London, a bit like Paris?

My niece Lee is eleven years old, already a travel-expert and she loves Paris with its famous sights like Louvre or Eiffel Tower. I thought it could be a good idea to show her another European capital. So, we decided to visit London together. It was my first trip accompanied by a child and the first multi-day trip without Mummy or Daddy for her.

Handwritten wishlist for our London visit

The flight

End of October we flew from Hamburg to London-Gatwick with EasyJet. We got what we had expected: Delays on both flights, no drinks for free and no onboard entertainment except the safety instructions before take-off. Anyway, Lee was happy because the planes were very clean and during our flights we had no turbulences.
I recommend you to choose Gatwick or Heathrow as destination airport because it is quite convenient to reach downtown London with public transport.

Transport

The journey time from Gatwick to downtown London by train is between 30 to 45 minutes. There are several suppliers with different fares. We payed almost 35£ at the airport for the Gatwick Express to London and only 11.90£ from Blackfrias back to Gatwick by using this company. It is worth comparing fares on the internet in advance. The easiest and cheapest way to travel around the city’s public transport network is using the Oyster card. This contactless payment card is more than 50% cheaper than buying a paper card or single tickets with cash and the maximum daily costs for unlimited journeys for adults is 9,80£ (Zone 1-4).
If you are visiting London and travelling with children aged 11 to 15, you can still benefit from reduced rate travel for them. You can get a discount set on an Oyster card that will allow them to pay as you go at half adult-rate.
We bought our cards after our arrival in a store at King’s Cross. More information: Oyster Card

I booked a hotel in Wembley for Lee and me. The quality/price ratio was good, but every trip from Wembley to the hot-spots in downtown London took 45 – 60 minutes. A quite too long and boring trip for children.
Also, Lee did not like the district. Wembley was too dirty and too dark for her.

Lee’s wish list

Well, London offers many attractions. Almost impossible for us to visit them all during our 2.5 days trip.
Lee had written a wish list before our trip started. Good idea. So, it was much easier to plan our days and we saved time. We processed almost the entire list, only the item “Harry Potter Museum” (Indeed it is no museum but the motion picture studio, which are located 32km n/w of London city) had to be cancelled. The Tour was sold-out weeks before.
How child-friendly are the main attractions in London? Here is Lee’s assessment:

Biggest highlight was the ride with the London Eye at night. To see the million lights of the city was stunning. A must-do during a London trip.
Other big things were Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, our trip with the cable car across the Thames and the (short) ride with one of the famous red busses.
We also enjoyed a one hour boating with the waterbus. A perfect opportunity to explore the city from the water-side and to sail through the Tower Bridge. Last but not least a warm welcome time of rest for my burning feet.
Furthermore rated with thumbs up:
Piccadilly Circus at night, change of guards at horse guards parade and Big Ben.

However, our trip through London also brought us some disappointments with “platform 9 ¾” at King’s Cross in leading position. This „attraction“ is just a tourist rip-off to temping customers into the overpriced Harry Potter souvenir-shop. Pure waste of time …
Lee also did not enjoy our visit of the famous Tower of London.  Very impressive from outside, but pretty boring from inside. Only the exhibition of the crown jewels put a gleam into her eyes.
I asked myself, what could be the best way to help us through these frustrations and disappointments? The simple answer:

Shopping

Like every other girl on this planet Lee loves shopping. Luckily our hotel was located just a stone’s throw away from the London Designer Outlet. OMG! And the best of all: Big sale at GAP! Fifty percent off everything! OMG! OMG! OMG! The little shopping-queen was on a buying frenzy.
We also made some bargain in several shops around famous Oxford Street, the main shopping street of London and it is absolutely worth to do a side trip.
The area around Camden Market is quite nice for sightseeing but less suitable for shopping with children.  In fact, we found some sneakers-stores offering desirable footwear but the prices were very high.

Culinary offerings

London is a truly multicultural and multinational city. There is something to cater for every taste and preference.
To our surprise it was not very easy to find the classic english „Fish & Chips“. Finally we had a very tasty repast in the „Golden Union“  in SoHo. The fish was almost as big as a whale, the chips were homemade and we were satiated. Good choice …

Conclusions

London or Paris,  that is the question. Lee’s easy answer: Paris

I do not want there to be any misapprehensions here. She enjoyed our trip to London. However, it suffers from major drawbacks: London is four times bigger than Paris and the distances between the sights are accordingly high. Hence we spent a lot of time into subway, trains and busses.
Paris with its pavement cafes and waterfront promenade seems to be balanced and less hectically contrary to London.
Last but not least: The Eiffel Tower is located in Paris and not in London …

Very special thanks to L.E.E.!

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