60 fun things to do in London with teens

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Camden Market, elephant head shop front, London on a Budget

What does London have for teens?

London is one of those rare places where you and your teens can all find a bit of fun. Grab such unicorn opportunities with both hands.

Whether you lean towards vintage or Punk, urban or high art, the military, animals or shopping  you will find corners of London town and activities to suit your family’s eclectic styles.

There are Roman ruins for the historians, and super shiny futuristic cityscapes for the modernists. Discover both Camden Market Boho vibes and sharp City suits. There are urban jungles with mini-me real rainforests hidden inside. 

Setting off together on your journey of exploration through markets, roof gardens, palaces, seats of democracy, world class theatres and architectural marvels it can be hard to know where to start. Why not apply an upgraded school timetable model, cherry picking your favourite subjects, and ditching the dross?

Here are some interest themed ideas for things we have found to do in London with teens as we have passed through this pretty incredible city, and top tips on how to wangle many of them for free.

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Animals

If animals are your teen’s thing, then London has got it covered. Wander through rainforests at the zoo, feed the surprisingly tropical birds in Hyde park , encounter royal horses on parade and animatronic dinosaur at the National History Museum.

London Zoo

Adult £26 – £35/ Child £16.90 – £22.75  (up to 15)

FREE TICKETS: With 2 for 1 rail ticket or Blue Peter Badge (see end for details)

London Zoo has been sitting in a corner of Regent’s Park for nearly 200 years, following a decision that it was about time they moved the lions and bears out of the Tower of London, where they had been generally terrorizing/dismembering the visitors.

Fun facts:

Regular celebrity visitors included Charles Darwin and AA Milne’s son, whose favourite animal was a small bear called Winnie.

The zoo was the scene of zebra-escape during a bombing raid in World War II. Fortunately, if not for them, all the venomous animals had been killed in anticipation of such an eventuality.

Don’t miss:

  •  the glow-in-the dark-lizards
  • the mustachioed monkeys swinging past your head in the rainforest zone (and the sleepy sloths hanging from branches over your shoulder)
  • underwater penguin viewing cubby holes, and 
  • the spider safari (!)

Things to do in London with teens tip #1

Dare your teen to walk among and under free-range spiders  (not for everyone)

Feeding Parakeets in Hyde Park

FREE 

The birdlife in Hyde Park has became much more tropical since a flock of bright green parakeets came to town.

Feel like an ineffective human scarecrow (or maybe like a character in The Birds?) as they land en masse on your arm / shoulder / head in search of your outstretched apple-bearing hand. 

Things to do in London with teens tip #2

Pack an apple each and head to the Peter Pan statue. Bring seeds in summer.

Horse Parades

FREE 

A trip to London would not be not complete without seeing some silver-topped soldiers on parade at the changing of the guard outside Buckingham palace. Brass bands, pomp and ceremony are the order of the day. Get there early for a ring side seat.

Things to do in London with teens tip #3

Check times and days.  

In normal times 11am daily June and July  (Aug – May: Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun)

Comedy Animals at the Natural History Museum

FREE 

As well as meeting the internationally famous whale, mammoth and T-Rex skeletons, don’t neglect the smaller comedy animal exhibits at the National History Museum. Hunt out the long nosed shrew, the woolly rhino and screaming mini-mammal. There is a 2 horned narwhal to be found too.

Things to do in London with teens tip #4

Don’t ignore the comedy value in the smaller exhibits. The devil is in the detail. Make it into a weirdest creature competition?

Sea Life Aquarium

£30pp

FREE TICKETS: With 2 for 1 rail ticket  (see end for details)

3 floors and 14 zones of fishy fun. I am waiting for my 2 for 1 deal on a future visit so value for money is currently untested.

Art

FREE 

Urban Art

  • Head to Shoreditch for a self-directed urban art trail.
  • Neal’s Yard is also pretty as a picture.
  • Check out the enormous 3D versions of the merchandise for sale within the shops of Camden Town.

Photography

The professionals - V and A / Tate

See the professionals at work in the Elton John room at the V and A and in the galleries of the Tate Modern.

Check out listings for the latest photography exhibitions at art museums across the city.

Amateur time

Then go on our own self guided photography tour.  Turn your favourite top 10 London landmarks into a photo shoot activity.

If your teen is a silver seeking magpie, the futuristic buildings in the City are like an art installation in their own right. For older style architecture, the National History Museum has symbolism and intricately carved stonework at every turn. Head to Camden Town for a popular culture angle.

Things to do in London with teens tip #5

The perfect location for a self guided photography shoot. Pick your theme to suit your style.

