Over the past ten years, I’ve visited London generally once a year for work or for a stopover on an award ticket during vacation. I’ve become comfortable with the city and have my favorites so when my niece asked “can we go to London too?”, I said “yes”. I said “yes” because we were already on a British Airways award ticket which gave us a free London stopover anyway so it wasn’t much of a stretch to visit the city as I had Starwood points for a hotel redemption. So keeping in sync with planning a first time visit for a tween to London (taking into account all of the issues I dealt with in the Paris itinerary) here was the leisurely schedule for 5 days in London, the tween edition.
Day 1 – 1/2 Day London
Arrive St. Pancras mid-day from Paris on the Eurostar train, we would take a classic black cab from the train station to the hotel to check-in, drop bags and go explore the city (code for tween shopping). We were staying at the Park Lane Sheraton on Piccadilly (across from Buckingham Palace) which was a short walk (15 mins) to the shopping on Oxford Street. My niece had a set amount of money to shop with in London and having spent the last three days in Paris with no money (after spending it all in one day shopping), she was ready to go crazy! It only took one store to hit all the marks – TopShop! We spent about two hours and she was in tween shopping heaven (me, well I was in shopping hell). Luckily, she (I) found great stuff just as she (I) had in Paris. Spending all of her money at once meant I didn’t need to browse/shop again for the rest of the stay (woohoo!).
We then walked down Oxford Street to Wardour Street (Soho) to pick up chocolate, red velvet cupakes and have an early dinner at one of my favorite burger shops (sure to please any kid), Byron. Ordering burgers and fries, my niece went for a milkshake. Byron doesn’t quite make a small milkshake – they use six (6!!!) scoops of ice cream. My niece loved it all – shopping and burgers in any language, in any country is generally a home run!
Day 2 – Harry Potter Studio Tour
I think I was more excited to visit the actual Warner Bros. sound stages where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. Needless to say, the Harry Potter Studio tour was awesome! With a few original sets, original props, costumes, etc. it was a fun peek into the vast undertaking of ten years of filming and a love letter to the over 2,000 workers that made the films. If you are a film fan, like me, you will be in film geek heaven! After Harry Potter, we went back to Big Ben to walk back to the hotel via St. James’s Park. Walking through the lovely park, we saw the ducks, squirrels and swans. My niece had fun watching the animals before we visited Buckingham Palace which was much less crowded at night.
Day 3 – London Classic Sightseeing
As we (my niece) were sleeping late and one of us was taking forever (not me) to get ready in the morning, I didn’t plan morning activities outside of Harry Potter. We would find our late breakfast options, serving until noon, at Jackson + Rye in Soho.
On Day 3, we would walk across the road to Buckingham Palace (ideally for the changing of the guard but we missed it), then to Horse Guard’s before making our way to The London Eye and Big Ben. After our fast track London Eye ride, we would take a boat on the Thames to the Tower of London (we did not visit).
From the dock, we walked across Tower Bridge and down South Bank, stopping for lunch at Bill’s Cafe. After lunch, I tortured my niece by stopping in the Tate Modern to go to the Rothko room (free admission) as we had some time before meeting a friend in The City. After the modern art stop, we walked across the Millenium Bridge toward St. Paul’s in the city. Stopping for chocolate at Hotel Chocolat (one of many visits) we then met a friend for drinks atop New Change Mall with a great view of St. Paul’s. Dinner at Polpo in Covent Garden before a few Laudree macarons (we couldn’t leave Paris that far behind yet).
Day 4 – Shoreditch Street Art Tour
I booked Shoreditch Street Art tour as I’ve become such a fan since my Melbourne and Paris street art tours. My niece tortured me with the shopping and for the most part, this trip was all about her so I figured I could get one day (out of ten) for what I wanted to do. What a fantastic three hour tour with the occasional “are we done yet?” queries every 15 mins. You meet the gude at Spitalfield’s Market which is a collection of food vendors, shops and a market. After the tour, we went back to the madness of Oxford Street, stopping at Selfridge’s for couture chocolates and luxury window shopping.
Day 5 – London Transit Museum
The history of the underground and the classic red double deck buses was fascinating at the London Transit Museum. The museum was set up in an easy to follow path with the added benefit of a ticket to punch at each exhibit – having the interactive features was good for my niece.
We then walked to Harrods for food – super touristy but the food hall is fun and we bought lots of chocolates before having lunch and visiting the Ice Cream Parlour. Wandering through the streets of Knightbridge, we passed galleries, fancy hotels, high end car dealerships and even saw a Chihuly in the park! The quiet neighborhood was a wonderful contrast to the throngs of people we had seen the past five days.
Last Day in London
Our last 1/2 day was marred with rain, the only rain of our entire trip. We left the hotel early as we had a mission – get cupcakes! I always bring home cupcakes and chocolate from my London visits. The last walk on Piccadilly was just as we had started our week in London. It was early on Saturday morning and we had the street to ourselves walking to Soho. We would have breakfast at Cote Brasserie before securing the cupcakes at Hummingbird Bakery – mission complete!
London Itinerary for Kids
In talking with other families, they were busy early morning until late exploring the British Museum, Tower of London, taking the Big Red Bus, the Natural History Museum, etc. which worked for them. I didn’t want to pack in the activities which is why this is a very leisurely 5 days in London – Tween Edition. So stay tuned for more posts about our tween adventures in London as well as my other London editions – expense account, solo and first time visitor editions.