Friday, November 29, 2013

A three hour tour of Windsor Castle

Tips for Visiting Windsor Castle
By Mark Fitzgerald

Windsor Castle by krishorvath81 on Flickr.  Used through creative commons.
Windsor Castle in October
Windsor Castle is often considered a London attraction, though it is located 22 miles (35 kilometers) from Buckingham Palace.  Most tourists visit Windsor by taking the train.  The castle is about a five to eight minute walk from the train station.  The ticket booth is right across the street from the Henry VIII gate (the exit).  Security is a little tighter here than other tourist attractions as it is a current home of the monarch.  You will go through metal detectors, etc.

Try to clear security in time to attend the 10:00 AM Castle Precinct tour.  Precinct, meaning within the walls of the castle, is a 30 minute tour around the grounds.  I was told that the tour ends at the North Terrace.  Take a few minutes to look around before heading back down to the lower ward, just outside St. George's Chapel for the changing of the guard.

In the winter this does not happen every day, so check the website to make sure we are going on a day that it is scheduled to happen.  Also check to make sure the state rooms are open.  I read that most people gather towards the Henry VIII gate, where the guard enter.  It is best to stay back.  The band congregates near the Horseshoe Cloisters.
The band during changing of the guard at windsor castle by JenGallardo on Flickr.  Used through creative commons.
Changing of the Guard

The changing should last around 30 minutes.  From there go straight into St. George's Chapel for a 30 minutes tour.  Afterwards head back  up to the North Terrace and the entrance to the state apartments.  Likely we will only have time for the state apartments and not the Queen Mary dollhouse.

We are going to pass on the kitchen tour, do to the expensive, but it looks fabulous.  Periodically they have a tour of the round tower, but it is unlikely during March.

You can get views of the upper ward from where you enter (near Edward III tower) or through the Norman Gateway, there is a parking lot with a gate in which you can snap a few pictures.

The British Monarchy has put together a short clip highlighting
all of the sites at Windsor Castle

Afterwards we will head over to the Windsor and Eton Riverside train station to head back to London.  (Make sure to see our tips for taking the train to and from Windsor.)  While walking to the station look for a street (really a parking lot) called the cloisters.  It has a wooden door, but if it is open there are beautiful views of the castle, the gardens and the hundred steps.

Map of Windsor Castle grounds:

How to get to Windsor Castle:

The Website for Windsor Castle is:


Tips for visiting Tower of London with your family

Tips for visiting Tower of London
By Mark Fitzgerald

The white tower by stewartmorris on  Used through creative commons.
The White Tower
There is a lot more to see at the Tower than we have planned.  We have about 4 hours planned for sightseeing at the Tower of London.  It is one of those types of attractions that you could go back to several times and have a different experience each time.

Tower of London Tickets
We will likely be buying a membership to Historic Royal Places so we can have unlimited entry to other London attractions such as Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Banqueting House.  A benefit of this member is that it will allow us to go straight to the main entrance and skip the ticket queue.

Another option for our family is to buy a family pass to the Tower of London.  The price is about the same for 2 adults and one child.  You get 2 more children in for free.  A second option is if you are taking the train at all during your trip.  You can usually find two for one tickets to the Tower through British Rail.  Lastly see our post on the London Pass -- the Tower of London is certainly included.  Anyway you do it, look to purchase online to get a discount.

Yeoman Warder by 762_AK on Flickr.  Used through Creative Commons.
Yeoman Warder
We will want to time our arrival to begin with a Yeoman Warder Tour led by a Tower of London Beefeater.  These start out near the entrance and last about an hour.  As you come in look for a sign that says Guided Tours Start Here and has a clock indicating the next start time.  The tour is mostly outside, but it is the only way you can see the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.

The Crown Jewels are in the north part of the complex next to the Chapel in the Waterloo block.  Everyone says the best time to visit is the first thing in the morning, if not plan about 40 minutes plus the wait of the line. Being that we will have either a London Pass or a membership of the Historic Royal Palaces, we always have the option of coming back another morning at 9:30 just for the seeing the jewels.
White Tower - I think we will skip the tour and just go through on our own.  There are 4 stories.  You exit by going down to the basement.  I would like to see armor and the chapel.  We are planning a minimum of 40 minutes.