Fine art

  • Make you way to the Tate Britain for celebrity painters – Van Goughs, Monets and Picassos.
  • For a line up of the royal heads, pop around the corner to the National Portrait Gallery.
  • For modern classics, go south of the river to the brutalist Tate Modern

Boating

Cutty Sark

Adult £15/ Child £7.50

FREE TICKETS:: With 2 for 1 rail ticket or Blue Peter Badge (see end for details)

Get a discount with a combined ticket to the Royal Observatory.

Walk under, over and through the only surviving British tea clipper, the fastest on the high seas. It’s worth listening to the Captain’s stories of souls lost at sea and the lucky sailor who was swept over board only to be deposited back on deck by the next huge wave.

Do not miss the freakish figureheads laying low under the ship’s bow.  Some of the sculptors were clearly more skilful than others. The half-women look like they might come to life in the dead of night and are surely waiting in the wings to be cast as characters from an episode of Dr Who.

Things to do in London with teens tip #6

Play pick the most freaky figure head

Golden Hind

FREE 

There is no charge to sidle up to this life-sized replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind on the South Bank of the Thames.

In fact, there is a very conveniently placed pub right next to it where you can sit out on benches overlooking both the boat and the Thames with a plate of emergency chips.

Boat hire in Hyde Park

£29/hour for a family. Over 15’s classed as adults

Or £24 half/hour, but really? To save a fiver?

Why not take to the water itself in Hyde Park’s cafe-fringed Serpentine? Row or pedalo amongst the birdlife, the choice is yours. In a pay-back moment you have been waiting for your whole life, your teens can do the hard work.

Motor the canals on a GoBoat

£89/ hour or £129 for 2 hours

A self-drive Go Boat will transport a group of up to 8  around the canals of London. A picnic table is provided for essential  onboard snacking. Pick up the boat at Paddington Basin and make those landlubbers green with envy as you pootle on by.

Canteen

London is great for extreme people watching, and what better place to do it than from a lovely café. You’ll need pit stops on any whistle-stop tour anyway, so why not build them into your master plan?

FREE  – not the food.

Music and flowers

For live music with flowers overhead, mozy on over to the pretty open air cafe at the end of the Stables Market in Camden. (Also look out for tea room with flamingo wallpaper.)

William Morris wallpaper

Soak up the fabulous decor in the V and A’s three room designer cafe, where William Morris himself has tried his hand at wallpapering.

Roof terraces

  • Book ahead for a family table at the Rooftop  cafe overlooking Trafalgar Square. Drink cocktails on the terrace with blankets and heaters to hand if needed (pretty much year round).
  • Harrod’s cafe has an outdoor balcony where the over 18’s can treat themselves to a holiday prosecco while the others sup their cups of tea.

River views

Walk along the Thames from the London Eye in the general direction of Tower Bridge and you will find many a riverside cafe bar. There is even one tucked under Tower Bridge itself which is great if you get the window seat.

Your teen may want to stop and play with the skating community flipping out by Festival Hall.

Cafe boat

Or get on the water itself and grab a coffee / brunch on the flower-garlanded Darcie Mae Barge at Paddington Basin. Rooftop or inside seats available for all the weather London can throw at you.

Next door you will find a barge cafe dedicated to cheese.

Nitrogen Icecream

Head over to one of the Chin Chin icecream cafes in Soho or Covent Garden and see icecream being frozen in a cloud of very sci-fi nitrogen before your very eyes. Tastes great too.

Fashion

FREE 

V and A

First stop for the fashionista teen is the V and A, a whole museum dedicated to art and design. Pick your era and country of choice. The exhibits demonstrate the seamless links between attitudes, technology and changing fashions. Did someone just discover Pharaohs in Egypt? Then bring on gold necklaces befitting of Nefertiti herself. New strong dress hoop just been invented? Watch those skirts balloon outwards.

Check out the pop star outfits in the stage section from the likes of costume divas David Bowie and Elton John.

Things to do in London with teens tip #7

Check out the latest exhibitions. Mary Quant’s creations and Lady Di’s ball gowns have been known to hang out here.

Carnaby Street

  • Head down to Carnaby Street to see the epicentre of fashion in swinging 60’s. 
  • Walk in the steps of Mods, Skinheads, Punks and New Romantics.
  • As a dedicated follower of fashion, you’ll probably want a picture with the sign.

The Worlds' End at Kings Road (shop like a ship)

Check out the Kings Road for Vivienne Westwood’s current retail outlet incarnation “World’s End”, where she challenges time and space with her galleon themed decor choices of sloping floor and 13- hour backward ticking clock.

