London is a city steeped in tradition, from royal ceremonies to magnificent castles. Following is a list of London’s top heritage attractions that appeal to children and families.
Changing the Guard
Nothing quite defines London’s heritage like than the Changing the Guard. Millions of tourists flock to Buckingham Palace each year to witness this ultimate symbol of pageantry. Children especially enjoy having their photos taken with one of the palace guards. Best of all, the Changing the Guard ceremony is free, but be sure to arrive early to beat the crowds.
The Royal Mews
Next door to Buckingham Palace is the Royal Mews, which is home to The Queen’s horses. The horses are often on duty or in training and are therefore not always on display, but visitors can still tour the stables and view the impressive collection of State vehicles – both carriages and motor cars – that are used for coronations, State Visits, royal weddings, and other official engagements. On Saturdays and Sundays, families with children ages five to eleven can visit the Education Room and participate in a variety of self-directed activities.
Tower of London
London’s biggest tourist attraction is the Tower of London. The Tower of London bears the distinction as London’s – and perhaps the world’s – most haunted attraction. Its bloody history can be traced as far back as the early 1080s, when William the Conqueror began building the stone tower at the center of the fortress. Over the years, the Tower has been the prison and execution site of Edward V, Guy Fawkes, Sir Thomas More, and, most notably, Queen Anne Boleyn. At the Tower of London, visitors can join a tour led by one of the resident Yeoman Warders, explore the stories of the Tower’s famous prisoners through interactive displays, or view the famous Crown Jewels. Family trails and audio guides are also available. Because of some of its graphic displays, the Tower of London is not suitable for very young children.
Hampton Court Palace
Situated on the River Thames to the south west of London is Hampton Court Place. The history of Hampton Court dates back to the 13th century. Its most famous resident was Henry VIII, and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, can supposedly still be seen roaming the Haunted Gallery. Hampton Court Palace offers a wide range of family activities, from costumed guided tours and ghost tours to family trails and live cookery demonstrations in the Tudor kitchens. The sprawling gardens also feature a “world-famous” hedge maze that is a big hit with children.
Windsor Castle is actually located in Windsor, about 40 minutes by train from the center of London, but no trip to the English capital would be complete without touring this famous royal residence. Of particular interest to children are Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the most famous dolls’ house in the world, and the Changing of the Guard ceremony that takes place in the castle courtyard on alternate days at 11:00, weather permitting. The castle also hosts a variety of family activities on weekends and during school holidays.
London’s many unique heritage attractions are sure to be a hit with the whole family.