London (With a baby)

It’s November 10th and our daughter turns one in 5 days. That baby is crawling, cruising, walking-assisted-walking. She’s high energy. But we’ve got a routine at home. She sleeps. And she sleeps well. We were itchy for some travel and were about to set out for a long weekend in London. We honeymooned there in 2011 and returned five times since. The city is so familiar to us. And we want it to be familiar to our daughter. But 24 hours prior to our time of departure, we were about to take the easy way out and cancel. We’re so glad we didn’t. Our trans-Atlantic weekend away was pretty much perfect.

Friday. After arriving in London and getting settled into our hotel, we ventured out for a bit of fresh air. The Marriott County Hall is located on the south bank of the Thames on Westminster Bridge across from the Houses of Parliament. It’s Remembrance Day and everyone is wearing a poppy. We meander through Whitechapel to Trafalgar Square, where they are setting up the Christmas market. From there, we jog through St. Martin’s in the Fields and up to The Salisbury where we grab our first proper pint and meet some friends. After a few drinks, we leave and walk to Seven Dials Market. The crowd is young and loud, but this is the spot to be for a market snack. Friday night requires a pub dinner; just a block off of Seven Dials at Two Brewers.

Saturday. It’s late – all three of us slept in. While yesterday was crisp and cold, we had bright blue sky. Today features a proper London fog. The three of us venture out for a leisurely walk along the south bank of the Thames. Gliding past Southbank Centre, alongside the Tate Modern, past the Globe Theatre, we listen to buskers in the tunnels under the bridges. Our destination is Borough Market. This has been a favorite destination of ours for years. The food stalls are amazing. The stores are fun. The fog has lifted and the three of us enjoy macaroni and cheese from Bath, salted beef from a proper Jewish deli, and an extra special pulled pork with apple slaw on ciabatta.

We meander more along the Thames to Tower Bridge for a few photos and some souvenirs. Turning south to walk away from the Thames, it’s a few short blocks to “the beer mile.” (per locals) “The beer mile” is a glorious stretch of independent breweries that cater to families during the daytime and lads at night. Almost a dozen beer halls and cideries fill a stretch of the underpass that otherwise carry trains to London Bridge Station. We start along Druid Street at Hawkes, a cidery and brewery, then go to Anspach & Hobday, where we have two amazing stouts. Then we cross under the overpass to Bianca Road and take our daughter to the swings at Enid Street Playground before going to Bianca Road Brew Company. As we begin our early evening walk back to our hotel, our daughter falls asleep just in time for us to grab a half pint at Southwark Brewing Company back on Druid Street.

With a baby, we get takeaway from Sino Thai Restaurant and take a walk through The Vaults (a public art space) under Waterloo Station on our way back to the hotel.

Sunday. It’s another market day for us. We grab the tube and journey east toward Brick Lane (tube stop Aldgate East). Brick Lane is known for its curries and the revitalized Truman Brewery is solid gold for vintage shopping. It’s crowded here on the weekends with the market stalls open and the vintage shops are packed. One of our favorite things to do in the area while the baby napped was to walk the streets and take in the street art.

A short walk away is Spitalfields Market, a market hall worthy of spending time in. Situated among the food carts and cute bars, there are so many vendors selling the most delightful locally-made things – from kids clothes at Dress Up Baby to bespoke handmade leather at Leather Republic. We step outside to the Woodin Shades pub to have a half pint and some lunch for her before jumping on the tube to Oxford Circus for some more shopping on Regent Street and Carnaby Street in the midst of Christmas splendor (even on November 13th). To fully get our Christmas vibes on, we stop off at Fortnum & Mason before we walk to Christmas in Leicester Square then to Covent Garden all decked out in Christmas lights.

Monday. It’s our last day here and one of the best museums in London is the Natural History Museum, just a few short tube stops away from our hotel. The majesty of the museum is apparent in the main hall with its large whale and Harry Potter-esque flying buttresses and walkways. There are fantastic rooms to explore, especially the dynamic dinosaur room, which intrigues even the youngest of kids. An hour or so in the museum results in nap time so we head to Harrod’s nearby to stimulate the British economy. It’s a rather short and enjoyable walk from Kensington through Green Park and across Buckingham Palace back to Westminster. As we walk, we see big red and yellow leaves falling from the trees with blue skies peeking out from the soft London fog as the bells ring out from Westminster Abbey before Big Ben sounds 1pm.

It’s both fall and Christmas season here. It’s the most wonderful time.

Tips for London with a baby:

  • Upgrade to a suite. This was a game-changer for us because we could get takeaway after the baby went to sleep and watched movies or played board games in the living room area. We also had concierge lounge access at Marriott County Hall with our Marriott status so we were able to have wine or beer without leaving the hotel.
  • Take a taxi to and from the airport. News to us, the London taxis do not require a car seat to take a baby. We did not do this; instead we took the Heathrow Express, which meant we were carrying everything and a baby through the tube. The cost savings is immaterial compared to the time savings.
  • Get a room with a view. We were in our room decently early in the evening, but with a view, it still felt like London.
  • Get takeaway or delivery. Because we kept bedtime close to 7pm, takeaway and delivery still gave us London fare. Things like Thai and Indian traveled well.

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