Camden

Great for vintage, upcycled and Boho fashions. And shoes made out of flamingos, apparently.

Stroll along canal tow paths, past a crowd of 70’s throwback punks and into the heart of the market. I first ventured he here in my teens and picked up my student man-jacket and dungaree combo. Things are a bit more Steam Punk now but Dr Martins are still a staple.

Things to do in London with teens tip #8

Look out for the resident Punks hanging out on Camden Lock

Film

The Harry Potter Walking Tour

FREE  – Tips only

Be regaled by an entertaining actor-type, with tales of the original witches and wizards of London and the stories behind the filming of the Harry Potter films. The Night Bus, for instance, was not just CGI magic but a specially made triple decker bus. Being too tall to travel under bridges through most of central London, it had to be taken apart and reconstructed on site for each scene. 

Follow your guide down the street that provided the inspiration for Diagon Ally. Discover the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron (under the railway bridge at Borough’s Market) and Ministry of Magic itself. The phone box used for portal entry has sadly moved on.

Some walking tours are free and just ask you to tip your guide at the end. We went for the £12 paid tour because we are English and don’t know how to do tipping.

Things to do in London with teens tip #9

London being the setting for so many films, it’s worth googling the screening location of your teen’s favourite and stopping by for an action replay.

Celebrity Cinemas

Price varies with venue

Engage in some red carpet celebrity spotting at a movie premiere in Leicester Square, or go for a retro night out at one of the city’s super cool picture houses.

Do you maybe have a teen who likes a lie down? Velvet double beds make up the front row at Electric Cinema in Portobello Road. Leather armchairs with blankets are available for those less inclined to recline.

The 19th Century art house Genesis in Bethnal Green is officially one of the most beautiful cinemas in the world and comes with sofas, fancy lighting and  waiter service for an all round luxurious experience.

Gardens

Kew Gardens

From: Adult £17.50/ Child £5 (up to 15) – Cheap after 4pm

FREE TICKETS: With 2 for 1 rail ticket or Blue Peter Badge (see end for details)

Activities likely to appeal to garden-loving teens include the aerial treetop walkway and finding lily pads big enough to sit on (if only they would let you). With foliage as large as your off spring, it’s a good place to play hunt out the largest/weirdest plant.

The cafe and shop are of course eternally popular with the whole family. 

(Royal) Park life

FREE 

Literally sit up and smell the roses in Hyde Park’s rose garden in the summer. Or wander through the willows and tropical flora at St James Park, designed to be fit for a king. Lakes, birds and cafes all abound for a lazy summer afternoon.

Geography

Test your teen’s map reading skills by putting them in charge of navigation. To be honest, Google Maps will do most of the work for them but choosing the right Tube line in the subterranean mazes and deciding whether to jump on the waiting train whose doors are about to close can add an edge of adrenalin.

 If they can master the Tube network in London, this skill is transferable internationally. The world will be their Oystercard.

Make sure to hop on a ferry at some point to see the city from a watery perspective and experience the loopy meanders and surprise beaches The Thames has to offer.

Geology

National History Museum

FREE 

Precious stones

Glow-in-the-dark diamonds  and the world’s largest topaz are some of the rock starts waiting for your geologist teen, encased in rows of glass-topped wooden trays holding the world’s most interesting rocks. 

The stones are colour-themed resulting in a distinctly unusual rainbow of rock.

The Vault - cursed crystals

A special vault at the end of the room of rocks is home to the most precious gems of all –  rare  diamonds,  nuggets unearthed during the American Gold Rush and even a cursed crystal whose every owner has reputedly died or committed suicide.

Martian rock

Of the thousands of meteorites in the world, only a handful are known to have come from Mars, and you can see them here (whilst feeling very small in time and space).

Things to do in London with teens tip #10

Don’t miss the elevator which transport you into the heart of a planet in the Red Zone

Ghosts and general horror

Ghost tour

 £14/adult, £9/child (8+) – Lantern Ghost Tours

Teens are the perfect audience for a ghost tour. They can stay up late enough and are generally up for a ghoulish tale or two. Go for a full-on Jack the Ripper Tour or a more spiritually gentle Ghost Walking Tour, depending on your family’s tolerance for gore. Check out our ghost walking tour experience.

If walking at the end of the day is not your idea of fun, go for a ghost bus tour instead, replete with Harry Potter furnishings and table lamps.

London Bridge Experience

Adult £19.95/ Child £15.50 (up to 15)

FREE TICKETS: With 2 for 1 rail ticket 

Winner of “scariness awards”, this is the place to take a tour through London’s  gruesome history and meet a few demons and zombies along the way. The website features a lot of blood and talks of an immersive experience. We are gearing ourselves up for this one. Let me know how scary it is.

