Enjoy the long, late summer days and discover parts of London you’ve never explored before. When the commuters go home for the weekend, the city becomes a haven for happy, young families and tourists so join in the fun in St Paul’s, Carnaby Street and step back in time at the Museum Of London.
Destination: Carnaby Street
In the swinging 60’s Carnaby Street was at the very centre of fashionable, trendy London with chic designer shops selling far-out clothing, to gorgeous people probably wearing mini-skirts. Today, it has lost some of its retro charm, but, it’s still a cosy and easy area to wander around as the streets are narrow and pedestrianised with snug coffee shops and boutiques to explore.
Somewhere to shop!
David and Goliath… for funky babies
An absolutely great find… David and Goliath have a funky range of children’s clothing that is different and exciting from other brands! The Carnaby Street store is staffed by a bunch of refreshing, friendly chaps who provide an efficient and knowledgeable service and genuinely know their range of clothes. Some highlights include cool sloganed T-shirts, great hard-wearing play-dresses and the cutest bibs and baby-grows.
David and Goliath, 15 Carnaby Street, W1
www.chicksrule.co.uk, 0207 434 9804
Carry Me Home… for cute babies
This tiny shop bursting with hand-picked goodies includes clothing, wooden toys, all sorts of delicious pressies and baby paraphernalia.
Beautiful, frilly girls dresses are designed with co-ordinating capes and hair bobbles to complete the look. My favourite t-shirt features the natty slogan, “I like chocolate and so does my Mum!” It’s really worth a peep inside and you’re guaranteed to come out with something pretty for you or your lucky children…
Carry Me Home, Unit 2.9 Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, W1
www.carrymehome.co.uk, 020 7434 1840
Candy Cakes… the ultimate fairy cake shop
Probably the most heavenly cake shop in the world… if you have a sweet tooth and like pretty things to look at. Candy Cakes is a unique patisserie and coffee shop, home to the best cupcakes in London.
The colourful metal tables and chairs sprawl into the Kingly Court courtyard and the atmosphere is something that resembles a crammed, sunny Italian kitchen rather than a central London coffee shop. The windows are crammed full of cheery cupcakes; its just too hard to make a choice! The children loved the vanilla cupcakes with bright cerise pink icing and heavily laden with dolly mixtures and other sweeties.
My favourite was the blueberry cheesecake, with blueberry-flavoured icing and a mysterious lump of cheesecake in the middle, served with an iced coffee… how indulgent!
Candy Cakes, Unit 6 Kingly Court, W1B 5PW
www.candycakes.eu, 020 7439 1199
Things To Do: Wizard of Oz
This is the fabulous production of the famous musical complete with a magical yellow brick road and all the enchanting sparkle you would expect from such a legendary show. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production stars Michael Crawford as The Wizard and Danielle Hope (winner of the BBC’s smash hit Over the Rainbow) as Dorothy.
The show features hit songs from the Oscar winning film, including Over The Rainbow and We’re Off To See The Wizard. Don’t be tempted to sing along! There are some truly magical moments and the sets and costumes are mesmerizing. Beware though; there are a couple of scary scenes which little ones (and parents of a nervous disposition) may find unnerving. The Wicked Witch of the West, played by a stunning Hannah Waddingham, is delightfully terrifying especially when she flies in from above the audience.
Tickets: from £25.00
Tube: Oxford Circus
The London Palladium, Argyll Street W1F 7TF
Somewhere to Eat: Ping Pong Restaurant
Try something different and you’ll be amazed at how much fun you and the kids will all have! Ping Pong is a trendy Chinese restaurant during the week, but come the weekend it’s frequented by busy tourists and theatregoers.
As a destination for children it is surprisingly good. The atmosphere is easygoing and relaxed. It’s a place to drink tea and share Dim Sum: little baskets and dishes of sweet and savoury snacks usually steamed, baked or fried. What’s so nice is that although Dim Sum is served quickly (great if you have fidgety children!) it’s easy to eat with fingers (great if you have any children!) But, it is NOT fast food in the traditional sense: instead everything is hand made from fine, fresh ingredients by the specialist Dim Sum chefs. You can actually see them in action which the children found fascinating. Do give it a try!
