We go to London quite a lot. We go and visit friends and family and hubby and I go for work lots too. Whilst lots of fun they are often rushed and frenzied visits trying to fit a lot in and trying to make as much of our weekends or days as possible.
When the opportunity arose for me to spend three days and two nights in Greenwich to explore some of the sights out there I jumped at the chance. Well initially I jumped at the chance and then I wondered what I was doing saying yes to a trip into London from Liverpool with my three girls aged 5,4 and 4. What I loved about Greenwich and what made my trip doable with the girls was the fact that it was a little further out than exploring central London, yet still easy to get to and the wonder of the DLR! The tube can be crazy busy, hot, noisy and can lead to panic when your kids are not used to it, but the DLR well it’s not like that at all (most of the day) and that makes travelling round that area actually a pleasant experience!
We got an early train down from Liverpool and arrived into London by 10.30. It’s a good hour out to the Excel but the Aloft London Excel hotel attached to the Excel (so perfect for events there) is literally on the walkway from the Prince Regent DLR stop. It couldn’t be easier to find or to get to.
We were checked into the hotel quickly and given directions to our room. The receptionist seemed slightly confused by our connecting rooms but when we got up there they had all been set out correctly, the doors were open between the suite and the next room and the kids pack was in situ!
During the summer their family offer is that kids eat for free and you get 50% off the second room, but check back regularly for other holiday offers.
The kids pack amounts to a fun tent complete with bed and duvet, a large game of dominos, a bag of sweets each and a colouring set. The tent caused much amusement with my three and the only ‘downside’ was the negotiations as to who was going to sleep in it as we were only staying 2 nights and there was 3 of them. Thankfully I have one child who gives in to the others so all was well with the world.
The rooms themselves were huge, particularly for London. An enormous super king sized double bed and a large walk in bathroom area which would have been superb even without the lounge area. We had a suite connected to a bedroom so could see what both looked like, but with the addition of the lounge area in the suite it made it a really comfortable place to be with three kids, and the air con (we visited in a heatwave) was very very welcome. I love a hotel room with a nespresso machine (an add on for the suite as the rooms had kettles and coffee sachets) but I took full advantage.
We made a slight error of judgement by not picking up any food on our way out to the hotel but after jumping around on the beds (sorry Aloft) and playing dominos we decided to wander down the river to the Emirates Cable Car and have a picnic on the riverside. Tesco came to our rescue (I dislike eating out at every meal when away) and we bought a French Stick, ham, cheese and snack type bits and sat on a shady picnic bench watching the world go by.
We took the cable car over to the o2 and decided to get off and look at the included exhibition (depending on tickets purchased) on the other side. The girls had fun pretending to be pilots for half an hour but it wasn’t an essential visit. If you decide to book the simulator ( for £45) then it may be but it would be skipable for us.
Costs: The Emirates Air line (cable car) costs £10.70 per adult and £6.20 per child (return), with a reduction for Oyster card users. It costs £45 to try out the Emirates Aviation Experience and fly a plane – up to four people can be involved in that session.
Our cable car had to stop in the middle of our return journey and this gave the girls a fright but a funny exchange with the cable car going the opposite way lightened the mood!
The promised ice creams helped our very warm walk back to the hotel as did the promise of a trip to the swimming pool. What a luxury to be in a swimming pool in a London; I was already seeing major benefits of staying a little further out of town than I might have thought before.
The swimming pool was a perfect end to quite a hot day of traveling and we must have been in it for over an hour. If you are travelling with older kids or without any at all then there is also a decent sized gym, a sauna and a steam room too. Unfortunately I didn’t get to try them out with three novice swimmers to watch out for. We finished our day with an early tea in the restaurant. The food was really pretty good. I think you can get used to fairly average food in a hotel but the scallops and chorizo skewers I had after the smoked meat platter we all shared to start was superb. The kids burger and chips was huge, as was the pasta dish and I had to help Lily with the huge chicken gougons. A couple of glasses of prosecco finished off my dinner very nicely and we all headed up to bed happy and content.
The morning started really very slowly and that for me was a real benefit to staying in a hotel with such large rooms. If we had just been in a small central London hotel we would have had to rush out of the room to start exploring as the kids would have been climbing the walls in the room. As it was they played a few games, chatted and made up a bizarre game with the dominos whilst I had a leisurely start to my morning.
We made our way over to Greenwich around 10.30am and followed people in the general direction of the National Maritime Museum, pausing to look in awe at the Cutty Sark which is unmissable when you come out of the Cutty Sark DLR stop. The day was again very very hot and as we were meeting Lily’s godfather at 1ish we decided to spend the morning exploring inside the Museum. However we didn’t end up doing much exploring, take a look at this post by Family Travel Times to see what we should have found, as the girls just loved the activity workshops in the Learning Space, so much so that we didn’t even make it upstairs – there is always next time! The staff in the Learning Space were excellent and we spent nearly two hours making an old fashioned treasure map and listening to story time and songs about birds from New Zealand. The staff were kind and engaging and I can’t recommend the activity team highly enough. Costs:The National Maritime Museum is free to visitors and is open from 10am to 6pm every day. It usually has a special exhibition on although the current exhibition Above & Beyond has just ended.
