Rich in history with lots of historical buildings combined with an abundance of parks and gardens makes Richmond a family favourite. Here are the most essential things to do in Richmond upon Thames with kids from enjoying wildlife to traffic-free cycling.
Table of Contents
In the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew you’ll find extensive gardens, botanical glasshouses an award-winning playground as well as beautiful Kew Palace. This is without a doubt one of the best gardens in the whole of the UK and attracts over a million visitors a year.
The Gardens are located just a 5-10 minute walk from Kew Gardens underground and train station, on the District Line. Kew Bridge Station is about the same distance but on the Northside of the River. Everyone in the area will be able to point you in the right direction.
We love Richmond Park – it is, without doubt, the greatest place to visit in the Richmond area and a national treasure! 2,500 acres of parkland with an incredible 300 red deer, 250 fallow deer and 1000 oak trees. It’s even a Special Area of Conservation for the Stag beetle.
You’ll find several great walks in Richmond Park, with stunning views including this vista of Pen Ponds from the edge of Sidmouth Wood. The 12km Tamsin Trail is one of the most popular walks, and it’s hard to go wrong – just start at a car park and walk! The walk will take you past many of Richmond Park’s highlights including the Isabella Plantation and Pembroke Lodge.
Autumn is a good time for deer watching during the rutting season, however, it’s important to stay wary of these beautiful animals as they pack quite a punch with their antlers if you get in the wrong place at the wrong time. Try to avoid getting caught in the middle between animals belonging to the same flock! Read more about Richmond Park.
Another favourite place in South West London to enjoy deer. The area around the Pheasantry is fenced off from the rest of the Park with a river running through the middle, and it’s usually very quiet during the week. Lots of ducks to feed, bridges to cross, mounds to run down, trees to hide in, leaves to kick etc… And in the Autumn, just outside that area, there are thousands of conkers. Good parking too. Read more about Bushy Park.
4. Walk the Thames Path
From the outskirts of Greater London, the River Thames passes Hampton Court, Kingston, Teddington, Twickenham, Richmond (with the famous view of the Thames from Richmond Hill), Syon House and Kew before flowing through central London. Richmond upon Thames is the only London Borough to straddle both sides of the Thames.
- The Thames Path National Trail follows the greatest river in England from its source in the Cotswold hills to the sea. Passing through peaceful water meadows, unspoilt rural villages, historical towns and cities, and finally through the heart of London to end at the Thames Barrier in Greenwich.
- Have fun on the Richmond River Thames by sailing boat, skiff, rowing boat or just on a cruise. Thames Riverboat trips in Richmond.
Hampton Court Palace is one of the last two surviving palaces owned by the 16th century Tudor King, Henry VIII. It is also one of the largest of the royal palaces, having seen constant renovations and improvements undertaken by various monarchs through the centuries. Built originally as a cardinal’s residence, Hampton Court Palace had been the favourite residence of successive monarchs from Henry VIII to George II.
Today, the palace is a major tourist attraction and is open to the general public for visits and special private affairs. Children can enjoy the amazing Magic Garden, one of our favourite playgrounds in London. Currently, under the care of the independent charity Historic Royal Palaces, it’s also the site of the annual Hampton Court Palace Festival and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Read more about Hampton Court Palace.
Syon House Syon House (also called Zion House, historically) is the official London residence of the influential Percy family, Dukes of Northumberland.
The house and its gardens have been owned and cared for by them for over four hundred years. One of the last surviving Ducal residences complete with the country estate, the house has one of the most beautiful interiors created by the brilliant 18th-century architect Robert Adam in 1762. Today, Syon House is a favourite tourist destination and is open for visits, weddings and special events, and film location shooting.
Syon House is not in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, but it’s close enough to be included.
The award-winning London Wetland Centre is the first project of its kind in the world. You’ll find lots of great opportunities for kids to get involved and spot birds, creepy crawlies, snails and fish!
8. Explore Twickenham
Twickenham is known around the world for the rugby stadium but also has other things to offer. Interestingly, Twickenham has twice the population of the town of Richmond which is partly why it’s the administrative heart of the Borough of Richmond upon Thames. A few highlights from Twickenham:
- Twickenham Stadium is the largest rugby union stadium in the United Kingdom, seating 82,000 and the second-largest stadium in the UK after Wembley Stadium.
- Strawberry Hill House, Horace Walpole’s ‘little gothic castle’ has reopened after a £9 million restoration. Open to the general public and now with a cafe and gift shop.
- Eel Pie Island can only be reached by boat or footbridge. The island has about 50 houses and nature reserves at either end. It is home to Twickenham Rowing Club.
9. Watch the canal boats at Teddington Lock
Known as the gateway to the non-tidal Thames, Teddington Lock is a lovely place to visit watching the boats go by on the river. You’ll find picnic tables, cafes and pubs along the river and there’s an excellent walk from here right into Richmond town centre.
10. Go grocery shopping at a farmers market
There are several great farmers’ markets in the Richmond upon Thames area, including one every Saturday in the town of Richmond. The vast majority of products sold at these markets come directly from the farmer – the theory being that it’s fresher and better quality (although surprisingly not usually cheaper). The markets are outdoors, and usually, open only once a week.
11. Visit Strawberry Hill House
Parking is free, and you can walk around the wonderful grounds of Strawberry Hill House free of charge. There are hidden summer houses, trees to hide under, a tiny market garden and stinging nettles.. all sorts of fun. And the bonus (besides the cafe) is that you can then walk through St Mary’s University and the kids can discover ramps, alleys and steps while you admire the sports facilities. This is all best done in the summer when the students are away and the gardens are open!
12. Check out a local museum
You may think that all the museums are ‘up town’ in London, but that’s where you’d be wrong. Both Twickenham and Richmond can entertain you with historical collections, and if you’ve never been to the RFU museum and you love rugby, you have to ask yourself why not?
- The World Rugby Museum at Twickenham Stadium is home to a global collection of rugby football memorabilia. On a Stadium Tour, get behind the scene of the world’s largest rugby stadium.
- Built in the 19th century, Kew Bridge Steam Museum is the most important historic site of the water supply industry in Britain and features a steam-powered railway in addition to working steam pumping engines.
- The Twickenham Museum is the history centre for Twickenham, Whitton, Teddington and the Hamptons.
- The Musical Museum – one of the world’s foremost collections of automatic instruments – is located in new premises in Brentford High Street… yes we know that technically it’s outside the Borough.
- The Museum of Richmond is in the Old Town Hall and celebrates the rich heritage of Richmond, Ham, Petersham and Kew – from prehistoric to the present day.
13. Enjoy traffic-free cycling, scooting and skating
If you’re looking for traffic-free cycling, check out this 9km long circular cycle path in Richmond Park. Note that it’s not permitted to cycle off-road in Richmond Park as mountain bikes cut up the grassland and put habitats at risk. The shared paths in Richmond park are also great for kids practising scooting, roller skating and skateboarding.
2 Bridge Boathouses, Richmond, TW9 1TH
In Richmond itself, down on the Riverside just by the bridge, there’s a small bike hire facility called Blazing Saddles.
Roehampton Gate Car Park, Richmond Park, Richmond, SW15 4
Parkcycle operates cycle hire in Richmond Park at the Roehampton Gate car park