We recently had a minibreak to London – 36 hours in London with kids, visiting attractions, eating out and staying in a lovely hotel on the South Bank.
With so many things to do and places to go, although London is an amazing place to take children for holidays and day trips, with so much choice, when planning, I sometimes don’t know where to start. For me, it can feel a bit of a task working out where we are going, when and how it all fits together so we don’t end up spending as long on the tube or walking, as everything else.
So with this in mind I thought I would share our 36 hour itinerary of our recent trip – as we crammed a lot of fun things to to do in a short space of time and where really impressed with the attractions and restaurants we visited.
We don’t actually live all that far from London, in Suffolk, I’ve worked there in the past and my husband still commutes now, so its a familiar city. In fact, my sons first trip was at just a few weeks old, when I took him up for the day to visit my husband at work. But, this is the first time we have done an overnight trip with the children just seeing the sights. Since we have just come out of lockdown it also felt a nice short break to do as our first of the year, taking advantage of the quieter city without so many tourists at the moment.
Here’s How My 36 Hours In London With Kids Went…
First up booking the attractions beforehand: One of the reasons I booked the trip was because my son recently broke his wrist playing football, so as he’s normally really active and sporty, he has felt pretty fed up missing out on all the things he loved the last few weeks. So with half term on the horizon I didn’t want another week of the same and thought there would be lots he could do in London to take his mind off it.
Buying Tickets To Cover Lots of Different London Attractions
The main attraction I wanted to take them to was Madame Tussauds. Both my kids are really into music, sport and films, so I thought they would love seeing all the celebrities up close. When I went to look online I saw that you can actually combine tickets with other London attractions and buy them cheaper all together. This was great for us, as our trip was for two days, so we could have one or two major attractions to visit each day and then slot in other things around it. If you go onto the Madame Tussauds website there’s lots of info about buying combination tickets.
What’s Included in the London Combination Tickets
They are called London Combination tickets and there are a lot of different attractions included that you can buy tickets together, saving a lot on the normal entrance price. As well as Madame Tussauds, there’s The London Eye, The London Dungeon, Sealife London, Shrek’s Adventure, and the Big Bus Tour. You can choose how many you want to include and buy them straight from which ever attraction website you are on.
One of the good things about it, is that the tickets are valid for 90 days after the date you’ve booked to visit the first attraction. We did it over two days, but you could even book a few and then use them over the course of a summer. I booked us three attractions – Madame Tussauds, Sealife London and Shrek’s Adventure.
How Do You Book and Download Tickets For Madame Tussauds, London Sealife and Shreks Adventure?
After buying the tickets online, you are then prompted to book your slots for each individual event. There is also the option to request that this is emailed to you as an online itinerary which I found handy, to then look back at.
I don’t mind Etickets, but I do find it a bit stressy sometimes, getting them off my phone, while juggling excited kids when you arrive somewhere. There is the option to print and there was also the option to download them straight into my phones wallet. For some reason this wouldn’t work on my phone, but that’s probably more to do with me doing something wrong, rather than it not working. Anyway accessing them when you are there through your phone is really straight forward. I just had to enter my ticket number and email address on the website and the scannable tickets pop up.
One other thing, when we entered Madame Tussauds, the lady scanning our tickets suggested I screenshotted them as she said the signal wasn’t great when inside, as we needed them to get into the 4D Marvel cinema event too. Now I’m not saying they will officially be accepted, but I think, this might be worth doing for peace of mind so you’ve got pics of them all if they won’t save to your phone like mine as they were happy scanning our screenshots after that.
Back to our 36 hours in London….
Day 1 Afternoon – Lunch, Madame Tussauds & Regents Park
We arrived at Liverpool Street about 11am and took the tube straight over to Baker Street. Madame Tussauds is only a five minute walk from the tube station and the area is also great for Lunch. We had lots of places to choose from that were family friendly.
Family Friendly Restaurants Near Baker Street
I had a look online before we went and the one that popped up a few times in my searches for family friendly in the area was Chick’n. My kids are always happy with nuggets or a burger, so a chicken fast food place would suit them well, but, don’t get me wrong this is no KFC. The decors really nice, still casual but more hipster London than fast food plastics, with industrial style furniture, neon lighting and funky prints on the wall. The staff were friendly (And patient when my two took a while to decide between all the different options!) and the food was great – really tender chicken, lots of different homemade dips to choose from and a bucket of cheesy fries that was my heaven. So all in all, a perfect pitstop for a quick lunch out with children in Baker Street.
Other family friendly restaurants we saw within a couple minutes of Baker Street station were, Bills, a Lebanese fusion that looked nice, and Nando’s. There were also lots of café takeaways nearby, great for taking a picnic to nearby Regents Park. After lunch we headed up there for a quick play too, as its only a five minute walk from Madame Tussauds and we were early for our time slot at the attraction. Obviously so much to do with the kids at such a big park, and we happened to walk straight into a great playground by the entrance we arrived at. The children then had a nice half an hour run-around before we headed back to Madame Tussauds. Just a quick word about your time slots, its not worth getting there early – On the day we went, people arriving were not allowed to enter the que until five minutes before their time, so if you are early like we were, I’d say its def worth going to one of the nearby cafes or a walk up to Regents Park, rather than hanging around outside.
