We recently returned from a few days in London with our three teenagers (14, 16 and 18 years old). This was their second trip to London. During their first trip seven years ago, when they were little, we took them to sites that symbolized London. You know Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and so on. Basically, places that even at a young age, they had heard about in their children’s books or movies. However, this time we had three well travelled and opinionated teenagers that didn’t want to repeat any of that. I felt a little similar, having been to London dozens of times in my life. So instead, I scoured the internet and created a 3 day itinerary with London attractions that I hoped would capture their attention.
Was I successful? Yes!
Here are the London attractions, and other details related to our 3 day London itinerary that I would recommend for anyone with a sense of fun and adventure, but certainly for a family with teenagers!
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1. The Z Hotel at Gloucester Place Near London Attractions
We stayed at the Z Hotel at Gloucester Place in London and loved it for a number of reasons.
The location was exceptional for accessing many London attractions. We were in central London, easy walking distance to Hyde Park, and the amazing shopping district of Oxford Street. In addition, we had an incredible selection of restaurants within minutes of our hotel, something that we cherished after a long day of exploring London attractions.
The hotel itself was very cool. It wasn’t a typical hotel. For example, it wasn’t a multi-story building with lots of standard rooms and a few more luxurious ones. Rather, the hotel was comprised of a number of 3 story buildings along a city block either connected to or near each other. Each building offered approximately 20 modern rooms of various sizes and configurations for different price points, all of them quite reasonable, especially for London. One of the buildings housed the main reception desk, the restaurant and lounge.
Overall, the location and the style of the Z Gloucester created a neighbourhood feel to our London stay even though we were only minutes away from the action of Oxford Street.
Complimentary Wine and Cheese after London attractions at the Z Hotel at Gloucester Place
One of the highlights of staying at the Z Hotel at Gloucester Place was that each night from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm, the hotel offered complimentary “wine and cheese”. However, this is misleading. In addition to free wine and cheese, we were offered unlimited beer, soft drinks, vegetables, dip, crackers, baguette, nuts, chocolate, and ice cream in a beautiful and friendly lounge. I can’t emphasize enough how much we loved coming back each day to the hotel, exhausted from a day of visiting London attractions, to find this amazing spread ready to be enjoyed. I know we saved a bundle on food – it filled up our perpetually hungry teens until we left for dinner! We recharged and were always ready for more adventure after a couple of hours in the lounge.
Restaurants near the Z Hotel at Gloucester Place
We tried two restaurants for dinner near the Z Hotel at Gloucester Place, both of which were just minutes away.
Monkey and Me
The front desk recommended the Thai restaurant Monkey and Me located around the corner from the Z Hotel at Gloucester Place. We had a fantastic Thai meal with lots of dishes, wine and cocktails. It was some of the best Thai food that I have ever had outside of Thailand. The restaurant was small, but with a hip feel. We were definitely the only tourists there and appreciated the local neighbourhood feel.
Only 10 minutes away from the hotel, we found Caffe Cinquanta, a bustling modern Italian restaurant. The food and service were amazing. The menu was filled with authentic pasta dishes at very reasonable prices. We were charmed by the owner and the servers alike. For our efforts (you know walking there and ordering food…), we received complimentary dessert – tiramisu from the owner’s family recipe – which was the perfect end to a very enjoyable dining experience.
For accommodation near the Z Hotel at Gloucester Place or elsewhere in London, I would recommend searching below in booking.com and using the amazing interactive map to find your ideal location at the best prices.
2. Shopping on Oxford Street and the Surrounding Area
As mentioned above, we took advantage of our location and really enjoyed shopping on and around Oxford Street. If you asked my teens, they would tell you that shopping here was one of their favourite London attractions.
We found a little bit of everything in this area. On Oxford Street and Regent Street, we discovered large department stores and international shops that appealed to everyone in the family. The stores ranged from budget (Debenhams, and Marks and Spencers) to more luxurious (Selfridges). On quieter side streets, we found smaller boutique stores. Whether you are in the market for a good deal or exquisite luxury items, you will easily find an abundant of shops suited to everyone around Oxford Street.
