London is a magical city, and there’s nothing quite like visiting with your family for the first time. World-famous sites and thousands of years of history flavour one of the most multicultural cities in the world, creating a true melting pot.
This article shows you how to get the most out of your visit. We’ll give you insider tips on where to go, advice on how to make your money last longer, and information on common scams to avoid.
Top tips for your family days out in London
1. Buy an Oyster card to save on transport fares
London transport is great for families. Children under 11 can travel for free on most of the network, and 11-15 year olds are eligible to travel half price. Full details here.
An Oyster card is the most convenient way to pay for travel in the capital. Simply use a machine to top up - they’re available in all stations and most newsagents - then tap in and out at either end of each journey. Your balance is updated automatically, and you’ll stop being charged once you hit the daily cap. Simple!
2. Jump on a River Bus
The Thames Clipper service - operated by TFL - runs from Woolwich in the east to Putney in the west. It's a fantastic way to see the city: The route passes the most famous bridges, Traitor's Gate, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and many more riverside attractions.
Refreshments are available onboard as well, and when the weather allows, you can sit on the deck and feel the wind in your hair. What’s more, you can pay for your Thames Clipper fare with your shiny new Oyster card!
3. Avoid the rickshaws
Head to any touristy area of London and it’s likely you’ll see budding you entrepreneurs riding rickshaws around. These may look like an exciting way to see the city from ground level, but beware - London rickshaws are notorious for scams!
Sometimes you’ll ask to go from A to B and find out midway that the driver is taking you on an unnecessarily convoluted route in an attempt to charge a higher fare. At other times, you’ll hop in and arrive at your destination, only to find out that the driver wants exorbitant amounts of money - sometimes hundreds of pounds - for the short journey he took you on. There are also reports of drivers dropping passengers off, only to then be shadowed by suspicious characters looking to liberate them of their possessions.
4. Ride a Boris Bike
In a truly impressive PR coup, Boris Johnson has attached his name to London’s famous public bike hire scheme even though his predecessor - Mr Ken Livinsgtone - announced the scheme.
But that’s not important. What is important is the thousands of bicycles scattered across the city, available to anybody who wants to ride them. Just download the Santander Cycles app, and you could be cruising around London’s impressive network of cycle routes and superhighways, connecting all the most popular must-see neighbourhoods.
5. Skip the queues with a London Pass
Millions of tourists visit London every year, and the most popular attractions are usually heaving with crowds. If you’d rather skip the lines (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t?) then you need to know about the London Pass.
This scheme gives you discounted access to over 80 of London's top attractions and hidden gems, with the option to skip queues at places like London Zoo, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the Cutty Sark, and many more. There are terms and conditions, of course, all of which can be found here.
6. Think outside the box
Flip open a Lonely Planet guide for London and you’ll see a predictable list of attractions: The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye, Madame Tussauds, and so on. These are all great, no doubt. But London has so much more to offer.
If you’re willing to step off the beaten track and delve deeper into the city, you’re guaranteed to come away with truly unique memories. Why not ditch the tube and walk along the canal from Kings Cross to London Zoo, for example? On the way you’ll see a rural strip of London you’ll barely believe exists - as well as being whisked through the cultural hotpot that is Camden Market.
7. Give yourself time
In a city as bustling and seemingly-infinite as London, there’s a temptation to rush. To try and cram as many things into the day as possible. But the best attractions for families in London reward visitors who slow down and take their time. After all, London hasn’t moved for millennia - it’ll still be here next time you come to visit! On your family trip to London, don’t be afraid to slow down. Although you’ll see fewer things, it’s likely that you’ll have a richer experience.
8. Stay at Dolphin Square
A truly great London holiday is built on a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed. While London is a hotel hotspot, there’s nothing like your own apartment with all the creature comforts you’re used to at home. A serviced apartment at Dolphin Square makes for the perfect accommodation for you and your family. You’ll find a studio, one-bed, and two-bed apartments right in the heart of the city; all replete with the highest standard furnishings and facilities.
And what’s more: The on-site spa, gym, and restaurant are fully equipped to keep you relaxed, refreshed, and rejuvenated during your stay.
So there you have it
London is one of the best cities in the world, and we’re proud to call it home. Whatever your interests and however you enjoy spending your time, London guarantees you a good time. And while there are some common pitfalls, they’re easily avoided. This article gives some top pointers for not getting caught out, and there are tons of other resources to help families get the most from their visit to the capital.
So enjoy the attractions, enjoy immersing yourself in thousands of years of culture and history, and most importantly, enjoy having a professionally-serviced apartment as your base of operations.