London: Top Attractions

Tower of London
Tower of London  (Digital Stock)

The quintessential mix of modernity and times gone by, London is a fantastic city for kids. Enjoy conversations while strolling the Tower Bridge, feel the urban buzz around Piccadilly Circus, and take in historical sites that date back hundreds of years. And teens won't be bored in this city of slick alternative fashions, up-to-the-minute music, and choice theater. One of the great family destinations for mixing educational and cultural experiences with pure enjoyment.

Urban Shopping
Take your teens browsing at flea markets at Notting Hil's Portobello Road. On Saturday mornings, vendors line the sidewalks, hawking antiques—real and suspect—music boxes, cheap jewelry, and vintage clothing. At East London's Spitalfields Market, find retro furniture, funky T-shirts, and trendy clothes by young designers. Glassware, toys, leather, books, dollhouses, and other collectibles show up at Covent Garden Market ion central London's new Leicester Square.
Additional Info: +44.020.7234.5800 www.visitlondon.com

London Music Scene, Virgin Megastore, and Tower Records
Take your teen on a musical tour by showing him or her the rhythms of your youth. Visit the site of the Roundhouse on Chalk Farm Road, where Led Zeppelin made their London debut in 1968 and where The Doors and Jefferson Airplane performed. Pass by 3 Abbey Road, noted for the EMI recording studio and the Beatles 1969 album cover. After the history lesson, take the kids where they can listen to their music—the Virgin Megastore (14 Oxford Street), locus of the latest releases, and Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus.
Virgin Megastore: +44.020.7631.1234
Tower Records: +44.020.7439.2500

Tower of London
The Tower was built as a fort by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and has served as a prison, execution site, palace, and museum. It is the current home of Britain's crown jewels, where some of the world's most dazzling diamonds, rubies, and sapphires are on display for public viewing. Here you'll also find instruments of torture going back to Henry VIII's reign, as well as the spot where two of his wives and Sir Thomas More were beheaded.
Tower of London: +44.087.756.6060, www.tower-of-london.org.uk

St. Paul's Cathedral
Built by Christopher Wren from 1675 to 1710, this Anglican cathedral offers inspiring views from atop the dome in the Golden Gallery—530 steps from ground level. It's hosted such notable events as the funeral of Winston Churchill and the wedding of Prince Charles of Wales and Lady Diana. The cathedral is currently undergoing renovation for its 300th anniversary, but it nevertheless is an awesome building located near "The City," or the financial district of London. The walk to the top is suited more for older children, as it is quite challenging. St. Paul's charges admission to tourists. Head towards the Thames to cross the futuristic Millennium Bridge and the epic Tate Modern art museum.
St. Paul's Cathedral: +44.020.7236.4128, www.stpauls.co.uk
Tate Modern: +44.020.7887.8888 , www.tate.org.uk/modern/

British Airways London Eye
You will really see London—views as far as 25 miles on a clear day—from the top of the British Airways London Eye, the largest observation wheel in the world. The pod-like, clear-walled capsule makes a complete rotation every 30 minutes. To find out more about the buildings, book a Discovery flight, which comes with a host who points out the landmarks.
British Airways London Eye: +44.0870.5000.600, www.londoneye.com

London Duck Tours
The London Duck Tours employ DUKWs, former WW II amphibious vehicles for land and water tours of the city. You rumble past Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, and other icons before splashing into the Thames River for a short cruise.
London Duck Tours: +44.020.7928 3132, www.londonducktours.co.uk

Original London Sightseeing Tour
Teens connect with the off-beat history of London on walks with the Original London Sightseeing Tour. "Ghosts of the West End" covers hauntings around St. James' Park, "Spies & Spycatchers" traces the undercover sites of secret agents, and "The Unknown East End" reveals a city of gangsters, fighters, and freak shows.
Original London Sightseeing Tour: +44.0.20.8877.1722, www.walks.com

British Museum
With two and a half miles of galleries, the British Museum is both daunting and dazzling—but you need to pick your priorities. Kid-favorites include the thousands of years of coins in the Money Gallery, the masks and regalia of the African exhibits, and the hieroglyphs and decorated sarcophagi of ancient Egypt.Br / British Museum: +44.0.20.7323.829, www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

Buckingham Palace
While normally closed to the public, Buckingham Palace, the official royal residence, opens for tours in August and September. Tours take visitors through the State Rooms, decorated with fine furniture and priceless paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, and other artists. The crowds for the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony often make this bit of British culture hard for kids to see and appreciate, but it is nevertheless a staple of every London trip.
Buckingham Palace: +44.0.20.7839.1377, www.royal.gov.uk

Tate Modern
The Tate Modern, sister museum to the Tate Britain, presents 20th-century art in a cleverly transformed power station featuring lots of light and an entrance atrium big enough to hold monumental pieces. Works by Dali, Matisse, Warhol and other modern masters hang in the galleries. In addition to their expansive permanent display, some of the world's best contemporary-art exhibits rotate in and out each season.
Tate Modern: +44.0.20.7887.8888, www.tate.org.uk

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
For the teens who have studied Shakespeare's plays in school, watching a production in the reconstructed Globe Theatre is a memorable time, even if the young adults have to sit on period-appropriate wooden benches. The thatched roof, open-air venue starts its season in May with the "Tempest." Be sure to arrive early to tour the exhibits on costuming, special effects, and music in Shakespeare's era. Younger children might not be as impressed.
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre: +44.0.20.7902.1400, www.shakespeares-globe.org

Published: 11 Apr 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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