Ravens at the Tower of London - There is a legend that Britain will fall if the ravens ever leave the Tower. As a result, these birds are well cared for by the Ravenmaster and for extra measure have their wings clipped so they cannot fly away.  You can find the ravens right by the White Tower, not much to see but catch a picture and read up about the tradition.

We will end up our tour on the East Wall Walk by looking for stairs between near the Salt and Lanthorn Towers.  We will follow the walk to the broad arrow and constable towers to find hands-on and interactive activities.  Perfect for our kids.

There are bathrooms in the welcome center as you enter and behind the jewel house inside the castle walls.  There is no WiFi at this London attraction.

Getting to the Tower of London is fairly easy.  The London Tube has Tower Hill station which is serviced by both District and Circle Lines.  London Transport also has Tower Gateway Station for the Dockland Light Rail (DLR) and several bus routes.  If your kids are older consider using Barclays Cycle Hire bicycles.  The dock is right outside the Castle om Tower Hill Park. You can also use Tower Pier and arrive by riverboat.  As you arrive to the Tower make sure to take a few minutes outside to see the original Roman Wall that surrounded the City of London.

Historic Royal Palaces provides a preview of what you can expect to see at the Tower:

Tower of London Attractions Map:

Map of the Tower of London:
Click to enlarge this map of the Tower of London

Going on a family vacation builds memories, provides life changing experiences and helps teach about the world we live in. Take time to explore, enjoy and have fun. If this tour of the Tower of London sounded interesting, you may also like Windsor Castle. You can also look at our entire list of London Attractions.

The Tower of London website is:


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The View from the Shard for your family

Tips for visiting the Shard
By Mark Fitzgerald

The Shard is one of London's newest attractions.  It opened in 2012 and is the tallest building in Western Europe.  The Shard is a beautiful looking building and has a viewing gallery and observation deck that looks awesome (called the View from the shard).

People have complained about 3 things
The Shard at Night.  Some rights reserved by Peter Glenday on Flickr.  Used through Creative Commons.
The Shard
  1. The glass gets in the way of decent photography
  2. There are not that many bathrooms and they are all at the ground floor
  3. It costs £25 for an adult to go up
Reservations and web purchase of tickets are highly recommended to get in. This lets you skip the lines. If your reservation ends up being at a time with poor visibility, ask about rescheduling. The public entrance is down Joiner St and will feel like it is in London Bridge Station.

The Guardian reviewed the View from the Shard on YouTube.  It gives you a great feel for what it is like:

While the cost of this seems steep it is somewhat in line with other venues - The Space Needle in Seattle is $26, The SkyDeck at the Willis Tower in Chicago is $40 and the Empire State Building with express pass is $64.50.

There are some neat features, such video screen telescopes. It will let you zoom in on a feature and it will tell you what you are looking at. Even so for a family of 6 we will probably pass on the Shard this trip.

Map of the Shard:

The View from the Shard website is:‎


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

St. Paul's Cathedral

Dome of St. Pauls.  Some rights reserved by Loco Steve on Flickr.  Used through Creative Commons.
Dome of St. Paul's
Tips for visiting St. Paul's Cathedral 
By Mark Fitzgerald
St. Paul's is an icon of London.  It stands majestically in the heart of the City.   We will start our tour of St. Paul's Cathedral with stopping and just taking it all in. It is worth a moment to just take a seat and just observe.

When we decide to start looking around we will tour the Nave, stopping to see St. Dunstan's Chapel, the Chapel of St. Michael, the Wellington Monument and then font.  In this section there is a fair amount of religious, yet modern art.  Being that it is very different than my faith, I want to ensure that my children have the opportunity to see it and understand it.

We will then go to the Choir and Alter section.  Behind the Choir is the American Memorial Chapel.  Not only is this a reverent section, one that honors those that fought in World War II, it is an interesting section to observe.  This section was destroyed in the Blitz and has been rebuilt.  Images in the stained glass include George Washington, an American Eagle, Jesus Christ and a rocket ship.

We will then back track to the south transept and look for the staircase to the whispering gallery and dome.  This part of the tour is not for everyone.  It takes 40 minutes to an hour to go up the 540 steps and back down.  You need to be in shape and it may be a challenge for little ones.  It is in 3 sections and as it is a one way staircase once you commit to a section you need to proceed.  Many families only make it to the first section.

