Welcome to the first instalment in the London series! This is Day 1/2 and central London with a toddler.
In May, we went to London for 10 nights on a family holiday. Read this blog which I wrote when we got back with some lessons I learnt about taking a toddler to London! This was not our first time in London with Eric; he has been twice last year, but he wasn’t yet 1. This time was completely different for us all, a lot of fun, but a different experience with a toddler.
Here’s what we got up to on day 1 and Day 2 including Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Southbank and Boxpark Croydon.
Day 1 & Arrival
We didn’t get up to much on Day 1; we arrived late morning in Kings Cross St Pancras and headed straight to where we were staying. I don’t recommend the b&b (Crystal Lodge Hotel) that we stayed in at all. It was awful. It definitely doesn’t look like it does in the photos! I think it was also a mistake on our part, too. We decided to save money by staying further out so we chose to stay near Croydon. The b&b was awful though, stank like cigarettes, was so loud, dirty, and was definitely not family friendly despite it being described as such. we had booked for a whole of 10 nights though, eep, so we just tried to deal with it! we were only going to use it as a base, anyway, but in future I would definitely not choose somewhere so far out. we stayed in Thornton heath which is not actually too far from central London, but it is a little isolated. it is a train into London Bridge or Victoria, not bad at all about 20 minutes, but lots of people commute on that line so it was stressful. also, toddlers don’t like traveling much and it would have been a lot better if we could have got to and from our accommodation quicker and easier. so, in future, I would stay closer to central London.
Once we checked in and dumped our luggage we went back in central London and got the train to London Victoria. We checked out Buckingham Palace, because, how can you not?
Eric had been either traveling, or in the sling from around 8am; he was due a run around so across the road he enjoyed exploring Green Park.
This walk into Piccadilly Circus from Victoria is a really nice way of approaching the typical touristy areas of Central London, especially if you’ve never been before. Instead of getting the tube to Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus, it’s only a short walk from Buckingham Palace and through Green Park to Piccadilly; a really busy, stereotypically-looking London road. There’s loads of buses, taxis, people rushing around, The Ritz Hotel, Royal Academy of Arts, the flagship Waterstones; and you can soak up the atmosphere before reaching Piccadilly Circus. There’s always stuff going on at Piccadilly Circus, and you can choose to go into Soho, up Regents Street for a bit of shopping, or head into Leicester Square.
We had a little bit of time to kill before a reservation at Rainforest Cafe, so we wandered the streets in Soho and China Town… reminiscing and feeling nostalgia; we used to live in London for 4 years whilst we were students and had many nights out in this area!
I thought Rainforest Cafe was over-rated and over-priced, honestly. I know it’s going to be expensive, it’s in Central London and a famous family restaurant, that was to be expected. Yet I found the service to be cold and rude, not friendly and welcoming. It was so dead, there was not much of an atmosphere… they even told us that we “may as well have not booked”. We are vegan and I asked what options they had, the waitress was shocked… she looked pissed off, almost. She said, “what, and the kid too?” before going off to find out from her manager. They gave us one option: the burger, without the bread or the filling; e.g, just the patty (which on the menu, didn’t say vegan) and that would have cost £18. Each! No vegan option for kids. We all shared a bowl of fries and decided to go somewhere else.
Day 2 – Southbank
For Day 2, we wanted to give Eric the chance to spend lots of time exploring, and out of the sling, since the day before he didn’t get much of that. We decided on Southbank, it’s safe with no traffic and we could always end up at the Tate. We got the train into London Bridge and had a pleasant stroll down along the Thames.
There are nice cafes and coffee shops to stop at along the way if needed, boats to spot, bridges, walls to run along at, plus loads of photo opportunities.
The Tate modern is a modern art gallery free to visit and it has just opened a new viewing platform. We knew we wanted to go and check it out to see some of the best views across London; plus the Turbine Hall is a good little place for toddlers to burn off some steam.
South Bank is famous for street performers and Buskers, this guy was great and got everyone dancing outside the Tate!
The Tate Modern is huge, and you really could spend all day there… but impatient little toddlers don’t appreciate art so much at the moment, so we had to whiz through one gallery before he had had enough! We did manage to see *some* art though. 😛
The viewing level is really beautiful, I really recommend it as it is a new feature to the Tate and is free to access for all. You get a completely different aspect of London from up there. It’s windy, but totally worth it, and actually it was quite relaxing. Eric fell asleep!
It wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be up there, definitely take a camera!
There’s always something going on at South Bank. I say that every time we are in London! It’s true, though, there’s always something going on! Whether it’s a festival, a fair, some sort of entertainment, arts, music, drama, TV… This time we stumbled across a free festival; Under Belly Fest. It was beautifully set up and we were the only ones in there to begin with, so we had some drinks, snacks and a rest.
It was by complete surprise we found this, we had plans to end up at the London Eye but didn’t expect to find the festival. It was a good spot to sit and chill, anyway, and look at the view of the Eye.
There’s quite a few restaurants at South Bank with all, if not the majority of them family friendly. The South Bank centre, too, has cafes and indoor seating areas. It’s a good all-rounder place for toddlers. We headed into Westminster and took advantage of getting a Big Ben few selfies.
Exploring London on foot is my favourite thing to do. You’re never too far from a Tube if you do get tired or need to go somewhere far, but instead of using the tube to get around the very central part of London; try just exploring on foot. You get to see much more that way and it’s all very close together. In Central London, the tubes don’t even go that far between stops anyway, so you don’t save time at all, really.
From South Bank we walked to Covent Garden in no time, we planned to have lunch but it was incredibly busy; and Eric didn’t want to go in the sling so we stumbled across this quiet, old churchyard. It isn’t open all of the time, so we got lucky to find it. I love how there are so many green spaces in London so you can find a place to escape wherever you are.
The rest of our second day was spent deciding what to do for dinner, really! We looked around a few shop and headed back down south, to Croydon, which was near where we were staying. The Box Park Croydon is street food heaven so for dinner we treat ourselves to vegan Donor Kebab and it was SO GOOD! Watch the vlog to see!
Thank you for reading and watching the first of the London series!
Next up is day 3 where we went to Battersea Zoo. Coming soon. 🙂