A Baby on Board: London Life as a New Mum is one of my favourite blogs. Gillian Crawshaw, the London-based mum of two little ones who writes the blog, seems to have a knack for writing down everything that I’m thinking in a funny and witty way that makes me smile every time. She puts into writing those everyday things that make you sigh and think, YES, someone else is going through the same things (and also ‘does this lady read my mind?’). I was so happy when I reached out to her and she agreed to let us know all about what it is like visiting London with little ones. London is one of my favourite cities in the world and I was so happy to hear it is such a wonderful place for kids too!
Here’s her take on London.
Why should you choose to visit London? Well, why wouldn’t you? I’m biased, clearly, but it’s such a fantastic and diverse city with so much to see and do. The London of my early adulthood (bars, pubs, restaurants) is very different to London now that I’ve had children (museums, parks and child-friendly places and spaces) but it’s lovely seeing it all over again from a different perspective. I’m so excited that it’s where my children will grow up.
Like most big cities, you get what you pay for when it comes to accommodation in London and there’s everything from hostels to amazing boutique hotels. As a city London is very spread out with lots of different areas of interest so it’s probably best to make accommodation choices based on what you want to see and how much you’re prepared to travel each day with children.
London is pretty easy for eating with children. Obvious fail-safe choices are the big chains like Pizza Express or giraffe that you’ll find all over the city, or sandwich/lunch places like Pret and Eat. The food is not particularly ground-breaking, but they are very child-friendly. Areas like the Southbank or Covent Garden are great as there are lots of different restaurants to choose from.
In the summer we love to take a picnic to the park. There are a surprising amount of parks and green spaces in London; here are my favourite of the best London parks. Marks & Spencer’s has outlets around the city with great ready-to-go food for picnics.
Also, it’s not strictly a London thing, but my daughter loves going to cafes to have a babyccino (frothed milk), which most cafes will make for you.
What to Do
As well as the obvious huge tourist attractions, there’s so much you can do for free in London. It costs nothing to see the outside of Buckingham Palace and then walk up Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square, or to see Big Ben. There are also so many amazing – and free – museums that children will love. Most kids love the dinosaur exhibit in the Natural History Museum.
The Science Museum has a children’s area in the basement with a water play section and there’s also the bubble lecture, which is a free talk that happens several times a day where the science of bubbles is explained.
We love the Tate Modern for lots of reasons, a big one being the Turbine Hall that’s great for running around in.
London’s public transport can be quite difficult to navigate with a pram (stroller); most of the tube and train stations are up and down steps with no lifts. If it’s an option, use a sling or baby carrier wherever possible, as it’s so much easier. Look out for stations with step-free access, which are much easier to navigate. Stations like Clapham Junction are a dream as there’s a lift to every platform.
The tube can also be really busy, especially during rush hour, which can be pretty frightening when you’re very little so go at off-peak times if you can. Busses are also a great alternative as they will often take you right where you need to go, there’s usually space for the pram, and you get a great view on the way. My toddler daughter loves sitting on the top deck of the bus. Here’s some tips on getting around on London’s transport with a pram.
These are some of our favourite, off the beaten path, activities:
For a trip slightly out of central London, the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill (with a giant stuffed walrus, aquarium, animal walk and views over London) is really worth a trip – it’s one of our favourite places in the city.
Crystal Palace Park also has dinosaurs and a working zoo.
During the summer, Somerset House has water fountains in the courtyard that children can play in.
The DLR (Docklands Light Railway) is a driverless mono-rail train in east London. If you sit at the front you can pretend you’re driving. Even most adults I know love to do this.
When to Go
In terms of the best time of year to visit, there are plusses and minuses to each season. As with everything related to the UK the weather is a huge factor (true to the stereotype, we are obsessed with it!). There’s no guarantee that it won’t rain every day in the summer and it might not be that cold in winter.
Summer is lovely as you can spend lots of time outside in the parks. In the winter you can see the Christmas lights on Oxford Street. Just off Oxford Street, the Carnaby Street lights are also fantastic and have included everything from giant inflatable snowmen to huge illuminated robins in recent years.
A HUGE thanks to Gillian and her family for sharing their stories!
(Most photos used are credited to Gillian Crawshaw)