If you do go to the whispering gallery, the first section, spread the family out to talk to each other around the dome. See the faces of your children light up when they can hear your voice whisper to them even though you are a long ways away.  Enjoy the sites of the church from high above.  I have never gone past the whispering gallery and I would really like to take my older children up to the top to see the sites of London.  The next section is the stone gallery. The very top is the golden gallery.  Small as it may be it will let you see London from 280 feet (85 meters) in the air and may be the highlight of this London attraction.

We will then descend all the way to the basement crypt and checkout some tombs. The 3 biggies are Nelson, Wellington and Christopher Wren. There is another chapel to look at as well - the Chapel of St. Faith.  Hit the bathrooms on the way out.  They are located by the main entrance.

It is not cheap to visit St. Paul's.  Adults are £16.  Buying online will save you £1.50 and give you a fast pass entry.  There is a family plan.  St. Paul's is no longer covered by the London Pass.  The Cathedral normally closes at 4:30 so they can have worship sessions at 5:00.  Do note that you are not allowed to take pictures inside.

We plan on taking an old Routemaster double decker bus to the Cathedral.  London Transport has a Heritage route, number 15, that stops at St. Pauls.  If you choose to take the Tube, St. Pauls Station, is served by the central line.  You can always use the London Transport option of riding a bike. The bike dock on the north east side of the church on Newgate and King Edward St.

A preview of the church can be seen courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:

Floor plan and map of St. Paul's Cathedral:
Map of St. Paul's

Going on a family vacation builds memories, provides life changing experiences and helps teach about the world we live in. Take time to explore, enjoy and have fun. If St. Paul's sounded interesting, you may also like Westminster Abbey. You can also look at our entire list of London Attractions.

St. Paul's Cathedral website is:


Kensington Palace is a home of classic royal love stories to share with your family

Tips for visiting Kensington Palace
By Mark Fitzgerald

Stone Stairs, Kensington Palace by WhiteJaune on Flickr.  Used through Creative Commons.
Kensington Palace Staircase
We plan on visiting Kensington Palace just after we have landed in London.  The main purpose is to stay awake and adjust to the new time zone. While we will walk through some of the Kensington Palace Gardens most of it and the park will be left for another part of our trip. With that said, there is plenty to see and enjoy at this London attraction. We enter in from Broad Walk just north of the Queen Victoria statue, walk by the sunken garden and then to the main entrance.

There are three main parts to the palace. As we enter we will go up the stone stairs to "Victoria Revealed" on the 1st floor (remember in the UK there is the ground floor and what in the US we would call the second floor is the called the 1st floor.). This exhibit focuses on the life of Queen Victoria from birth to death and her storybook relationship with Prince Albert.

We will then head back down the stone stairs and head to the vestibule and turn left. This will lead us to stairs heading up to the second floor and we will visit the King's State apartments. To get to the Queen's state Apartments you need to come back downstairs and find another staircase to head up to the second floor once again.

Afterwards we will head down the stairs into the cafe area. The Orangery is a cafe at the palace and has received high reviews, but we will skip it this trip.  If you are looking for a place to do Tea Time with your family, the Orangery is highly recommended.  The bathrooms are in the cafe area and also near the vestibule.  There is no mention of wifi being available in the museum.

The bulk of the palace is still a residence for the royal family. It is subdivided into several apartments. There are officially 4 royal families in residence with the most notable being the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Catherine.

London Transport provides several options to get to Kensington Palace.  The most accessible Tube Station is High Street Kensington on the Circle or District lines.  You could also use Queensway on the Central line.  You can always use the London Transport option of riding a bike or one of the many buses in the area. There are several bike docks throughout Kensington Gardens, the closest being on Broad Walk near Kensington Rd.
CNN provides us a preview of Kensington Palace in this quick overview:

Floor Plan of Kensington Palace:

Map of Kensington Palace:

Going on a family vacation builds memories, provides life changing experiences and helps teach about the world we live in. Take time to explore, enjoy and have fun. If Kensington Palace sounded interesting, you may also like the Banqueting House. You can also look at our entire list of London Attractions.

The website for Kensington Palace is:


Tips for visiting the HMS Belfast

Tips for visiting the HMS Belfast
By Mark Fitzgerald

HMS Belfast Naval Museum by  sisaphus on Flickr.  Used by creative commons.
HMS Belfast
The HMS Belfast, a World War II light cruiser, is moored across the Thames from the Tower of London. It opened as a London attraction in 1971.  We plan on getting there by walking across the Tower Bridge and arriving fairly early in the morning – about 10:45. It is recommended to spend at least 90 minutes, with most people staying between 2 to 3 hours. We are going to try to squeeze it in to about an hour and a half. It will be easy enough to stay a little longer if we are interested. It will simply bleed into lunch.

