Kirsty blogs about her travels with her family in World Of A Girl. They live in London now, but they’ve also lived in Kuala Lumpur (she has written about raising her toddlers there too – stay tuned!)
She has shared her secrets, tips and go-to places to survive the British capital with young toddlers and recommends the best for travelers with little ones today on Dreamista:
Tell us a bit about your family.
We have a 3 year old girl and a 5 year old boy who spent most of their toddler years in London. We lived in Southeast London in a lovely area between East Dulwich and Peckham until our eldest was 4 years old. I actually grew up in the same area so I know it really well and have strong ties to the local community.
How does a perfect day out with your kids look like?
Start the day with breakfast at one of the cosy cafes in upmarket Blackheath Village. Then meander across Blackheath (a heath is a large flat area of grass) to Greenwich Park. Go straight to the observation point outside the Royal Observatory and take in some amazing views over London.
Next a quick walk (or run) down the hill to the playground or visit the National Maritime Museum which has a fun interactive kids area and lots of great exhibitions on naval history. For lunch, we’d either have a picnic lunch in the park or eat traditional pie and mash at Goddards just inside Greenwich covered Market.
With full bellies, we’d head over to look at the Cutty Sark a restored clipper ship and now a museum. From the nearby boat station, we’d board a riverboat up the River Thames towards Tower Bridge. Our toddlers loved being on the water watching the cityscape change as we sailed by. We’d disembark near Tower Bridge, walk across and take some pictures of the Beefeaters guarding the Tower of London.
Finally, we’d hop back over the river to Southbank. With child-friendly restaurants, world-class cultural activities,street entertainers, the famous London Eye and views over the Houses of Parliament, it’s a great place to spend the evening.
*You will absolutely need a stroller for this itinerary, there’s a lot of walking but it’s worth it.
What are your favorite toddler friendly restaurants and cafes in London?
Being the world city that it is, London is full of restaurants and cafes that appeal to families. Numerous toddler-friendly chain restaurants like Giraffe and Wagamamas are everywhere. If picnics are more your thing, grab a sandwich, salad or sushi from any mini supermarket or coffee shop and head to one of London’s fantastic parks.
If you’d like to get off the beaten path and explore an up and coming area, try The Levels in Peckham. This former council car park (complete with smelly stairwells) houses indoor food courts and cafes serving hipster favourites like sourdough pizza and poke bowls. There’s a fun – and rather quirky area where children can run around inside. In the summer, the car park roof becomes the famous Frank’s Bar with amazing views over the city and if you stick to the area near the entrance, there is lots of room for children to run around in.
What would you recommend to a family traveling with young toddlers in your city? What are some activities, shows, parks, beaches, museums and playgrounds that they should visit?
As a proud Londoner, I can’t do justice to all the amazing world-class activities that you can do with toddlers in the city. We have everything you can imagine and more, from children’s theatres to city farms, from man-made beaches to internationally renowned museums. Here is just a small selection of some of our family’s favourite places. Many of them in leafy South London.
Horniman Museum and Gardens – this spot is well off the tourist trail but very popular with locals. This free museum in Forest Hill, South London is set in stunning gardens and contains artefacts from around the world. The views over London are outstanding, the museum very child-friendly and there’s a small farm animal enclosure too.
Greenwich Park – I mentioned Greenwich before in our perfect day answer but it’s a great place to travel with toddlers. There are museums, river walks, traditional pubs and of course one of the best parks in the city.
Discover Children’s Story Centre – a fun and interactive children’s literacy centre in East London. There are daily story-telling sessions as well as indoor and outdoor play areas. You can pop in here as part of a day trip to London’s Olympic Park. Another great place to visit with toddlers.
London Eye – this gigantic observation wheel opposite the Houses of Parliament is now iconic. Our children loved going around and taking in the impressive views. You can see a lot of the city including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
Coram’s Fields- if you’re around the Kings Cross/ St Pancras area where it can seem very built up, there’s a lovely little park called Coram’s Fields with a fascinating history. It’s so child-friendly that adults are only allowed in if they are accompanied by a child!
Crystal Palace Park – during a stroll around this enormous South London park, you can enjoy the large playground, a maze, petting zoo and the famous dinosaurs. All for free too!
As a travel blogger living in London, do you know of any toddler friendly hotels? Or accommodation that respects little kids and their needs?
London is a very expensive city to visit. I’d recommend that families try finding an apartment on Airbnb. Look beyond zone 1 and try zones 2 and 3 instead. Most areas will have more green spaces for toddlers to run around in, great transportation links and you’ll get larger houses. House-swapping is also a great idea for saving money. We used to house swap away from London in the summer, so we know there are lots of house-swapping options in the city.
If you prefer staying in hotels, London has all the international chains. I’ve heard good things about the Park Plaza County Hall being very child-friendly. There are also lots of hotels in Greenwich. Stay here and be on the doorstep of one of the best parks in London with great restaurants and museums. It’s easy and quick to catch the boat, train or DLR into the city centre.
What are some cool one day trips one can take with young toddlers from London?
There are some amazing day trips from London. It’s easy to hop on the train to the hip, bustling South coast city of Brighton or the quaint seaside town Whitstable famous for its oysters. Enjoy a traditional British seaside experience of ice-creams, fish and chips and cosy pubs at both, although note that Whitstable and Brighton have pebbles and not sand. If you’re looking for sand, head to Broadstairs by train. Alternatively, rent a car and drive down to the lovely Camber Sands near Rye.
Castles are always a hit with toddlers and Southeast England has plenty of them. Leeds Castle and Hever Castle are two of our favourites. Hever Castle, the gorgeous childhood home of Anne Boleyn, has stunning gardens with water play areas and mazes. Leeds Castle is stunningly picturesque and is celebrating its 900th birthday in 2019.
If your toddler is fine sitting on a train for a couple of hours, it’s also easy to visit the historic university cities of Oxford and Cambridge for the day. Explore the world-famous colleges, museums, take a punt down the rivers and be back in London in time for tea.