Last summer my in laws came from Colombia for their first trip to England, in fact, their first trip to Europe. We spent an incredible month with them, my daughter and my step son, squeezing as much adventure into their stay as possible. I was also in my 2nd trimester with our youngest daughter, so no one had to crack ‘family friendly’ like we did. I’ve created this itinerary for any families, in particular those with young children visiting London, who want to soak up some key sites and discover some ‘insider London’. I promise, it is manageable – Let me know if you enjoy it!
Tip: If at all possible and your children are aged between 3 and 10, try to borrow some little scooters for your trip. There is a lot of walking involved in London and this will help to stop them getting cranky!
I’m guessing you’re pretty excited about being in London today. You’ve woken up to some drizzle, filled up on some tea and you’re keen to see some of the big sites. So hit The Tower of London. Kids will love chatting with the Yeoman and visiting the sparkling crown jewels. Bonus points if you go over Halloween when you’re encouraged to dress up and the tower gets extra spooky.
When you’re done exploring, walk over the beautiful Tower Bridge. On the other side you’ll find the Mayors office and an outdoor performance space called ‘The Scoop’. Details of what’s going down there can be found here. There’s often community choir and dance shows which are a joy to watch.
Head out for a day on the Southbank aka the south side of the River Thames. There are a million things to do here and if it’s a nice day it’s gorgeous just to stroll up and down; in the summer there’s even a mini sandy beach.
Personally, I’d start with a family brunch at the BFI- The British Film Institute does incredible pancakes and you’ll feel like you’re surrounded by famous movie stars (you may well be).
Two seconds away from the BFI, take in the bustling Southbank Centre Book Market. Browse away and see if you can spot any hidden gems. We gave our kids a few pounds each and sent them on a quest to find a book of their own. They loved running around trying to see what they could find.
Next take your pick from one of the main tourist attractions nestled along the river- The London Aquarium, Tate Modern or the Shrek Adventure!
Head back to the river and find your closest boat stop. You could use your oyster card (find out how to get one ) to jump on the speedy Thames clipper, or buy a ticket to go on one of the guided boat tours. Even though I consider myself a Londoner nowadays, I love the guided tours and always seem to learn something new.
Take the boat east and hop off at Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich, where you’ll be greeted by the view of the only surviving tea clipper in the world. Start with the kid friendly and mostly free National Maritime museum. Here your kids can run their own fish shop and stoke the fires of an old ship.
Turn left out of the museum into Greenwich Park and walk along to the excellent children’s play area. Just don’t let them get too exhausted, because you’re heading up the hill next, to take in the incredible ‘as seen in Bridget Jones 3’ views from the top of the park.
If you fancy it, you could also visit the Royal Observatory and the GMT line while you’re up here. Head back down the hill into Greenwich village to get pie from the famed Goddards for dinner. Yum.
The first tip for today is to make sure you pre-book! Get the tube to Liverpool Street and walk over to the restaurant on the 40th floor of Bishopsgate, The Duck and Waffle. The Full English (sausage, eggs, bacon, tomato, mushroom, hash browns, black pudding and a fluffy cheese scone) is pricy, but so worth it. Also, kids will love the beautiful flowered waffles.
Hop back on the central line to Oxford Circus and exit onto Regent’s Street. Walk down until you hit Hamleys on your left; the oldest and largest toy shop (or kid heaven) in the world. Keep walking down Regent Street towards Leicester Square, with a bit of map dexterity, walking through China Town on your way. Onwards now to Covent Garden where your kids will love watching the street performers and you can enjoy a much deserved coffee on the old cobbled streets.
Today is museum day! South Kensington has some of the most kid friendly ones and depending on your interests you could try the Natural History Museum or The Science Museum, the latter of which has an excellent water and sensory play area in the basement for younger children.
Older children might prefer the Victoria and Albert Museum, which often has performance and fashion themed exhibitions, as well as the most beautiful tea rooms in London. If you decided on the Natural History Museum and you’ve arrived in the correct season, pay a little extra to see the Sensational Butterflies exhibition, just hold onto little hands as some of the butterflies are huge and tiny people can get unsurprisingly nervous!
On your way home, walk just around the corner to the Instafamous Maitre Choux, to sample the most beautiful and decadent eclairs in London, hand-crafted by chef Joakim Prat.
Get the Northern line today to Camden Town, the quirkiest corner of London. Street art mixes with punk shops and stuffiness is left at the door. Just don’t eat too huge a breakfast before you go so that you can truly enjoy the food market.
From Camden Town walk to London Zoo. Our favourite part is the ‘Rainforest Life’ exhibition, where you find yourself surrounded by adorable tree dwellers like sloths and spider monkeys and can then go downstairs to see the nocturnal creatures, including some very noisy rats!
You’re all probably exhausted by now! Save today for something that you’ve discovered during the week or let your kids vote for their final day’s activities. Just make sure you finish off the day with a London classic, fish and chips.
Note: New found respect for bloggers! This post has taken me a bloody age so I’d really appreciate it if you could share the love and share it yourselves. If you enjoyed it. If not then, you know, never mind.