In the February half term I took the kids for the obligatory day out in London. But rather than visit the usual attractions, I decided to go slightly off-plan and head to East London.
East London is my old stomping ground. Not only was I born there and have family ties to the area, but I also spent my Uni days and first few years of professional life in or around Mile End/Bow/Bethnal Green.
Not only was it great to show the kids some of the key landmarks of my life, we also had a great time visiting two interesting, kid-friendly museums, plus of course soaking up the special atmosphere that only East London can offer!
First stop was the Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Rd – a quick bus ride from Liverpool St station. Set in beautiful 18th-century almshouse buildings, the museum displays 11 period, living rooms from 1600 to the present day. So if you are interested in interiors, you’ll love it.
The Geffrye Museum is relatively unknown, so even in half term it wasn’t busy. At the time we went, there was a special exhibition of teenage bedrooms and there were questionnaires and activities for children. The cafe is lovely too, with excellent coffee and homemade cakes – so great for a pit-stop before moving on.
Our next stop was for food, so caught the bus back towards Liverpool St. and got off to walk through the Shoreditch streets towards Brick Lane, popping in to a few of the cool boutiques along the way. The House of Hackney was a favourite for all of us!
My son loved the graffiti along the walls and so we stopped for the usual Instagram wall shots before reaching Brick Lane and queuing up for bagels. The newly invented rainbow bagel was thoroughly appreciated by the kids and we couldn’t leave before buying some to bring home.
Tip – there are two bagel shops at the top end of Brick Lane (reputedly owned by brothers who fell out and went into competition with one another!) It’s the 24hr bagel shop which is the most famous and attracts the longest queues, but the one a couple of doors down is just as good and is never as busy.
Our next stop was the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green, another short bus ride away from Brick Lane. Now run by the V&A, four galleries provide a vast collection of children’s toys across through the ages. It’s great for adults too as you will recognise toys from your childhood. Who had a Pippa doll? I remember spending my pocket money in WH Smith on a Saturday on clothes for Pippa!!! There are lots of hands-on activities and workshops, so it’s worth checking the website before you go.
After this we caught the bus back up to Brick Lane and took a stroll towards Spitalfields. There’s now lots of artisan places to eat and cool shops around this area – so plenty of interest for the kids (well, mine enjoyed it – especially the designer doughnut shop we came across!!!)
We had the intention of ending our day at the Museum of London (which isn’t technically East London, but still in the accessible vicinity). But by the time we reached Spitalfields, we were all exhausted and the kids were happy to browse the shops and stalls and spend their pocket money before getting back on the train home.
I thoroughly recommend all the museums I’ve mentioned in this post. They are all free entry and open 7 days – perfect for a weekend visit.
If you do decide to visit East London on a Sunday, then you must incorporate Colombia Rd Flower Market, just to soak up the atmosphere, the beautiful flowers and smells, and to stop for breakfast/brunch in one of the many independent eateries that line the street.
Transport: we took bus no. 242 (or 149) from Liverpool St Station to the Geffrye Museum (and back again towards Bethnal Green. From Brick Lane, we took the no.8 bus to the Museum of Childhood (and back again towards Liverpool St Station). The new RouteMaster bus (no.8) was in itself a novel and fun part of the day!!!
I hope I may have inspired you to take an alternative trip to London at the weekend, or in the next school hols… ?
I am always on the look out for interesting days out (with the kids), so if you have any tips please do share them below.
Thanks for reading! X