London travel review: A marathon effort taking in the sights of our magnificent capital city
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Myself, wife and two children - aged eight and five - pounded 23.5 miles on the streets of the cosmopolitan capital on our 48-hour trip that took in the perfect mix of football, sightseeing and shopping.
But before I walk you through our whistle-stop tour, first thing’s first. Where did we stay?
Park Plaza London Riverbank
Sitting proudly on the banks of the River Thames, Park Plaza London Riverbank has unmatched views of some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben to the north, and the newly-opened Battersea Power Station to the west.
The hotel was the perfect base for our family trip. We stayed in an Ultimate Family Suite which included a separate bedroom for our children, a spacious kitchen/dining area plus comfortable adult sofa bed, with breathtaking views from the wall-to-ceiling glass windows.
Park Plaza boasts a heated indoor pool - the perfect tonic to soothe aching legs after all our walking - and Chino Latino, a multi-award winning Pan Asian restaurant which unfortunately we just ran out of time for during this stay.
The hotel’s location is ideal for tourists. Just a 15-minute scenic walk into the city’s heart, or even closer if you take the bus which stops literally outside the hotel. Top tip: We found using this mode of transport much easier, and cheaper, than taking the Tube. A single journey costs just £1.75, with children under 11 going free.
If you prefer to take the underground, Vauxhall Station is only an eight-minute walk away from the Park Plaza London Riverbank.
Suites and Executive Rooms are available from between £199 and £339 per night, including an-all-you can-eat buffet breakfast offering everything from continental to tasty Full English. There’s also a dedicated children’s table - the pancakes were a particular favourite of my little ones! It was the perfect way to fill up before our day exploring.
Visit www.parkplazariverbank.com for more information and details on how to book.
Now we’ve checked in, let’s explore. Here’s what we got up to…
Day One: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Tour
Being from Yorkshire it may surprise you that I’m a long-suffering Tottenham fan of 30 years. We used this trip to visit the new White Hart Lane stadium and go behind the scenes. The facilities were certainly better than the football on display at the moment.
The tour started in the club shop - the largest in Europe - before embarking on a route through all parts of the stadium. We tested out the acoustics in the stands, which were developed with the help of U2 sound technicians, got up close to plenty of historic silverware (yes, we have won plenty of cups!) and toured both the football and NFL dressing rooms.
The icing on the cake was a tunnel walk out onto the pitch with the chance to sit in the dugout, which has been occupied by no less than three managers this season.
The tour also took in the media facilities and executive lounges before ending with the chance to sample food and drink from the Goal Line bar, which is the longest in the UK.
One of the best things about the tour was being able to explore everything at your own pace. There are guides available at every turn to answer any questions, but you’re free to roam and take in everything the magnificent stadium has to offer. Let’s just hope that the football starts rivaling it soon. There’s always next season…
Day Two: Sightseeing
Having had my football fix on day one it was now time to explore the sights. We planned our route in bitesize chunks so we could stop for plenty of pit-stops in between.
First we took a 25-minute bus ride to the National History Museum in South Kensington, which is free to enter, but be sure to book in advance to beat the queues. There’s lots of interactive learning for children plus a spectacular dinosaur exhibition, which we really enjoyed immersing ourselves in.
Then it was a 20-minute walk to Harrods to take in the splendor of one of the world’s greatest department stores. The food market and children’s toy floors were our particular highlights. A sausage roll might have cost £5, but it was well worth it!
Complete with obligatory teddy and keyring (plus a Harrods carrier bag) it was off to Buckingham Palace, which was a hive of activity with tourists and workmen preparing for the King’s Coronation. The walk down The Mall really was something to behold and brought back TV memories witnessing the funeral of our late Queen Elizabeth.
Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms including 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Capturing some selfies in front of the palace and some shots of the Royal Guards on patrol was a must.
After another brief pit-stop, our journey continued to Leicester Square where we toured (and, of course, bought gifts!) at the Lego Shop and M&M stores in Leicester Square before ending the day in a more relaxing fashion with a Thames River Cruise.
We bought the tickets using a London Explorer Pass, which provides access to some of the capital’s best attractions. You can use the passes, stored digitally on the handy City Go App, on up to four destinations, including The Tower of London, The View from the Shard, Westminster Abbey, and Wembley Stadium tour, which is on next year’s bucket list.
The river cruise - complete with fun, insightful commentary from friendly staff - was a fantastic, and less energetic, way to see and hear about London’s rich history. We hopped on at Westminster Pier and took the 45-minute round trip to Greenwich. The boats offer panoramic views from inside, but we chose to sample the journey from seating on the outside. It was a brilliant experience to end the day and round off an exhilarating, yet exhausting trip.
Holiday Extras offers exclusive package deals on top attractions and nearby hotels in the UK to help holidaymakers save money and get the most out of their break. From theatre and theme park breaks, to heritage breaks and UK days out, you need look no further to get more bang for their buck.
For more information and to book visit www.holidayextras.com/uk-short-breaksch site.