Over the August bank holiday we visited London with my parents for a weekend break. Prior to moving ‘up norf’ we had been to London a fair bit but it’s a 6 hour journey for us now; not so easy to do!
I wanted to share about our trip with you but in particular to focus on what we found worked for us as a family with two young children. As usual I have also put together a little video of our time so if you want to skip ahead you’ll find it at the end of the post.
We aren’t experts by any stretch of the imagination but here goes…
This trip was our first time using Airbnb and we stayed in the most beautiful house in Crystal Palace; for a fraction of the price it would have cost us to find a hotel suitable for 6 people. Honestly, we walked through the door and my mum just turned to look at me. She knew how much my jaw would be hitting the floor with envy. It was so knick-knacky and shabby chic but in that way which is authentic and seems to really work.
I’d have happily not left again at the end of the weekend. The hosts were lovely too and I was overall really pleased with our first Airbnb experience; I’ll definitely be looking to use the app again in future.
Being a little bit out of the city centre was a concern at first but it wasn’t too bad; we were about 20 minutes away from the nearest train station and then it was approximately half an hour to get into Central London. The only downside was on Saturday night when we tried to get back home, the weather was appalling which we couldn’t have predicted and involved a very wearisome and wet trek up a hill. It forced our hand the next day and we actually drove into Greenwich and parked rather than face another long walk.
Open Bus Tour
My parents suggested this and it was a great decision. We knew that we wanted to get some serious sightseeing done but needed to limit the amount of walking as neither Meg nor Eli would have managed a full day trekking around the city. There are oodles of companies who offer hop-on, hop-off open bus tours around the city and they are a great way to see landmarks and attractions at your own pace.
When the weather turned sour (which it had by the afternoon of day one) we could simply stay on the bus and play spot the landmark. Although Meg and Eli really enjoyed going on the tube, they loved being on the bus and being able to see the city all around them. I would say that this was definitely worth the money we paid.
On Sunday we ventured to Greenwich, in particular because of the attractions but we also decided to take a River Bus whilst we were there. A short boat ride on the Thames was included with our open bus tour but we decided to board a clipper as the journey was longer and offered more for us to see.
It was a real shame that the weather was so overcast as otherwise this would have been fantastic but it was still a great and alternative way to see the city’s landmarks such as the London Eye and Big Ben and the kids loved it. It wasn’t a designated tour boat, just a regular Thames Clipper river bus so was a fraction of the price but still a really worthwhile trip.
The main reason for us visiting London was so that Meg could see where the Queen lives; so we pretty much knew that Buckingham Palace had to feature on our list. As well as that, part of my day job is spent writing tourist pieces for London accommodation websites so I already had a rough idea of the attractions which would be good for us to visit. It would have been almost impossible for us to get everything done, having a 4 and a 6 year old in tow just isn’t conducive to getting as much seen as possible so we tried to keep things simple.
On Saturday we stuck to the major sights and went to Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London (to see the Crown Jewels of course).
The Tower of London was the most expensive element of the weekend and was a last minute decision. We literally stepped off the bus onto Tower Bridge, saw the Tower of London in the distance and decided to go, something I know is always a daft thing to do!!
I don’t know who was more excited about having their photo taken here, Meg or my mum!
Although Meg really enjoyed seeing the crown jewels and there was a wonderful am-dram performance (see the video below) which really captivated them, I don’t think it was worth the money. We didn’t have time to spend all day exploring each element so we really only scratched the surface.
It felt like we saw a lot of armour and not really much else although I have been before minus the kids and really enjoyed the day. I think we needed more time to dedicate to it but we had also booked tickets for the London Eye as this was something Eli wanted to do so we were trying to make sure we had time to get back across the city for that.
Once on the London Eye, it was a shame that the weather was so terrible as visibility was massively reduced (I am also incredibly afraid of heights so can’t say I am the best judge) but both Meg and Eli and everyone else really enjoyed it. I’d also say go along to the 4D experience which is included in your tickets. We were all really surprised by how much we enjoyed it.
On Sunday we headed up to Greenwich as I had a hankering to try out the market and to see some of the sights including Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum.
The National Maritime Museum was absolutely amazing for the kids. The ‘Ahoy’ section they have is just wonderful and Meg and Eli could happily have spent hours just discovering all the different interactive elements. It wasn’t too busy either which was good.
We wandered around the museum and had a look at some of the other objects and exhibitions before we headed down to Greenwich Pier where we caught the tail-end of the Tall Boats Festival before we got on the clipper as mentioned above.
Whilst on the clipper we got to see the Tower Bridge ‘up’ which was a nice little extra and not something you get to see every time you are in the city.
After our boat tour we went to Goddards at Greenwich for their famous Pie & Mash combination (minus the eels) before heading back to our cars and setting off for home.
Both days were really full on even though we actually didn’t see that much. I can’t imagine trying to fit any more in though; I was completely worn out, never mind the kids!
Overall we had a fantastic time although I wish the sun had been shining just a little bit more. We will definitely be planning a return in order to see some of the other attractions and landmarks we didn’t get around to visiting this time; there’s just so much to see and do that to fit it all into one weekend is really quite an impossible task!