Eltham Palace, south London: things to do in London with kids

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace and gardens is an art deco house in south London, with extensive gardens and a medieval wing. Before we visited, I wasn’t sure whether my children would enjoy themselves there. The prospect of keeping a three- and six-year old happy on a tour around an art deco residence was a little daunting. But I was amazed at how much fun they had discovering the palace. In fact, it was me who had to drag them away, a good hour past our usual lunchtime.

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace history

Eltham Palace dates back to medieval times, and was adapted for Stephen and Virginia Courtauld (known as Ginie) in the 1930s by architects Seely and Paget, who built a modern extension onto the original great hall.

medieval hall in Eltham Palace

Stephen and Ginie were modern-day aristocrats from the family that owned the rayon manufacturing business. They were committed socialites; bon viveurs, by all accounts. They filled their home with all the latest gadgets and furnished it in a striking, resplendent art deco style that set a trend for decades to come.

Eltham Palace

woman taking photograph in art deco mirror, Eltham Palace

Stephen and Ginie Courtauld were fond of entertaining, and the rooms in their former home reflected their love of inviting guests to lavish parties. Their house was full of gleaming golden furnishings, elegant, elaborate wallpaper and smooth, polished wooden panelling.

reception room, Eltham Palace

The entrance reception room

Is Eltham Palace child-friendly?

Eltham Palace is now run by English Heritage. I was impressed by how far the English Heritage Eltham Palace team had gone towards making the house visitor- and child-friendly. On our way in, we were given an animal explorer’s map. The Courtaulds were big animal lovers, with an array of unusual pets, including Mah Jong, the Eltham palace lemur who had his own room and access to a range of tasty nibbles. Young visitors could go round the house, looking for animals and stamping their map when they spotted them.

children's treasure trail at Eltham Palace

My two children loved the range of dressing-up opportunities at Eltham Palace. Soldier’s outfits, tin hats and and WRVS volunteer costumes sat in a trunk in the basement, which was used as a bomb shelter during the Second World War. A chest in the medieval great hall furnished us with jester’s outfits. And my daughter had fun dressing up as Ginie Courtauld, in the dressing room leading off Ginie’s chambers.

girl dressed up as Ginie Courtauld at Eltham Palace

Multi media tours

But my children enjoyed the family guided tour even more than the dressing up. Staff handed out multi media units at the entrance, and showed us how to use them. The kits came with headphones and a tablet, which played a short video for each room. In the videos William, a nephew of the Courtaulds, explained what used to happen in the room, and acted out little dramas involving the servants and his relatives. As well as the videos, in most of the rooms little games appeared on the tablet. The videos and games kept my children completely captivated. This all made it easy for me to wander round and have a good look, without a youngster tugging on my sleeve.

children on multi media tours at Eltham Palace

The family tour games were suitable for children up to the age of 11 or 12. My three-year old was just about old enough to enjoy most of them, with a little help.

multi media tour at Eltham Palace

And even I enjoyed creating my own Ginie Courtauld-style mirror.

multi media tour at Eltham Palace

We spent so long exploring the house that we didn’t have time to visit the gardens, which had their own family tour. Adult tours of the house were also available on the media units, but I chose to join the children on the family tour, which still had plenty of snippets that would interest adults.

Food and drink

Eltham Palace has a pretty, conservatory-style café, where we ate a very late lunch from picnic boxes for the kids, and tasty homemade soup for me.

cafe at Eltham Palace

children in cafe at Eltham Palace

The lunch wasn’t mega-cheap – £4.25 for a picnic box with a sandwich, drink and snacks – but that’s typical of London. The best thing about the café was that it overlooked the play area, so I was able to relax for a few minutes with a coffee, watching the children through the glass walls while they played outside.

boy in playground at Eltham Palace

childrenin playground at Eltham Palace

girl in playground at Eltham Palace

girl in playground at Eltham Palace

boy in playground at Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace is beautiful in the summer, with people eating  picnics and relaxing on the lawn, Courtauld-style. The gardens really come into their own then, too, with medieval fairs and other family events to make regular use of the wide, rambling grounds.

children in formal garden at Eltham Palace

Have you been to any country houses with children? Did you enjoy the experience?

Where is Eltham Palace?

Eltham Palace is in a leafy part of south London, very close to the centre of Greenwich. There is a decent amount of parking at Eltham Palace.

Eltham Palace Address: Court Yard, Eltham, Greenwich, London, SE9 5QE 

Eltham Palace opening times:

During winter, Eltham Palace is open on Sundays from 10am until 4pm. It’s open every day except Saturday during the summer, but there some exceptions, so do check the website if you fancy going on a Saturday. And there are often weddings at Eltham Palace, which means it shuts to the public for the entire day. Check the website for details. Entry is free to English Heritage members and the under 5s. See the  website for non-member prices.

English Heritage gifted us entry for the purpose of this post.

If you like this post, you might be interested to read about our day out at the Tower of London, our flight on the London Eye or our visit to Madame Tussauds.

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  1. March 3, 2016 / 9:27 am

    I’d never heard of Eltham Palace but I love art deco style so would want to take a look! I enjoyed your bit of history in the post too about the family who lived there.

    • Nell
      March 7, 2016 / 9:35 am

      It’s a beautiful house-different to anywhere else.

  2. March 3, 2016 / 12:47 pm

    This place looks great! Fab to see its child friendly too!

