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