How to plan the ultimate family trip in London
There’s nothing more fun than exploring a city as a family… But, when it comes to avoiding bouts of temper and exhaustion from little ones, negotiating skills can come in handy. To keep everyone happy, a little planning goes a long way. Staying in a lively neighbourhood means easy access to kid-friendly outings and casual eateries where no one will mind if you tuck in with your fingers… Not to mention the cultural sights and gourmet stops guaranteed to tickle parents’ fancy.
Constantly in motion and packed with cultural and architectural sights, London’s South Bank is the place to be. Just across the river from the famous abbey, the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is a family-friendly hotel with comfortable rooms that look onto Big Ben. It’s also the perfect starting point to explore the city, whether you’re after the classic historic sights (just walk across the bridge) or the lesser-known hotspots. Start with a stroll along the Thames, experience the dizzying heights of the London Eye, then explore these six addresses for kids and grown-ups.
Stress-free fun for all ages around the South Bank
The Garden Café5 Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7LB
Decorated with wood, copper and lashings of greenery, the Garden Museum’s café opens onto an indoor garden with a view of the river. It’s a pleasing spot with a daily changing menu, rustled up from seasonal produce by the two young chefs. Cornish prawns with homemade harissa, free-range beef Wellington, cherry-blossom baba… Finally, a museum pitstop that truly embodies the culinary spirit of London.
For kids: Sea Life London AquariumCounty Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB
Come say hello to two new Londoners: Little Grey and Little White, two beautiful Beluga whales. Their new sanctuary is the latest addition to the aquarium’s rescue and conservation work with threatened species. It’s also an interactive paradise for little ones, who’ll take great delight in walking over the shark tank, looking into a manta ray’s eyes, or tickling an anemone.
Newport Street Gallery1 Newport Street, SE11 6AJ
This free-to-visit art gallery showcases works from the private collection of Damien Hirst. Solo artists and group exhibitions take over the vast, converted spaces of this Victorian brick building. Keep your eye sharp with Picasso, Bacon, Banksy, Tracy Emin, as well as young emerging artists. While you’re at it, give the little ones a chance to discover contemporary art.
For kids: Wahaca SouthbankQueen Elizabeth Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
At the heart of the bustling South Bank, tuck into tacos and burritos while watching boats glide down the Thames. Perched above the hubbub in some old shipping crates, this eco-friendly chain offers affordable, delicious Mexican cuisine. It’s popular with laid-back Londoners, who happily stop by for fuss-free enchiladas and churros. Parents, this is your chance to make an impression.
The South Bank’s brutalist architectureBelvedere Road, SE1 8XX
If you can’t get enough of concrete and urban landscapes, take the time to wander among the stark surfaces of the National Theatre and the Southbank Centre. These auditoriums date from the 50s and 70s, though recent restorations have revealed their full glory. Don’t miss the Hayward Gallery for its remarkable art shows, or Queen Elizabeth Hall’s rooftop for unobstructed views of the Thames.
House of VansArches 228-232, Station Approach Road, SE1 8SW
Young fans of skating and street culture will feel right at home at this outpost of the celebrated checkerboard brand. Much more than a shop, this funky venue packs in an art gallery, a concert hall, a restaurant, and of course, ramps. Why not book a class to finally get to grips with the back flip? If that’s a little too daunting, just drop in to admire the mad skills of London’s talented skaters.
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