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Brilliant: London for Kids

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The Shard's privately operated observation deck, the View from the Shard, was opened to the public in 2013. (Photograph by Richard Taylor, Sime)

Despite its size, London is a very kid-friendly city. Almost 40 percent of the capital is dedicated to parks and public spaces, and major museums are free. The only problem is there’s so much to see.

For a dizzying overview of all the attractions, take the elevator to the top of the Shard (above). At 1,004 feet, it’s the tallest building in western Europe. On a clear day, the views from the glass-walled 72nd floor can stretch for 40 miles. Tip: Don’t prebook; wait for a sunny day and be prepared to line up; $50.

For a closer look at London’s landmarks, hop aboard one of Thames Clippers’ river boats. You can cruise past all the city’s top sights, including the London Eye, Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Shakespeare’s Globe theater, in an afternoon without paying any admission fees (the family boat ticket covers rides for two adults and three children).

From London Bridge City pier, below the Shard, sail west toward Putney, taking in the sights along the way. Walking across the National Maritime Museum’s interactive Great Map, kids can act out swashbuckling expeditions using a motion-sensitive tablet.

Tour the 19th-century Cutty Sark, a British ship used to carry tea around the world. Then pop into the Even Keel Café, located under the Cutty Sark’s hull, for a slice of chocolate fudge cake. ­

This piece, written by Rachel Howard, first appeared in the August/September 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

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