13 Ideas For A 2-Day Trip To London With Kids

London is one of the oldest and most exciting of the world's great cities. From phenomenal shopping to award-winning restaurants to some of the globe's best attractions, this exceptional city offers everything you'd want from a family vacation. Although it would take days, or better yet weeks, to truly explore the U.K.'s buzzy capital, there are plenty of ways to make the most out of a quick, 48-hour visit with kids.

Traveling with an aspiring history buff? The Tower of London will pique their interest with tales of war, murder, and imprisonment. Have a budding actor in tow? A West End musical is sure to inspire their love of theater. Perhaps your little one is obsessed with all things vehicular. Whether they adore buses, trains, or horses and buggies, they'll find it, and so much more, at the London Transport Museum. 

Although two days is a short time to spend in one of the world's greatest cities, it's easy to placate every family member with such an exhaustive list of places to visit. In addition to seeing the essential big-ticket attractions (i.e. Big Ben and Buckingham Palace), this list of the best things to do on a 2-day trip to London with kids will ensure you'll also experience some local, family-friendly fun.

1. Day one: Eat a full English breakfast

Assuming you aren't jetlagged, it's best to rise early and get the most out of your 48 hours in London. There's little worse than dragging hangry kids on a day of sightseeing, so feed them a hearty meal before setting off. London is known for its full English breakfasts, which consist of sausages, potatoes, eggs, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Regency Café tops many lists of best breakfasts in London. Known for its affordable, full English breakfast, this is a hot spot for tourists and locals alike. You may recognize its Art Deco-styled interior from films like "Layer Cake" and  "Rocketman." Opened in 1946, this London staple lies in the borough of Westminster, almost equidistant from Pimlico and St. James Park tube stations. It's a mere 12-minute walk from Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, making this a perfect place to start a day of visiting attractions. 

Not a fan of the full English? There are plenty of tasty brekkies on offer at pubs and restaurants throughout the city, many of which include the classic jam and scone. Or, treat the kids to a meal they won't forget at Duck & Waffle, on the 40th floor of 110 Bishopsgate in London's business district. This "gastro diner" is open 24 hours, seven days a week, and is named for its signature dish. Don't worry, there are also plenty of kid-friendly options like bacon, eggs, pastries, and a vast array of flavored waffles to go with the impeccable view. 

2. Take a hop-on hop-off bus tour

While riding The Underground is one of the fastest (and cheapest) ways to get around London, climbing aboard a hop-on hop-off bus tour is much more fun, not to mention educational. Plus, it's rare to meet a kid who hates double-decker buses. Blanketing 607 square miles, the U.K.'s largest city provides tourists with a lot of ground to cover. And if you only have two days to explore London with kids, you'll want to make things as simple as possible. 

London's Big Bus Tours are more than worth the $58 for a one-day adult pass and $46 for kids. The 48-hour pass costs only $14 more, which is a bargain. These tickets also include a one-way Thames River cruise, which runs in either direction from Westminster to Tower Pier. Just hop back on the bus from a nearby stop to get back. To really package a deal, the Essential Ticket, which lasts 48 hours, gives you access to three guided walking tours — Changing of the Guard, City of London, and Jack the Ripper. 

No matter which ticket you book, expect to see London's best attractions. The three routes (Red, Blue, and Green) are covered on each tour and include stops at The London Eye, Whitehall, Covent Garden, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park Corner, and Piccadilly Circus, to name a few. Let your mood, or better yet the kids, guide you to where you'll hop off next.

3. Ride the London Eye

Hop off the bus at The London Eye and get ready for a spectacular vista. Originally called the Millennium Wheel, this massive Ferris wheel (it's 443 feet tall) was supposed to be a temporary attraction. In fact, this extraordinary landmark was designed to be dismantled after five years. However, people wanted it to stay indefinitely. So it did! Today, the London Eye is the most popular paid-for visitor attraction in the U.K. The wheel consists of 32 "ovid capsules" that transport visitors super slowly (each one only revolves twice in one hour). They represent the 32 boroughs that make up Greater London and each one can hold 25 passengers. 

From the capsule, you'll be given a bird's eye view of London's architectural gems, like Westminster Abbey, Lambeth Palace, the Natural Museum of History, Buckingham Palace, and Whitehall Court. On a super clear day, you may even spy Windsor Castle and Wembley Stadium. Make the most of your ride on the London Eye by booking tickets in advance. Also, try to plan your visit outside of holidays and summer weekends, if possible. When you've returned to the ground, walk across Westminster Bridge, stopping halfway for a photo op with the most magnificent backdrop — Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. 

4. Say hi to Big Ben

Visiting London without seeing Big Ben is akin to visiting Rome and skipping out on the Colosseum — it just shouldn't be done. There's something magical about standing beneath the famed clock tower, which is actually named the Elizabeth Tower — Big Ben is the name of the great bell inside. A whopping 226 feet high, this often-photographed monument is as tall as 21 London buses stacked on top of each other. While the tower's smaller quarter bells chime every 15 minutes, Big Ben itself tolls upon the hour.

