When you only have 3 days in a big city like London, mild panic is a distinct possibility on your last day when you take stock of all that is left to do.
Walking by Whitehall
My advice: Don’t fall into this trap!
Read 72 Hours in London with Kids: Day 1 and 72 Hours in London with Kids: Day 2 to catch up on recommendations for the first 48 hours. Major attractions missing from our holiday included The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, The British Museum, Tate Museums (Tate Britain and Tate Modern), Covent Garden, the inside of Westminster Abbey, a ride on the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Churchill War Rooms, and a boat trip down the Thames … to name a few.
And, this is only the big stuff! Needless to say, even after 2 full days of sightseeing the list is overwhelming.
Neighborhood Stroll in Chelsea
Since we spent the previous days doing intense monument/museum-focused touring, we decided to start our last day with a relaxed neighborhood stroll and brunch. Chelsea is perfect for sightseeing downtime with an attractive high street, unique shops, and enchanting residential architecture.
We chose Bluebird Chelsea for our meal. It’s love! In addition to an upscale restaurant and bar, they have an indoor/outdoor cafe with casual, fresh and delicious food. I would imagine this turns into a vibrant adult-focused social scene at night, but in the day, it’s a perfect venue to dine with kids.
TIP: Engage in a neighborhood experience in London. There are so many monuments and museums to see that it’s easy to get caught up in moving from one to the other without getting a taste of current-day life in London. The options are endless as each neighborhood has a distinct personality. Favorites for me include Chelsea, Notting Hill Gate, and South Kensington.
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At this point we opted to visit Westminster Abbey only to find that it is open for worship only on Sundays (see the opening hours schedule for reference). In retrospect, we should have integrated a visit into our Day 1 itinerary. Westminster Abbey is definitely worth a full visit!
Many of Europe’s grand cathedrals are all about the past. Not here. As we learned during William and Kate’s recent wedding, Westminster Abbey is an active part of current-day worship and pageantry in London.
TIP: To fully appreciate the history and splendor of Westminster Abbey, go with a guide. If it doesn’t make sense to add it to a walking tour, the church offers their own guided tours (requires planning).
Photo opp with Horse Guard
St James’s Park
Given the glorious weather during our visit, we couldn’t resist another park visit and play time. We spent time happily wandering through St James’s Park. On our walk I explored Inn The Park for the first time. Featuring indoor and outdoor seating smack in the middle of the gorgeous green scenery, this family-friendly London restaurant is on my must-visit list for our next trip for sure.
Covent Garden is a lively neighborhood known for shops, restaurants, an open-marketplace, and street performers. Although the shopping is mostly chain stores, a bit of everything is here. Ditto for the restaurants although most are loud, casual, and perfect with kids.
The street performers will captivate your children’s attention — although as we discovered, don’t count on the content being 100% kid-friendly.
TIP: Covent Garden is a good place for dinner with kids. I wouldn’t spend daylight hours here unless you in the immediate area and need lunch — i.e. it need not be part of the main sightseeing schedule.
At this point our 72-hour stay was over as we had to fly out of town in the early evening.
Checking out the action on the Thames River
Thames River Boat Cruise, London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Tower of London
In retrospect I’d play the 3rd day differently and do a Thames river boat cruise. Cities look so different from their waterways. You can easily combine this with a hop-on hop-off bus pass and visit to the London Eye. There are many operators running different boat cruises. Since we opted not to do this on this trip, I can’t recommend one over another.
With older kids, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater is an appealing addition to the itinerary. At the end of the day, however, a must-visit attraction is the Tower of London. We missed experiencing it as a family and I’m disappointed.
Royal history comes to life in this fortress with a fascinating array of stories about kings, queens, and a laundry list of famous prisoners. Little boys will delight in the weaponry and little girls will love the crown jewels. Be sure and read up on their family activities and tickets page before you go.
A London pass allows you to access attractions without paying cash at the door and at some venues, you can access an entrance fast lane. They gave me a few passes to sample during our trip.
London Pass markets their pass as providing “free” access to attractions — this is not an entirely true statement as you have to buy the pass. That said, depending on what you plan to see, spending money on the pass can provide substantial savings.
To give you an idea of the expense, for 3 days an adult pass costs 72 GBP and the kids is 49 GPB per ticket, i.e. a family of 4 would pay 242 GBP. In theory, you can compare this pricing with the “purse value” of the attractions for this period of time and note the savings. However, for the real savings to be accurate more due diligence is required …
TIP: Given that this fee is a value ONLY if you visit enough attractions to experience the savings benefit. Review the list of the attractions you can visit with the London Pass. The useful website lists the “normal” ticket price for each attraction so it’s simple to do quick math to determine if buying the pass with save you money when you add the list pricing up for your attractions of interest.
The pass may include a Travelcard option (costs more money) where you get unlimited travel on all public transportation. Given that kids under 11 may travel free of charge on the tube and buses anyway in London when accompanied by a paying adult (London Pass specifies that a Travelcard is valid for this), there is no point in buying this option for kids within that age range.
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