Colouring pack and crayons: Yes
High chairs: Yes
Baby changing: Yes, in Disabled Toilets
Atmosphere: Welcoming; and the happy staff are very efficient and kindly guide anyone who needs help with the menu.
Ping Pong, 45 Great Marlborough Street, Soho, W1F 7JL
www.pingpongdimsum.com, 020 7851 6969
2. Destination: The City of London
Things To Do: Monument
The Monument stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill in the City of London, 61 metres from where the Great Fire of London started in 1666 in baker’s house in Pudding Lane.
Building was completed by 1677 and it was a striking way to commemorate the Great Fire of London and celebrate the rebuilding of the City. In those days, it was the tallest building by miles… as all the others were four-storey buildings. It may be enshrouded today by gleaming sky scrapers and modern blocks, but it is still an enduring symbol of the city’s history and a great place to visit.
Climbing the 311 steps is obviously a bit tiring to say the least… but the views are brilliant at the top and not many people have been up as it was only reopened to the public a couple of years ago.
Prices: Adults £3.00, Children £1.50
Nearest tube: Monument
18 Fish Street Hill, EC3R 6DB
www.themonument.info, 0207 626 2717
Things To Do… The Museum of London
This is a great museum and as it’s free it’s ideal to pop in for a while, have wander round and leave when the children have had enough. You don’t feel you have to stay all day to get your money’s worth.
The building is arranged from Prehistoric times to the present day and the story of London is told through reconstructed rooms, buildings and streets displayed next to actual archaeological finds and treasures. So, the result is something that keeps little ones interested and inspires their imagination.
Have a chat on “olden days” phones including the gorgeous candlestick phone of the 1920s, enter the enchanted Pleasure Garden of the 18th century and dance in the little bandstand in the glow of twinkling lights and trilling music and try on the leather firemen’s helmet to see how heavy it is.
Arranged in chronological order, you can nip through pre-historic and hover round The Great Fire of London, before going downstairs and loitering in Victorian. There are some great interactive displays and actors dressed in period costumes often wander about telling tales of old.
Tube: St Paul’s/Barbican
Buggy lock: A safe place to lock-up buggies is available so you need not take the buggy round – although the corridors and exhibitions are spacious.
Benugo’s Coffee shop and Cafe:
Reasonably priced and tasty range of hot and cold food. For parents the best sandwich is the Italian Deli or the New Yorker at £6.75 including with two side salads.
In the Sackler Hall there are computers available so children can browse through the museum’s archives while you have a coffee and huge screens showing scenes of London while you much away.
Kid’s Lunch meal: includes a sandwich, any drink, fruit and mini cookie for £4.50
Baby changing: Yes
Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN
www.museumoflondon.org.uk, 020 7001 9844
Things To Do… St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s is one of the most famous landmarks in the country with its enormous dome and ever-present sense of magnitude.
It has to be said, that reaching the top of the dome, at a stunning 85 metres above the streets below, was a truly breathtaking moment. There are no lifts, just 530 steps. Some are wooden with sturdy handrails; some are stone worn down slightly in the centre and some are a clanging painted metal but although the climb is tough it is worth it. At some points you almost have to lean with the arc of the dome because you’re literally right inside the roof! When you get there, slightly panting, it’s totally awesome.
Stronger (and more determined children) will manage it. But it’s not somewhere to bring those who are a bit unsure on their feet. My four year old leaped up the stairs putting us all to shame! Do make sure you don’t bring lots of bags and coats with you as you will need your hands free to hold on to your little ones and indeed hold the bannister yourself!
A good idea if you come with another adult is to leave the kids with them in the coffee shop having a lovely smoothie or ice cream and then swap over. The climb takes about 15 – 20 minutes.
Admission: Adults £14.50; Children (6-18yrs) £5.50; Under 6’s free.