The Royal Navy probably didn't have tourists in mind when the designed the Belfast. There are lot of steep ladders in this visit, spread out over 9 decks. This may be difficult for some people and you may also want to consider not wearing a skirt or kilt when going to visit. The museum is laid out in a pre-designed pattern to follow the tour and provided an audio guide included in the admission for those that are interested.
HMS Belfast Operations Room by Matt From London on Flickr.  Used through creative commons.
Boiler Room on the Belfast

You enter the Belfast aft on the quarterdeck. In other words you come up on the back part of the ship on the main deck. The tour will bring you inside on this main level and bring you from the back to the front of the ship.  There are 3 dips into the lower level to see the boilers, engines and shell rooms, before heading up to the upper deck.   Eventually we will head up all the way to the top of the tower. In the tour you will see the admiral's bridge, the kitchen, hospital and even the insides of the gun turret. The operations room seems to have received the most positive comments.

Bathrooms and food are available on board at the Walrus cafe, which is conveniently located at the end of the tour. We will be skipping lunch there and heading back on land. The menu for the cafe can be found on the Belfast website. You can get a sandwich, chips and soda for £4.50.

An example of what the Belfast was capable of, this YouTube video shows a firing drill.

HMS Belfast Floor Plan:
Map of HMS Belfast:

The website for the Belfast is at:


Fat Tire Bike Tours in London

Tips for Fat Tire Bike Tours in London
By Mark Fitzgerald

Fat Tire Bike Tour in London by j_silla on Flikr.  Used through Creative Commons.
Fat Tire Bike Tour
My brother suggested that we checkout He took tours in both Paris and London and thoroughly enjoyed them. Fat Tire offers a 4 hour Royal Tour that looks like it goes all throughout the parks (Kensington, Green, St. James and Hyde Park). At £20 for 4 hours - it is fairly reasonable. My experience with tour guides in Europe is that they are highly entertaining.

What I like about it is that it is family friendly - they will provide bikes for all ages and sizes. If you are going with a family make a reservation so they actually have the smaller bikes waiting for you. Reservations are not required though and you can pick up a tour outside Queensway tube station. (Look for the red phone boxes).

They also have a twilight River tour that actually sounds more fun to me. It sounds like it is a little bit more strenuous and may not be as family friendly. Reservations are required for this one. It looks like it hits all of the big destinations like St. Pauls, Tower of London, Monument, Leadenhall Market and London Eye.

Where to find the Fat Tire Bike tour:

The website for Fat Tire Bike Tours in London is:


Millennium Bridge

Tips for visiting Millennium Bridge
By Mark Fitzgerald

The London Millennium Footbridge is something that I would really like to experience. In itself it is just a bridge crossing the river Thames and not very much of an attraction. But the view of St. Paul's, to me, is just striking. As a amateur photographer I would really like the opportunity of taking pictures from there.

It does not cost to cross. We will be starting our day at the nearby Globe Theatre and walking from the south bank to the north over to St Paul's. The path is all pedestrian and contains street art and steps and ramps climbing towards the church.

Millennium Footbridge Some Rights Reserved  by VisitBritain Images on   Used through Creative Commons
Millennium Footbridge with St. Paul's in the background

Map of Millennium Bridge:

The website for Millennium Bridge is:


Hampton Court Palace

Tips for visiting Hampton Court Palace
By Mark Fitzgerald

We will be arriving at Hampton Court late morning after touring Epsom.  It is not normally considered a London attraction and is located 16 miles (25 kilometers) downriver from the Tower of London.  We plan on arriving via train.

We will have to decide if we are ready for an early lunch when we arrive. If so, we will eat at the Tiltyard Cafe which is located within the grounds but outside of the castle by the maze. If not, we will explore the first gallery on the left as we enter the castle. Currently it is an exhibit about the paintings of the Triumphs of Caesar.

