Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How to Get the Best of London on a Budget with Kids! Part II

There’s no shortage of things to do in London with kids especially if you’re on a budget; there’s hundreds of free things to do like London’s amazing museums - the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, National Maritime Museum, and Ragged School Museum - where you can learn all about Victorian school days, and my personal favourite  - the Imperial War Museum - amongst a shed load of others.

There’s also a whole host of parks with perks such as Victoria Park with its giant slides, or St James’s Park where every day at 2.30pm you can see the parks pelicans being fed fresh fish. You can even go to the zoo for free at Golders Hill Park Zoo. Not forgetting a free visit to the iconic landmarks or a visit to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. All this coupled with the fact that children under 11 travel free on London’s public transport means it’s one of the most pocket friendly cities to visit on a budget with kids.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to do any of the above as we only had one full day in London so the children picked what they wanted to do before we’d even left Ireland. Read on to find out where we went, how much we paid and how I got on with 4 kids under 9 on my own!

Stamford Bridge

My 9 year old daughter Orla is Chelsea mad so no trip to London would be complete without a trip to Chelsea F.C.’s home ground, Stamford Bridge. I priced it on their website and it would cost me £19/€22 per adult & £13/€15.06 per child under 5’s admitted free of charge. For walk-up tickets on the day you visit add £3/€3.48 per adult and £2/€2.32 per child. I set about searching online to find a better deal and I found one on Virgin Experience Days website, £16/€18.53 for 2 adults so I purchased two of these offers. Unfortunately you need a UK address to book these so I sent them to my Sister-in-Law BattleMum, who kindly forwarded them on to me. Instead of it costing me £58/€67.19 it cost me just £32/€37.07; a great saving for just a few minutes research. On their website they advise there is a limit of three children per adult admitted to the stadium, but nothing was said to me when I asked for 1 adult 3 children and an under 5’s free ticket at reception.

Getting there was really easy - we used the tube and alighted at Fulham Broadway, a 3 minute walk from the stadium. As we approached the grounds a friendly staff member approached us and gave us free Chelsea scratch cards, and we won some great prizes like free audio guides for the museum, 10% off merchandise in the shop and a free guide book.

Included in your admission price is a guided tour of the stands, home and away dressing rooms, the press room, the tunnel, and the dug out with a self guided tour of the Chelsea F.C. Museum. All I could hear from Orla as we walked through the stadium was ‘awesome’ constantly repeated - suffice to say she loved every minute! The prices and products in the shop were fantastic, so much so we left with 5 bags on our backs full of branded merchandise such as socks that cost £1 a pair, pens for school £1.50, t-shirts £5, jacket £8, school bag £8, goalie gloves £5 - the list goes on!

Tower of London

We had watched a couple of documentaries on the history of the British Royals and the Crown Jewels in anticipation of our trip, so the children were really excited about visiting. None more so than Aoife - aged 9 - who brought a pink silk rose for her favourite Queen Anne Boleyn; she’s always had a fascination with the British Queens since she was tiny particularly the second wife of King Henry VIII.

There are oodles of things to do with children at the Tower of London such as a children’s activity trail, historical re-enactments, an audio guide with five different tours, children’s White Tower tour, Raven Master talks and lots more.
As it was raining when we visited we opted for the guided tour which commences every half hour. A Yeoman Warder - commonly known as a Beefeater - greeted us at the gate and brought us directly to the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula (St. Peter in chains) where he conducted the twenty minute tour indoors. 

My four little ones were mesmerised and hung on every word, especially Aoife when he pointed out Anne Boleyn’s resting place at the altar. As we departed the chapel the Beefeater advised us that Aoife could lay her rose at the point of execution on Tower Green as there’s now a monument there. We then joined the short queue to see the Crown Jewels; we’ve no pictures as photography is prohibited inside the building that houses the jewels. 

There were a lot of ooh’s and aah’s uttered from my children as we moved from one exhibition to another viewing some of the finest stones I’ve ever seen - of course none being finer than my 5 little Stones!

Have you ever heard of the Ceremony of the Keys? It’s the oldest ceremony of its kind in the world carried out every evening for the last 700 years without fail. Essentially it’s a 35 minute ceremony to mark the locking up of the Crown Jewels and the Tower of London with as much flounce as possible. 

Tickets are free but have a £1 booking fee and must be booked in advance online. They sell like hot cakes and are already sold out until March 2017. Just a word of warning though, it’s illegal to sell tickets that you’ve booked online or buy from any other source. You must be at the main gate at 9.30pm precisely and produce ID along with your tickets to gain entry; photography is prohibited throughout the ceremony.

For our visit I couldn’t book tickets online as they had issues with their website, so I had to call to avail of the discounted website prices. I paid £37.50/€43.44 for a family ticket - 1 adult and three children aged 5-15 - and children under 5 years old are admitted free of charge. Gate prices are slightly higher; you can also opt to give a voluntary contribution towards the upkeep of Historical Palaces which I declined.

Lunch in London

Photo Credit to A Girl has to Eat!

At this stage it was lashing rain so we bolted across the road to 'The Liberty Bounds', a Wetherspoons pub for lunch. It’s a lovely pub serving hearty pub grub at great prices which suited us perfectly. I paid £40/€46.34 for drinks and a selection of dishes for us to share, as the children couldn’t decide what they wanted to eat.

Sky Garden

Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden spanning three floors atop 20 Fenchurch Street. It’s just a 5 minute walk from Tower of London; you can see the building towering over the landscape so you don’t even need to ask directions. Consisting of two bars, two restaurants, a private dining room, immaculate landscaped gardens, an observation deck, and an open air terrace Sky Garden offers the best unhindered views of the City of London and beyond on a clear day.

I had visited Sky Garden with Sue in April when we got some lovely photos from the open air terrace on the 35th floor, but when I visited with the children the terrace was closed due to inclement weather. Tickets are completely free but must be booked online in advance. They have a policy of only 3 children permitted per adult so I had to book one of my children as an adult and I’m glad to say we didn’t have any problems when we arrived. 

Before you can gain entry you must have your booking details and adults must produce some form of ID such as a passport (photocopy is acceptable), ID card, drivers licence or a bank card, and children under 18 do not need to provide any ID.

London Eye

This really is a spectacular way to view London, spending 30 minutes revolving slowly so you’ve plenty of time to see and capture a photo everything on London’s skyline. I particularly liked the addition of the 4D movie which wasn’t there when I last visited, many moons ago. 

All four of my children loved it, and  Seamus was thrilled to see Big Ben from so high up. There are lots of ticket packages available so you can save by bundling other attractions with your London Eye ticket which I’d highly recommend it for an adult’s only visit, but unfortunately it’s simply priced too highly for me to recommend this to families.

I received one adult and one child ticket free of charge for our visit to the Coca-Cola London Eye. I paid for two children as under 4’s are free, and I didn’t pre book the tickets online so I paid the on-the-day price of £18.95/€21.95 per child, which was a total of £37.90/€43.90. You can avail of a 15% discount by booking in advance online. 
That was our full day in London grabbing the best bits in a few short hours. Do you recommend anything for us to do on our next visit?

Drop back next week when I’ll tell you all about our visit to Highclere Castle - known to millions as Downton Abbey!

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1 comment:

Eddie M said...

Grateful for sharing this post