Throughout 2014 we’ll be celebrating the little known places around the UK that help to make a great family day out. Today we’re heading to London with Tots100’s very own Victoria Wallop, who can give us an insider’s view into the best (and lesser known) places to visit in the capital with kids.
A guide to London…
London is packed to the gunnels with hidden gems, so I’ve decided to concentrate on one of my favourite areas of East London, which includes Spitalfields, Shoreditch and Bethnal Green. All these places are within walking distance of one another, or you can hop on a bus if you have little legs!
The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is one of my favourite London museums, part of the Victoria and Albert Museum it’s brilliant for adults AND children. I love the historical displays including the beautiful Georgian Doll’s Houses and toys of my childhood, my children love the many, many things they can play with. They also have fab temporary exhibitions, there’s one about Jacqueline Wilson coming up, which we shall be visiting as my daughter is a big fan!
The Geffrye Museum is one of London’s hidden gems. It’s a museum of middle class front rooms from Stuart times to the present day – small and perfectly formed. They put on lots of activities for children at weekends and in the holidays and the domestic nature of the rooms means that it’s accessible to children. Christmas is possibly the best time of year to visit, as they decorate each room according to the period, with paper chains in the 1960’s room, a magnificent tree and early Christmas cards in the Victorian room and dust sheets over the furniture in the Cromwell era room, when Christmas was banned.
Brick Lane is a fascinating street, which has been home to immigrants for hundreds of years. The street signs are in Bangladeshi, reflecting its current occupants. The Mosque half way down the street used to be a Synagogue and before that it was a Huguenot Church. There are great Bangladeshi supermarkets, but for food shopping, the highlight is the 24 hour Brick Lane Beigel Bake. Not only do the bagels taste completely different to anything you’ve ever bought from a supermarket, but you can also watch them being made at the back of the shop, so it’s educational too. Brick Lane is, of course, a great place to get a curry!
If you have older kids, visit Dennis Severs House. You need to pre-book and it’s open limited hours but it’s one of my very favourite things to do in London. It’s a stunningly restored Spitalfields Huguenot silk weaver’s house, but it’s not really a museum, more like stepping into a series of gorgeous paintings. Particularly lovely are the evening candlelit tours which run throughout the winter.
East London is brilliant for shopping too, with lots of independent shops and fashion market stalls in and around Spitalfields, and some fab little fashion, jewellery, vintage and graphic design shops on Brick Lane. Sunday is the busiest shopping day with a market on Brick Lane, with lots of delicious food stalls and random bric-a-brac, but there’s something going on every day. And if you do manage to come on a Sunday, Columbia Road Flower Market is well worth visiting. It’s a proper, old-fashioned London market with traders calling out their wares and bargains to be had.
To finish off, visit A Gold on Brushfield Street, the most perfect corner shop you’ll find anywhere this side of the 1950’s. It’s housed in a Georgian building in the shadow of a huge city bank and is an ideal place to buy sugar mice. And next door, you can get some of the best hot chocolate in London in a tiny, cramped, charming chocolate shop. After all that walking, you’ll have earned it!
Have you got any tips for lesser-known places to visit in London?