Best Things to Do in London with Tweens and Teens

If you’re wondering what some of the best things to do in London with tweens and teens are, just ask my daughters. Because thanks to their love for all things Harry Potter, it didn’t take much to convince my 10- and 12-year-old daughters that a trip to London was a great idea.

In fact, once we arrived in that British capital, we discovered that London has so much for Muggles like us to see and do. Read on for our tween-friendly itinerary in London.

Best things to do in London with tweens and teens

I’ll be honest: most of our trip revolved around finding things connected to the seven Harry Potter books. In fact, part of what made the trip engaging for them was letting them tell us what they wanted to see.

Most of that was in London proper. However, at least one place they wanted to visit required a day trip outside of London. It was super easy to organize with our hotel concierge.

Tween things to do in London: Harry Potter places

Here were some of their Harry Potter must-sees:

  • Platform 9 3/4
  • Order of the Phoenix headquarters
  • Reptile house at London zoo

Of course, we did many more things during our five days in London.

Interestingly, our trip coincided with the Independence Day holiday back in the States aka July 4th. It was weird to be in a bustling city on a day we’re used to everything being shut down for the holiday or at a family barbecue.

Anyway, we decided to commemorate that quintessential American holiday by visiting Ben Franklin’s house in London, close to Trafalgar Square. I’m not sure that was much fun for my daughters. However, my history buff husband loved it.

Platform 9 3/4

It was at the Kings Cross Railway station in the Islington neighborhood where filmmakers capture Harry and other Hogwarts students catching the Hogwarts Express. It a popular attraction in north London.

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You know that Hogwarts’ students disappear through a brick wall to access Platform 9 3/4 to catch the Hogwarts Express train. Of course, the disappearing into the wall part isn’t real.

However, the folks at Kings Cross Railway station have recreated Platform 9 3/4—or at least part of it—between the entrances to Platforms 9 and 10. There you’ll find half of a luggage cart embedded in the wall under a sign reading “Platform 9 3/4.”

This is a great photo-op to start or end your day. In fact, it’s so popular that we had to wait in a line of other Harry Potter fans. Once the crowd cleared out, I was able to capture the image below of my daughters.

platform nine and three quarters kings cross

Disappearing Order of the Phoenix HQ

Near to the Kings Cross Stations and Platform 9 3/4–and just one Underground stop away on the Piccadilly line–is Russell Square. It’s in the Northeast of London.

We walked the block to see if we could figure out which one of the townhouses there may or may not have inspired the disappearing Number 12 Grimmauld Place.

In case you didn’t know, that address is the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. However, we later learned that the townhouse they used in the film version is really back in the Islington neighborhood where Kings Cross is located. Either way, it’s a pretty walk and you can let your kids’ imaginations run wild.

Other recognizable Harry Potter sites

Clearly, much of the Harry Potter films were shot on a soundstage. I mean, how else could you film a Quidditch match on flying broomsticks.

And, of course, there is Wizarding World at Universal Studios Orlando in Florida. There you can enjoy Butterbear and buy your own wand, among other delights.

However, back across the pond, the filmmakers did use a lot of real-life London and other parts of England as a backdrop. It’s the same with locations outside of London as well.

London Zoo

The Reptile House at the London Zoo. This is where Harry learned he could speak to a boa constrictor in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” FYI, in England, they call it the “Philosopher’s Stone.”

London Zoo, formally Zoological Gardens, is in the northern part of Regent’s Park, in the City of Westminster, London. In London, different neighborhoods may also be actually different cities or boroughs within London, such as Westminster.

Leadenhall Market

You’ll find Leadenhall Market in the London’s financial district. That’s where Hogwarts’ students access Diagon Alley to secure their school “supplies.” Look for Whittington Avenue.

Oxford University

For example, 90 minutes outside London is Oxford University. It is a must-visit for Harry Potter fans.

Upon entering the dining hall at Christ Church College at the University, you’ll immediately notice its uncanny resemblance to the dining hall at Hogwarts. That is, minus the floating chandeliers and fluttering-about ghost spirits.