3. Scavenger Hunt In Victoria & Albert Museum
Another highlight of our 3 day London itinerary was the scavenger hunt that we did in the Victoria & Albert Museum. I would place this experience as one of the better London attractions you can do with teens.
Although the scavenger hunt was in the V&A, I booked it through a separate company called THATMuse. THATMuse offers scavenger hunts in both London and Paris. In London, we could have done a scavenger hunt in the British Museum or the Natural History Museum, but we had already visited both of these museums on our previous trip to London. We were excited to explore the V&A this time.
The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. The Museum holds many of the UK’s national collections and houses some of the greatest resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance.
We opted for the “Classic Hunt”. That meant we met a representative of THATMuse inside the V&A Museum at 10:00am (our choice of time). She explained the history of the museum and then, set out the rules and details of our hunt. We decided how long we would give ourselves to finish the scavenger hunt – 2 hours. In addition, we decided to divide ourselves into two teams with a reward for the winning team. She gave us the clues, and then, handed me a sealed envelope with the answers, locations, and other information needed to “score” the results. After that, she left and we were on our own.
The details of the scavenger hunt
I don’t want to give too much away, so all I’m going to say is this… It was a ton of fun! We took off in our teams in separate directions and didn’t look back. We hunted in dozens of rooms for listed items; made notes of findings; took photos and videos of ourselves doing silly and sometimes totally embarrassing things in front of lots of strangers; and left sweaty, exhausted and thrilled. Better yet, we had to explore every inch of the V&A Museum and saw incredible exhibits. I am absolutely certain that some parts of the museum I would have never explored on my own without the scavenger hunt and that would have been a shame.
Tips for this London Attraction
- Entrance into the V&A is free.
- The cost of the Classic Hunt was about $100 USD in total.
- The V&A Museum can become very busy, especially in the summer months. You are free to choose the start time for your scavenger hunt. However, it is recommended that you begin as close to opening time as possible (10:00 am when we were there).
- Wear running shoes or some sort of footwear in which you can comfortably run or be on your feet for a couple of hours.
- There wasn’t any air conditioning in the museum. I found it very warm inside on a cool summer day. Add in the fact that you will likely be running, or at least, moving as fast as you can, and you can appreciate that you will want to wear light clothing.
- We allowed ourselves 2 hours to complete the scavenger hunt. That was more than enough time. Accordingly, if you want to add a little bit more excitement and competition to this event, I would limit the hunt to 1 1/2 hours.
4. Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter
Like most families in the world, our teenagers were obsessed with Harry Potter when they were growing up. Accordingly, I was thrilled when I was able to secure tickets to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter, one of the most popular London attractions.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is a stunning interactive experience through 2 ginormous sound stages filled with original sets, props and costumes from all of the Harry Potter movies. As you walk through the exhibits, you not only remember the thrill of seeing Harry Potter movies, but you see how everything was created and filmed “behind the scenes”. It was truly an unbelievable experience.
However, the focus of this tour is deconstructing the film – from showing the drawings behind the sets, to the models of Hogwarts castle, to demonstrating how people were made to look like they were flying for a game of Quidditch and so on. Accordingly, I would recommend against bringing any young children to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour who are still very much caught up in the magic of Harry Potter. Once you finish the tour, the mystery of the films are significantly diminished by the practical realities of film making. Even at my age, I felt a little bit disappointed that I saw all of the tricks that had created the enchantment.
Travel tips for this London attraction
- As I said earlier, this is one of the most popular London attractions. Tickets must be purchased in advance for a particular day and time. They also regularly sell out months in advance. Accordingly, if you are interested in the Warner Bros. Studio tour, I’d purchase your tickets as soon as you settle on your travel plans.
- Tickets are expensive. They start at $47 USD for children or $60 USD for adults.
- Try to start the tour as early as possible for two reasons. First, you can stay for as long as you want. There is so much to see that you will want to linger and not feel rushed. Second, once you enter, there is no time limitation for how long you can stay. Accordingly, as the day progresses, it gets busier and busier as people who initially entered hours ago are still interacting with the exhibits.