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We only left the National Maritime Museum because the kids were hungry and it was getting close to 1pm. We bypassed the cafe at the back of the museum in favour of a shady tree in Greenwich Park and sat down to eat our picnic. There was families of all shapes and sizes in the park and it was again fun to watch the world go by whilst we took some time out and waited for Lily’s godfather. We had a combined ticket to the Cutty Sark/Royal Observatory so decided to wander up the hill first to The Royal Observatory whilst the kids were slightly less tired. My lack of awareness as to what exactly was at the top of the hill meant our trip wasn’t as successful as perhaps it could have been as I told the kids we were going to the planetarium. To be honest I hadn’t realised they were different things. For us the Royal Observatory just wasn’t worth while for the kids (5 and 4) as they didn’t understand the concept of time so the clocks and the GMT line were a little beyond them. They did have fun with a piece of measuring equipment for a while but I think a show at the planetarium would have been more fun for them. The staff on the desk weren’t as helpful as they could have been either as I only realised when writing this review that the planetarium is actually free it only cost to see a show. This wasn’t clear as had it been we would definitely have wandered in. The view from the top of the very steep hill is fabulous, but all in all on a very hot day, a little difficult for the kids! Costs: The Royal Observatory (which includes the courtyard and also Flamsteed House which teaches you all about time) costs £9.50 for adults and £5 for children. You can also pay £18.50 for adults and £8.50 for children and get a joint ticket for the Observatory and the Cutty Sark (see below…) Entry to the Planetarium is free.
A promise of an ice cream at the bottom of the hill, got them down with a sense of humour (ish) and we decided to wander through Greenwich Market eating said ice cream before visiting the Cutty Sark. The girls had a really fab time exploring the Cutty Sark, they watched a really quite short video about the life on board the Cutty Sark but have been quoting it back to me ever since. They played happily for ages on the sailors beds and dressed up in sailors clothes. It really is quite an incredible sight and just wandering through the huge bulk of the ship makes you start to get a feel for what life could have been like on board. The Cutty Sark also puts on lots of family activities during the day but our timing wasn’t quite right to try these out.
We finished our day in Greenwich at the wonderful Rivington Grill where the staff Oliver, Davide, Jaim and Brendan couldn’t have done enough for us. We arrived very hot and in need of urgent refreshments and iced water was immediately poured. They even humoured my elder daughter’s desire to be a waitress too! Due to the number of tourists in Greenwich there are a lot of chain restaurants with average food. This isn’t one of them. The butter was to die for. We all had extra bread just so we could have more of the butter and my friend is a proper foodie so that’s saying something. In fact he is a total fan of the restaurant’s burgers, so much so that he has been known to head out to Rivington Grill Greenwich from Canary Wharf (where he works) for a burger at lunch, such is their amazingness! We decided not to try the burgers though that day and whilst I had the beetroot and feta salad to start, Oli had the burrata and both were excellent. The quality of the ingredients shines through in dishes like this. I plumped for the rainbow trout for my main course, with ‘buttered’ green beans and Oli the steak and chips. Both were again excellent and nothing was left on our plates despite both being fairly substantial! Up to Kids (per adult) eat for free in the Rivington Grill Monday – Saturday between 12 and 7 when accompanied by a paying adult. This is a fantastic offer particularly if the kids choose from the Big Kids menu. Two of mine weren’t particularly hungry when we went and happily had the crumpets and cheese on toast, but the ‘Chish & Fips’ ordered by one of the twins looked amazing.
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We couldn’t manage any desserts such was the size of the fabulous meals but we didn’t feel short changed having had various ice creams and sweets during the day, so we made our way back to Aloft London, tired and happy. Four of us tucked up in bed by 8.30, me with the Great British Bake Off and the kids asleep almost instantly.
Our last day in Greenwich was due to involve the Thames Clipper (a fabulous way to get to or from Greenwich) but we decided against this in favour of a paddling pool day in a friends garden followed by The Railway Children (INCREDIBLE – read our review here!). Sorry Greenwich you really were so very very hot for those 3 days. It is’t a problem though, as we will definitely go back and Visit Greenwich such was the fab time we had staying there and will absolutely do the river boat another day!
All in all we can highly recommend Greenwich as a place to stay when visiting the capital for not only the fantastic attractions going on there, but also for a more relaxed and less manic London stay.
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NB: We were invited to Greenwich by Visit Greenwich who covered a number of the attractions visited, and we had a complimentary stay at Aloft London, all views are however my own.
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.