London Dungeon

From Adult £24/ Child £19 (up to 15)

FREE TICKETS: With 2 for 1 rail ticket 

As its name would suggest, more gory recreations of historical events involving black humour and special effects are on offer here. Meet Sweeny Todd and Jack the Ripper. Again – we are not quite ready for this one. Take someone to hold your hand.

Madam Tussauds

£24pp with a family ticket

FREE TICKETS: With 2 for 1 rail ticket 

Visit your favourite celebrities in wax form, which can be macabre enough even before you enter the dungeon area where people who appear to be wax, are actually not and my give you a small coronary by jumping out at you. Expect other forms of torture to feature.

History

Tower of London

FREE TICKETS: With 2 for 1 rail ticket or Blue Peter Badge (see end for details).

Buy a palaces pass for discounted entry for multiple attractions.

Crime and punishment: Explore the scene of the most famous unsolved royal murders, the 2 boy princes in the tower. Other celebrity prisoners include Sir Walter Raleigh (a 3 time visitor, he even has his own allotment), Rudolph Hess and a Kray twin.

3 queens in a chapel: The on site chapel is the final resting place of Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey following their executions at the Tower.

Animals: Before the zoo was invented the royal menagerie lived here for 600 years. Read about lions and monkeys taking arms and legs from visitors, a leopard attacking a cleaner and a boa constrictor who managed to strangle a keeper. A tethered polar bear was allowed to go fishing in the Thames.

Line of kings: The White Tower, a 900-year old palace turned armoury, houses weaponry, Henry VIII’s tournament armour and mini metal suit worn by a boy king.

Crown jewels: Gape, slack-jawed as you trundle on a human conveyor belt past some of the world’s largest and most valuable diamonds, including a sapphire smuggled out of the country by King James, now an integral part of the Imperial Sate crown. The jewels are in active service, coming out for coronations and state events.

Things to do in London with teens tip #11

Follow a Beefeater tour for lurid and entertaining tales of the Tower and a lot of death. These men are not just for show. They actually live within the tower walls and have all seen 22 years of active military service.

British Museum

FREE 

See an Easter Island head, the Elgin Marbles, Anglo Saxon treasure from the actual Sutton Hoo, the Rosetta stone, Egyptian Mummies and a stony Ramses II. Seek out a comedy exhibit for light relief.

The Museum does a handy guide of its top exhibits for those with a 1 or 3 hour schedule/attention span.

Or join one of the many free guided tours (make sure you do not inadvertently join one you have to pay for as your kids will never get over the mortification of being told to leave).

V and A

Vast casts: Gasp audibly at the impossible dimensions of the Cast Room exhibits, where Victorians recreate the wonders of the world out of plaster.

Jewels in the Bollinger Gallery: Wander through millennia of accessories. The invention of diamanté resulted in an explosion of sparkle. Diamond encrusted swords can be found on the first floor, just up the rather spectacular glass spiral staircase next to Queen Victoria’s crown.

Pulling faces: Check out the entertaining results of sculptors learning their craft, creating the whole range of expressions from disgust to boredom in the comedy bust section.

Things to do in London with teens tip #12

Climb the neon spiral stairway in the Bollinger gallery linking accessories to blinged up boy toys upstairs

Kensington Palace

Adult £23/ Child £11.50 (up to 15) Family ticket £63.50

FREE ENTRY FOR KIDS: with a Blue Peter Badge (see end for details). Adults can buy a palaces pass for discounted entry for multiple attractions.

Set very handily in Hyde park is another of London’s 11 palaces. Here you can see the room in which Queen Victoria was born.

Explore the extravagant King’s State Apartments and the Queen’s private quarters. Expect Turkish carpets and tales of woe and palace intrigue. There is a lot of royal drama to take in.

Look for the excessively wide and spookily headless dresses and try to work out how the wearer managed to exit the room/go to the loo.

The Military

Imperial War Museum

FREE 

Wander amongst military hardware, Spitfires and equally aerial Land Rovers. If you are feeling emotionally robust, experience life in both World Wars  (the holocaust is an advisory over 14’s only). The pieces to camera from the people who lived through it all are fascinating and the sheer scale of model of Auschwitz is sobering.

Dressing up as a soldier in the recreated trench is available for the less self conscious teen in search of a period selfie.

Things to do in London with teens tip #13

Look out for a chunk of the Berlin wall sitting outside the entrance.

National Maritime Museum

FREE 

Set in the very Grand Greenwich Park you will find the National Maritime Museum, with a practically life-sized ship in a bottle marking the entrance.

