Top Ten London Days Out

The inspiration behind our London Adventure Walks Book and our Adventure Walks London Map was to pick out new and exciting ways to explore the city with kids. 

We've picked out ten of our favourite ways to have a good time in London: 

1.  Climb aboard a Thames clipper boat, speed up the river to Greenwich and the newly restored Cutty Sark, once the fastest tea clipper in the world. Picnic in the park and then straddle time at the Greenwich  Meridian and star gaze at the Harrison Planetarium before racing down Greenwich Hill to the market and dare to pick up a pot of jellied eels or pie and mash at Goddards - traditional London street food. Spook yourself by walking under the Thames  through the Greenwich foot tunnel, the entrance is just by the Cutty Sark. Pick up the space age Dockland Light Railway back to the city on the other side of the river

2.  Pull on some rubber gloves and head down to the shores of The Thames at low tide to sea what treasures you can find with some good old fashioned mudlarking. Try the patch below the Millennium Footbridge that runs between St Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern.  Keep an eye on the tide in comes in very fast and it is possible to get caught out. Check out the tide on the Thames Tide Tables.  When you've found enough treasure, follow the Thames Path east along the riverside towards the Tower of London and see more of London's treasure - the Crown Jewels.

3.  March with the soldiers at the Changing of the Guard (every other day in winter, on even dates of October 2, 4, 6 etc) at 11 am. The best place to start is at Horse Guards at about 10.30am and get up close to the gleaming horses before running through St James's Park and out by Wellington Barracks to catch the soldiers as they cross the road to the Palace.  Follow the marching band of soldiers up the Mall to St James's Palace, and take your picture with the Guards.  Reward yourself in the upstairs Parlour at Fortnum and Mason, the Queen's Grocer, on Piccadilly with a great big Knickerbocker Glory. 

4.  Be a tourist for the day and take in London's famous landmarks. Start at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster and and gaze up at the biggest four-faced clock in the world (the minute hand is the length of a black cab).  Listen out for Big Ben, London's second largest bell (the largest is Big Tom at St Paul's Cathedral) to chime before heading down round the corner to a child sized piece of history at the 14th Century Jewel Tower.  It is a rare survivor of the fire that destroyed the medieval Palace of Westminster in 1834.  Walk up Whitehall to the centre of London:  Trafalgar Square.  Look for the official plaque under the statue of Charles I at the top of Whitehall.  Explore the lions and admire Nelson's column.   Nip into the National  Gallery to see the spooky Hans Holbein painting, The Ambassadors.  Room 4, level 2.  In the foreground is the distorted image of a skull, symbol of mortality. Look at the painting from the right edge of the picture until the skull comes into focus.  Nip into China Town for some Dim Sum.  One of our favourites is New World on Gerrard Place, behind Leicester Square tube.

5.  Climb to the top of Parliament Hill with a kite tucked under your arm for fantastic breezy views, the second highest point in London.  Pick out the silhouettes of famous buildings on the sky line.  Fly your kite and then stride out across the Heath, favourite walking spot of poet John Keats.  Play in the woods and build a shelter of sticks and leaves with your kids.  Treat yourself to a cup of tea and a bun at the Kenwood House café.  Inside is an impressive collection of art by Greats such as 
Turner, Reynolds and Gainsborough if you can persuade anyone to go and have a look with you. 

6.  Walk along the Regent’s Canal from Angel Islington, site of the longest tunnel on the canal, and head east to the bustle and charm of Broadway Market, one of London’s coolest food and vintage markets, Saturday mornings only.  Drink a fresh coffee and brace yourself for a swim in the London Fields Lido across the park in London’s biggest and best heated outdoor pool.

7.  Get yourself a certificate for climbing the 311 steps of The Monument, the world’s tallest stone column, in the City of London.  Flame topped and looming large at the end of Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire of London famously started in 1666, it was built by Sir Christopher Wren to commemorate the horror of the fire.  Rewardingly great views of the City from the top.  Wend your way through the city’s narrow streets to St Paul’s Cathedral, Wren’s masterpiece, and the Whispering Gallery high up in the great dome.  Race across the Millennium Foot Bridge to the free and wonderful Tate Modern and take the lift to the café for one of the best free river views of London.  There is always something free and fantastic in the Turbine Hall so make sure you make a detour to it.

8.  Pack a picnic, an Indian headdress and a pirate hat and take the tube to Queensway and Kensington Gardens, the place where J.M. Barrie was inspired to write the Peter Pan stories for the Llewelyn children (the fictional Darling family) who played there.  The Princess Diana Playground is a delight for younger children, conveniently complete with other Pan-ish accessories such as a vast wooden Pirate ship and rows of teepees.  Row a boat on the Serpentine and seek out the Peter Pan statue at the far end of the Gardens.  The Orangery at Kensington Palace, Queen Victoria’s childhood home, is a good place to end up for a posh afternoon tea of cucumber sandwiches.  

9.  Grab your bikes and get the wind in your hair on the Wombles Bike Ride on Wimbledon Common. A seven mile, predominately off road trail that takes you round the Common and around Richmond Park, one of the best bike rides in London.  End the day worn out and happy.

10.  Brick Lane is fast becoming the hippest place in London.   With a history of being the entry point of London’s immigrants, from the Hugenots in the 17th Century to Bangaldeshi’s in the 20th Century, Brick Lane has morphed itself into the epitome of all that is great about multicultural London.  Teenagers will love the achingly cool market stalls at weekends and the Banksy graffitti.  A 1950s style All Star Lanes Bowling alley is a good distraction, but one of our favourite things is the meticulously recreated 17th century house on Folgate Street, Dennis Sever’s House.  A haunting time travelling trip, open on Sunday afternoons and some evenings.  One of the best streets to walk up is Fournier Street, cutting through from Brick Lane to Spitalfields Market, with its grand houses shuttered from the outside, French style.  
Treat the kids to ice creams at Patisserie Valerie at the far end, and treat yourself to something delicious from one of our favourite London cafés, Verde’s at 40 Brushfield Street, owned by the writer Jeanette Winterson.  


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