We have just returned from a whirlwind three day trip to London: we clocked up just over 20,000 steps a day, crammed in so many activities that Boy8 said that his ‘London bucketlist was complete’ and munched on more calories than I’m prepared to calculate.
Mr MumTravel and I lived in London before we had kids and moved to the sticks, so there are some obvious attractions that we knew we wanted the boys to see, as well as some restaurants we wanted to return to for our own selfish nostalgia. We were travelling with my sister and her family, making us a party of eight in total. We travelled by train, and stayed in the Premier Inn Kensington (Earls Court) which was a classic Premier Inn (basic, but clean and with a good breakfast offering) in a brilliant location: you could walk to the museum district in under 10 minutes, and Earls Court tube station was just a two minute walk away. As we weren’t planning on spending any real time in the hotel, it was the perfect pick for this trip. We booked well in advance, and only paid £98 for two nights stay and breakfast for 4 people for two days too, using their ‘kids eat free’ offer.
Here is a breakdown of our itinerary.
See: The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum, The Horrible Histories, Terrible Thames Boat Tour
Eat: The Natural History Museum, Bodeans BBQ Tower Hill.
See: London Zoo, Covent Garden
Eat: Goodfare Italian, Camden; Wahaca Covent Garden
See: Leicester Square (and the Lego Store), China Town, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and Platform 9 3/4.
Eat: The Rainforest Cafe, Leicester Square; Le Pain Quotidien, Kings Cross.
Our first port of call was to drop off our luggage at the hotel; whilst check in wasn’t until 4pm, we were able to leave our luggage in the secured left luggage room, rather than carry holdalls around with us all day. From here we walked to the museum district where we had an reservation for the Natural History Museum at 11am.
Reservations are essential for visiting the museums right now, due to Covid restrictions, but access is still free. Visit the website in advance of your visit to secure an arrival time, and you will be given a QR code that is scanned as you arrive. You are also asked to wear face masks in the museums if you can (which we did) but this advice also might change in the future. We love this museum: more importantly, the kids love this museum! It’s so wonderful to see children so excited about something that is educational. Our first stop, of course, were the dinosaurs and the animatronic dinosaur is always a hit. We also went to the earthquake simulator and discovered more about the way the world works: this is my favourite exhibit.
We left the museum to have a relaxing sit down in the forecourt, where we tucked in to hot dogs and chips from the snack cart. This was more for convenience than anything else, because we didn’t have long to get to the Science Museum next door for our researched time, but actually, sitting in the sun under the beautiful architecture of the museum itself was a lovely way to spend half an hour. We then hopped to the Science Museum for a shorter visit: we had booked a slot at the pattern pod, then took a whistle stop tour of the space and transport exhibitions. The pattern pod was aimed at Boy5 and his cohort, who really loved the interactive exhibitions and the hands-on approach to science.
The reason our Science Museum trip was cut short? So we could hop on the tube and scoot across to Tower Bridge, where we had tickets to join the Horrible Histories Terrible Thames river cruise. This lasted 45 minutes and cost £58 for a family of 4, which is much more than other river tours we could have booked. BUT: it was worth every penny. The kids laughed, joined in, learned some fairly disgusting facts, and haven’t stopped raving about the trip since! It was also a less step-intensive way to show them all the sights, which would have been impossible by foot on such a short trip.
Once we hopped off the boat it was a short walk to Bodeans Tower Hill: a smokehouse and grill, and Mr MumTravels favourite place to eat: it’s not fancy, giving off sportsbar vibes, but it is welcoming to children and the food is out of this world. If you don’t try the pulled pork and the burnt ends then you will regret it.
We had organised one main activity for our second day: tickets to London Zoo. The weather was against us today, with rain showers on and off all day, but there were enough indoor exhibits that it didn’t have too much of a negative impact.
Social distancing worked well here: rather than wander around at will, you picked a colour and followed the arrows around the exhibits. Once you had completed the three coloured trails, you had seen everything in the zoo! Special mention goes to the penguins, who were as playful as ever, and seemed to love being as close to people as possible.
Once we’d had our fill of the zoo we wandered back to Camden station, stopping in a little Italian restaurant for drinks and cakes, and to wait out the worse of the rain. It was then a short and simple tube ride to Leicester Square, which we used as our gateway to Covent Garden: we showed the kids the opera house, wandered through the market, and stopped frequently to enjoy the street entertainment (the Charlie Chaplin impersonator was a particular hit) before heading to Wahaca for lunch. I love Mexican food, and the Mexican street food here is excellent: its loud, vibrant, and has a cantina feel, which meant it is perfect for families. No need to worry about keeping the kids quiet!
This was our last day in London, and we had plenty to fit in! We started by heading to Leicester Square, where we explored the statues in the garden, and then walked over to the Lego store when they opened at 10am. The queues here can get crazy, so getting here early and walking straight in is a top tip.
From here we headed to China town where we admired the pastries in the windows of the bakeries and the cooked duck hanging in the restaurants. Boy8 was delighted to buy a bottle of pokemon water from a Chinese supermarket, whilst Mr MumTravel picked up more than one box of his favourite sweet taro dumplings. We then walked down to Trafalgar square where we admired the statues, and then hopped on the bus (number 11) to Victoria before swapping to another bus to Green Park. Riding a bus was a ‘wish list’ item for Boy5 and his cousin, and taking a regular red bus was much cheaper than riding a tourist bus (which charge upwards of £20 per person for a ticket). Because this is the area close to where we worked in the city, this was an easy win for us.
We hopped off the bus at Green Park and then walked through the park to Buckingham Palace which was a treat for all of us, but especially me because, believe it or not, despite living in London for several years I had never actually visited before. We got here at just before 12pm, and managed to catch the changing of the guard, which was a really fun and exciting thing to see. We then walked down the mall and up to Piccadilly circus to head to our lunchtime restaurant reservation.
Lunch was a ‘big treat’ for the kids and a big disappointment for the grown ups: we went to the Rainforest Cafe. The theming was good: the kids love the version of the restaurant in Disneyland Paris, and the animatronic animals are just the same. But the food was mediocre at best, and incredibly overpriced: we knew this would be the case, because we’ve eaten here before, but I can’t in good conscience recommend it if you’re an adult who likes good quality food. Or don’t want to spend £4.95 on a small glass of coke. If you’re an adult who likes to see your kids with their heads on stalks and wonder in their eyes though, it definitely has its merits. They were so glad we did it. We grown ups had main courses and drinks only, and rewarded ourselves for our sacrifice with desserts later.
From here we headed to Kings Cross, which is where we would be getting our train home. The older boys (and massive Harry Potter fans) were excited to visit Platform 9 3/4 in the station, and then we went to Le Pain Quotidien for drinks and desserts whilst we waited for our train.
It was a whistle stop tour of London, and we all wished we had booked to stay for a couple of extra days to maybe take things at a more leisurely pace, as well as to see some more of the museums (My favourites are the V&A, and the Tate Modern, but there just wasn’t the time). But if you’re time poor, and want to cram in as much as possible with your kids on your next visit to London, then this could be the perfect itinerary for you.