In fact, our daughters weren’t thrilled with the long bus ride to Oxford. However, as soon as we got inside that Christ Church, Oxford building, they recognized the wood-paneled staircases and the long tables. Then, we couldn’t get them to leave.

Outdoor places for kids

There are plenty of outdoor places for kids in London. My daughters’ favorite place was the Princess Diana Memorial Playground.

This playground is in Kensington Gardens. This is a large city park that’s Northwest of Buckingham Palace.

My girls enjoyed blowing off steam among the playground’s Peter Pan replica structures. This included Hook’s boat and a collection of teepees.

We learned that Peter Pan’s creator, JM Barrie, lived nearby. Thus, all of the Peter Pan references.

Other outdoor places for kids:

  • The aforementioned London Zoo
  • The Tower of London

Tower of London

Voldemort hasn’t got anything on the likes of King Henry the VIII, who used the Tower of London for executing his wives and others. My daughters were confused when we said we were going to the Tower of London. Maybe your kids will be, too.

Mine actually thought we were going to Big Ben because, you know, it’s a tower.

Nope. The Tower of London is really a walled castle on the banks of the River Thames. It’s very close to the Tower Bridge over the Thames. You can see that bridge in the background in the photo below.

Yeoman tour guides

However, despite it being a place of death, the amusing antics of the Yeoman Warders, who act as your free tour guide, provide some humor in all of this gore.

The Yeoman, who met us at the Tower’s front gates, proceeded to tell us about all of the people who’d lost their heads (literally) on the Tower Green. Once further inside the castle walls, he pointed out Beauchamp (pronounced Beech-um) Tower. That was death row to the likes of Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey.

Well, this kind of freaked out my daughters. Not because of the beheading and whatnot. No, it’s because my kids’ names are Anne and Jane.

Anyway, the Yeoman delighted in telling us, in excruciating detail, how many swings of the axe it took to behead some of the “stubborn” prisoners. This made my tweens wince and giggle simultaneously. I think they found this a fun experience.

He also suggested we check out the graffiti these prisoners had carved into the walls during their time there. Nothing like seeing graffiti tags from death row inmates from 500 years ago.

London crown jewels on display

On the softer side, the Tower is home to England’s crown jewels—the real shiny stuff, not someone’s anatomy. This includes the finery that Queen Elizabeth II wore at her 1953 coronation. Wonder if Charles borrowed any of that for his coronation.

Give yourself plenty of time to explore the Tower of London with kids, especially if they tend to dawdle. We arrived late in the day.

Two hours later, we had to leave, because the Tower was closing. However, there was still lots more we wanted to see. So, definitely don’t leave this for your last trip of the day like we did.

Other kid-friendly tourist attractions

While it was fun to take in the Harry Potter spots and a bit of history at the Tower of London, the next two options were my daughters favorites. I think because they appeared to be about “fun things to do” rather than “what can I learn” in London.

Great views of London from the Eye

The British Airways’ London Eye is really a giant Ferris wheel. It sits on the South banks of the Thames.

Because of this vantage point, you’ll get a birds’ eye view of London, including Big Ben and Parliament. It also made for a great backdrop for our family photo.

family on london eye

Unlike a ferris wheel at a carnival, you’ll spend a decent amount of time inside the closed capsule on the London Eye. In fact, one revolution takes about 30 minutes.

Certain members of my family are afraid of heights and would never get on a ferris wheel at the carnival. However, they had a ton of fun on the London Eye. I guess being inside the capsule made them feel safe and allowed them to enjoy the ride.

Finally, get there early in the day or you’ll wait in line longer than it will take you for your flight (as they call a ride). Two hours for a 30-minute ride? I don’t think so.

Kids love the Big Bus Tour

Big Bus Tour is a hop-on, hop-off bus throughout London. It’s an excellent way to spend your first day getting your bearings in London. So make sure you add it to your itinerary.