36 Hours In London With Kids Day 1 Afternoon – Lunch, Madame Tussauds & Regents Park
I was really impressed with Madame Tussauds. I wasn’t sure if there would be enough to hold the kids attention after we’d seen a few of the waxworks, but they absolutely loved it.
My son especially was so into it from start to finish. He’s nine and I think the perfect age, just starting to get into sports personalities and music yet young enough to also really enjoy the interactive displays.
There’s so much to do and see, I’ve also written a full review of our day out as a family at Madame Tussauds.
Day 1 Evening – Hotel and Dinner on the Southbank
After Madame Tussauds we headed over to Blackfriars to find our hotel. I wanted one near the South Bank so we could walk there for dinner and then be close to the attractions I’d booked for day two. We stayed at the Novotel Blackfriars and it was great.
A spacious bedroom with plenty of room for all four of us (Iain came and joined us after work) The staff were really friendly and made a bit of a fuss of the kids on arrival. (I often find with my two, its little things like that they remember) The guy that checked us in, stood and had a chat with them about where they’d been and what they’d seen and then gave them both a bag of jelly beans which was very sweet. The room we stayed in had a double and single bed, with another trundle underneath.
We also had breakfast which was good, a pretty standard hotel buffet spread which we were all happy with. Another thing this hotel has though, which I thought worth mentioning, being such a central city location, was a swimming pool. Unfortunately because of Alberts arm being in plaster, we couldn’t go in, but thought that’s a nice extra to do with children after sightseeing and not always a given in a hotel in such a built up area.
After we’d checked in and had a bit of downtime at the hotel, we then went out for dinner. It was a simple ten minute walk from our hotel to the river. South bank is such a picturesque place to have a stroll early evening, and I think the place in London that most makes me feel like I’m on holiday. There are so many places to choose from to eat, and we found a great spot overlooking the river at The Gormout Pizza Company.
Gourmet Pizza Company, Gabriel’s Wharf
Its a lovely little Italian tucked into Gabriel’s Wharf with a relaxed, buzzy atmosphere and beautiful views of London stretching out across the river. It was a gorgeous sunny evening when we went, so understandably busy, but the service was quick and a great choice of pizza and pasta to choose from.
After such a hectic day, it felt a bit of tonic to give the kids the freedom to leave the table and go and watch the world go by at the river wall, while I enjoyed a moment of calm at the table, people watching with my Aperol Spritz. You could tell the dishes were all freshly cooked with quality ingredients and I was impressed, that even though they were in a prime spot on the river, they still has a children’s menu offer, with three courses costing only £7.50. They are open every day 11am till late and although we were able to walk in for a table, it was pretty early evening and they were busy throughout, so I’d recommend booking if you can – It looks easy to do over on their website – Gourmet Pizza Company booking a table
If you are visiting London in the winter Kirstie over on Mama Prada has some great ideas for wintery days out in the capital Top Five Things to do in London in Winter
36 Hours in London with Kids Day 2…
Shrek Adventure and London Sealife Centre.
On our second day, I had two attractions booked – The Shrek Adventure and London Sealife, both again on the South Bank. After a quiet morning at the hotel, I thought we’d get there early again, so we could have a mooch about again at a different point of the river. We found another lovely playground just behind the London Eye in Jubilee Gardens and as it was so hot and humid I got the kids giant slushies, that you can go back and refill which they loved.
We also popped in a couple of cafes right by the attractions too, for lunch and a snack in the afternoon, but I’d say you are better off going a bit further out if you can, as we found them both overpriced and not overly nice food.
What is the London Shrek Adventure Like?
Next up was Shrek’s Adventure. I genuinely had no idea what to expect when I booked this, and yet it ended up being such a highlight of the trip. To begin with there’s a bit of queuing, which made me wonder if it was going to be packed and slow, but what I hadn’t realised is that the lines are because you all go around the attraction in small groups, experiencing each part together.
The whole experience is pretty special – Like something you’d expect at a Disney park and although is based around Shrek, even if you’re children are not big fans of the franchise, if they like DreamWork characters I’d really recommend it. Basically after going on a 4d cinema bus ride you become part of a story visiting different rooms along the way with actors playing different characters from the land Far Far Away. We were in there about an hour an a half and my children were enthralled throughout. There’s then a room with lots of props for photo opportunities and a shop at the end selling lots of different DreamWork toys.
Last of all we went to the London Sealife centre. We’ve also been before when my children were tots and they have loved it at all ages. What I was really impressed with this time however, was the amount of interactive displays they could get involved in. We spent a good 2/3 hours in there and there was so much for them to play and do. You follow a set out route around the centre, which leads to all the different exhibitions with lots of space to see everything in the giant tanks. Highlights for my two were the victual reality chairs where they felt like they were scuba diving, face painting, stroking star fish and also a giant screen that they could play an interactive jelly fish quiz and computer game that they both loved.
Once we’d finished at the Sealife centre it was time for us to go home – After 36 hours in London with kids, we all left happy and tired out after our little first mini adventure together in a very long while. Staying overnight and treating the city like tourists abroad has certainly shown me that there is sooo much more in London than I thought, and so much left to do, that I’m already thinking about fitting in on our next trip back.
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