Baby Friendly London Weekend Itinerary

We decided to travel to London with our two very young children (5 months and 22 months), and I was determined not to water down our itinerary with bad, family-oriented chain restaurants and trips to the playground. I wanted to do the things that I as an adult would want to do, with some slight modifications. Luckily, London was perfect for this. The city in general is extremely baby friendly, and youngsters are welcome at the major cultural attractions. And I was most impressed by and grateful for the baby friendly attitudes at restaurants. We went to real restaurants that were Michelin caliber, not some Rainforest Cafe or a Zizzi, and they all had highchairs and greeted our little ones with a smile. It was a refreshing change from the attitudes in New York restaurants, where the staff will usually greet babies with either panic or judgmental side-eye, because they would rather not have them there at all. I already loved London to begin with, and now it holds an even more special place in my heart because it was so nice to the babies! If you plan on taking your little ones on a weekend getaway to London, you can reference the following itinerary for some ideas. You can be sure it will include cultural activities and real meals that both adults and children will enjoy.

Day 1
Lunch at Portland
Portland
Neighborhood: Fitzrovia
113 Great Portland St, London W1W 6QQ, UK
+44 20 7436 3261

aged berkshire pork, onion squash, smoked almonds and black garlic
cornish cod, smoked potatoes, coastal herbs and cucumber
potato gnocchi, goat’s curd, yellow courgettes and lardo di colonnata

Portland is a Michelin star restaurant that focuses on seasonal ingredients cooked in inventive ways. Which sounds like the aim of just about every restaurant that opens in New York now. But Portland does this very well, and more importantly, children are welcome to partake in their multi-course meal options. High chairs are ready so that both you and your little one can try the delicious potato gnocchi and the crackling skin on the aged berkshire pork.

An afternoon at the British Museum
British Museum
Neighborhood: Bloomsbury
Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG, UK
+44 20 7323 8299

the parthenon marbles at the british museum

The British Museum is similar to the Met in New York, but one important difference is that admission is free for everyone! There are large collections of art and artifacts from different countries, as well as traditional art galleries. The British Museum’s biggest claim to fame is the Rosetta Stone, which was key in helping to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Hoa Hakananai’a, an Easter Island statue, and a room devoted to fragments of the Parthenon, a Greek temple devoted to the goddess Athena, are also very popular. Check online ahead of time for any scheduled family events. Children can also borrow activity backpacks and art materials for free at the Families Desk.

Getting the wiggles out at Drury Lane Gardens playground
Drury Lane Gardens
Neighborhood: Covent Garden
Drury Lane (between Russell St and Martlett Ct)

drury lane playground

The one downside of London was that there weren’t that many playgrounds located throughout the city. It’s always good to have one nearby just so the kids can tire themselves out one more time in a low-stress setting before going to bed. The nearest one to our Airbnb was the playground at Drury Lane Gardens, which was actually a 5 minute walk. The playground is pretty small, and the slides could have been a tad more slippery, but our 22 month old son really enjoyed it.

Dinner at Noble Rot
Noble Rot Wine Bar & Restaurant
Neighborhood: Bloomsbury
51 Lamb’s Conduit St, Holborn, London WC1N 3NB, UK
+44 20 7242 8963

noble rot wine bar
grilled angus denver, puy lentils and horseradish
grilled cornish hake, spinach and brown shrimp
raspberry tart

Noble Rot is world famous for its wine list, but it also serves delicious food from its a la carte menu. You would think that in a very serious-minded, award-winning restaurant like this, that they might frown upon babies, but again, the staff was more than happy to set up a high chair for us. I thought overall the food was solid but not anything groundbreaking, with the exception of my excellent grilled angus denver steak. A lot of dishes are served a bit plain with no accompanying sides, like my slip sole in browned butter, which was literally just a small filet served on top of a plate. The beetroot, grilled courgette and chickpea salad tasted like something that would be served in a business class dining cabin, which is not really a compliment.

Day 2
Modern Art at the Tate Modern
Tate Modern
Neighborhood: South of the Thames
Bankside, London SE1 9TG, UK
+44 20 7887 8888

olafur eliasson in real life exhibit
luminous density your blind passenger

The Tate Modern has one of the most stunning art installation spaces I’ve been to. It was in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern that I experienced the mesmerizing sunlight of Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project. What I like about the large-scale exhibitions at the Tate Modern is that they are typically very interactive, which means it’s usually okay for people and toddlers to walk around and touch things. The new Olafur Eliasson exhibit In Real Life (we came full circle with back-to-back Eliasson exhibits), for instance, insists that you engage with your senses of sight, smell and sound instead of being a distant observer, and that is something that babies can get on board with. If you like more traditional displays of art, the Tate Modern is also home to the who’s who of modern art–Degas, Picasso, Warhol, etc. This part of the museum is free, whereas the special exhibits will require an admission fee.