Also, you can use the day’s ticket as your makeshift transportation around the city. This worked so well for us in London that when we visited Barcelona, Spain, a few years later (where we enjoyed a European vacation rental), we used the same approach.

Opt for the top-level seating of this double-decker bus, even if it’s raining. The bus provides free rain ponchos.

And it’s just so much more fun to be out in the fresh air, even if it’s chilly in July. Yes, you may need a jacket in July in London. Nonetheless, my daughters had a great time riding this bus–I know, that sounds like a misnomer, fun on a bus.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for the perfect thing to do in London on a sunny day, take a Big Bus Tour would be on top of my list.

However, by staying on the top level, they spend much of the ride with their arms in the air, like you might when riding a rollercoaster. Hey, however they could have fun, I’m all for it.

This link can help you save up to 20% off on London Big Bus Tour tickets.

Factory tours in England

One of our favorite trips back home was taking factory tours. Over the years, we’d visited Hershey’s Chocolate World in Pennsylvania and the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Vermont.

So I was thrilled to learn that you can take a factory tour in England, albeit in Birmingham, not London. However, Birmingham is an easy day trip from London.

Anyway, this tour is of Cadbury World. That’s where Cadbury makes its world-famous chocolate.

I’ve noticed that chocolate made in Europe tastes different than chocolate made in the United States. Dare I say it is more delicious.

So, if you’ve been to Hershey’s Chocolate World, definitely book a trip to Cadbury World. Then, you can taste test for yourself how British chocolate compares to American chocolate.

Best things to do in London with teens

If you’re a Peloton family, here’s an option for your London trip. You can try and take a class at Peloton Studios London during your trip.

Here’s what you need to know about kids riding in the studio. I say riding since cycling is the only option for taking live classes.

One, your kids have to be at least 13 years old. Two, they must be at least four feet, 11 inches tall.

If you need to rent shoes while at Peloton, here is help in converting Euro or UK shoe sizes to US shoe sizes.

peloton studios london

Here are hotels in Covent Gardens near the Peloton London Studios.

Afternoon tea

When we visited London, my daughters were solidly tweens, at age 10 and 12. That made them old enough to enjoy the very girly thing of dressing up for afternoon tea.

Plus, they could sit still during a four-course tea meal. However, since they were still young enough to enjoy spending time with mom, there was no eye rolling or snarky comments.

We enjoyed at the Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair. The Athenaeum is also a London hotel with Peloton bikes.

My daughters are normally of the milk-and-cookies persuasion. However, they rose to the occasion and ordered hot tea, and even asked for seconds of the cucumber finger sandwiches. In addition, they loved the scones and teacakes that the Athenaeum Hotel served.

I’ve included the Athenaeum in this roundup of the best luxury boutique hotels in London.

Day Trip to Paris

Believe it or not, you take a train from London to Paris, and get there in under three hours. So, if you want to couple a trip to London with a jaunt to Paris, you can definitely do that.

Also, if you decide to stay more than just a day, here are ideas on where to stay in Paris with kids. Our family rented an “apart-hotel” when we visited Paris.

To prep them (and you) for a stay in France, I recommend these books about Paris with kids.

I hope that if you get to Paris, you don’t get sick like I did when I visited a few years ago. Thankfully, France has something similar to 1-800-MEDECIN or 1 800 doctor that you can call. And we did. However, in today’s day, you may also want to plan for how you might get Paxlovid for foreign travel.

Finally, if you are flying and happen to have youngsters going with you, you’ll want to keep them occupied during your flight to Paris or London or, frankly, anywhere. Here are ideas on the best travel toys for babies and toddlers. We definitely packed some of these activity kits when our daughters were younger.

Where to stay in London with kids, tweens or teens

Speaking of hotels, here are hotels in London that are located relatively close to the places I’ve recommended in this article. Plus, they’re family friendly so are great places to stay in London with kids–both young and old.

 The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences

The Beaumont Hotel

Club Quarters Hotel Covent Garden Holborn, London

Club Quarters Hotel St. Paul’s

London Marriott Hotel Park Lane

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