Could someone suggest the best 7-day itinerary for covering London and Paris for a family with 2 kids (11 year old and 7 year old)? We would prefer to cover all the major landmarks but also want to keep it interesting for our kids. Suggestions about good/safe places to stay within a reasonable budget is much appreciated.
Things to see in London that are good for kids are a) Madame Tussauds London (bear in mind that it's 30GBP for an adult and 26GBP for kids...I see though that if you book online it's cheaper). Definitely visit Greenwich Observatory and do take the boat to get there from Westminster. Of course you'll also have to see Big Ben and the House of Parliament. You can check online when the guard change happens in Buckingham Palace I think it's a nice thing to do with kids.
Now off to Paris. Disneyland Paris will be a hit with your kids. I visited when I was 9 and again at 17, so I speak from a personal perspective. Do go up the Eiffel Tower if your kids don't have an issue with heights. I visited The Louvre when I was 9. My mum made sure we saw Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace (I'm Greek btw) and the Mona Lisa. If you do visit it, pin point a few things you want to see and don't waste all your day there! Also go up in Montmartre at Basilique du Sacre-Coeur but in the morning. During nighttime it's not so good for kids (also speaking from personal experience). Oh! and do ride the Bateaux Mouches (the boats that go up and down the Seine) and visit Notre Dame (it's free to go inside)!
I wish I had some hotels to suggest to you, but in London I stayed with friends and in Paris I don't recall of a decent budget friendly hotel. Do search the Grand Boulevards area, there are lots of hotels there. As for London, avoid Paddington area, as well as the Imperial and President hotels in Russel Square!
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My number one pick in London is the Tower Of London, people of all ages enjoy the Tower. The tour at the entrance is wonderful, even for kids as it's funny and the Yeoman Warders tell the stories so that kids enjoy them. You should be able to get a family pass. Lots and lots of free museums, the beauty to that is when the kids start to drag, whine or shuffle their feet, you can leave and not worry about all that admission you just spent :-) Depending on the season, they might enjoy a boat ride on the Thames, there's a ferry service that is not terribly expensive, no commentary but it's a nice ride.
Do try and avoid London Dungeons, I thought it was too expensive for what it was. Although they have moved it and perhaps made it a bit different since I went so read more current reviews.
I bought a Fodors or Frommers book on London with kids before I took my niece and nephew, it was very helpful in finding kid specific things.
Kids are free at most places in Paris (the Eiffel Tower is one exception), what I did when I traveled with a 17 year old was get a Paris museum pass, not a Paris Pass, and I skipped the lines and she did as well since there was no admission fee for her. With the Pass you can visit each place multiple times if the kids attention span is short. I love the views from on top of the Arc de Triomphe and Notre-Dame de Paris, a bonus for the kids are the gargoyles on top which they might have seen in the Disney movie. Both of those are on the museum pass, the line is skipped at the Arc, not at Notre Dame. The interior of the cathedral is free to visit.
Have a look at the Premier Inn chain in London, sometimes they run specials, I signed up for their emails and ended up getting deals at several last summer
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I lived in the UK for two years and brought my little sister to London for about 6 weeks. After doing some really great free / nearly free activities (listed below) we discovered that one of our favorite things to do was shopping for food in the supermarkets (Tesco's and Sainsbury's are very affordable and there's all that British food!) then finding somewhere outside to sit so we could people watch, take pictures, feed the pigeons, and generally enjoy an outdoor London city picnic.
CAMERA. If possible, buy your kids a very inexpensive digital camera so they can capture their own memories. Many digis can now be found on sale on Ebay or Walmart for less than $50. My sister having her own camera was invaluable for photo scavenger hunts or eye-spy. And she captured many things I didn't notice.
1. The area around Piccadilly Circus is loaded with free stuff to do. From the actual square to nearby free museums, galleries, Trafalgar Square, etc.. There are now city volunteers available here and you can ask them loads of questions. It's a good starting point for walking to other sites.
2. Hamleys toy store. Because your kids are 7 and 11 and you're in London and there are toys to be enjoyed...and Hamleys is famous!
3. Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Uniforms. Horses. Pomp and royalty! Try to time it so you get there early, getting a place near the street. The crowds are not bad at all and there is a festive vibe. The main gate is the best place to get a view of all that's going on. The kids may be bored while waiting, so take silly photos, sing British songs (the Beatles), nibble on British snacks (yummy chocolate, prawn crisps). My sister and I did paper-rubbings of the seals on the iron road barriers.
4. Branch out to Camden Market. There's food, shopping, music, and street performers. The general atmosphere is very urban 'London' artistic and creative.
5. Riding the buses. Unless your kids are super urban and bus around all the time. But nothing beats hopping on a London bus and taking the stairs to the top level. Sitting on the top level at the veeeery front is very cool. And it's about 2GBP! (Works great if you have a travel card already. Or purchase at most stations via the touch-screens.)
