London with kids: The best kept "secrets" locals recommend

Ever wonder what to do in London?  I've lived in London for over a decade now, and and while you might think I've seen it all already I feel like I have just barely scratched the surface. When I first got here I was still a student and did all the touristy things. Now, ten years later and with kids, and much more familiar with the London landscape I like to explore local gems. I've got a few favourites of my own, and I also asked my fellow London bloggers for their tips.  So if you want some choice local tips from Londoners on what to do with kids in London, read on! 

toddler in greenwich university

Over the years I've also found quite a few non-touristy places I tend to recommend to others. These favourite local "secrets" of mine are:

1) On a rainy day - V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is a great place to check out historical toys and have a indoor play sessions. 
2) A great park in Central London - Coram's Fields is situated close to Russell Square Station, and is a fun place to run around on a pretty day. 
3) A North London gem - Forty Hall Estate, a large park and a manor house in Enfield, full of North London history!

My fellow London bloggers recommended quite a few places other places across London,  and there was a lot of love for both outdoor areas and South London! Quite a few of these places I've never even been near to, so I've got plenty of good ideas now. I've divided the places by rough geographical area, starting with Central London, and I hope you find some good tips here too.

tower bridge from beneath

Central London

Both Eva from Captain Bobcat and Sarah mentioned their love for the boat ride on the Thames. 

Sarah explained how with smaller children it's great to see the big landmarks, Big Ben, the eye, St Pauls, Tower of London and traitors gate but to visit each is really tiring.  Taking the river bus you can see it all and have a boat ride on the Thames.  Eva on the other hand reminisced how they went on a whole loop on the Thames Clipper, and as the boat was empty "the crew took the kids up to the captain’s cabin and let them sit in his chair. It was fab to point out all the famous landmarks whilst cruising. It’s cheap too, a lot cheaper as a sightseeing boat trip."

I've been on the tours as well, both Thames Clipper and a City Cruises, and I've taken pictures of the scenery you can expect on the cruises... It is pretty wonderful!

Indoor fun can be found at a few places.  Amy from All about a Mummy recommends Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Sq. She says they "play lot classic movies, arthouse films sing a longs and fancy dress events. Many are shown on the original 16mm or 35mm celluloid.". Apparently audience participation is encouraged and is great fun!

Mel from Le Coin de Mel exclaims how they "love the London Transport Museum. It's not as busy as the Natural History Museum or the Science Museum (our other favourites). Children go in free and adults pay £17.50 once and with your entry fee, you get membership for a year.". 

For outdoor historical fun, did you know there was a Roman temple in the City of London? And it’s free entry! Megan from Truly Madly Kids recommended this and has also written a post about the temple too! I personally always recommend Coram's Fields, a great park near Russell Square Station, with a small petting zoo, and lots of climbing frames and places to run around for kids of all ages. 

climbing frame in coram's fields

South London

Both Han-Son from DaddiLife and Renee from Mummy Tries recommended Morden Hall Park, right at the end of the Northern Line. Renee explained how it is "an absolute gem, and never massively busy. It’s a National Trust property, immaculately kept, and their events are always lovely" and with a fab cafe. Han-Son described how "you enter onto a bridge with a wonderful stream of fish, and then you can go onto the massive park areas, play grounds or wild gardens" and has seen families with kids of all ages and regularly takes his son there pretend fishing.

Clapham Common is one of the favourite places of Lisa from bare mother who describes it as "easy to get to on the Northern Line. There’s Mount Pond for feeding the ducks (responsibly, with peas or duck food), Long Pond to watch the model boating, and a choice of two playgrounds. If you fancy a coffee or ice cream (or a nice Italian meal) there’s the child friendly La Baita cafe, right by the historic bandstand. Or the Windmill Pub for something more substantial. There’s a free ‘One o’clock club’ stay and play session for under 5’s every Wed to Fri afternoon, and plenty of green open space for little legs to burn off some energy - in winter or summer". She also recommends the many music events and fairs throughout summer over at Clapham Common.

greenwich university

Southeast London

Southeast London has fab places to visit, and one of my favourite locations is Greenwich. This is also recommended by Lauretta from Home and Horizon who says "In the summer I love taking the kids to Greenwich - you can visit the park to play games and feed the squirrels (and admire the views of London), head to Greenwich market to pick up some unique buys or visit the Royal Observatory for some star spotting - there is something for everyone. But my fave thing to do is grab an ice-cream in the park, sit on a bench and people watch!" Speaking of Greenwich, over there I've really enjoyed seeing Cutty Sark as well, the great historical tea clipper cum museum. 

From indoor places, I've heard great things about the Horniman Museum in Sydenham Hill, also recommended by Jemma from Thimble and Twig who also recommends the triangle park opposite for a great day out.

cutty sark deck

West London

Nadia from Scandi Mummy recommends The Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park . She says it "is amazing in spring. Full of rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas in bloom which makes for the most spectacular colourful scenery. Stop in for afternoon tea at Pembroke Lodge afterwards for beautiful views of SW London and the river Thames.".

West London seems to be full of beautiful outdoor locations, as more are recommended by Neelika from Nel C3. In her words, "Osterley Park in West London is beautiful in all seasons. It's a National Trust property and it has a car park, toilets and cafe. If you don't have to park in the car park, try and park on the neighbouring roads. The walk up is lovely, you'll see horses, ponies and cows and some beautiful houses! You miss that if you drive up the path." And who could forget Kew Gardens, that she also recommends. She says  they "have been countless times and have still never made it all the way around. Get a family membership, if you use it twice in the year you've made your money back!"

The one hidden gem Danielle suggests is a must-see, is "the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. Gorgeous Japanese garden hidden away". I have heard this is beautiful and would love to visit one day!

ker gardens and grumpy toddler

So there, quite a few gorgeous hidden gems here in London for you guys to go and visit. Were there any you have already seen?

What hidden gems would you recommend if you have any local tips to give?

Unusual and less-known family days out in London and places to visit with kids in London - top tips for hidden gems from Londoners!


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