Here are nine of the best things to do on a visit to London with those in later life.
Take a London Bus Tour
The bus is a good alternative to the London Underground, which can be difficult for many older people. The maze of walkways can be disorientating, navigating different branches of a tube line can be tricky, and the trains can be really busy and noisy too.
Different bus tour operators offer scenic journeys around the capital, and travelling on an open bus can be nostalgic for older Londoners as well as providing an excellent way to see many of the city’s most popular attractions, without needing to queue or get stuck in the crowds.
If your parents have mobility problems, then you can stay on the lower deck and still enjoy a commentary about the sights of London. Most tours allow you to ‘hop on and off’ so that you can explore any area that catches your attention if mobility allows. For example, Toot Bus tours have over 50 hop on / hop off stops to explore.
Many major bus tour operators also include a ticket to travel on one of the many cruise boats that ply up and down the Thames’ waters – so look out for special offers and discounts and see the city from another angle.
Go back in time in Greenwich
Despite being the UK’s home of time itself (GMT) Greenwich has so much more to offer visitors.
If you’re looking for a budget friendly day out, the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site is a fantastic place to explore – the Old Royal Naval College is an impressive 600 year old estate, and it’s grounds have featured in a number of blockbuster films and TV shows, including Pirates of the Caribbean, The King’s Speech, and the BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit.
Here you’ll also find the Painted Hall – which is a lesser known work of Sir James Thornhill who painted St. Pauls Catherdral. The Painted hall is just as impressive, and is sometimes called the UK’s ‘Sistine chapel’.
If you’d like to soak up more of Greenwich’s rich maritime history, Then why not visit the National Maritime Museum, or the famous sailing ship the Cutty Sark – both are within a 5 minute walk from the centre of the College.
And, if you need to take a break then you may wish to enjoy a cold, local Meantime beer at The Old Brewery is a wheelchair-accessible pub within the grounds.
Much of Greenwich is accessible to people with mobility needs or hearing or visual impairment. The grounds of the College is largely flat with paved walkways. All floors of the National Maritime Museum have lifts and staff are trained in disability awareness. The Painted Hall is also accessible to those with disabilities, and also participate in the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends initiative.
While the Cutty Sark does have lifts onboard, it can only accomodate three wheelchair users at a time due to the ship’s structure, so if you use a wheel chair you’ll need to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Get a birds-eye view on the London Eye
Offering a bird’s eye view of the city, the London Eye is worth a visit if you all have a good head for heights. The capsules have a central seating area, but queues can be lengthy, so book in advance and select the Fast Track option to avoid having to stand in line. For a special treat, you can reserve an entire capsule for your family, which gives you access to a private lounge area before your ‘flight’ around the wheel.
Enjoy a cream tea at the Wallace Collection
Despite being located just off of Oxford Street, the Wallace Collection is still one of London’s hidden gems. The free to view collection of fine and decorative art is displayed at Hertford House, the former home to Sir Richard and Lady Wallace. Once you’ve whiled away hours exploring the lavishly decorated rooms packed full oil paintings, sculptures, pottery, and armour from the 14th to the 19th century, head to the equally impressive cafe at the centre of the house.
The cafe is located in an impressive glazed courtyard, dotted with trees and sculptures and surrounded by iconic pink walls. It’s a great place to enjoy a quick cream tea or light lunch for under £10, or go all out and book a leisurely afternoon tea with traditional finger sandwiches and a glass of champagne.
The Wallace Collection is in a historic building, but has been adapted to be as accessible as possible to less mobile visitors. There’s step-free access throughout the ground floor, and lifts to all other floors. Wheelchairs, magnifying glasses and torches are also available to reserves or collect from the welcome desk.
Soak up the atmosphere at St Paul’s Cathedral
The iconic cathedral is a popular tourist attraction that many older people for those with an interest in art, history, architecture or religion. As well as being home to the famous painted domes, the Cathedral houses a number of more recent artworks by artists including Yoko Ono and Antony Gormley. Guided tours run every day, and the Cathedral floor hosts a range of interactive activities that tell the story of it’s history and architecture.
Head for the South entrance, which offers stair-free access to a lift that will take you to the main cathedral and the crypt. Check opening times before you visit, as they vary according to the season and any services being held.
Colin and Dulcie’s story
Dulcie is 100-years-old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and herself-employed carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for six months.
We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for
a fiercely independent woman – and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.
Walk the top secret corridors of The Churchill War Rooms
Your elderly parents may be interested in seeing Churchill’s secret underground war rooms, where he planned his war strategy during WWII. Lift access leads down from the street entrance at Birdcage Walk, and there are wheelchairs available for those with mobility problems. The Churchill Museum is part of the attraction and offers an insight into his life and work.
Visit the Barbican Centre’s indoor forest
Love it or hate it, the Barbican’s brutalist architecture is iconic, with nothing else quite like it in the capital. Built between 1965 and 1976 on land flattened in World War II, the Barbican offered over 2,000 new homes to Londoners. Today it’s also a renowned hub of arts and culture and can make a really interesting day out for all ages and interests.
You can start by exploring the public areas of the estate, and enjoying a drink and snack overlooking the lakeside garden and central pond. Inside the Barbican Centre, the ground floor hosts free installations and events on a wide range of themes – from London history to the human experience.
The upper floors are dedicated to cinema screenings, educational talks, theatre shows and classical music performances. You can find out what’s on and buy tickets here.
One of the most impressive parts of the Barbican however is it’s vibrant conservatory. This glass roofed oasis is home to hundreds of exotic plants and trees, as well as resident birds and pond life. It’s completely free to enter, but you do need to book beforehand.
In terms of accessibility, the conservatory is multi-level, which means access to some areas is limited for wheelchair users and people with restricted mobility. The rest of the Barbican Centre is far more accessible with many lifts and disabled toilets. You can find the venue’s full access guide here.
Get back to nature at ZSL London Zoo
If the weather is nice head for Regent’s Park and spend an afternoon, or a day, touring the extensive grounds and visiting the animals at London Zoo.
London Zoo believes wildlife should be for everyone and has ensured much of their 36 acres are accessible to all needs and abilities. Most buildings and areas have ramped or level access, and visual and sensory stories and can be downloaded from their website to help neurodivergent people better prepare for their visit. You can also purchase a Penguin Pass to help beat the queues if you or a loved one is less able to stand. Find out more about the Zoo’s accessibility here.
Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are available to hire, which you can book in advance via email.
Preparing for a trip to London
Bear in mind that if one or both of your parents require specialist Alzheimer’s or dementia care then you need to be extra vigilant. An elderly person wandering alone through the streets of London can quickly become disorientated, so if they normally require 24/7 care at home it might be sensible to arrange for temporary private care during your holiday if their usual carer is not present.
When booking, check with the hotel or guesthouse to ensure that the facilities are appropriate for your family’s requirements. If your loved one’s room is not on the ground floor, then you need to make sure that there is a suitable lift. You may also need to take some items to aid bathing and dressing.
Arrange an itinerary that won’t tire your parents unnecessarily, but that will give them plenty to look at and enjoy during their trip.
If you have a loved one in need of 24/7 care, please get in touch with our care advisors at to discuss your particular situation and get a free care appraisal. We can provide long-term self-employed carers across London and Great Britain.
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