London: 5 More Family Favorites
As a Londoner (now living in California), I take my kids every year to pay homage to this fabulous city. The list of favorites is never ending but here are five from our most recent trip.
1. Natural History Museum
Our favorite museum in London is the Natural History Museum in Kensington. The architecture is striking and when you step inside, your kids will catch their breath when they see the escalator going up into the large suspended Planet Earth and gasp at the huge dinosaur bones.
It’s everyone else’s favorite museum too, so prepare for crowds. Three musts are the T-Rex, the earthquake experience and the life-sized blue whale.
2. Somerset House
Grab a packed lunch and visit Somerset House. Built in 1547, this gorgeous building houses fashion shows, art collections and records of all marriages, births and deaths. Do your kids care? Not so much. But what they will love is the very large, fun water feature squirting up from the ground in the breath taking courtyard. If you don’t visit the exhibits, it’s free. The house backs up onto the Embankment next to the River Thames and is walkable from Covent Garden and Waterloo Bridge.
3. Embankment and South Bank
The 1 mile round pedestrianized walk between Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge allows you to absorb a host of London monuments and indulge you and your children in cosmopolitan atmosphere, traffic free.
There are plenty of stop-off points to rest or eat. Starting at Waterloo Bridge, take the stairs down to the Embankment and head towards Westminster along the river.
You’ll pass the Savoy Hotel (visit for tea and scones), the Victoria Embankment (gardens with bandstand), Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Cross Westminster Bridge and head back west along the South Bank. The colorful walk back along the river to Waterloo Bridge takes you past the London Eye, County Hall and passes many performances, restaurants and shops in the South Bank Center. Check out the skateboarders as you return to Waterloo Bridge.
4. Hamleys of London
You can find this London landmark on historic Regents Street, just up from Piccadilly Circus. Yes, it’s a toy store, but Toys R Us it ain’t! First opened in 1881, it is visited by Royals and common folk alike. As you approach, bubbles spill out of the doors. Children’s faces light up when they enter and see the floor to ceiling packed with soft toys. And then let them explore the other 5 themed floors dripping with all toys imaginable. There are puppet shows, engaging displays and a restaurant that sells large ice creams. It’s a kids’ paradise.
5. Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court is well worth the 45 minute train journey from Waterloo Station to the London suburbs. This impressive palace was originally built for King Henry VIII. It lures in children with gruesome stories about the famous king, told by actors dressed in Tudor garb and speaking old English.
We witnessed Henry VIII’s last wedding while we were there and my children, although knowing little of the history, were transfixed. The Hampton Court maze is not to be missed. The suburb of Hampton is darling if you want to grab dinner by the river after visiting the palace.
For more ideas on where to take your kids in London, check out London: 5 Family Favorites.