6. The Victoria & Albert Museum. This museum has a room for everyone in the family. Ask museum staff for directions--if you want to see toy airplanes, Victorian dresses, antique kitchens, classic cars, etc.
7. Many, many, buildings and houses in the city of London have little signs attached. These signs are often over-looked by tourists, but have really interesting bits of information on them and tell fun stories. Who knows, you may be standing in front of a famous brain-surgeon's house!
NOT worth it...Paying for any museum when so many are free. Most bus tours are way overpriced and to long.
Worth it...taking moments to just stop whenever and wherever and take random photos of each other. Nearly every stop in London is a historic site of some sort, so just take time to be in the city of London!
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I have daughters who have traveled through Europe numerous times and this is what we did with them when they were 8 & 10, then later when they were 9 & 11. They felt everything was pretty cool--something things more than others. For London, definitely use the Tube with an Oyster card. You can buy day passes and save a ton of money. Hop on and hop off buses are a waste of money in both Paris and London. In Paris it will quadruple the time it takes to get anywhere due to the traffic. I made that mistake the first time I was in the city--paid for 2 days- used it for one trip and decided the Metro is the way to go and soooo much cheaper. You can buy a book of 10 tickets for cheap too or buy a day pass. The Tube is the same. Use it. It stops by all the landmarks you want to see. As for sighting, in London: Tower Of London (get a free tour with one of the Beefeaters- hilarious and informative--plus your kids will love this place--you can climb very tight spiral staircases), river cruise on the River Thames, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace with St James' Park (they will love all the birds and white pelicans), Big Ben/Parliament Square. That is all within Central London which is one square mile. Easy to get around. Paris (just returned from a second trip)- Eiffel Tower (book in advance to get to the top to skip as many lines as possible). Great brasserie (cafe/restaurant) 2 blocks to the left of the Tour Effiel if you are looking at it from the Seine. We go there every time and for it being so close to the tower very inexpensive and quite tasty. Get the croque madame, Leffe beers and a cheese plate after (the French eat cheese after their meal and before dessert FYI.) If you are going during the winter you can ice skate on the 1st level of the Tour Effiel and possibly in front of Hôtel de Ville if it is still open when you go--check online. Notre-Dame de Paris - only takes 20 minutes and is free for everyone. Definitely do the Catacombes de Paris. My daughters loved it and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Had a million questions and it is pretty cheap. If I remember correctly the adults were 8 Euros and the kids free, but double check that. Get there early to get in line for entry. Metro stop across the street practically. You can do The Louvre, but skip the Mona Lisa--so overrated and there are so many more cool things to see in the museum. Buy the Paris museum pass online and skip right to the head of the line. Then go to Musée d'Orsay--a better museum than le Lourve and included on the pass too. Your kids will like that one better FYI. If you go to le Lourve, make sure you take the time to walk the park (Tuileries) that separates the museum from the Champs-Élysées. Get an espresso, or ice cream, in warmer weather and walk around. Find a chair in front of the ponds and sit and watch your kids chase the birds and take in Paris. Another fantastic garden for the kids is Luxembourg Garden. Visit there the same day as the catacombs as they are close to one another. My biggest advice to you in Paris is do not plan to much. Make a list of 4-5 must sees and then some optional ones and plan your day around the must-sees. Paris is a huge city and very spread out- so plan your days where the attractions are close to one another and not try to cris-cross the city constantly. Then make sure you actually see what Paris is made of by enjoying an afternoon sitting outside in a cafe and sitting and enjoying the parks. If all you ever do is just see the sights, you will never see Paris. My daughters always have more fun exploring little shops in the off the beaten path more than they ever do sightseeing and standing in lines. They love the cafes too- they always order a chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) and play cards at the table--for hours. So go exploring and get lost. There is always a metro stop nearby and Paris and London are so safe!! Feel free to PM me if you have any questions. Oh and make sure you learn at least a little French!!!
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Joseph have a wonderful time with your kiddos! We took our youngest two for their first time but they were older (18, 21) in June. Our trip started in Paris and they had a fabulous time, if your kiddos can make it to midnight and the Eiffel Toweris being lit up in the winter its a fun sight to see. Ours didn't want to see a lot of the museums, they wanted to LOOK, they loved walking down the Champs-Élysées, and watching the cars weave around the Arc de Triomphe. There are many stores that are more like experiences as you wander down towards The Louvre through the Tuilerieson your way, stop and have a sandwich at the little cafes there, feed the birds, watch life of the Parisians. If you have time go,to the Luxembourg Garden and sit around the pond, check out the statues. We took the ICE train to London, which was fun, but be ready for slot of security there too- we weren't it was our first time the tickets said allow 30 mins, a complete understatemen! We used the Oyster card - you can buy on line early and reload at kiosks- in London and did try the tube but most time it was so packed it was uncomfortable! We ended up,using the buses which were easier, you can get one most anywhere, and the best part you get to SEE the city while transfering from one place to another! The London Eye was probably the most memorable for the kids, partly because mom sat on the benche with her head bent on her phone trying not to panic!, the views are stunning! We actually got to see the Queen drive by after coming acroos a fabulous parade for the anniversary of the UK marines, ours took part too! You just never know what your going to find if you don't have an itinerary!
