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London Calling

Kim Gardner and her family have fun discovering the rich history and culture of London.

B

right red double-decker buses stream down the city streets busily making their way up and down, past The Shard, The Cheesegrater and The Walkie-Talkie, stopping to pick up and drop off people about their daily business. The buses are a sure sign that we have arrived in London and the excitement grows as we begin to explore this historical and cosmopolitan city.

Our base is the Hilton London Metropole, situated in the heart of London and perfectly positioned across the road from the Edgware Road tube station. The superior rooms at this hotel are some of the largest double bed rooms in London, making it perfect for families.

🔥Hot Tip: Kids under 11 travel free on London transport with an adult holding a valid Oyster Card.

History Comes to Life

Itís our first morning in London and looking out onto the city from our room, we see itís a clear winterís day. Today Iíve enlisted the help of a guide from ToursByLocals for a private day discovery of Londonís highlights, including Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace (and Changing of the Guard), St Jamesís Park, Big Ben, Tower of London, St Paulís Cathedral and a cruise on the River Thames.

Meeting us at the hotel, our guide gives us a run down on how to best use the tube and those iconic red double-decker buses. On our way we wander through the fairytale gardens of St Jamesís Park and the kids run free in the green open space. Continuing on with the tour our sons are seemingly glued to the guideís side for the entire day as she shares stories from the past and leads us through London, opening it up to us like a pop-up history book. The highlight of the tour is exploring the historic Tower of London, and entering the dark steel vault to see the sparkling rainbow as the lights dance upon the priceless Crown Jewels.

Our London time travel into the past continues for the next few days as we make our way around some of Londonís world-class museums; with no entry fee we can come and go as we please. The British Museum is a treasure trove of history for the kids as we learn about the old armour, weapons and tombs with mummies. At the Natural History Museum we roam with dinosaurs and experience what itís like to feel the ground shake in the earthquake simulator room. The kids enjoy every moment, soaking up all the historical knowledge without the yawns.

The (Kids') Dream

Meeting the Queen in London was high on our list, but so was having a selfie with Captain America or joining in on a battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Madame Tussauds is one of London's best attractions, with the life-like wax figures of the Royal Family, celebrities and the Star Wars experience, where we immerse ourselves in different parts of the galaxy. After all that celebrity spotting we work up an appetite for a sweet treat so we head to the nearest Underground station and take the tube to M&M's World.

The tube in London is easy to use and the most convenient way to travel around the city. Zooming smoothly through the subterranean tunnels we arrive at Leicester Square Station for a short walk to four floors of candy heaven at M&M's World. The smell of chocolate is in the air as we navigate our way through the store to the wall of chocolate, selecting from 100 different colours and flavours of M&M's. Walking off those sweets we head to Hamleys, the oldest and largest toy store in the world. The store is seven floors of toy paradise where the staff love to dazzle the kids with magic tricks and light sabre battles. We head straight up to the World of LEGO level where we discover life-size LEGO sculptures, including the Queen and the Royal Family.

“London Opens up to us like a pop-up history book”

London on a Plate

London is a city of cultural diversity. Throughout our stay we try to fit as much culture on our plate as possible. We enjoy the delicious English tradition of afternoon tea at The Wolseley, which serves hot chocolate for the kids and the best scones in town, and the Childrenís Afternoon Tea at Sketch London, which includes a take-home teddy bear. We also eat our way through the oldest fruit and vegetable market in London, Borough Market, feasting on its colour, tradition and fresh food.

Our family foodie highlight of the trip was eating our way around the East End with Eating London Tours, stopping at eight different locations for tastings. Along the way we discover some of Londonís best-kept foodie secrets, hear fascinating stories and experience a diverse culture through mouthwatering cuisine. We think this is the best way to see and taste the real London.

Getting there

Qantas offers weekly flights from all major Australian cities.



This article appeared in volume 52 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.



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