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As our week long trip to Europe came to an end we had a couple days in London to both to see some sights and to recharge for the trip home (since you have to hit the ground running as a parent who has been away for that long). While we had some ambitious plans heading into London, we didn’t actually do as much as we had hoped. However, we still got to experience some pretty fun things that I want to share. I will also include a few things that we had hoped to do, but just didn’t get around to on this trip. If you want to play catch-up on previous parts of this trip report:
Things To Do in London
Tower of London:
Since we were staying at the Andaz Liverpool Street we decided to walk to the Tower of London one morning. I wasn’t timing it, but I would guess it was about a 15 minute walk from door to door. The Tower of London was established by William the Conqueror in 1066 and it has had a role in London history since that time. Some of the history has been a bit dark such as the beheading of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII. However, today it is a great tourist attraction and even serves as home to the impressive Crown Jewels.
We spent a couple of hours at the Tower of London, including time for a snack and seeing the Crown Jewels. Tickets are a bit pricey at £21.45 for adults, £10.75 for children, and £57.20 for a family of two adults and up to three children. You can save a small amount by buying tickets online. You can also pay £45.00 for an annual membership that will get you access to five palaces.
I think this is a good place for both adult and child visitors. Even my three year old would have thought this place was awesome since it looked like a place out of one of her storybooks.
While you are along the River Thames area, you might as well take a stroll to see the iconic Tower Bridge as well. It is an impressive sight, but interestingly isn’t near as old as most would guess since it was constructed in the late 1800’s. Still worth a look and a quick picture though.
I like to shop and consequently think Harrod’s is amazing. It is located in the KnightsBridge section of town and it is just massive. In addition to floor after floor of jam packed shopping for medium and high end goods, there are also dozens of food options, a salon, a florist, and so much more. There is even a Disney themed cafe that many kids would love! I spent a couple hours snacking and (mostly) browsing there and then had my hair done in the salon. My husband did not come on the excursion, and frankly would have hated it as there were just people everywhere and it felt a bit claustrophobic at times. I would avoid coming here on the weekend if that will bother you.
Eat Fish and Chips:
This probably should have gone in the “eating” post, but it really is a fun thing to do in London. While there are endless options, we went to the Golden Hind in the Marylebone neighborhood. Careful with your timing as they are closed from 3-6PM, but we went right at 6PM and got a table without a problem. They do get quite busy at times. This place gets pretty good reviews for their fish and chips and I have to agree. The fish was massive and the price was fair. The service was not outstanding by any stretch, but this is not a place you go for a fine dining experience. You go for the fried food!
Buckingham Palace/Big Ben/Parliament:
Blame Chevy Chase’s European Vacation for me bunching these all into one, but we saw them all by taking a nice long stroll past each one. Watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace is fun for both kids and adults. At certain times of the year you can even book a tour inside Buckingham Palace. You can also take a tour to climb Big Ben assuming you are ready for a little workout. Tours of Parliament are open to permanent UK residents only. I hope to do enjoy some of these attractions more thoroughly in the future, but just walking by is also a free and fun way to feel like you are in London.
I very much wanted to visit both of these on our most recent trip to London, but sadly the Imperial War Museum is closed until July 2013, and won’t fully reopen until 2014 as it is getting a major refurbishment. The Imperial War Museum has been around since shortly after the First World War and has extensive artifacts from both world wars.
Churchill War Rooms are open, but I just sadly ran out of time for a visit on this trip. According to their website, when you go there you can see the wartime bunker that sheltered Churchill and his government and experience the secret history that lives on underground. I think this would be a worthy stop for anyone interested in history, but would be especially great for any older school aged children who are studying the world wars. Tickets for adults are £17.00 and children under 16 are free.
London With Kids:
Even though we didn’t bring our little one on this trip, I also want to mention some things to do with younger kids in London. In general, when you are traveling with young kids to different countries, you need to be planning things to do with them similar to what you would do at home. Sure you may get them to tolerate some adult activities and sights, but they need time to just be kids as well. The cool part about this is you kind of get to live like a local. Look for parks, zoos, children’s museums, performances, etc. If I had brought Little C on this trip we would have done things like go to Diana Memorial Playground (complete with tee-pees and a pirate ship), visit the London Zoo in Regent’s Park, and enjoyed the Disney Cafe at Harrods.
As they get a little older I would work in museums that are more likely to be interesting to their age group such as National History Museums and transportation related museums. I would save things focused on artwork, historic books, and ancient pottery for later….unless of course you have a child who is interested in that sort of stuff.
Other than seeing a few sights, eating good food, and shopping I didn’t do a great job at getting around London on my recent short visit. Sometimes I like my travels to be jam-packed and stuffed with activities, but sometimes I prefer a slower pace. This was one of those times. I’d love to hear some of your London “must do’s”! Also, stayed tuned for the final post in this (long) series about our flight home and how our US Airways Envoy Suites award landed us in United BusinessFirst.