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Historical Sites in London for Kids

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I have always been fascinated by structures from ancient civilizations, but I think this fascination didn’t really develop until I was older. I certainly don’t remember appreciating the many museums and historical sites I went to as a child, although that’s now where I gravitate when traveling. I’ve taken this to mean that those many childhood visits paved the way to a lifelong interest in history and I now happily search out such sites with my kids when we travel.

London is the perfect city for the history buff and a wonderful place to introduce kids to some fascinating ancient history. On my visit to London with my kids, we were also able to delve into more recent, family history, since this is the town where my mother and her family grew up. This piqued my kids’ interest much more than any other historical site. When you’ve grown up an ocean away from where your relatives lived, it lends an air of mystery to your origins, and my kids were excited to see where part of their family grew up.

The number of historical sites in London is a bit overwhelming. On a short visit, we focused on those of most interest to us for a variety of reasons. The Tower of London was high on our list and given that it was right across the river from our home away from home at Hilton London Tower Bridge, we looked forward to walking across Tower Bridge to see it up close.

Purchase tickets in advance! Not only will this save you some money, it will also save you time, since you can print your tickets at your hotel and proceed directly to the gate. Tickets are good for seven days from the date of purchase and include admission to the grounds, the Crown Jewels, the White Tower, guided tours, and children’s activity trails. It’s really a great value, with something for every interest.

The Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London

The Traitor’s Gate at the Tower of London.

From the Tower of London, we walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral, only a little over a mile. In the rain. We were the definition of bedraggled by the time we got there, but St. Paul’s Cathedral is always impressive. The cost of admission includes a very good, touchscreen multimedia tour, which you can get in an adult’s or child’s version. I listened to the child’s version so I could hear what my kids were hearing and what a great tour! We followed it avidly throughout the cathedral and were particularly impressed by the stories from World War II since my mother and her family lived in London during the war. Kids will find the crypt particularly interesting and spooky, and for older kids, a climb to the Whispering Gallery in the dome is worth the effort.

The Millenium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the South Bank of London.

The Millenium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the South Bank of London.

We were forcefully reminded of our bedraggled state as we left St Paul’s and stood in the rain – cold, tired, hungry and with wet feet. Directly across the street, Yo Sushi called our names with offers of warm ramen and cold sushi. The kids will enjoy selecting food from the conveyor belt too. After eating, a trip across the Millenium Bridge had us on our way back to Hilton Tower Bridge and promises of hot chocolate.

Throughout the day, we had our own personal history lesson, seeing the same sites and streets that our family experienced many years before. A trip out to Dagenham let us reconnect with my uncle, and my kids were able to see the house where their grandmother was born. My kids were thrilled to be walking in their grandmother’s footsteps.

I realized the impact of the trip just a few days after returning home. My 10 year old daughter had an assignment to write a nonfiction essay. She wrote about the life of a young girl in London during World War II, and what it was like to live with air raids and evacuations and rations. I can’t think of a more perfect history lesson than a trip to London.

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Andrea is a single mom in Arlington, Virginia with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Her children took their first trips when they were just four…

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