With experience as a guide, it's recommended that you cross the street to Parliament Square. Kids will love running up and down the pathway to examine the bronze statues of Nelson Mandela and an imposing Sir Winston Churchill in the garden. Westminster Abbey lies just across the Square. If your little ones are up for exploring this beloved attraction, you'll be happy you spent the time. While inside, ask a staff member to point out the Family Trail. Kids can get a free badge at the shop after they've found the items on the list. Once finished at the Abbey, walk back towards Elizabeth Tower and you'll find Westminster Pier. This is a popular launch for Thames River cruises.

5. Take a river cruise

River Thames sightseeing cruises leave from Westminster Pier and travel as far as Greenwich Pier. If you didn't opt for a bus tour that includes a cruise, this is a bucket-list activity your family won't want to miss — seeing London's landmarks from the river offers a whole new perspective of their magnificence. Since you're pressed for time, the best route is a one-way ticket to Tower Bridge Quay. The trip will take about 30 minutes and passes many impressive attractions along the way, including the OXO Tower, St. Paul's Cathedral, The Tate Modern, Globe Theatre, and The Shard. At around $15 for adults over 16 and $10 for children ages 5 to 15, one-way cruises are pretty cheap.

The crew and skippers on these cruises are friendly and knowledgeable, offering interesting, and often funny, historical tidbits during their commentary. This is where many tourists learn about the (possibly true) legend of OXO's clever marketing scheme. When their application to add an illuminated sign outside their building was turned down in the late 1920s (advertising wasn't allowed on the South Bank), they integrated their three letters into the design. It still stands today. When the tour comes to an end, you'll embark at the Tower Bridge Quay, mere steps from one of London's most famous landmarks — The Tower of London.

6. Tour the Tower of London

As mentioned above, it's a short walk from Tower Bridge Quay to the Tower of London. Tower Hill Underground Station is five minutes away by foot and multiple buses stop nearby, making this an easy place to visit no matter where you're staying in London. Plan to spend a minimum of two hours at this attraction as there's a lot to see. Highlights include ogling the Crown Jewels, seeing the Royal Armories collections in The White Tower, and visiting the prison in the Bloody Tower. This is where you'll learn about murder plots and discover ancient torture methods. Search the Beauchamp Tower for graffiti made by prisoners in the 16th century. Your kids won't forget this experience!  

Two main eateries lie inside the Tower for when hunger pangs hit — New Armories Café and Ravens Café. But, the meals can get pricey and often aren't as tasty as the nearby, budget-friendly, and kid-loved noodle restaurant, Wagamama. The Tower Hill location is just outside the main gate and boasts a fabulous view of Tower Bridge and a children's menu. Tickets to the Tower cost about $41 per adult and $20 per child between 5 and 15, so stay as long as possible to get your money's worth. Tip: Save money by purchasing The London Pass by Go City. You'll save up to 50% off major attractions like Westminster Abbey, The Tower of London, and Kensington Palace, as well as hop-on-hop-off bus tours and more.

7. Visit a museum

If anyone has energy left, make your way to the Science Museum in South Kensington. It's one of the best museums to visit in London with children. If your kids don't find hands-on gaming experiences, interactive experiments, or rockets exciting, the Natural History Museum and its vast display of dinosaurs are a mere one-minute walk away. And the V&A (Victoria & Albert) museum's art and design exhibits are just as close. Tip: The V&A Café is a must-visit if only to gawk at the impressive architecture and décor. It's the world's oldest museum restaurant. Enjoy a quick tea and scone or play hide and seek around the columns. Museum Mile, which is home to 13 museums, is located in the center of London. If those three don't pique your interest, you're sure to find something everyone will love. The best part? Admission is free for almost all of these museums

South Kensington is packed with restaurants that will please pretty much any palate. From oysters to Italian food to Indian dishes and high-end fare, tourists are spoiled for choice. If your crew is hungry, choose a restaurant that's right for you before heading back to your hotel.

8. Day two: Wave to the king at Buckingham Palace

Start day two with a trip to Buckingham Palace. The London home of Britain's Royal family since 1837, this famous landmark is worth a visit, even if you merely walk around the perimeter. The State Rooms are open for tours over 10 weeks each summer. Book in advance as they fill up quickly. Certain exclusive guided tours are also available in winter and spring. Those hoping to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony should plan to arrive by 10:30 a.m. as the ceremony starts at 11 a.m. It doesn't last long and gets very crowded during the high season. Also, it's best to confirm the date and time before you go. The ceremony doesn't always take place. 

The Palace neighbors St. James's Park, known as "the most royal of London's Royal Parks." This is where you'll find impeccable views of Buckingham Palace from across the lake, and you may come face-to-beak with a pelican. Popular attractions like the Horse Guards Parade and the Admiralty Arch are also found here.

