OVERVIEW OF LONDON: I have to admit that London was never on my Travel Bucket List but since we were heading to Greece we decided to stay here for 2 nights as a stopover. I immediately fell in love with this quaint charming city. It is so clean and welcoming that I didn’t want to leave. There are tons of restaurants throughout the city and on many menus you will see fish and chips, meat pies, and bangers and mash. There are many quaint English pubs where you can stop in for some ale, and most welcome families. The loud atmosphere provides good distractions for the kids and it’s an opportunity to experience a place where locals go. I wish I had more time to see the countryside and the next time I go to London I will rent a car and get out of the city for a few days.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM: The sheer size of this museum may overwhelm you if you try to see it all in one day. Since we had just flown in that morning on an overnight flight and were a bit jetlagged, we decided to spend about 2 hours here. I wish we had at least half a day to explore it. The architecture of the building is impressive and the layout of the museum is easy to follow. There are plenty of hands-on exhibits and wonderful learning opportunities.
- Open daily from 10:00-5:50
- Museums in London are free to the public! There may be a charge for temporary exhibits.
- There are restaurants and cafes to eat at.
- Make sure you go outside to the side/front of the museum to see how beautiful the building is.
CHANGING OF THE GUARDS: I think I could tell you more about what NOT to do if you want to get a good view of the Changing of the Guards. We spent a little too much time looking at the horses assembling that we did not get to Buckingham Palace in time. We ended up standing across the street with a view of the guards walking in and out but we couldn’t see what they were doing in front of the palace. The guide books say to be in front of the palace an hour early and they definitely know what they’re talking about.
ST. JAMES’S PARK: This is a beautiful park that we crossed several times as we explored London. The grounds are well maintained and labeled so you can easily find your way around. One of the most amusing (and a little odd) activity you see in this park are people feeding squirrels by hand. Although they are adorable, I personally would not want those rodents so close to my fingers. There are lovely ponds, gardens, and bridges with endless photo opportunities. This is a great place to let your children run around, stretch their legs, and maybe climb a tree or two.
LONDON EYE: I’ve got to start with the fact that I am not crazy about heights, but the capsule is enclosed in glass so it did not bother me even at the very top. This is the best way to see a 360 degree aerial view of London. There is usually a very long line but since 25 people are allowed on each capsule, the lines go relatively quickly. We had so many sites to see that day so we opted to buy a fast track ticket that moved our wait time to about 10 minutes. The ride takes about 30 minutes to make one full rotation. The views are breathtaking and it is a unique way to get aerial pictures of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Inside the capsule there are touch screens that show you what sites you are looking at and gives a description about it, which is great because the kids were more engaged when they knew what they were looking at.
- Open daily from 10:00-8:30
- Cost: A General Admission ticket (in pounds) Adults 23, Children (4-15) 17, Seniors 20. The Fast Track tickets greatly reduces your wait time. Also, there are several packages you can buy that includes the London Eye.
- I bet it would be a beautiful view at night!
- There are no bathroom facilities once you get on the capsule.
- Go early in the day if you would like a short wait time.
BOAT RIDE UP THAMES RIVER: When we go on vacation I always like to see it from different perspectives and viewing it from the water is often my favorite way. There are 4 piers you can get on and off at: Westminster Pier, London Bridge Pier, Tower Pier, and Greenwich Pier. The commentary was very amusing and entertaining, mixing just the right amount of facts and jokes. It was a beautiful day so we sat in the outdoor section and relaxed as we slowly rode to our destination. On the way we saw locations such as London Eye, Westminster, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and Tate Museum. After having walked all day it was a nice change of pace.
- Boats depart daily but you need to check the website because there are many departures and the schedule is seasonal.
- Cost: Adults (in pounds) 18 Children 9 Seniors and Students 12.60. If you purchase tickets online they are cheaper. There are also family packages that are cheaper.
- There are several packages that contain a boat ride.
TOWER OF LONDON: The Tower of London displays a dark, interesting part of London history. You can either do a self-tour or you can take a free Yeoman Warder tour that starts every 30 minutes. The castle has had many different roles in London’s history including being a prison, the Royal Mint, armory, and a royal residence. You must leave time to see the Crown Jewels, but be prepared to be herded through the exhibit along with a crowd of people. Also be prepared to get yelled at if you even try to take pictures of them. They had armor on display and torture devises (always a hit with my girls!) If you are a history buff then this is the place to go.
- Open: Tuesday-Saturday 9:00-5:30, Sunday & Monday 10:00-5:30
- Cost: Adults 24.50 Children (5-15) 11 Seniors & Students 18.70. There is also a family pack available.
- There is an audio tour guide that is pretty cheap and I wish we had purchased it since it would have told us more about the history of what we were looking at.
WESTMINSTER ABBEY: Every section of this gorgeous 770 year old building was more interesting than the next. The kids were fully engaged throughout the self-guided tour because they give you a free audio guide that tells you about all parts of the abbey. The audio guide allows you to choose which part of the abbey you’d like to learn more about so you have complete control over your tour. The abbey contains tombs of many famous people including most kings and queens from England. Being a former English teacher, Poet’s Corner was one of my favorite places. It is the burial place of writers such as Byron, Dickens, Eliot, Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and many more. The most memorable parts were when my oldest daughter and I would sit down in a pew listening to the choir music playing on the audio guide while we looked around in awe. She kept saying how amazing it would be to see a royal wedding here.
- Cost: (in pounds) Adults 20, Children (6-16) 9, Seniors & Students 17. There are also family packages.
- Tickets can be purchased online and that line goes much more quickly.
- Like most attractions, there will be lines when you get there. They move at a nice pace but you may want to bring something to entertain your kids if they get antsy.
- You cannot take pictures inside the Abbey. I was so mad about this while I was planning our trip, but when we were there I realized it was a nice change of pace to see people actually looking at the displays and not taking selfies. Pictures are allowed in the Cloisters.
On Our Travel Bucket list for London:
Victoria and Albert Museum
More of the Natural History Museum
See a professional play
See a production in Shakespeare’s Globe Theater
Go on the London Eye at night
St. Paul’s Cathedral
See a soccer (football) game