By Samai Haider
Published in ICE Today – Issue: May 2006
London is a city packed with attractions which beckon people from all walks of life. There are so many things to do in London that you will only be able to scratch the surface with a few days’ visit. Here’s a quick guide on how to make the best of your trip when traveling with younger family members.
Photos: Samai Haider
London is a cosmopolitan city renowned for its history and culture. After midnight the city comes alive in the bars, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs. Sightseeing in London generally involves the red telephone boxes. doubledecker buses, museums, art galleries, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, London Bridge and of course a heavy dose of shopping. But a lot of the places on your list might turn out to be a complete bore for children. To give them a fun trip, consider visiting the following spots.
THE BRITISH MUSEUM
Housed in one of Britain’s architectural landmarks, the museum’s collection is one of the finest in existence, spanning two million years of human history Travel back to the Egyptian era and intrigue the children with the mummies, or give them a crash course in the appreciation of art. The museum promises to hold parents and children alike spellbound for the better part of the day. And the best part: entry is free!
THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
From microscopic slides to mammoth skeletons, the museum is home to the largest and most important natural history collection in the world. The interactive displays along with the layout is enough to captivate your child’s imagination. A trip to the museum is sufficient to kindle the kids’ curiosity in the life sciences.
Tom Cruise, Mahatma Gandhi, George Bush, Pele and the Rock all under one roof? This is only possible at Madam Tussauds, the famous wax museum. It’s the closest most people will probably come in contact with their idols. It includes impressive themed entertainments to imaginative use of state-of-the-art technology to wow the thousands who throng its halls every day.
You can’t miss the London Planetarium which offers star shows and has two interactive zones. If you want to know about the solar system it’s a very educational visit. The shows normally last under 15 minutes. Children under 5 are not allowed-you should check before travelling.
Situated in central London, it commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar. The square is a popular site for political demonstrations. Surrounded by impressive sculptures, the square is a lovely place to chill, especially by the water fountains. IT’s simple yet relaxing. Buy a packet of bird food for the pigeons. The children will get a kick out of it.
THE TOWER OF LONDON
The Tower of London is London’s oldest and most popular attraction, most famous for the Crown Jewels. Other attractions include the Royal Armouries, the White Tower Traitors’ Gate and the black ravens. If you happen to be in London during Halloween, be sure to avail the special tour of the tower; it promises to be a spooky experience.
THE LONDON DUNGEONS
The London Dungeons may best be described as a museum of simulated horror from history, recalling events of atrocities from past. You can journey back to darker side of European history. With over forty exhibits it is not recommended for those of a nervous disposition. But it’s a must see if you are traveling with teenagers keen on all things creepy. The museum has a wide variety of attractions including up to date multi media displays. You can experience walking down a Victorian street to unravel the terrible truth about Jack the Ripper or see how terrible punishments were carried out such as beheading, boiling or drowning.
The London Zoo is one of the world’s oldest zoos. Meeting the demands of modern times. the Zoo now keeps fewer species in animal friendly environments and focuses on education and conservation. Including the Web of Life (consisting of 65 animal exhibitions), the Aquarium and Children’s Zoo, it is well worth a visit.
Here you can encounter many colourful and tropical fish-even sharks! You will be surprised to see so many different colours, shapes and sizes. The Coral Reef display gives a close-up view of the natural environment of tropical fish and corals.
THE TOWER BRIDGE
The Tower Bridge is a must see for all children who grew up to the rhyme ‘London Bridge is falling down’. It’s possible to take a stroll over the bridge and enjoy the wonderful view of the river. The Tower Bridge Experience offers you the opportunity to see the bridge from the inside and to get to know all about Tower Bridge’s history.
HAMLEY’S TOY STORE
Hamley’s has become as much a London attraction as Buckingham Palace or The British Museum. Nowhere is the magic of childhood so precisely captured. To this day it’s still the biggest toyshop in the world. The magical flagship store on Regent Street has over 7 floors packed full of toys and games, with live and interactive demonstrations. Starting from stuffed teddies and gaming software to miniature collections, Hamley’s has it all. This store will leave the children enthralled and the adults aren’t free from its effects either.
For its size London is one of the greenest city in the world, wherever you are in the capital, there’s always a park or garden nearby. Between visits to busy shopping streets and museums, give yourself a break. Whether you’re looking for some wild space where you can go horse riding, or you just want a deck chair for sunbathing, London is sure to have the ‘kind of green’ that you need. For a quiet day with the family, you could pop over to many of the parks that dot the city for an impromptu picnic.
Hyde Park London’s most famous park. Go boating on the Serpentine, ride a horse, rent a pair inlines or get yourself heard at Speaker’s Corner.
Kensington Gardens Just next to Hyde Park lie the beautiful Kensington Gardens. Pop in to the Orangery for your afternoon tea, visit the Serpentine Gallery for the latest art exhibition and watch the model boats in the Round Pond.
St James’s Park Popular amongst Londoners, St James’s Park houses a bird sanctuary, a playground and a cafe. It also offers a stunning view of Buckingham Palace.
Green Park Green Park is squeezed in between Hyde Park and St James’s Park, close to Buckingham Palace. It includes the Diana Princess of Wales memorial walk. Stroll around or take a nap in one of the deckchairs.
Greenwich Park This is the spot for a history lesson. Visit the Royal Observatory, the Queen’s House, the Old Royal Naval College and Ranger’s House. When you get tired, sit down and admire the view.
These are but a few spots that are children friendly. There are numerous other sights you can take your kids to – the list goes on. London has something for everybody, children, families, backpackers, students – you name it and London will have some form of entertainment in store for you.