re­mem­ber to plan

The cap­i­tal is great for a week­end but make sure you sched­ule time

The Wharf - - Travel -

It’s great to go sight­see­ing with the kids, ex­plor­ing all the places you’ve not vis­ited since you were chil­dren your­selves. But not too much of it. Lit­tle legs can quickly get very tired pound­ing the pave­ments in the Big Smoke – and grumpy chil­dren make for grumpy par­ents too.

There’s so much to do, but you can’t pos­si­bly at­tempt it all in one trip so it’s best to pri­ori­tise.

STOP NO 1: TOWER OF LON­DON

My el­dest has been study­ing the Gun­pow­der Plot at school so was keen to see the place where Guy Fawkes was tried for trea­son.

Queensway tube sta­tion was just five minutes walk down the road from the This­tle Ho­tel, where we were stay­ing on a Fam­ily Pack­age.

So in no time at all we found our­selves at the Tower of Lon­don – which is some­thing of a mis­nomer as there is ac­tu­ally a to­tal of 21 tow­ers to take a look at.

We joined the queue to see the Crown Jew­els, which moved fairly quickly – do it early rather than queu­ing at the end of your visit.

The jew­els are such a spec­ta­cle and we all thor­oughly en­joyed learning about the his­tory of them be­fore see­ing the gems for our­selves.

Next, we went into the Fusilier Mu­seum which tells the story of the Bri­tish in­fantry reg­i­ment from its for­ma­tion to the present day and walked the walls be­fore head­ing into the White Tower, a mag­nif­i­cent build­ing which houses lots of im­pres­sive ar­moury.

From here, we went to the Bloody Tower, in­fa­mous due to the mys­te­ri­ous mur­der of two young princes Ed­ward V and Richard Duke of York, which is be­lieved to have taken place there.

Their haunt­ing and cap­ti­vat­ing story is mov­ingly pro­jected onto the white walls in­side of the tower.

This is also home to the tower’s new ‘Lost Gar­den’ ex­hi­bi­tion to mark the 400th an­niver­sary of the death of the fa­mous ad­ven­turer Sir Wal­ter Raleigh, one of the tower’s most fa­mous pris­on­ers who used the court­yard out­side the Bloody Tower to grow plants from the New World and ex­per­i­ment with in­gre­di­ents for an ‘Elixir of Life.’

STOP NO 2: BUCK­ING­HAM PALACE

My youngest wanted to see Buck­ing­ham Palace so we ar­rived there just as it was get­ting dark and saw the lights com­ing on.

STOP NO 3: NATURAL HIS­TORY MU­SEUM

Next morn­ing, we headed into Hyde Park, which was a lovely way to spend a morn­ing, rather than bustling the kids onto the tube. And cheaper too. It took us just 20 minutes to reach the Natural His­tory Mu­seum, walk­ing past the Al­bert Me­mo­rial and the Ser­pen­tine Gal­leries. The Diana Me­mo­rial play­ground was nearby too.

The Natural His­tory Mu­seum was top of my list and, hav­ing seen Dippy the Di­plodocus skele­ton on tour, I was keen to see the 25-me­tre blue whale skele­ton sus­pended above Hintz Hall. It looked ev­ery bit as im­pres­sive as Dippy, and the hall it­self is a won­der.

Best of all, the mu­seum is free, which is great for fam­i­lies. There can be queues, but we went to the side en­trance on Ex­hi­bi­tion Road and got into the mu­seum in no time.

We spent ages look­ing at the skele­tons in the Blue Zone then went into The Vault to see the pre­cious stones. The Red Zone is great too, es­pe­cially as you go up an es­ca­la­tor into a ‘red planet’ and learn all about earth­quakes and vol­ca­noes.

In the run up to Christ­mas, there’s an ice rink and a carousel out­side the mu­seum, to­gether with wooden chalets serv­ing win­ter warm­ers like mulled wine and hot choco­late. There was a won­der­ful at­mos­phere.

STOP NO 4: COVENT GAR­DEN

We rounded off our visit with a

The Tower of Lon­don has had many fa­mous res­i­dents, some of whom died in mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances – but the ravens are the only long-term res­i­dents these days

Kids af­ter­noon tea at Cafe Rouge Hope, the blue whale, hangs in the en­trance hall of The Natural His­tory Mu­seum

Crowds watch the Covent Gar­den Christ­mas lights be­ing switched on

Hyde Park

Buck­ing­ham Palace

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