Some iconic London attractions may be interesting and exciting for adults but may not thrill the little ones.
Have you ever been excited for a vacation experience only to have a kid ruin it with eyerolls, sarcasm, or perhaps a major temper tantrum driven by boredom? It happens at some point to most parents because it’s not always easy to determine what attractions will hold the attention of a kid. Plus, the child’s mood and a million other factors will determine their reaction to any vacation attraction.
To help you limit the chances of a meltdown in London, we put together a list of iconic London attractions that could just as easily disappoint younger kids. You can decide whether you want to visit these attractions, but we’re giving you the heads up that your kids may not share your enthusiasm once you arrive.
Iconic London Attractions You May Want to Skip
The British Museum
The British Museum is an iconic London attractions that is a massive labyrinth of sculptures, funeral paintings, and even articles that document the existence of human life. Some exhibits will amaze you while others may feel underwhelming due to their lackluster presentation.
While many adults can spend days exploring the many rooms and displays with a fascinated mind, many younger children are ready to leave after 30 minutes or less. They simply don’t get the depth of meaning behind old coins or paintings created many years in the past. The orders not to touch and stay close while parents stare at the exhibits are difficult for some children as well.
Some teenagers may enjoy the British Museum, but they’re likely to spend less time interested than their adult counterparts. Younger children are more likely to need something to distract them if you want to stay for a long period of time.
Your kids may enjoy visiting the library at home, but that’s because they get to attend live events and take home books that they’re eager to read. Visiting a library without checkout privileges may not feel so exciting for little ones, especially if they’re not the biggest book lovers anyway.
The good news is that this is a special library that includes shops and food options, so there’s more to do than look at the endless shelves of books. You can also reserve a reader pass online and enjoy live events held throughout the year in various parts of the library. Those events are better than a standard tour if you’re worried about keeping little ones occupied.
What? Bored at Buckingham Palace?
This is another iconic London attraction that many kids are less than enthused to experience. Parents may enjoy touring gigantic palaces and taking in bits of history along with hints to the pure luxury of Royal living. The little ones in your family may not see why it’s a big deal, and these big palaces can get dull for them quite fast.
If you think the solution is to liven things up by watching the Changing of the Guard right in front of the palace, you may find disappointed kids once again. Crowds of visitors flock to the palace to watch this event every night, and it is quite noisy with the live music parading by. Young children are easily overwhelmed with the sensory stimulation and may not enjoy it nearly as much as you’d expect.
We could put many other London palaces on this list as well, so consider this our warning that they aren’t always the best family-friendly attractions. That doesn’t mean that you should visit London with all palaces off your itinerary because they’re magnificent attractions for adults and some older children.
We’ll provide some tips for handling these attractions with children in tow below because we understand that the Buckingham Palace is a must-see whether the little ones like it or not.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
With its magnificent dome and an interesting history, there’s a lot for adults to see at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, many young children aren’t interested in architecture and have little patience to following detailed stories rooted in history at this iconic London attraction. That’s why some parents find that their hope for a peaceful visit to one of London’s most famous churches falls flat for their little ones.
It’s also worth mentioning that getting to the top of the dome to look out over the city requires you to climb more than 500 interior steps. That’s a lot of physical work for some young kids, and parents aren’t always up for the task of carrying the little ones up and then back down. That said, it’s one of the most rewarding climbs in London for families who can make it to the top of the dome.
Palace of Westminster
The House of Parliament is certainly an iconic London attraction that has a history spanning more than 900 years and is one of the most iconic London attractions. There are some interesting stories behind the palace, but it’s mostly known as the place where both houses of the parliament carry out their duties. Just walking around the palace is interesting for many adults due to the history and architecture, but kids can easily get bored.
You can book a guided family tour of the Palace of Westminster or take an audio tour with narration designed to entertain kids. That may grab the interest of some kids for a short period of time, but this is still one London attraction that may fall flat for the youngest members of the family.
Columbia Road Flower Market
If you love flowers, you’ll enjoy the wide variety of colorful blooms available at this Bethnal Green flower market that opens only on Sundays. The problem for some families is that young children and even teenagers don’t often appreciate the flowers for long. Maybe they want to smell them and take in the visual scenery at first, but their attention can wander quickly.
This is a good attraction to schedule in between more exciting and kid-friendly attractions. If you don’t enjoy flowers, then it may not even earn a place on your itinerary.
Perhaps it’s a bit controversial to add this to a list of iconic London attractions that are disappointing to kids, but it’s the truth for some families. Kids with great knowledge of celebrities and historic figures may enjoy the museum, but not all kids have adequate knowledge to really appreciate the wax sculptures presented throughout the museum.
In addition to presenting wax figures of the Royals, the London Madame Tussauds museum features exhibits dedicated to sport stars, singers, bands, and even superheroes. Younger children may not know many of the faces presented while other kids find the sculptures fascinating and then quickly get bored.
Think about how interested your kids are in celebrities, royals, and historic figures before determining how much time you spend at this museum. You may decide to visit a couple of the themed zones instead of touring the full museum. Another option is to take part in one of the scheduled experiences that you know your kids will love rather than simply touring the museum.
Escape Rooms in London
It may sound like a great idea to get locked in a room with your family, challenging yourselves to work as a team and find your way out. Some escape rooms are designed for families and have easy clues that allow younger children to help unravel the mystery. Others are designed more for adults and have puzzles that are more difficult to solve. Those are the ones that can turn into nightmares when you’re locked in with children too young to understand what is happening.
We’re putting this one last on the list because we understand that there are children out there who may enjoy escape rooms. That’s most likely the case if you enter a room designed with families or children in mind. Some London escape rooms are oriented for adults, so they’re more sophisticated and should challenge the grownups rather than entertaining the little ones.
If you’re uncertain whether an escape room is suitable for your child, call the venue and ask. If there’s an age restriction in place, that answers your question right away. If there isn’t an age restriction, knowledgeable staff members should help you decide which themed room is best for the kids in your family.
When Vacation Attractions Go All Wrong
When you find yourself in the middle of an iconic London attraction that your kid just doesn’t enjoy, you don’t necessarily have to make a quick exit. In fact, doing so may tell your child that they can get out of any situation they don’t like by acting out or expressing their dissatisfaction.
What you can do is use it as a learning opportunity for your child. Take them to the side and explain that other members of the family are enjoying the experience, and you will take them somewhere more fun after it’s over. Many kids understand that they can’t always get what they want in the moment and will get excited about going somewhere fun after.
If that doesn’t work, try to find ways to get the kid interested in the attraction. If you’re at a London museum, maybe you can give them the job of looking the exhibits up for more information online. Maybe say you’re curious about something related to the exhibit and challenge your child to find something on a phone or tablet that answers your curiosity.
You can also play games like I Spy or make up your own games that go well with the attraction. Whatever it takes to get your kid through the experience. They will learn to look on the bright side and find ways to make a situation and the iconic London attraction more enjoyable.