I love London in the summer.
It’s been almost seven years since I moved from London to sunny Sydney, so it was nice to go back to London for a summer holiday, this time taking my two little ones and showing them around the fun, busy, buzzy and beautiful city.
London has it all, the history, the culture, the shopping, the nightlife, beautiful food from every culture imaginable and the most beautiful parks and impeccable views. I was lucky enough to have 10 beautiful sunny days to enjoy in London and reminisce the good times I had living there. There were so many things to do, places to go, these were the favourite spots I managed to enjoy during my visit, and any tips I have for those of you travelling to London with kids.
1. Visit London’s famous sites on a double-decker bus
The best way to explore London (also the cheap & easy way) is to hop on one of London’s double-decker buses. Nowadays most London buses are new, air-conditioned and pram friendly. London has a great public transport network, both underground and over ground, but nothing beats sitting on the top deck of a double-decker bus and stopping to see the sights – a fun game travelling on a bus with the kids is seeing if they can recognise some of the key stops of a Monopoly (game) board. (Note for those travelling with kids many of the underground stations don’t have lifts so you have to travel on escalators with prams, hence travelling on buses is also the better option).
My favourite bus route is to hop on the 139 bus (my old bus route from West Hempstead to Waterloo), it also goes through the famous Beatles crossing on Abbey Road, but in central London one can hop on the bus at Oxford Street (outside Selfridges department store), and takes you down to Oxford Circus, down Regent’s Street through to Picadilly Circus, on to Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden onto Waterloo, South Bank.
From South Bank you can then enjoy the views of the Thames, London Bridge.
There are so many great bus routes you can look up – visit Transport for London (www.tfl.gov.uk) for the best route to explore the sites.
Above: ‘Modern-day’ double decker bus down Regent’s Street
2. Visit the Queen – or at least see where she lives, at Buckingham Palace
When in London one must visit Westminster and admire the magnificent Big Ben. It is also nice to take a scenic walk from Westminster down Horse guards Parade to Buckingham Palace. If possible, try to time the walk so you can see the changing of the guards, which happens on the hour either at Horse Guard’s Parade or at Buckingham Palace.
Above: The changing of the guards on Horse Guards Parade.
The walk through from Horse Guards Parade through St James Park onto Buckingham Palace is very beautiful, it’s a relatively short walk, so not too tiring for those walking with little ones.
Above: Beautiful St James Park, which connects the Horse Guards Parade to Buckingham Palace, below.
Above: Beautiful Buckingham Palace.
3. Enjoy a picnic in one of London’s Parks
London has so many beautiful parks, on a sunny day in London it is nice to pack a picnic (and no British picnic is complete without Pimms & Lemonade) and enjoy the sunshine with friends and family in one of London’s Parks. I was lucky enough to enjoy a picnic in Primrose Hill (flashback to the scene of Bridgette Jones running on Primrose Hill), it has a beautiful view of London and has enough sunny and shady spots for those who like to have some shade.
Above: The views from Primrose Hill, a great spot for a picnic on summer’s afternoon.
Above: Hyde Park and a picnic by the Serpentine is another great location.
Regent’s Park is also another stunning Park, featured in many films including a childhood favourite, Mary Poppins.
We also enjoyed paddling on a paddle boat on Regent’s Park. You can hire row boats or paddle boats in Regent’s Park or in Hyde Park.
4. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of a London Market
London has so many great markets to explore, some of my favourite markets includes Camden Markets (great for interesting food, stalls with everything from handmade clothing, jewellery and artwork to eclectic and for those that way inclined, magic mushrooms ;), Portobello Markets (great for vintage brick-a-brack, homewear and clothing), Spitafield markets (great for art & craft and unique designer fashions as well as food), and of course, Borough Markets, which has amazing collection of food stalls from all over the world. Whenever I go to Borough Markets I must buy some smelly cheese and jamon, and have a chorizo roll from the Brindisa Stall. I always order the double chorizo, two chorizo sausages served in a sourdough roll with red peppers and rocket. They still taste as good as I remember.
5. Immerse yourself in one of the many iconic British Museums
London has some of the best art, history and science museums in the world. I could spend hours lost in all the breathtaking art work in the National Art Gallery in Trafalgar Square (my favourite spot is the top floor with all the impressionist art work), Tate Modern Museum has an amazing collection of Modern Art.
Above: One of my favourite paintings by Monet, the Japanese gardens at Giverny, at the National Art Gallery.
For those travelling with kids the Science Museum is great for kids and has a lot of interactive activities which are sure to keep the little ones entertained, the National History Museum is also great, and is conveniently located next to the Science Museum.
The British Museum has the most amazing collection of historical artefacts from all over the world. If visiting with kids you can always do a ‘fast-track’ visit, we took our son to see the amazing mummies collection as well as the Greek pathenon. Other great museums include the V&A amongst many others.
Above: The iconic British Museum.
6. Indulge in the cities culinary delights
London has some of the best chefs in the world as well as the greatest collection of cuisine from different corners of the globe, we definitely suffered from the Heathrow injection eating our way through all the culinary delights the city has to offer when we lived in London. For those visiting London, I’d highly recommend booking a traditional high-tea in either the Ritz (very opulent, classic British high-tea), I loved the high-tea at the Kensington Orangery (a more relaxed high-tea in the beautiful surrounds of the glass-ceiling building in the Queen’s Kensington Gardens, other great spots include the Dorchester and the Sanderson Hotel. Other favourite English traditions include having a good traditional Sunday roast with all the trimmings at a pub.
