London is an amazing city to explore as a family, whether you have very young children or teenagers to contend with. It is a vibrant and buzzing European destination with plenty of history, culture, and fun attractions to keep the entire family happy and occupied. Despite popular belief it doesn’t need to be too expensive either which will certainly help to keep the grown ups content as well as the children! If you are planning a trip to London with your kids, then you have come to the right place; here are our top tips which we think every family should know before they venture into the Big Smoke:
Skip the Tube, Use the Bus
Lots of travel guides will tell you that London has a brilliant public transport network and that the tube is probably the easiest of all the options if you want to get around quickly. This is certainly true if you are a commuter or a group of adults travelling and you want to get from A to B in as short a time as possible but for families, the tube is actually more likely to be the most inconvenient of London’s public transport options. Of the hundreds of underground and over ground tube stations in the city, only a small number have step-free access so for anyone travelling with luggage, pushchairs, and small people it is going to be a real brain-ache getting from the station to above ground. The stations are also quite claustrophobic, warm and loud; when the train arrives, it makes a heck of a noise which some smaller children may find upsetting. For those travelling with older children or teenagers, you may find the tube more than adequate but for other families we would suggest using the bus. There are just as many bus stations around the city as tube stations, they all have let-down ramps so you don’t need to fold your pushchair down and they have designated areas for pushchairs to go as well. Best of all, whilst you are travelling by bus you can take a look around you at the city and see what famous landmarks you can spot; something you wouldn’t be able to do from underground.
Alternatively, you could book to stay somewhere central such as one of the hotels near Hyde Park and simply spend your time exploring the many attractions and landmarks which are located within walking distance of this point.
Keep It Low Cost
London has a number of free attractions which are well worth making the most of; the paid attractions can really start to add up when you are travelling as a family so we know it is important to save pennies when and where you can. Luckily, some of the city’s best attractions are also the free ones and this includes the likes of the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum; both of which are easily accessible from the Grand Royale London Hyde Park Hotel and which offer interesting and interactive elements to keep children engaged. Another great way to spend a few hours without spending much is by taking advantage of one of the city farms. Most of these farms rely on voluntary donations so you can pay as much as you feel able to and they are dotted all across London. These farms give children the chance to get up close to some classic farmyard animals as well as some rarer British breeds and many also offer hands-on experiences and play areas to boot. You might need to pack your wellies in case of mud but the farms are a great way to wear out younger children whilst keeping them entertained at the same time. Additionally, London is home to some fantastic parks which are the perfect way to burn off energy if the weather is nice. Kensington Gardens offers the Princess Diana Memorial Playground complete with giant wooden pirate ship, play sand and sensory trail and is the ideal choice if you want somewhere central.
One of the biggest traps which people fall into when they head to London is to eat in the chain restaurants, usually because they are located in the most touristy spots in the city. However, these are usually not the most wallet-friendly or exotic of options and although we understand the need to find somewhere which has a menu to please even the fussiest of eaters, there are lots of local places which would welcome families with arms wide open. Try to take a few steps away from the main thoroughfares and look for little cafes, coffee shops or independent restaurants and you may be surprised at what you can find, and how little it costs you compared with the bigger establishments. Of course, if it is family-friendly chain restaurants you are after then London is also home to a number of the big contenders: Giraffe, Bubba Gump Shrimp, Sticky Fingers, and the Rainforest Café are just some of the options you can choose from if you want a children-led dining experience.
You might think that your children are too young for theatre but that simply is not the case in London. There are a number of theatres which only show productions suitable for the whole family and which have been created with children in mind; these include the Unicorn Theatre and the Polka Theatre. Then, of course, there is the ultimate child-friendly production: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which is shown at the theatre on Drury Lane. It is possible to get discounted theatre tickets for almost all the theatres and productions in the city; there are a number of discount tickets booths and shops located around Leicester Square or you can contact the theatre’s box office directly to see whether they have any unsold or returned tickets they are willing to sell at a discounted price.