Here you can find the jacket Nelson was wearing when he was shot. Look closely and you can still see the blood. You will also find Fijian canoes, golden ceremonial barques, a pocket watch from the Titanic and Turner’s own Battle of Trafalgar. And more dead-eyed figureheads to generally unnerve you.

Music

Abbey Road

FREE

Star in your own Beatle themed album cover by walking in the footsteps of the Fab Four themselves at the infamous zebra crossing outside the Abbey Road Studios.

There is even a shop you can visit to collect some Beatlemania souvenirs.

Hyde Park festivals

About £70/day – prices vary with the level of VIP treatment you are after

Every summer (give or take Covid) stars perform in concerts in the park. Check ahead for your teen’s favourite, maybe see if you can pick one you all like? Worth tweaking your dates for if you mange to bag a ticket to the stars.

Wembely/O2

Pick seats to suit budget. Will your legs last if you choose to stand? Avoid unofficial websites – the mark ups are insane

This is London – home to the stars and big shows. A degree of fore-planning is required here. Essentially book when the tickets are released to have a chance of getting the seat and price you want.

We got caught out and booked through an agent, inadvertently increasing the price we paid by about 300%. The show was cancelled in a rare Covid silver lining in the end, but lesson learned – research the name of the official website and don’t panic as the tickets go live.

Enjoy the show!

Things to do in London with teens tip #14

Check out early releases to specialist groups – holders of American Express cards, or Spotify accounts.

Politics

The Houses of Parliament

Watch a Debate

FREE 

Visit while Parliament is sitting and you can simply join the queue for the public gallery and see democracy in action.

Google the day’s schedule for timings of debates which are likely to be the most interesting and arrive early to see the procession of the golden mace and the Speaker opening the House for the day. Then take your seats in the gallery to watch the machinery of government and some celebrity politicians in action.

Things to do in London with teens tip #15

Take a pen and fill in your allocated ticket or you will waste precious time waiting for the communal one whilst everyone else files past you to take up the public gallery spaces. When it is full you have to wait until someone leaves.

Guided Tour

Adults £22 + 1 free child  (up to 15) / Extra child £9

(£19 for  16 – 18)

Tours are available during the summer recess and on weekends,  when Parliament in not in use.

Stand, very much like a real MP amongst the green benches in the House of Commons, and explore the blinged up House of Lords in a behind the scenes family tour.

Enter through the Palace of Westminster, a great feasting hall of kings. Here subjects, including those on horseback had to leave awkwardly in reverse, to avoid causing royal offence by turning their backs on the monarch.

The tour guide will take you on a whistle stop 1000-year journey covering the turning tables of power and how a King’s temper tantrum resulted in all subsequent monarchs being banned from entering in the house of commons forever more.

Religious Education

St Pauls Cathedral

Adult £17/Child £7.20 (up to 17)

FREE ENTRY FOR ALL: to Evensong 

FREE ENTRY FOR KIDS up to 18: during daytime with a Blue Peter Badge

Sit back in a pew, look up at the ceiling and use an audio guide to discover a bit about the place. Apparently Nelson is buried here in a tomb built for Henry VIII and the glitzy ceiling mosaics were frowned upon back in the day as being a bit too razzle-dazzle.

Then wander around the frescoes, orange-lit dark wood panelling and metallic lattices to the eerie (and quite startling if you are standing behind the pipes) sound track of the organist limbering up for Evensong.

Things to do in London with teens tip #16

For a full acoustic experience, you can enter for free by attending Evensong

Westminster Abbey

Adult + 1 Child £18 / Extra child £7 (up to 17)

Services free

Westminster Abbey, wedding venue choice of Royals, most recently Will and Kate, comes with a millennium of history and a very fancy roof.

Pay for a tour or stay for a service to soak up the atmosphere in more traditional manner. A great place to visit at Christmas.

Science

The Science Museum

FREE 

Walk under silver planes into a universe of light  in the exceedingly hands-on Science museum.

The space floor bears a passing resemblance to  the deck of the Starship Enterprise .Future astronauts should look out for Tim Peake’s  spacecraft, a piece of the actual moon, a real space suit from 1991 and an interactive flight simulator.

Other celebrity exhibits include the first jet engine, an iron lung, Amy Johnson’s Gipsy Moth, a 700 year old Cathedral clock, and a replica of Apollo 11, an impossibly flimsy looking lunar module that somehow managed to land on the moon, despite appearing to have been made out of tin foil (that’s vacuums for you apparently).

The Royal Observatory

Adult £16/ Student £10 (16-24) / Child £8 (up to 15)

Buy combined ticket with Cutty Sark for a discount

This is the perfect spot for those interested in time and space.