  3. March 3, 2016 / 8:10 pm

    We had annual passes for English Heritage a few years ago and visited lots of castles, we loved it. I really enjoyed the history of the places. Great review, it really looks like you had a great time! 🙂

    • Nell
      March 7, 2016 / 9:37 am

      We love visiting castles too. The pass is really worth it if you like history.

  4. March 3, 2016 / 8:12 pm

    I think Art Deco is my favourite period ever so I’d love to visit here.

    Love the way it’s so engaging for kids too.

    • Nell
      March 7, 2016 / 9:38 am

      You’d love it Liz, I’m sure. A splendid place!

  5. March 3, 2016 / 9:45 pm

    It looks like such a great place for a day out with the kids! I will definitely put it on my list for our next visit to London. Great photos by the way, I loved the dressing up one the most 🙂

    • Nell
      March 7, 2016 / 9:39 am

      Thank you Orli. My daughter was so pleased about her dressing up!

  6. March 4, 2016 / 11:18 am

    Oh, what a stunning place to visit. I love that they have decided to invest in the children so that families can have great visits. I love art deco so I need to visit

    • Nell
      March 7, 2016 / 9:43 am

      The child-friendliness really did make it an easy, enjoyable trip.

  7. March 4, 2016 / 7:13 pm

    Looks like a great place to visit, with lots to do and what a beautiful house.

  8. March 4, 2016 / 9:19 pm

    This looks like great place especially so close to London yet so green and open.

    • Nell
      March 7, 2016 / 9:45 am

      I know. It’s surprising how many places in London feel countrified!

  9. March 5, 2016 / 8:18 am

    That looks like a brilliant day out! I miss things like English Heritage and The National Trust, they do such a good job! I had a friend who got married here, and we couldn’t make the wedding so it was nice to see what the rest of the building is like through your photos! 🙂

    • Nell
      March 7, 2016 / 9:46 am

      Ah yes, I saw that they do weddings there. It would be an incredible place for a party.

  10. March 5, 2016 / 12:40 pm

    I’ve never heard of this place before but it sounds like it would be right up our street!

  11. March 5, 2016 / 4:13 pm

    I have never heard of this place before, it looks gorgeous. Love the shot of you taking a pic in the mirror

    • Nell
      March 7, 2016 / 9:46 am

      Thank you!

  12. Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad
    March 6, 2016 / 9:28 pm

    I have family near Eltham Palace and I’ve wanted to visit for ages, but we never seem to be around when they’re open! This has made me more determined to go. Thanks for sharing!

  13. March 15, 2016 / 2:24 pm

    I’ve always been incredibly impressed by the lengths English Heritage go to make their properties family friendly. This looks great: dressing up activities, games and trails. How bizarre that the pet lemur had its own room! My son would love that. Great review. #citytripping

    • Nell
      March 23, 2016 / 10:16 am

      Yes, I was very pleasantly surprised by it all. Definitely going again soon!

    • Nell
      March 23, 2016 / 10:17 am

      It really is!

  14. March 15, 2016 / 7:38 pm

    A lemur with its own room – brilliant! The Courtaulds sound like an interesting couple, if only walls could talk 🙂

    • Nell
      March 23, 2016 / 10:17 am

      Yes – apparently Ginie was a force to be reckoned with!

  15. March 16, 2016 / 6:57 am

    It’s a wonderful place! I can understand why you’re the one who had to drag the kids out of there! :p

    • Nell
      March 23, 2016 / 10:17 am

      Yes, they would have stayed for hours longer if I hadn’t put my foot down!

  16. March 16, 2016 / 9:38 am

    I’d never realised Eltham Palace would be so good with kids – I adore art deco and love the history so have always wanted to visit but assumed this would be better for older children. The guides sound perfect though. Another one for my ever-growing list! Thanks for joining up with #citytripping

    • Nell
      March 23, 2016 / 10:18 am

      If you go, I guarantee the guides will let you have a bit of peace and quiet to admire all that art deco!

  17. March 18, 2016 / 12:46 pm

    I love the look of Eltham Palace and a fascinating history behind it too. Brilliant that it is so set up for children – makes visiting a lot easier! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • Nell
      March 23, 2016 / 10:19 am

      It’s a pleasure!

  18. March 18, 2016 / 9:11 pm

    The problem of having National Trust membership was that I didn’t feel we could really justify actually paying up to go to a different big house, although I’d heard good things about Eltham Palace. And now I see that they were all true! How fabulous that we are now free to go there next time we are in country!

    • Nell
      March 23, 2016 / 10:20 am

      This is English Heritage rather than National Trust, but if you want places like this plus castles, EH membership is perfect.

  19. Honest Mum
    March 23, 2016 / 1:33 pm

    It looks so wonderful, must visit next time we are nearby. Fab photos too!

  20. March 23, 2016 / 4:09 pm

    It looks such great fun, I would like a hour in the dressing up room ha ha x

  21. March 24, 2016 / 4:50 pm

    Those multi-media units are a wonderful idea! We’ve never had those before and makes for a much more interesting day out. Eltham Palace looks like a brilliant outing – we haven’t been as it’s the other side of London for us but I will make an effort now after your fab post. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

  22. March 29, 2016 / 12:54 pm

    There are so many castles here in the UK that we don’t know anymore which to choose. It gets also quite costly after some visits. We are now in Scotland doing some house sits and it’s so impressive-wonderful-awesome! What a country! #MondayEscapes

    • Nell
      March 29, 2016 / 8:24 pm

      It really is an incredible island we live on!

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