This trip I managed to book a lovely lunch at renowned chef Ottolenghi Nopi in Soho. After watching Ottolengui’s cooking shows for years and cooking from his recipe books I had to try his food. Beautiful food – definitely recommend it! You can either try one of his restaurants or his casual delis around London with a beautiful assortment of his signature salads and delicious desserts.
Above: Ottolenghi’s deli in Mayfair
We also enjoyed a few lovely dinners in Soho, including some beautiful food at Palomar, a taste of “modern day Jerusalem with influenced by the rich cultures of Southern Spain, North Africa and the Levant”, beautiful modern Argentinian at Zoilo and Social Eating House. There are so many great places to eat in London you will be spoilt for choice.
7. Drinks or Dine with a view (or get on the London Eye)
In the last few years London has had a number of great eating and drinking establishments in great locations with panoramic view of London. These include the Duck & Waffle and Sushi Samba, City Social. We had a drink at the Sky Gardens – which has stunning views of the city and the Thames.
Above: Cocktails at London’s Sky Bar
Above: Pre-dinner drinks with a view at City Social.
Pre-book a trip on the London Eye
There are many spots in London that have a panoramic view of the city, but to me, nothing beats the views from the London Eye. The London Eye is located on Southbank (minutes walk from Waterloo Station), and has the most breathtaking views of London. It’s only a 1/2 hour trip around the eye so a great to see all the sites (especially with the little ones in tow) and get some great pics.
Above: Spectacular views from the London Eye
Top tip – pre-book your tickets online to save yourself queuing in the long queues.
8. Catch a boat in London’s Canals or along the Thames
A lovely way to explore London is to catch a canal boat down some of London’s beautiful Canals, you can leave from Camden and explore the gorgeous canals of Little Venice.
Another great way to explore London is to catch a boat ride through the Thames. You can catch a boat from Westminster, along the Thames and view all the beautiful sights along the banks of the Thames and onto beautiful Greenwich.
9. Watch a West End show or Musical
London is a rich city in terms of culture and has the largest variety of performing arts, musicals and theatre to be explored. In my years living in London I loved to visit many musicals, theatre and dance in the West End, and I was so glad I was able to enjoy a classic musical by famous composer Gershwin, an American in Paris, with my sister Janice. You can buy tickets in many of the ticket outlets in Leicester Square, or even easier, there are many cheap websites online such as London Box Office.
10. Leave yourself enough time for Shopping!!!
Ok, so I may not have done all of the above things in the same order (Shopping may have been the second stop on my to-do list ;), London is still one of my favourite places to shop in the world. London just has the best department stores as well as boutiques (both established designer brands and unique up and coming designers) and its flagship stores are all set in the most beautiful streets.
My favourite department stores include Selfridges on Oxford Street, Harrods in Knightsbridge, Liberty’s off Regents Street and Harvey Nichols.
Above: Iconic Liberty London
With the Brexit, the exchange rate has been quite favourable for those visiting London. I also happened to visit London during the sales, and managed to snap up some great bargains (which I’ll have to share my shoppaholic confession on another blog post ;).
Above: My shopping partner in crime, sister Janice
For those travelling kids, you must take them to the best toy store (and one of the oldest) in the world, Hamley’s on Regent’s Street. And recently the Lego store in Leicester Square is another great spot to take the kids (my son spent a few hours in the Lego Store in Leicester Square ;). Opposite the Lego store there is also an M&M’s store that those of you who are chocoholics could also get lost in.
Above: My (and every British kid’s) favourite toy store, Hamley’s on Regent’s Street
11. Party the night away
London has an amazing nighlife. This time I managed to go to one of my favourite (& most gorgeously stunning) spots where I celebrated my birthday years ago and it’s still as Beautiful as I remember, girly drinks at Sketch in Soho. There are so many fun spots to party the night away in London, from your local pubs to partying on in glamorous bars in Soho or funky establishments in East London.
Above: The gorgeously pink & pretty restaurant at Sketch.
12. Day trips from London
There are many great places to visit from London on a day trip, both for those travelling with or without kids. We managed to plan a day trip to Windsor, which is a 40-minute train ride from London Paddington, were you can see Windsor Castle and visit to Legoland, popular with Lego fanatics of all ages – great Lego sculptures and rides – my 6.5 year Lego-addict son says was the highlight of his trip.
Above: Amazing Lego mini-city at Lego Land
Another great day trip is to catch a train south to Richmond, a cute area south of London with a quaint village feel. There you can also enjoy some quaint pubs along the Thames, or explore the nearby Kew Gardens or the beautiful Hampton Palace.
I ❤ LONDON
There are so many fun places to visit & things to explore in London, but sometimes it’s also just nice to stop at a pub, have a glass of pimms or a beer and chill on a sunny afternoon.
For me, my favourite thing was enjoying some sisterly-bonding time with my gorgeous sister Janice @londonadorais.
Above: Me (left) & my beautiful sister Janice at the Sky Bar. Wearing my new purchases (Dolce & Gabanna bag, Valentino shoes & Self-Portrait dress). Janice wears Preen and Chloe shoes.
Stay tuned as I share my highlights of fun trip to New York New York ❤❤.