Hampton Court Tour Guides. Some rights reserved by Ian Kershaw de Moura on Flickr.  Used through Creative Commons.
Tour Guides
We will plan on a costumed tour guide of the castle at 12:30 PM. We will meet up with the tour at the Base Court in the Tutor section of the castle. The tour is about 30 minutes long.

Hampton Court stained glass. Some rights reserved by Marcio Cabral de Moura on Flickr.  Used through Creative Commons.
Royal Chapel
The tour returns to the base court. From there we will go to the left of the entrance towards the Tutor Kitchens. Looks for signs that say Master Carpenter's Court.

The exit from the kitchens will put us at the Clock Court, and we will head west towards the King Henry VIII Apartments. This brings us upstairs. When we exit we will head down stairs and guide to the north towards the Royal Chapel.

Depending on if we had an early lunch or not, we will head out to the Tiltyard Cafe or to the maze. It may take 20 minutes to go through the maze. Then again we may get lost. It is a good thing that the train leaves every 30 minutes in case you miss it. If there is time and we had an early lunch, we will grab a snack to tide us over.

The train station is just outside the castle and right across the river. The trains are run by South West Trains, but an Oyster Card can be used.  Hampton Court is considered Zone 6.   You also have the option to arrive via car, taxi, boat and bus.  If you have access to a bike you could consider a riding the National Cycle Route 4 through the Thames River Valley.  It is estimated it would take you an hour to ride the 11.5 miles from Kensington Palace to Hampton Court.

There is enough to see at Hampton Court, we may consider making an itinerary change and staying another 2 hours.  Hampton Court Palace is considered a London attraction and is covered by the London Pass.  It is also part of the Historic Royal Palaces.  If you plan on going to the Tower of London and Kensington Palace you way want to consider an annual membership pass which will get you into all three.

Floor plan and of Hampton Court Palace:

Map of Hampton Court Palace:

Historic Royal Palaces put together an introduction and overview of the Palace.  It is highly worth watching:

Going on a family vacation builds memories, provides life changing experiences and helps teach about the world we live in. Take time to explore, enjoy and have fun. If the London Transport Museum sounded interesting, you may also like Windsor Castle. You can also look at our entire list of London Attractions.

The website for Hampton Court Palace is:


Covent Garden Market

Tips for visiting Covent Garden Market
By Mark Fitzgerald

The London attraction of Covent Garden Market is not too different than Boston's Quincy market. There are a wide variety shops, crafts and foods. Similar to other large city markets it is a wide area more than a single market; it takes in several blocks of buildings.
Covent Garden Market.  Some rights reserved by on Flickr.  Used through Creative Commons.
Covent Garden Market

Covent Garden Market is not (or no longer) like Pike's Place Market in Seattle.  The food market has disappeared over the years, though there are still lots of restaurants and cafes. In the past there have been food stalls on Friday nights, which is the night we plan to be there, and it appears that still happens at select times. It is still primarily a day time destination.   

As we get closer to our visit we will look at their website for details.  Even if the shops are closed there are lots of restaurant options.  I think the attraction for our family is not the shopping but the buzz, street performing and people watching, so I would like to work out a time to visit when it is open for business.

One of the shoppes that we want to visit is Neal's Yard Dairy.  The cheese may be pricey but the dairy still seems to be a sight to see.

There are a number of ways of getting to Covent Garden.  The most accessible Tube Station is Covent Garden on the Picadilly Line.  There is also Embankment Station which uses the Circle and District lines.  You can always use the London Transport option of riding a bike or one of the many buses in the area. The bike dock on the back side of the London Transport Museum on Wellington and Tavistock.

Most stores have a restroom for paying customers.  There is a paid public restroom near the bike dock on Tavistock.  There is also a free toilet in the piazza, south of St. Pauls, in the basement.

Map of Covent Garden Market:

The website for Covent Garden Market is:

Going on a family vacation builds memories, provides life changing experiences and helps teach about the world we live in. Take time to explore, enjoy and have fun. If shopping at Covent Gardens sounded interesting you may also like Harrods. You can also look at our entire list of London Attractions.


Withdrawing Money at a London ATM

Tips for withdrawing cash at a London ATM
By Mark Fitzgerald

I recently heard a Clark Howard broadcast recommending the use of American Express Bluebird prepaid cards in Europe.  So I decided to look into it a little further. First of all Bluebird is kind of like a debit card. Think of as a checking account with your credit card company.

