Park to the Coca-Cola London Eye – our tip: get the fast track ticket to avoid queues. Hop aboard your capsule and head to the skies for a bird’s eye vantage point over the city’s historical landmarks, from St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace.

18.00 – Sweet dreams

Back down to earth and it’s a short stroll for little legs to the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge on the vibrant Southbank. Kids are well catered for here: they get a goodie bag of toys and games at check-in, there’s a children’s menu at the brasserie and the family rooms are spacious. Request one with views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Discover how kids can fly free to London this summer

Hop aboard the London Eye and head to the skies for a bird’s eye vantage point over the city’s historical landmarks, from St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace

  • Getting your hands messy is all a part of the dining experience at Sticky Fingers.

    Try it for yourself…

    Tuck into Sticky Fingers’ delicious burgers, barbecue pulled pork and milkshakes daily from 12:00 to 23:00. Nearest tube: High Street Kensington.

    Explore London
  • A huge wooden pirate ship is the centrepiece of the Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens.

    Top tip…

    The playground gets very busy at the weekend (especially when the weather is good), so make sure you arrive early when the park opens at 10:00 to avoid the crowds.

    Discover kids fly free
  • Harry Potter fans will love visiting Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross © Garden Photo World/Alamy.

    Whiz(ard) around town

    As well as visiting the last stop before Hogwarts, the walking tour also includes photo ops at other fantastical locations featured in the Harry Potter films, including Diagon Alley and the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, as well London’s iconic sights – so make sure you have your camera at the ready.

    Book the tour


09.00 – Make like the muggles

Let imaginations run wild on a Harry Potter walking tour. During the 2.5-hour magical journey you’ll pass by iconic London attractions, including Monument and the Tate Modern, before finishing up at Platform 9 ¾ – the last stop before Hogwarts. Who knew sightseeing could be this fun?

13.00 – Do dim sum

Hop on the tube at King’s Cross for the 15-minute journey to Queensway and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best dim sum in town at Royal China, which has been serving up these Cantonese bundles of deliciousness for over 20 years. The atmosphere is lively and the prices reasonable.

15.00 – Fit for a princess

A 10-minute walk through Kensington Gardens – via the impressive Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground and the Peter Pan statue – will bring you to Kensington Palace where there are family trails to follow, fairy-tale state apartments to explore, and activity workshops to be done.

18.00 – Fun in a bun

Children will love Sticky Fingers, the burger joint on High Street Kensington owned by Rolling Stones rocker Bill Wyman. The menu – designed to get fingers and faces seriously sticky – is classic American diner, and they serve tasty cocktails for the grown ups. Afterwards, hail a taxi to Holiday Inn London Kensington and make the most of its heated swimming pool, comfy rooms and free Wi-Fi.

  • Get up close to the Natural History Museum’s T-Rex.

    Night at the museum

    The Natural History Museum stays open late on the last Friday of the month (from 18:00-22:00) and school groups can even arrange for special sleepovers.

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08.00 – French fancies

Head to South Kensington’s pretty French quarter for breakfast. Follow the smell of fresh pastries to Montparnasse Cafe, which many say does the best croissants in town; while Patisserie Valerie on Brompton Road does a brisk business in macarons, mille-feuilles and a variety of other French sweet treats.

10.00 – A roaring time

No visit to London would be complete without meeting the T-Rex at the National History Museum. Dinosaurs aside, the museum is bursting with fascinating exhibits – don’t miss the colossal squid in the tank room. If you’ve time, the spellbinding Science Museum is just round the corner.

13.00 – Sunday lunch

The Chelsea branch of award-winning steakhouse Hawksmoor is a stone’s throw from the museums. Here, they slow-roast the rump over charcoal and it comes with the works: Yorkshire pudding, duck fat roast potatoes, veggies and lashings of gravy. Now all you need do is hit the M4 to Heathrow and sleep it off on the plane journey home.