What are we going to do?
We’re going to have a classic London day – visiting a museum, walking past some iconic London sights and taking in a West End show. Since London is best seen on foot, we’re not going to take the tube or get a bus – so avoid a heel, pack a brolly and let’s hit the town.
Where are we visiting?
Start your day visiting the Wellcome Collection, an incredible museum of curiosities virtually opposite Euston Station. This is a great space to spend a couple of hours and costs a budget friendly £0 to get in. With a variety of exhibits and collections focused around what it means to be human – expect to see anything related to science, medicine, art, life, death and everything in between – it’s like a smaller version of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. They have an excellent activity pack for children called a ‘Young Explorer’s Guide’ which encourages children to interact with and respond creatively to the exhibits; activities include creating art around key words, using string to measure the size of the waist of the world’s largest man, lots of stickers and even making your own handlebar moustache like the founder, Sir Henry Wellcome. I mean, what’s not to like?
What are the highlights?
The Medicine Man room has a wide range of exhibits including a few alarming things that your children, if they love gruesome things, will adore. These include a ‘Dragon Chair’ (the stuff of nightmares – fancy sitting on razor blades anyone?) some horrific old school midwifery implements and one actual shrivelled very dead human. It’s one of those museums where you find amazing stuff like Darwin’s walking stick and Napoleon’s toothbrush and a travel chest from the first Everest expedition. The museum also has a cool café with lots of trendy London people having meetings about cool, creative things over chai lattes whilst you wrestle with your kids in the museum shop. I always think the shops in London museums are the best places to buy gifts and this is no exception – the selection of cuddly giant microbes would be perfect for the Science teacher in your life. Or indeed you, if you like that kind of thing.
What else is near if I want to see some other stuff?
If you wanted a mega whammy day and really wanted to ‘do’ this part of London, you could also pay a visit the mummies at the British Museum and afterwards, take a short walk past Russell Square to Coram’s Fields – one of London’s best play parks for kids – for a picnic and a play. And if an entire morning of museums hasn’t put you off for life, you could also visit the Charles Dickens Museum or the Foundling Museum, both also in the area.
You said something about a scenic walk…
From The Wellcome Collection, you can walk down Gower Street past the University of London, RADA and down to the British Museum. Gower Street turns into Bloomsbury Street which takes you right into Covent Garden. Here you can head down Shaftesbury Avenue and zip into pretty Neals Yard. Check out the shops on Neal Street before heading to the square to see Covent Garden in all its glory and having some lunch – see below. After you’ve eaten, walk down to Trafalgar Square, past the National Portrait Gallery and head down the Mall alongside St James’ Park to Buckingham Palace. You can then walk down the marvellously named Buckingham Palace Road, to Victoria.
I love taking kids to Mexican street food chain Wahaca, who do a fantastic ‘Build your own Taco’ kids meal-deal for about £6. Similarly, The Real Greek does a kids menu for £6.75 or for some yummy sharing plates, you could head to Polpo. Alternatively, you could leave the kids at home, forget this entire day and go drink cocktails and eat shepherd’s pie in The Ivy.
Now take me to the theatre, darling.
The best museums in London are free meaning you can spend a bit on seeing some theatre. For a family of four though, decent seats at a West End show can cost up to £400 – I’m looking at you Simba – so it’s best to hit the West End at key times when there are discounts. I’d recommend you download the Official London Theatre app for information about tickets. Throughout January and February, there are half price tickets available, and in August one child goes free with one paying adult as part of Kids Week. For same or next day tickets you could check out the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. Or enter the Hamilton Lottery online and cross your fingers, legs, arms and toes and pray to the Gods that you get two tickets, and then choose your favourite child to accompany you. We managed to get cheap tickets (£30 each in the stalls) for Wicked – a great choice for families – at the Victoria Apollo. If you’ve still got some energy left and fancy dinner, I’d recommend a sour dough pizza at Franco Manca in Victoria for a drink and a debrief before you head home.