The recommendation from Clark Howard was to use it make ATM withdrawals because of their favorable fee structure.  In particular there is no foreign transaction fee.  Most banks are charging between a 2 and 3% transaction fee. Also their out of network ATM fee is $2.  This is compared to $5 for Bank of America or Wells Fargo.   A bank ATM in England should not charge a fee for withdrawals on their end, though from what I can, tell there are some 3rd party ATM's that may charge.

You can get a Bluecard card at Walmart for $5 or start online for free.  It seems fairly similar to other online banks in that you can deposit a check with a mobile app or you can transfer money to and from other accounts electronically.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

British Museum

Tips for visiting the British Museum

One of the crowning jewels of all London attractions, the British Museum could take several days on its own to see all that you would like to see.  Some rights reserved by RobRoyAus on Flickr.  Used through Creative Commons 2.0.There is no admission fee to the museum.  Trying to cram it into 2 hours, as we plan to do, just is scratching the surface, so we need to focus on the things that interest our family - Medieval Europe and the Egyptians.  We are aiming to do this on a Friday night when the museum is open late - till 8:30.

One of the most interesting exhibits is in a temporary location through the Spring of 2014 when it gets a brand new home.  The exhibit contains highlights from the Sutton Hoo ship burial.  This was a treasure of the early Anglo-Saxon Britons.  The display is on the right as you enter, in the rotating displays gallery.  For a fascinating overview of the Sutton Hoo story, checkout the quality and highly entertaining British History Podcast

Some rights reserved by Biker Jun on Flickr.  Used through Creative Commons 2.0.
Afterwards we head to the America's section for Mom to see an Easter Island Moai statue.  We will go through the reading room heading north.

Then we will come back out of the reading room and to the West to the Egypt Section to see the Rosetta Stone and Ramesses the Great.  Among other book series, my boys have enjoyed the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan.  The Rosetta Stone and the British Museum play an important part in that story.  A visit to see it in real life should add depth to that story.  The Egyptian section also has a number of Shabti, or clay figurines found in Egyptian pyramids.  We will end the evening by heading upstairs to Level 3 for the Mummy of Katebet.

If your family is into the Egyptian theme, also make sure to go see Cleopatra's Needle.  This is an obelisk on the Victoria Embankment by the River Thames.  It is a mile walk south of the museum and very close to Covent Garden.  

Level 3 is also home to Medieval Europe.  If there is time and people are still awake check out something different like the Samurai armor on the 5th level.  If you are there between 11 AM and 4 PM search out one of the Hands On desks to give your family the opportunity of actually touching and handling some of the artifacts the museum displays.

If the need arises there are bathrooms on every floor throughout the building.  If you are visiting with younger children, consider stopping in at the family desk in the Great Court and asking for an Open Futures family trail guide.  These are are preplanned walks to "Hunt for Dragons" or "Sailing on the Nile."  They do have WiFi in the museum that you can use and an iPhone and Android app to go with it.  Make sure that your phone is set correctly.

We will be walking to the museum from Covent Garden by coming up Drury Lane to Museum St. Though I have looked I have not found a bakery on Drury Ln. Either way I think I will need to bring a ginger bread man cookie so we can discuss the muffin man.

If you are taking London Transport there are lots of options.  The London Tube has 4 stations within 1/2 mile (800 meters) They are Goodge Street, Tottenham Court Rd, Holborn, Russell St. and are served by Central, Northern and Piccadilly lines.  There are a dozen bus routes on New Oxford, Gower St and Southampton Row. If your kids are older consider using Barclays Cycle Hire bicycles.

Rick Steves does a great overview that can be watched:

British Museum Floor plan:

British Museum Map:

The website for the British Museum is at

Going on a family vacation builds memories, provides life changing experiences and helps teach about the world we live in. Take time to explore, enjoy and have fun. If the British Museum sounded interesting, you may also like the London Natural History Museum. You can also look at our entire list of London Attractions.


Banqueting House

Tips for visiting the Banqueting House
By Mark Fitzgerald

Banqueting House Ceiling.  Some rights reserved by jacqueline.poggi on Flickr.  Used through Creative Commons.
Ceiling at
Banqueting House
The Banqueting House was to be a wing of a much larger palace that was never built. As a result it is in an architectural style different than it's surroundings. The building isn't much more than a big hall. The highlight is a fantastic ceiling created by Rubens.