- Do not do too much before you start the tour. We made the mistake of shopping for 3-4 hours before we left for our Warner Bros. Studio tour not really appreciating the amount of walking we would subsequently be doing on the tour. It was a fun but very exhausting day.
- Depending on where you start in London, it could take well over an hour to get to the Warner Bros. Studio tour by public transportation. Accordingly, give yourself lots of time. Regardless of the time, it is an easy trip to make. Also, the final leg is a 15 minute private direct bus ride from the train station to the studio for which you must pay in cash. Underground, bus or train tickets are not accepted.
5. The London Bridge Experience
My 18 year old son saw advertisements all over London for The London Bridge Experience and decided this was a must-do London attraction. The rest of us are not big fans of being grossed out, so we weren’t so sure. My 14 year old daughter turned visibly paler when we headed over. However, we all agreed we would give it a try. If you are looking for one of the London attractions that you never thought you’d ever do, look no further. Despite everything that could have wrong with this activity (I was imagining a hysterical 14 year), this turned out to be quite fun.
The London Bridge Experience was made up of two parts. The first part was a walk through of macabre scenes of London history with gruesome sets, actors in costume and theatrical moments with a group of about 20 people. Some parts of this were really well done, while others were a little corny. However, overall we thought it was highly enjoyable and not really scary.
The second part was a walk through a haunted house in the dark, with actors hiding and ready to scare you. This was when two of my three kids bailed! I was seriously considering it, but then I learnt that the whole group walked through together in a single file with hands on the shoulder of the person in front of them. So I rationalized… if I got scared and couldn’t take it, I could close my eyes, put my head down, and survive the walk. Against my better judgement, I was in!
Was it scary? Yes, but we loved it. The walk lasted for about 15 minutes, so a legitimate walk through a haunted house. There were lots of screams but also laughs. I definitely could not have done this alone, but it was totally doable with the group.
Travel Tips for this London attraction
- Purchase tickets online and in advance for less expensive tickets and a guaranteed entry time. We purchased our tickets on arrival and not only paid more – $30 USD – but also had to wait a long time before we entered.
- I have a low threshold for scary things. I do not like them! However, I really enjoyed this London attraction. Hopefully, based upon this assessment, you will be able to judge whether you and other members of your family would be ready to experience it.
6. “West End” Theatre
Like New York, London has an incredibly strong and vibrant theatre scene. The talent of the performers and the quality of the shows are equal to Broadway. If you love the theatre, whether it is musicals or dramas, you will love going to the theatre in London.
With dozens of shows running each night, the only issue will be narrowing down your choices. In high season, I’d recommend purchasing tickets months in advance for shows that you are passionate about seeing. For other ones, you can wait closer to your arrival date to purchase tickets.
There are several ways to purchase discounted tickets to the London theatre. Like New York, you can purchase in person “same day, tomorrow, or the next day” tickets from TKTS at Leicester Square. Prior to going, you can look online to see a current list of tickets and prices.
Every year, children 16 years old and younger can go to the theatre for free! You can choose from a wide variety of London musicals, plays, comedies and children’s shows. For every adult ticket purchased to a qualifying show, you can acquire one free children’s ticket, and up to two more at half price. This opportunity and savings is absolutely phenomenal. If you are planning a trip to London with your children or teens, it would be well worth organizing it so that it falls in the month of August.
We loved our 3 day London itinerary and all of the London attractions that we did. Notwithstanding the different ages and interests of our 3 teenagers, they all had a wonderful time. The Z Hotel at Gloucester Place, the restaurants nearby, shopping on Oxford Street, the scavenger hunt in the Victoria & Albert, Warner Bros. Studio Tour, the London Bridge Experience, and going to a London show in the West End were the perfect London attractions for our family to make our visit one of the best yet.
If you are looking for a couple more unusual London experiences to have with your teens, take a look at this article – Wembley Stadium and Wimbledon Live: Unique Experiences In London.
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