Time:

  1. See Harrison’s 4 celebrity clocks shine in their golden glory and decreasing dimensions as their architect struggled to master the thorny issue of how to make a clock tick at sea. The final time piece steps quite comically down in size to a large pocket watch when he finally cracked it.
  2. The astronomers shared their time with the rest of London by setting up a time ball which could be viewed across the city and still falls daily at 12 or 1 depending on the season.
  3. Stand astride the Meridian line, created by real life time lords and which demarcates time “zero”.

Space:

  • Walk through the observatory room designed by Sir Christopher Wren and marvel at a giant telescope 10,000 more powerful than the human eye.
  • For budding Patrick Moores, follow in the footsteps and eyelines of Royal Astronomers-past by booking on to a winter sky star gazing session.

Things to do in London with teens tip #17

Save money by seeing the Meridian line which continues outside the Observatory and peeking at the time ball through the fence.

Skyline views

The Sky Garden

FREE 

A surprising green Sky garden grows at the top of the Walkie Talkie tower. A lift will elevate you to a tropical penthouse with 360 degree views over London and an outdoor balcony area. Roof top cocktails are an optional extra (don’t mind if I do).

Things to do in London with teens tip #18

Book your 1 hour time slot as soon as slots open 3 weeks before your visit. Places go quickly.

Tower Bridge

Adult £10.60/ Child £5.30 (up to 15)

FREE TICKETS: With 2 for 1 rail ticket (see end for details)

Who doesn’t love a glass walkway in the sky? Walk tower to tower over the streets and houses with views all the way down the Thames. Dare someone to do a small jump on the glass.

Your ticket includes a tour of the engine room for those with an interest in mechanics, or in the stories of the people who have spent their lives working on the Bridge.

London Eye

Family ticket £22pp

FREE TICKETS:  With 2 for 1 rail ticket (see end for details)

Walk around your mini-egg and check out views on all sides. Pop a friend in the capsule next door for a photo op (before setting off – not mid-flight).

You are unlikely to be disappointed by the silhouetted spires of the Houses of Parliament, looking like a troupe of chimney sweeps is about to dance all over them.

Included in the tour is a random 5D experience combining an IMEX style large screen event and then a dousing in snow-like foam. Unexpected but enjoyable

Things to do in London with teens tip #19

Book a sunset slot and  pack a spare battery charger for potentially excessive phone photo usage.

Shopping

FREE  – unless you decide to buy anything

High Street

M and M store

For those with a love of sweets and colour, drop in to the M and M store – more of a confectionary theme park than a shop.

Stroll with larger than life sized M and M’s along the zebra crossing Abbey Road style, before tucking into the ultimate pick n mix rainbow.

Lego store

For a teen with a leaning towards construction, the chance to assemble a mini figure from millions of body parts and accessories is not to be missed.

The oversized Lego installations will make you feel that you have been to Legoland for free. Try sitting in a Lego Tube carriage next to local men about town, Shakespeare and a busby wearing soldier.

Things to do in London with teens tip #20

London shops are like mini-theme park experiences for free. 

Hamley's

5 storeys of toys sounds daunting, so finding the floor for your teen is crucial. Head for the man-sized storm troopers before trying your hand at in-shop laser quest/ frisbee with the toy demonstrators. Creatives can try their hand at 3D art, neon sign writing and sculpting unpoppable bubbles. 

Razer store

For gamers in the family head over to the Razer store where green up-lighting illuminates high-tech wizardry and glow-in-the-dark keyboards, all overseen by the snake-like insignia which lives rather menacingly on the black wall behind you.

Go downstairs where your teen will get a chance to test the games in a land of neon.

London markets

Brick Lane

Brick Lane Market, London on a Budget

It’s kind of gritty but fun. One of those something-for-everything places with all market types to explore – vintage, arty, retro.  Head here for festival vibes in the city, an abundance of accessories, art (for sale and on walls) and buskers. 

Things to do in London with teens tip #21

The bagels to die for

Camden Market

All worlds collide at Camden. Get lost in the maze of retro vinyl, Moroccan souks and tie dye t-shirts. Wander the stalls sprawling through these historic stable blocks, former warehouses and even a former horse hospital.

Then head underground into the uber-hip nightclub shop. Enter, past the 30-foot silver robot statue and futuristic visor-clad dummies before descending into a UV-lit lair of neon rave outfits and cyborgs dominated by a bass line which vibrates through your very soul.

Things to do in London with teens tip #22

Don’t miss the chance for an underage nightclub experience in Cyberdog.