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I live in the Channel Islands and travel frequently to both London and France and have two children (8 and 16).
Try the Tower Of London which you can get to the boat and if you buy a National Rail ticket you get 2 for 1 entry. Look at the info here. (I would really NOT recommend getting the Visit London pass because unless you visit three places a day you won't break even). You can't get much more British than this. There is also a really cool cafe (All Hallows By The Tower) just round the corner which is fairly hidden and sometimes has the beefeaters in on their tea break!
There is also the Emirates Cable Car which is really close to the Tower of London so you could get a boat to the Tower of London, tube to the cable car, cross the river to Greenwich, do the Emirates experience and see the Cuttys Ark and then get the boat back to Central London. You have to go The Gipsy Moth pub and there is pie and mash shop (Goddard's Pies) which has been there forever, well from about 1890!
Get an Oyster Card - see the link here - makes travelling so much easier and quicker. If you have contactless on your credit card though you can use that instead. Sometimes MasterCard offers free travel.
In Disneyland Paris is nothing like the other disney parks (in size or ambience). I would only recommend going if you are not visiting when the UK, French or Belgium children are on school holidays. We went last year and on the day when the kids were at school it was fairly bearable (but we did have unlimited FastPasses as we stayed in the Castle Club) so could by pass all the queues. The following day the kids were off and even the fastpass queues were over an hour long - we only got to go on two rides in one whole morning so we gave up and left! If you are going to go though get the train the traffic back to Paris by car is horrendous!
I would really recommend the cookery class at Hush Hush Paris - Phillipe is really good fun and the the walk through the French food market felt as if we were really experiencing some proper french culture. The food was easy to make and delicious and Phillipe was very entertaining.
Also take the tour of the Eiffel Tower - you get to bypass all the queues (when you see them you will be very relieved you did) and go both under the tower and on top of the restricted restaurant area. Our guide was very engaging and it really worth the extra few pounds per person that you paid on top of just normal entrance fees.
Next to the Notre-Dame de Paris is one of the famous padlock bridges - we bought one with us to do this so there is a bit of us in Paris for a while! You can buy padlocks when you are there if don't want the extra weight in your luggage. It's a pretty simple thing to do but it adds a bit of romance to the holiday.
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Good place to stay in London is Premier Inn London Stratford Hotel at the Olympic park/Westfield mall, 15 min tube ride into city, mall has food choices and mini marts for you to buy packed lunch and drinks
Do the London city tour bus, it's really worth the money, you'll see London above ground and all the major sights, it's hop on hop off, will save a fortune in tube fares and time wasted going up and down into stations. It also includes a river trip.
In Paris get a pass to skip lines in museums, again, free river trip.
I have two favorite hotels in both cities that are cheap, clean and really well located:
Hôtel Chopin - if I were a kid I would love this place because it's in the Passage Jouffroy which is one of the old covered shopping malls. That particular one has some great shops for kids including Pain d'Epice which is a really cool miniature/toy store and La Boite a Joujoux which is another cool toy store. The hotel looks like something out of a Pink Panther movie--so Parisian.
I always recommend the Kensington Rooms Hotel London which isn't quite as fun but is clean, cheap and so well located.
Hope this helps!
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Ibis hotels in London and Paris, Doubletree Hotels good for fams on a budget. In London, you'll want to do a double decker bus, to get an overview. Definitely go to the Tower Of London, there you'll have things of interest for whole fam: armor, crown jewels, funny Beefeaters giving the history. Right near the Tower you can eat at a Japanese restaurant (chain) called Wagamama's. It's fam friendly and cheap. That will take up one day. Next day, take the train
I found it easier to do parts of the city one day at a time, or divide day in half to cover two smaller sections that have some places close together. Getting a tube pass makes it easier. One neat thing we enjoyed that gave our legs a rest was taking a river tour on the Thames River Boats and an evening activity was going on the London Eye. Buy these tickets online if you can. The London Pass I found was a good buy. The hop on hop off buses are also good value depending on the circuit you pick. Try to make it match your itinerary. Whatever you plan, you'll never do it all which is a great reason to back another year! Have fun!
We found fantastic, affordable places to stay in both London and Paris using Homeaway.com - be sure to read the reviews.
Get an Oyster Card for the tube in London. That and the Paris metro will get you anywhere quickly and safely, and they're so easy to use!