A friend of mine came to me for advice on his next family trip. Without hesitation, I recommended he travel to London.
He had a few questions, so I thought it would be good to share some of my answers, as it helped him make a decision and I hope to intrigue you to make the same.
If you’ve been, there is no reason not to come back, because each time you travel to London there is always more to see and learn.
Why a London vacation?
London is made up of 31 boroughs, all with their own distinct charm. These boroughs are all easily accessed via underground train service (the tube).
Central London is a place that you can walk for hundreds of hours and still find new things to do in London with or without the kids.
The energy in London is infectious, it just makes you want to embrace everything English.
This is best captured in some of the oldest and most traditional pubs in the world. In London, a pub lives up to its name, a “Public House”. This is where friends and family meet, and children are welcomed to join in the daily festivities of enjoying each other’s company and conversation.
London is perfect for families because it is safe, clean, and a perfect destination to soak in a great deal of knowledge from its proud traditions and the role it plays in history.
Anything special we should pack for travel to London?
There are preconceived notions that the sun never comes out in London. In fact, it comes out much more than we imagined. When it does, it’s glorious.
However, the stereotype does have some validity. It can be damp in these parts, so bring a waterproof jacket and lots of socks.
Depending on the exchange rate, travel to London can be expensive for travel, especially for families. There are, however, many options for cheaper places to stay in London.
With Central London being so easily accessed by public transportation, staying outside of Central is always a good idea.
We are currently staying in Hampstead, a village in the borough of Camden. It’s about 20 minutes to central by underground.
You can check our researched recommendations on places to stay in London from budget to luxury here.
The village of Hampstead
In a town like Hampstead, the family can enjoy an alternative side of London. One that is lush with nature, and sites not as frequented.
Hampstead is posh, but still has a deeply rooted village essence, which is very storybook. In fact, it has been considered an artist colony for centuries, with the likes of Robert Lewis Stevenson having lived here. This vibe continues until this day.
Accommodation options in Hampstead are also quite a lot more palatable in price, for what you get in Central London. Try, onefinestay.com and airbnb.com. For a true travel experience, stay in a room upstairs from a traditional pub, just like the old days.
There is the Kings Boutique Hotel, which sits atop the King William IV pub. A traditional pub, it has the quaintness and charm you would want in a village such as this, combined with modern amenities, of course, such as wifi and satellite television. The balconies are a treat, with views of the village.
Fun things to do in London
Go to Covent Garden. There’s always something going on there that the family can enjoy. There are countless street performers, shops, and eateries.
Get a space on the balcony of the Punch and Judy Pub and watch the energy that swirls around this historical marketplace. It’s London’s answer to the great piazzas of Italy, just about everybody convenes there at some point of the day, so join in.
If there are a couple of tourist sites in London, outside of the obvious, what would they be?
Day trips are a great way to see the outskirts of London as well as taking in some great sites.
Age of the Tudors
Hampton Court Palace was the greatest palace in the Age of the Tudors. Beautiful and opulent, there is a lot of history to gather in this one place. Imagine yourselves walking alongside the likes of King Henry VIII or King William III and Queen Mary II. Enjoy the grounds that rival France’s Versailles, and walk through the topiary maze that dates back centuries.
For an amazing tour, book with Context travel. They specialize in private and small group tours and their docents are all blue badge guides (highest ranking in the UK) and are always friendly and knowledgeable. Our docent was like a history book you did not want to close.
Oxford University is the oldest academic institution in England. It has graduated more Prime Ministers than any other University and has housed some of the most renowned names in literary history, which include the likes of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde just to name a few.
38 Colleges make up the University of Oxford
38 different colleges make up the University of Oxford, the most prominent being Christ Church, where its dining hall is the inspiration behind the one in the Harry Potter Films.The town is also bustling and quite beautiful. A touring company, named
The town is also bustling and quite beautiful. A touring company, named City Wonders offers a great tour of the University, highlighting some of the most prestigious colleges. We had a guide that was a great storyteller, and she kept Bailey interested throughout.
As an extra, if you can catch a football match, few experiences are more fun. We were fortunate enough to attend a Chelsea game and Bailey loved the energy and the very funny, spirited, and sensor free chants.
A great experience, without having to spend a fortune, but part of the luxuries of the place, is sitting at one of the many eateries in the Food Court at Harrods.
If you are in the midst of sightseeing, our favorite stop is The Clarence, a traditional pub with an updated aesthetic inside. They serve up some of the best roasts in town. It’s also well located, between Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square.
(note: Caz’s brother was once the manager of this pub. Many Aussies have served on the bar here!)
What’s the best place for dinner in London?
For an adult night out, we recommend trying to book a table at St. John at Smithfield. It’s been rated as one of the top London restaurants in the world for years, and it will make you a believer in more adventurous offal based offerings.
For a family night out, go to the Spitalfield Market area where there is lots of energy and no shortage of eateries in many different price points.
In Hampstead Village, there is the historic Holly Bush. It is a very kid friendly and dog-friendly environment. Eat in the pub area (there is a more formal dining room available) and try to grab a table near the fireplace.
Enjoy wonderful sharing platters of British favorites such as sausage rolls, scotch eggs, cured duck, ham, country bread, and, of course, chips (fries). The beer selection is wonderful, but not nearly as wonderful as the charm of the place and the neighborhood crowd that fills it.
What’s the best way to have a budget friendly day in London?
One of the best budget things about travel to London is that the National Museums are free. They are also some of the most beautiful.
This list includes – The British Museum, The British Library, The National Gallery, The Tate Modern, The Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum, just to name a few.
Insider Tips for London
Buy something called an oyster card while there. You can put any nominal value that you’d like in it. It is easy to refill if you need to.
This card facilitates your daily transport and is an accepted form of payment for all systems, underground and otherwise. There is a charge for the card, which is refundable when you are done using it, along with any cash that may have remained in it. It saves a lot of time rather than purchasing single tickets.
London is a safe city, but extra precaution while traveling is never a bad idea. Money belts are always a good idea. They have come a long way from where they started, there are high tech one’s that are unintrusive. A company named, Amphipod, makes a good one.
Taxis are quite expensive. However, if there are three or more passengers, it may be the best way to get to your door from Heathrow Airport. It may cost you less and without hassle as opposed to taking the Heathrow Express.
Is there one thing we should bring home from London?
Memories that will last a lifetime!
Plan your trip to London
Accommodation in London
- Booking.com has over 2,500 properties in London including hotels, apartments, and guesthouses. You get free cancelation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.
Flights to London
- Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).
Car Rental in London
- RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.