Columbia Flower Market

Fans of horticulture will enjoy this pretty-as-a-picture jungle in the city. Join the throng browsing the array of colourful bargain blooms in this traditional London market.

You can tell you’re getting close to Columbia Road’s Sunday flower market as everyone is carrying 4 bunches of flowers or a 3 foot high shrub. Some just look like trees with legs.

It gets bonkers busy, so go early to avoid the crowds.

Portobello Market

Follow the pretty painted houses from the tube station at Notting Hill for an afternoon of browsing vintage nik nacks, rugs and silverware . Each day has a different theme so follow your heart when picking your vintage/ cameras/ clothes day.

At the end of the market, look out for the funky area with festival food stalls, live music and decorated marquees. 

Sport

Stadium events

The sky is the limit here

London is home to Wembley Stadium and Wimbledon so if sport is your teen’s thing – see if there is an event happening on one of your travel days book yourself in.

London Lidos

Adult £4.05 per hour/ Child £1.20 (up to 15)

The retro Parliament Hill lido in Hampstead Heath is cool literally and metaphorically. It may be unheated but is forgiven as it  coated in a reflective metal which gives it a unique sheen on a sunny day (which it hopefully will be – or you probably won’t be there).

There are a couple of handy shaded cabanas for escaping the sun if it all gets a bit much, and which with the palms, lend the place a European holiday vibe.

Things to do in London with teens tip #23

Book a back to back slot for double the fun

Olympic Park

Slide

Family slide ticket £33 for 4 through Tiqets 

The ArcelorMittal is the stuff of legend. An enormous metallic sculpture has been transformed into the nation’s longest slide.

Ride a lift to the sky and spectacular views across the city, which have also been coolly inverted in magic mirrors edging the viewing area.

The next step is to Velcro on a comedy slide cap, don a set of elbow sleeves and wait your turn to pop into a slide bag. Then shoot for the next 40 seconds in alternating dark and light, with a couple of corkscrews thrown in for good measure before being spat out at the bottom. Here you can retrieve your bag from the locker and get some pretty amazing photos from the foot of the slide monster.

Things to do in London with teens tip #23

For those who prefer to laugh at others (my hand is up), you can take your camera up and take a few snaps of the riders as they enter the tunnel of doom and then walk the 444 steps down through the lattices of the structure instead.

Bikes

Also available for hire on the park are BMX’s, Boris bikes and static Velodrome cycle machines.

An Olympic sized pool is available for those who are able to work out how to book it (not I).

Theatre

FREE ENTRY FOR KIDS up to 15  in August or with 2 for 1 rail tickets (see below)

Free tickets for teens

For the whole of August, children aged 15 or under watch any participating show for free when accompanied by a full paying adult. Adults can also buy up to two extra children’s tickets at half price.

Shows available include all the big names -The Lion King, Matilda, Wicked, Mama Mia, Les Miserables, School of Rock, Mary Poppins and Phantom of the Opera. 

Things to do in London with teens tip #24

Sign up  in advance through the website for ticket release notification in May. Be ready with your dates and show choices the minute the booking site opens.

Shakespeare's Globe tickets for £5

Sign up for the Globe ticket alert to get £5 standing seats in Shakespeare’s own reconstructed theatre. You’ll be participants in the authentic 16th Century experience of not being allowed to sit down with accompanying full exposure to the elements. The upside is you are in the thick of the action. Ideal for teens as they are tall enough to see over people’s heads. It is much easier to understand your school text when the actors are at the top of their game rather than being your classmates.

The ornately painted woodwork nearly upstages the cast.

Things to do in London with teens tip #25

See a play for a fiver – you might not follow it all or laugh at the jokes but it’s better than revising

Globe theatre, things to do in London with teens

Getting your free attraction tickets

Blue Peter Badge

Attractions: With a Blue Peter badge  under 18’s gain free entry  into 200 top attractions  across the nation including the following London area A listers: Tower of London, London Zoo, and Hampton Court.   

Being underage is not always a bad thing: Blue Peter badges are not just for the smaller child. They last until you are 18 so the sooner you get one the more money you save.

Getting  a badge: The BBC want kids to enjoy day out with the fam. You don’t need to go rescuing people from rivers, you can submit a poem they have written at school or send a picture of a piece of art work with a covering letter. Follow the online instructions about how to apply.

Photocard: When you get the badge, send in a photo to obtain a card to show on entry to  attractions.

Accompanying adult: Children must be accompanied by a full fare paying adult, usually each, although the Tower of London generously lets one adult take 2 children.

