Ah, London. England’s capital city is a huge metropolis with enough history to fill the British Library and more. Cultures collide as evidence of the former British Empire and its global scope fill neighborhoods throughout the city. Monstrous toyshops, museums and markets line the streets. Trains traverse the city underground and above, just waiting to whisk you and your children away to some of Europe’s most beloved sights. With so many things to do in London with kids, where should you begin?
Evidence of the British Empire can easily be found in the city’s cuisine. No longer are you limited to meat pies or fish and chips — both of which are very tasty indeed. Years of British rule have made Indian food a highlight of modern day taste buds, making a trip to Brick Lane is a must. Introduce your children to curries both mild and mind-blowingly hot. Whether you love meat or are a vegetarian you are guaranteed to find something you will love. Make your way to the Baywaters neighborhood just off of Hyde Park for Mediterranean delights and Asian takeout. Wagamama, just a short walk from Victoria Station, is a favorite spot to dive into a dish of noodles with your family or just a few friends. If you need something fast and guaranteed to please your picky eater you can never go wrong with Italian food. Pizza Express and Ask Italian are just two restaurants to add to your list when making your way through the sights of the city.
Hamley’s is a London institution and a must-stop on any trip. Floor after floor will capture your child’s imagination (and your wallet) as they discover toys not found back home, as well as a few old friends like Thomas the Tank Engine and Barbie. Get your picture taken with the Queen, or at least the LEGO version of her, and test out some of the best selling toys, including a car that can drive up a wall. Make your way to Covent Garden and SoHo to pick up a few fun and unique trinkets to take home. Adorable kids’ clothes, toys imported from Japan and great travel gifts can be found just around the corner from the National Gallery.
The Science Museum and Natural History Museum are a must for any pint-sized explorer. Walk through the automotive history of England on the ground floor of the Science Museum or hop in a jet on the top floor. Discover dinosaurs and volcanoes through a terrific kids’ program at the Natural History Museum. The best part about museums in London is that most are free. If you have five hours, or maybe just one, to look around, you won’t feel rushed to take it all in. You can make several visits to really get to know the museums and find your favorites. This also gives mom and dad a chance to sneak into the (not so thrilling for kids) National Gallery, whose walls hold a world-renown art collection that even your kids can stand if you give them the right tools — aka a scavenger hunt!
If you are a fan of the Disney movie Mary Poppins then you can not miss a trip to Portobello Road Market. This iconic shopping spot may not be covered in soot and books you can pick up for a pence, but you will find a few fabulous vintage frocks, decadent baked goods, antiques and more to take home with you. For a bit more highbrow, but equally fun experience head to the market in Covent Garden and the adjacent Jubilee Market. The latter is a bit more of a tourist trinket dive, but you can find some cheap souvenirs to take home and mulled wine on a cold winter’s day. Covent Garden hosts the Apple Market where you can score jewelry, paintings, photographs and clothing made and sold by local artists. Don’t be afraid to haggle a little bit, especially if you can pay cash.
The city slogan, “See the world. Visit London,” isn’t kidding. You really can get a great taste of the world through just one trip to England’s capital. From food to shops, markets to museums you can never go wrong with a trip to London with the kids. A city where cultures collide, educational fun is at your fingertips and new toys are just a flight away may have you wishing you could stay just a few days longer.
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