We have scheduled 35 minutes to visit this London attraction. I don't think it requires much more and it fits perfectly into our schedule.  It looks like a quick treat.  With a family of six we should be able to see the main hall and the undercroft or downstairs.

At £5 per person it may not be for everyone, but is included in both the London Pass and the Historic Royal Palaces pass, so for us it is essentially a bonus stop.  There is a small shop and bathrooms on the bottom level.  It does not have wifi.

Banqueting House is situated between London Transport's Charing Cross and Westminster stations which are serviced by the Bakerloo, Northern, Circle, District and Jubilee lines.  Instead of the Tube you can consider one of the many buses or riding a bike.  The nearest bike dock is on Victoria Embankment next to Horse Guards Ave.

The floorplan of the Banqueting House is:
Map of Banqueting House:

You can get a preview of what Banqueting House is like by watching:

Going on a family vacation builds memories, provides life changing experiences and helps teach about the world we live in. Take time to explore, enjoy and have fun. If the Banqueting House sounded interesting, you may also like the Victoria and Albert Museum. You can also look at our entire list of London Attractions.

The website for the Banqueting House is:


London Day 1 - Stay awake

By Mark Fitzgerald
  • The first day is mostly travel. We will be landing roughly at noon and plan to go through customs in about 45 minutes. 
  • We would take the 1:03 PM train to Paddington Station and walk to our apartment that we have rented for the week.
  • We will have a lunch of heavy snacks and head out to ensure we stay awake by walking to Kensington Palace
  • After a couple of hours in Kensington Palace we can take care of essentials by visiting the ATM and Grocery Store. 
  • We will finish the day with a quick pasta dinner at the apartment get to bed
Time in GMT
Detailed Itinerary: 
Arrive Time at Destination Depart Travel Time to Next Dest
Breakfast (airplane) 10:34 AM 0:30:00 11:04 AM 0
Fly 11:04 AM 1:00:00 12:04 PM 0:05:00
Customs 12:09 PM 0:45:00 12:54 PM 0:09:00
Purchase Tickets and Wait for Train 1:03 PM 0:17:00 1:20 PM 0:05:00
Tube (Piccadilly Line to Circle Line) 1:25 PM 0:38:00 2:03 PM 0:05:00
Transfer to Circle Line 2:08 PM 0:02:00 2:10 PM 0
Tube (Circle Line) 2:10 PM 0:12:00 2:22 PM 0:09:00
Check In (at apartment) 2:31 PM 0:40:00 3:11 PM 0
Lunch (heavy snacks, brought) 3:11 PM 0:30:00 3:41 PM 0:25:00
Purchase Tickets for Kensington Palace 4:06 PM 0:05:00 4:11 PM 0:03:00
KP: Victoria 4:14 PM 0:30:00 4:44 PM 0:03:00
KP: King's Apartment 4:47 PM 0:30:00 5:17 PM 0:03:00
KP: Queen's Apartment 5:20 PM 0:30:00 5:50 PM 0:03:00
Bathroom break 5:53 PM 0:05:00 5:58 PM 0:07:00
Grocery Store 6:05 PM 0:40:00 6:45 PM 0:17:00
Visit ATM 7:02 PM 0:07:00 7:09 PM 0:15:00
Dinner (pasta at apartment) 7:24 PM 0:55:00 8:19 PM 0
Unpack 8:19 PM 1:23:00 9:42 PM 0
Get ready for bed 9:42 PM 0:30:00 10:12 PM 0
Sleep 10:12 PM 9:00:00 7:12 AM 0

Family Vacation Ideas

By Mark Fitzgerald

For me a good portion of the fun of the vacation is planning it. I know that isn't for everyone, but I like to make sure everything is accounted for. It takes the stress out of the actual visit for me. In planning for an upcoming an upcoming family vacation London I discovered that things I am interested in are pretty hard to find. I like maps, paths and routes, and itineraries. So I have been collecting them, creating them and sharing them here.

I also like learning about tips and tricks to make the vacation more enriching and affordable. For a family of 6 this can be a challenge.

This site can be enjoyed by selecting a daily itinerary to see what we have planned out or looking at what we want to go see by looking at the details of a given location to visit.

So we have started with London. Why London? Because that is near where I was born. As we go one we have added far more than we are going to fit into a 7 day trip with the family. On our trip we will have young children to teens and we will try to find something to fit all of their interests.