2 for 1 rail deal

If you travel by rail to London, even within London, you can buy tickets for a huge array of London attractions on a 2 for 1 basis. You will need to be organised and book tickets in advance. I’m not going to lie, the website is not easy to navigate but persevere as you could potentially save pots of cash.

For full instructions check out my booking guide here 

Palace Ticket

If you are visiting more than one palace (and I love the fact that this is even possible), then do the math on a joint palaces tickets for the grown ups, even if the kids have Blue Peter free entry. You tend to get 5 palaces for the price of 3.

Travel

Cable car

Make travel part of the fun. The cable car by the Excel is like a fairground ride, but over the Thames. Tickets are about £5 from the Emirates building and link up with the Thames Clipper ferry into town.

Things to do in London with teens tip #26

Buy a cable car/ ferry combo ticket from the Excel, to be transported above then along the Thames, past the Cutty Sark at Greenwich and under Tower Bridge

Tube

Buy discounted advance day travel cards

A £30 annual Family and Friends railcard gives you 60% off tube fares and travelcards for children under 16 and 30% off adult fares when travelling by train to London with children.

Buy a bargain £2.30 1-6 zone ticket for each child for each day of your trip if you buy in advance when you purchase your train ticket to London.

For over 16’s check out student and group rail card options.

Or Tap as you ride with a credit card 

If you haven’t arrived by train or don’t own a family railcard, get over 15’s to tap either their own bank card (or yours if you trust them) on each journey, and the system automatically works out the cheapest all day ticket you could have bought (make sure you keep using the same card or it won’t work).

Ferry

Don’t spend a fortune on a Thames cruise, use the public ferry instead. A £7 ticket will transport you down the Thames, and under Tower Bridge to any number of destinations.

Things to do in London with teens tip #27

Sit outside for a bit of speed boat experience. 

Bus

With a day travel card, hop on a bus for effectively a free city tour. Much better than the Tube as you can see all the sights.

It  is still an absolute bargain at £1.55 for any length of journey,  if you tap with your credit card.

Things to do in London with teens tip #28

Front seat, top deck are the best seats in town.

Accommodation - Family rooms and free breakfasts

Family rooms: Usually YHA’s provide cheap family rooms but in London these are pretty much the same price as a hotel.  

A family room at the Novotel Excel can cost as little as £60, including breakfast. Joining their reward scheme will get you discounted prices and earn points which you can use as full or part payment against future stays. Once the kids are over 15 you can usually still add them to the room as an adult, or get 50% off an adjoining room.

Free breakfast: Under 15’s eat for free at Novotels.

Older teens: Booking.com counts guests in family rooms as children up to the age of 18.

Eating

Feeding bottomless teenagers can potentially break your London holiday bank budget. To avoid this try one of the following options:

  • Trafalgar Square and Camden Market: Wetherspoons (for free latte refills and cheap pub dinners). In Camden you get to sit outside by the canal lock. 
  • St Paul’s Cathedral or Covent Garden: Franco Manca – does the best sour dough pizza – for about £7 a pop you can’t beat it.
  • Golden Hind: Go for a bowl of chips (and a beer for the grown ups) on this pub terrace killing 2 tourism birds with 1 stone by overlooking the Thames and a replica of Drake’s Golden Hind 
  • Brick Lane: join the fairly large but swift moving queue for the traditional bagels  – freshly baked with a bit of smoked salmon will set you back about £2.60. Or go for an infamous Brick Lane Curry.
  • Greenwich: grab a samosa from a food stall literally under the mast of the Cutty Sark
  • Ubiquitous rainy day option: McDonalds – make use of the vouchers on the back of  bus tickets to get a BigMac and Fries for £1.99 (you can always catch up on vegetables later).
  • Park life: Find one of the many Tesco Expresses/Boots and go for a meal deal – saves bringing a packed lunch – only really works if it’s sunny. 
  • China Town: Many an all you can eat buffet option is available for the hungry teen. Or why not try Wong Kei’s which used to be called the rudest restaurant in town and you could go for the novelty experience of being shouted at by the staff. Teens should feel right at home?

Things to do in London with Teens summary

London is a treasure trove of teenage delights. The range of things to do in London with teens – from stars of stage and screen to fragments of actual star from the skies above, is surely broad enough to cater for everyone.  

I live in hope of training up the teens to both draw up a family itinerary and to lead the way through the streets of London on future trips.

I am also hoping for a new Ice Bar to be invented with a handy family ticket option now that the Covent Garden one closed before we managed to get there.

What else have I missed from this list and where would you recommend I take my teens (or for them to take me) on our next visit?

For an exclusive downloadable pdf summary of Things to do in London with Teens  – click to subscribe to Holiday from Hels here!

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