A friend asked me if she could travel to London, with her husband and two daughters age 10 and 5 years in tow. “Will there be anything to do, is London really a family friendly place?” she asked. There’s something for everyone in London! Here’s our holiday guide; London for families, a bit off the beaten track.
There’s no way around it, you will have to take the kids shopping. And on top of their list is Hamleys, the oldest toy shop in London. The tween will probably want to pop into A&F Kids. There’s Liberty, Harrods and Selfridges. But departments stores can be rather stressful, so why not head to more relaxed trendy street markets instead? Our favourites are Maltby Street Market on Saturdays and Colombia Road Flower Market on Sundays. We love the Goodhood store, a minimalist, split-level shop for the discerning family who are after independent labels and a shopping experience with a difference. Worth mentioning as well is Camden Collective.
Brick Lane, Spitalfields near Liverpool Street to Boxpark in Shoreditch is also well worth a visit.
I’m no fan of sightseeing. But if you want to see the main landmarks of London I have one very easy tour idea; Take the tube to Westminster. From here you can see the London Eye, London’s iconic clock tower, also known as Big Ben and the impressive Houses of Parliament. You walk up Whitehall, passing number 10 Downing Street and the changing of the beautiful horseguards before reaching Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. Walk from here The Mall, through St James Park, to see Buckingham Palace. End the sightseeing by heading to the playground, when walking through the park, towards Westminster.
Museums to explore
V & A Museum of Childhood is situated a minute walk from Bethnal Green tube station. It offers an amazing selection of vintage toys, games and clothing. Together with your child you can explore the exhibition that’s on, play in the play areas and dress up in vintage clothing. There’s a cafe but you may also want to bring your own packed lunch.
Pollock’s Toy Museum . You’ll find this charming toy museum and shop in two converted two houses, tucked behind Goodge Street station, stuffed with old toys, games, puppets and dolls -sure to evoke childhood memories.
Tate Modern, just because it serves as a open house, catering for children as well as adults. Play in the amazing Turbine Hall, see the Snail by Matisse and treat yourself to a drink on the 7th floor with amazing view to the River Thames and St Pauls cathedral.
Escape the typical tourist traps
Visit, for a stroll around this secluded marina, next to the Tower of London by the River Thames. Or head to charming Little Venice, just a short trip with the canal narrowboat from Camden. Another ‘must visit’ is Kings Cross Granary Square, along the Regent’s Canal too, with it’s free sun loungers and a large fountain for the kids to run around in.
Leafy parks and green fields to roam
Regent’s Park, with it’s brilliant playgrounds, boat hire and panoramic view over London skyline, from Primrose Hill. The park is also home to London Zoo. For lunch, head to Primrose Hill high street in the North or Marylebone high street South of the park. Or bring a picnic and enjoy the park to the full!
Hampstead Heath, with it’s many ponds, hills and play grounds. There’s also a paddling pool for kids, open in the Summer. If you are up for a walk, head to the impressive Kenwood House, see the exhibition of gorgeous paintings and antique furniture in this aristocratic home before you end your outing with a traditional pub lunch for the family at the nearby old toll station, The Spaniards Inn.
Fill up empty tummies at…
Snaps and Rye when out for lunch in Notting Hill. Vibrant, family friendly and tasty Danish food.
Nordic Bakery in Golden Square is offering good coffee, hot chocolate and the biggest cinnamon buns in the capital, when in need of a break from the craziness in nearby Hamley’s.
Afternoon tea can be a challenging affair with little ones in tow, but almost like a Mad Hatters tea party, a surreal and arty restaurant such as Restaurant Sketch (just behind Oxford Circus) will keep them entertained, at least for while. And they’d love the loo!
Curry is (un-officially) the national dish in England and can best be enjoyed in Whitechapel. Our favourite is Tayyabs. The service is fast, the restaurant very family friendly and the food is amazing -arguably the best curry outside India!
Dirty Burger in Kentish Town serves the most mouthwatering fast food you can imagine, in an old shack in the parking lot. Prefer pizza? Then head to Pizza East in Shoreditch. Wood fired ovens and brilliant ambience. And the pizza is delicious! Don’t forget to have your family picture taken in the photo boot downstairs before you leave.
It used to be served in newspapers folded as cones! These days you should head to Belsize Park and Oliver’s Fish & Chips for this quintessential English dish.
Do not leave without…
Never mind expensive sightseeing buses when you can be out and about and explore on your own. Hop on any of London’s iconic red buses. Highly recommended is the new edition, the retro inspired and more environmental friendly routemaster-style bus. And of course, front seat at top deck of the bus! When you’ve had enough, hop off and jump in a black cab. The driver will take you safely home to your hotel, whilst chatting about the weather and give you the latest updates on his favourite football team.
Truth is that there is no more child friendly destination for the family than London. The capital is fast moving, with lots of people and lots on offer. It’s a lot to take in for big and small. If you make a plan, with not too much on, and you know how to navigate yourself around, then I’m sure your stay will be a success. Kids love London!
Good to know!
Pre-book Visitor Oyster card, valid for travel in London. Children under 11 are free when travelling with an adult. Download and print out a tube map before you go, or pick on up in the ticket offices when you arrive.
We can experience four seasons in a day. Waterproofs are essential.
Hotels vary in standard. TripAdvisor tells you a lot of what you need to know. You might want to check out what’s available on airbnb.com or kidandcoe.com Make sure your accommodation has good transport links if it’s not located very central.
If you have any other ideas you would like me to ad, or if you are planning a family holiday to London and would like to ask me anything, please comment below.