A Boat Ride and a Bird’s Eye View of London at the London Eye
London Eye
Neighborhood: South of the Thames
Lambeth, London SE1 7PB, UK

tower bridge view on the london eye river cruise
london eye ferris wheel

The London Eye is one of the few attractions on this itinerary that requires an admission fee, and it’s a little bit on the steep end. Entry to this enormous ferris wheel costs 27 pounds per adult, while children under the age of 3 are free. It sounds like such a touristy thing to do, and there’s not much history or culture to the London Eye, but it’s hard to resist taking multiple shots of the beautiful views all around you once you’re up top. Note that you’ll have to carry your stroller into the London Eye with you, so be prepared to dismantle and setup quickly. And for just 6 extra pounds, you can also enjoy a 40 minute sightseeing cruise with live commentary. I’m not sure how historically accurate the commentary was, and it felt like the guides were trying out new standup material on us, but it was entertaining.

And did I also mention there’s a huge playground just steps away from the London Eye? Again, great way to distract the kids and get them to calm down before lining up for the attractions.

Drinks at the Savoy Hotel American Bar
The Savoy Hotel
Neighborhood: Covent Garden
Strand, London WC2R 0EZ, United Kingdom
+44 20 7836 4343

nightcap at the savoy’s american bar

Traveling around London with kids is fun, but sometimes you need a little break. And there’s nothing more grown up than having a nightcap at the classic American Bar in The Savoy Hotel. The bar was frequented by all the Hollywood legends of the golden era–you’ll see pictures of Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, etc., all around you. A server will bring you a “Songbook” menu showcasing 20 original cocktail creations inspired by 20 famous songs. My No. 6 cocktail “Playing in the Stars”, which was inspired by “Fly Me to the Moon”, was especially refreshing and was middle of the road in terms of taste and alcohol content. Plus it came with high quality bar snacks, which is something that I especially love.

Day 3
St. James’s Park Playground / Changing the Guard ceremony
Neighborhood: St. James’s
London SW1A 2BJ, UK

st. james’s park playground
crowds gather for the changing the guard ceremony at buckingham palace
ducks at st. james’s park

No trip to London is complete without a visit to Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the Queen of England. One of the most popular ways of doing this is to watch the Changing the Guard ceremony in the morning, in which The Queen’s Guard hands over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace to the New Guard. The rows of soldiers marching in their red uniforms and black fuzzy hats is such a quintessential English sight.

But what’s great about the ceremony is that it’s close to St. James’s Park, which is home to the most amazing public playground I have ever seen. I’ve never seen such high quality climbing walls, slides and swings before, and all in a beautiful park setting. And as if things couldn’t get any better, the park is also home to different birds in its nature reserve. It’s about as good as it gets for a baby–animals and a playground.

Lunch at Darjeeling Express
Darjeeling Express

Neighborhood: Soho
Kingly Court, Carnaby St, London W1B 5PW, United Kingdom
+44 20 7287 2828

eggplant curry, cucumber salad and peela pulao basmati rice
calcutta chicken chaap
tangra chilli garlic prawns

Have you ever watched the Chef’s Table profile on Asma Khan, chef of the Indian restaurant Darjeeling Express in Soho? She was this extremely accomplished and smart woman who earned a PhD in law and then decided academia wasn’t for her and that food was her true passion. She started out hosting supper clubs at her house, and that eventually led to a proper restaurant that served Indian Rajput and Bengali home cooking specialties. Try to get a table if you can, and if you do, you’ll likely be greeted by Asma, who is still very much hands on in the business. And obviously the food is great here, particularly the tiger prawns, the eggplant curry and the chicken thighs.

Running around the Somerset House courtyard
Somerset House
Neighborhood: Covent Garden
Strand, London WC2R 1LA, UK

+44 20 7845 4600

somerset house

The Somerset House looks like the residence of some noble family, but in modern times, it operates as an arts center. You can check out the exhibits on display. Or you can just hang out in the beautiful courtyard and watch your child run around it multiple times. Which is pretty rewarding, because with each lap he runs, that means he’s getting more and more tired. That’s basically all I did at the Somerset House, watch my son push his own stroller around for an hour, and he did have a good sleep that night.

Dinner at Barrafina
Neighborhood: Covent Garden
43 Drury Ln, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5AJ, UK
+44 20 7440 1486

cuttlefish stew
oysters

So Barrafina, along with The Savoy, are probably the only two baby-unfriendly places on this London itinerary. There’s only bar seating, which is not great when you’re traveling with a toddler, and it doesn’t take reservations, which is also not ideal since eating with a toddler is like a race against time. But if someone else is watching the kids at night, then a dinner at Barrafina is worth the break. The Spanish tapas food here is simply tremendous and unlike anything you’ll have anywhere. The seafood dishes are usually a sure thing, and the chicken thighs are very popular as well. It’s a classic London institution that has stood the test of time because it’s good at what it does.

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