9. Walk to Trafalgar Square

From Buckingham Palace, walk along the Mall to Trafalgar Square, which will take about 20 minutes. You'll pass St. James's Park on your right and the Horse Guards Parade, as well as the Admiralty Arch. A great route for sightseeing, you'll pass enough attractions along the way to keep kids of all ages interested. They may even be distracted enough to not realize how far they've walked. Once you reach Trafalgar Square, it's time to take the obligatory tourist photos of the bronze lions and Nelson's Column. You'll have to stand quite far back to fit the entire column in the frame. There are public toilets as well as a café here if any of your crew is in need of a quick respite. 

Otherwise, you can head into the National Gallery to soak up some culture and admire the incredible works of art on display. Admission is free, the bathrooms are much nicer than those found outside, and there are three places to grab a warm coffee or bite to eat. Throughout the year, there are family activities, like kid-friendly tours and creative drawing programs.

10. Watch buskers and visit the Transport Museum in Covent Garden

If the kids are still up for walking, make your way to Covent Garden, which is another eight minutes away on foot. Otherwise, hop back on your bus tour or hail a black cab. Buskers, sweets shops, and the Transport Museum will have children enthralled by this bustling neighborhood. Covent Garden's Market plays host to a bevy of handmade jewelry, arts, crafts, and soaps, among other products, and Neal's Yard is home to colorful shops and delicious restaurants. St JOHN Bakery serves up "London's fluffiest doughnuts," while Homeslice boasts pizza so delicious, you'll want seconds.

While you're in the West End, why not check out a musical? Many offer matinee performances once during the week and on weekends. Children under age 4 aren't permitted at some theaters, and others say children between ages 3 and 7 will be asked to leave if they become too restless, so keep that in mind if you're traveling with little ones. The Theatre Royal Drury Lane (which is currently showing "Frozen: The Musical") is a four-minute walk from Covent Garden.

11. Shop at Hamley's

Placate the kids with a shopping spree on Regent Street, which is easily reached by hopping on the Tube at Covent Garden Station. Want to win parent of the year? Get off at Picadilly Circus and walk the eight minutes to Hamleys, deemed by many to be the "finest toy shop in the world." It's also the largest, boasting seven floors filled with every stuffed toy and gadget a child could dream of. Shopping here is an adventure in and of itself. There are often toy demonstrations that include free manicures (for kids) and testing of the latest and greatest gizmos. Don't miss the life-sized LEGO statue of King Charles. Regent Street's not just for kids. 

This shopping wonderland is home to Massimo Dutti, Karl Lagerfeld, Burberry, and the stunning Liberty London, a historic department store set in a heritage-listed building. There are also cafés, restaurants, and pubs on hand to satiate anyone who's ready for a snack. When you've finished giving your wallet a workout, hop back in the tube at Oxford Circus and make your way to Queensway. Walk into Kensington Gardens and you'll find the Diana Memorial Playground on your right before you reach Kensington Palace and Round Pond. 

12. Run around at Diana Memorial Playground

Park yourself, and your newly purchased packages, on a bench while the kids run wild at this Peter Pan-themed play space. Built in honor of Princess Diana, children can walk the plank on a pirate ship, hide in a teepee, or dig for buried treasure in the ginormous sandbox at this fantastic playground. A highlight for tourists traveling to London with kids, this park receives more than one million visitors each year, so be prepared to wait, especially if you're planning to arrive during a holiday, in summer, or on a warm and sunny day. At peak times, the wait can be up to one hour. Luckily, the Broad Walk Café is open daily from 9 a.m. to serve parents a much-needed specialty coffee or tea, as well as pastries, pizza, sandwiches, and ice cream for little ones.

Save a bit of time to wander around Kensington Gardens, another magnificent Royal Park that was once the private gardens of Kensington Palace. Lead the kids on a scavenger hunt to find the Peter Pan statue. It lies by The Long Water, just across from Hyde Park.

13. Have afternoon tea

What's a trip to London without afternoon tea? While there are plenty of places to get a proper tea service, there are also plenty of kid-friendly tea options. Head to The Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington (by black cab is easiest) for an experience every child will love -– Kid's Jurassic Afternoon Tea. For around $43 per child, they'll fill up on enough sammies, scones, and pastries that they probably won't need dinner. Everything is served in a tiered dinosaur tray with dry ice. 

Peppa Pig's Afternoon Tea Bus Tour is a must for fans of The Pig Wonder. For a full 90 minutes, you and your tykes will be transported via double-decker bus past some of London's most famous landmarks. As you ride, Peppa Pig will guide you on a built-in tablet. There's a sing-a-long, too, so warm up your voices before boarding and prepare to oink. You'll also receive a themed tea service. These tours are available two to three times daily from Thursday to Sunday and depart from Somerset House. Tickets begin at $59 per adult or $47 per child. 

Another fun option is the Paddington Afternoon Tea Bus Tour. This 1:45-hour ride takes visitors past Paddington's favorite Central London attractions with narration from the bear himself via a tablet at each table. Tours run twice daily from Wednesday to Sunday and leave from Trafalgar Square. Tickets start at $55 per adult and $43 per child and include marmalade sandwiches (obviously) as well as other tasty treats and tea, of course.