Opening hours: 8.30am – 4.30pm, Monday to Saturday
Baby changing: The Crypt
Family Multi Media Guides: These hand held guides are all operated by touch screens, so the children will love them even if they don’t really understand the text. You can zoom into pictures and fly to different pages with ease. Free.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s Churchyard, EC4
www.stpauls.co.uk, 020 7236 4128
Somewhere to Dine… St Paul’s Restaurant
Deep in the heart of the crypt at St Paul’s is the cool and echo-y setting for the Restaurant at St Paul’s. What sets this apart from so many other museum dining facilities, is that first and foremost it is a restaurant that happens to be in one of the most visited tourist attractions in the capital. It is clean and fresh-looking; it feels designed and cared for, the furniture is stylish and in good order and the service is excellent.
The children were presented with a colouring book and pencils on arrival and some bread to munch while they waited. The menu is ever-changing and offers a classy selection of hot food. There’s a Sunday roast, set daily menu, snacks and soups and the famous afternoon tea which is just too tempting to ignore.
The Traditional Afternoon Tea is £15.95. Dainty traditional sandwiches, nippy little pastries and an ample scone is served with plenty of jam and cream to smother all over.
Baby changing: Yes, in main Crypt toilets.
Ambiance: Stylish; lots of stone and wood nicely set apart from the jostling of the busy cafe which is adjacent.
The Restaurant at St Paul’s, St Paul’s Churchyard, EC4M 8AD
www.restaurantatstpauls.co.uk, 020 7248 2469
Somewhere to shop… One New Change
This is the City of London’s largest and newest shopping destination with a striking shopping “mall” on Cheapside. It has been designed by the architect Jean Nouvel, and it features both flagship fashion stores and unique one-off speciality shops.
The mall is also be home to one of London’s highest public roof-top terraces, with views of the cathedral and the London skyline.
Somewhere for a treat or two… Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe
This is a traditional, old-fashioned sweet shop complete with gleaming jars of cough candy, lemon bonbons and dolly mixtures! There are also lots of interesting brands of chocolate and boxes of pretty biscuits and fudge wrapped in neat little packages. Of course it’s not healthy, but a little treat now and then is okay… surely!
Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe, 35 Ludgate Hill, EC4M 7JN
020 7248 2741
Somewhere gorgeous to stay: Chancery Court Hotel
What a genuinely welcoming hotel! I challenge anyone not to fall in love with the charm and style of the Chancery Court. As soon as you turn off the busy street into the sheltered quad of the hotel’s entrance, you could be a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of our capital city.
All bedrooms are of a very ample size especially for a London hotel with spacious en suite marble bathrooms and comfortable easy chairs to relax in. Most of the rooms interconnect so you and the children get their own space and with plenty of White Company toiletries and gleaming white bath robes (with mini ones for the children!) it really does feel a luxurious!
Children Take Charge Package includes entrance to any London attraction, accommodation (2 adults and 2 children), Breakfast and Kids’ survival packs. This costs £269 per night (including VAT).
The Spa is enshrouded in rich, dark wood and cool limestone, fragranced with delicately scented candles and everyone wanders about with a happy grin on their faces. There is a substantial variety of treatments including special ranges for men and pregnant women. And, the exclusive double treatment room, the Harmony Suite, is ideal for couples looking for a quiet moment of “togetherness”.
Service: The staff are very well drilled and never provide anything but excellent service. No matter what job they are undertaking at any moment, all those we encountered stopped and greeted us with a polite “hello”. No wonder they won Visit London’s Gold award for Outstanding Customer Service last year.
Location: It’s close to underground and bus stops so ideally positioned. Covent Garden and St Paul’s ten minutes walk.
Overall: It’s grand and elegant and what a five star hotel should be like.
Interconnecting room: Yes, plenty plus Family Rooms.
Baby equipment: Highchairs, cots available.
Children’s pack: Lovely “survival pack” included in Children Take Charge Offer with map, London bus, snacks and drinks bottle.
Accommodation: From £199 per room per night (2 adults and 2 children), to include room and breakfast; excludes tax).
Chancery Court Hotel, 252 High Holborn WC1V 7EN
www.chancerycourthotel.com, 020 7829 9888