Huggle — A shop, café and playspace in one!

Imagine a children’s shop stocked full of great toys, baby equipment, children’s decor and stylish furniture… doesn’t that alone sound impressive? Now, imagine this store has buggy parking, kiddie toilets and baby changing facilities, a little café, and an indoor play space for kids — aaahhh, it’s like heaven for parents! This heaven is called Huggle, and it’s a newly opened shop located in Swiss Cottage (just opposite the leisure centre). It was started by a local husband and wife team who spent two years researching the market before opening up their shop and who completely get what it’s like to be a new parent struggling to find the best products for their kids. (more…)

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Elias and GraceOttolenghiTricycle Theatre
Elias & GraceOttolenghiTricycle Theatre

Hanover Gate Playground in Regents Park

The Hanover Gate playground, located on the west side of Regents Park, has just recently been renovated and now includes two different play areas: a traditional playground for younger children and a new timber tree-house section for older, more adventurous kids. It’s also a great little spot to spend a sunny afternoon because it’s right next to the boating lakes and boat house where you can rent pedal boats (both family-sized and single) and float around, taking in the beauty of the park.  (The children’s boating pond is only open on the weekends and is meant for kids aged 5 and up — they have to be able to reach the pedals.) There’s also a little restaurant in the Boat House with outdoor seating facing the lake. It’s a beautiful setting, especially when the weather is cooperating. (more…)

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Benjamin PollocksBugs, Frogs and Fish at the London Zoo…The British Museum

Paddington Street Gardens and Playground

The playground in Paddington Street Gardens is one of my favourite in Central London.  I love that it’s tucked away off the beaten path in Marylebone, slightly hidden unless you know it’s there. It means that it never usually gets too crowded, and you get the sense that all the kids there are from the neighbourhood. The playground has been recently renovated so all the equipment is new and the grounds are well looked after. In redesigning the playground they did a good job of catering to both babies and bigger kids as they have a variety of toys to play on. Plus, I love when playgrounds are covered in that rubbery flooring — it’s nice for babies to crawl around on, and means safer falling for the older ones.  Not to mention… it’s located just off my favourite street in London — Marylebone High Street. So it’s a great spot to take a break/have lunch/let the kids run around whilst visiting the many great shops on the high street. Just turn off Marylebone High Street onto Moxon street and walk to the end (or you can access the gardens from Paddington Street.) For more details, click here.

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PrimroseBakeryrossopomodoro pizzalondon duck tours
Primrose Bakery — our favourite cupcakes in LondonRossopomodoro PizzaThe London Duck Tours

Kew Gardens

DSC_0096When the girls asked me to write for Babyccino one of my first ideas for a post was Kew Gardens. We got to know the Royal Botanical Gardens when we moved down South and immediately became members. We now go every couple of weeks and still love it just as much — it is such a great place for kids.

Apart from being a huge space to run around with fascinating trees, flowers and plants, there is also a dedicated indoor children’s area called Climbers and Creepers. All the zones have an educational element relating to plants and their habitat and have been so cleverly thought out to cater for a really wide age group (quoted as age 3 – 9 but there are great touchy-feely bits too which are good for babies).

On the other side of the gardens is the Treetop walkway (designed by the architects of The London Eye) which is 18 metres up in the air and 200 metres around — giving you an opportunity to see the tops of the trees and those who inhabit them. At ground level there is a tunnel with an exhibit giving insight to what happens under the trees (good for any bug and creepy-crawly enthusiasts!). (more…)

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Natural History MuseumGracelands CaféBrora

Battersea Park

Recumbent Bikes BatterseaWeekends are always for adventures and when we stumbled from our cosy little burrow last summer into Battersea Park we hit upon treasure. The Park is situated just south of the river between the Albert and the Chelsea Bridge. We drove and parked up at one of the many car-parks around the park. We got all of our paraphernalia out of the car: buggy, 2 children, nappy-bag … (you know the drill) and hoped that the trip was worthwhile. We were aiming for the children’s zoo that we had heard about, but before even getting there we saw a boy driving around the park lanes in a cross between a bike and a go-kart. Then we saw 5 or 6 more children come flashing past in similar vehicles — there was no way that coincidence could have situated 6 recumbent bike owners on this one park path? It turns out Battersea Park is one of only two parks in London (Dulwich being the other) where London Recumbents hires bikes, trikes, tandems and various other bike-like contraptions (hiring starts at Easter and goes through until the end of Summer). It looks like so much fun, and in fact Time Out called it “the best family biking this side of Amsterdam” — it must be good, hey Esther? (more…)

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Hope for your feet…French bread in LondonBushy Park

Bushy Park

Bushy Park is the second largest of the Royal Parks. The park and in particular the grand promenade ‘Chestnut Avenue’ that runs through the centre of it, were designed by Sir Christopher Wren (of St. Paul’s Cathedral fame) as the entrance to Hampton Court Palace (more on the palace soon).

The park is also a deer Park but has a more formal-grounds feeling to it than its neighbour Richmond Park. We love the new Pheasantry Welcome Centre, pictured, (which opened last summer) and has a great café backing onto the Woodlands Gardens (which is a section of the park closed off to dogs but great for small children, with a large duck pond and plenty of tree-stumps to climb). Another top-spot is by the car-park near The Diana Fountain, where there is a model boat pond with some very impressive boats to go and watch terrorising the ducks. (more…)

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River CaféRossopomodoro PizzaRichmond Park

Richmond Park

DSC_0018Richmond Park is the largest royal park in London, covering 2,500 acres of land and has been a Royal Park since Edward I (1272 – 1307). There are around 650 deer that roam free and stand elegantly among the ferns, blending in to the landscape, which is why it is sometimes known as ‘The Deer Park’. We’re very lucky, as we live a stone’s throw away from the park and go almost daily. So I have some favourite places to mention…

We often park up at Pembroke Lodge* (a lovely canteen/tea-room which used to be the residence of our Prime Minister, Lord John Russell in 1847), and from there walk north to King Henry VIII’s mound, where on a clear day you can see 12 miles to St. Paul’s Cathedral! Or we head east across the road to the ponds. *Note: Pembroke Lodge tends to bring out freshly made (warm!) scones at around 3pm daily, served with cream and jam. There is nothing nicer than a sweet-treat after a bout of fresh air, I find. (more…)

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The Polka TheatreRiver CaféBobo Kids

Kew Bridge Steam Museum

kew bridge steam museumI have a 3-year-old boy, a 34-year-old husband and a 60-year-old father and they all love this Sunday afternoon activity: a ride on London’s only working Steam Engine. The Kew Bridge Steam Museum is open every day except Mondays and is great to marvel at various engines and locomotives. But the real fun is taking a journey on a steam engine – which is open to visitors every Sunday and bank holiday Monday from Easter through to October. Well worth a trip (and the girls tend to have a pretty good time too!).

Kew Bridge Steam Museum is on Green Dragon Lane, TW8 OEN. Nearest Train Station is Kew Bridge.

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Carluccio’sKidsenPetit Aimé

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Princess Diana Memorial Playground

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre

Swiss Cottage Leisure CentreIn the reception area of the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, you’ll spot every type of person… from the 20-something fitness buff to the old man with his badminton racket, mums with their buggies, teenagers with their swimming gear, toddlers running out of the Little Rascals soft-play area, etc. This council-run leisure centre offers something for everybody.

It was voted the best leisure centre in London by TimeOut guide in 2008, and for good reason.  But it also deserves a mention for its incredibly kid-friendly atmosphere and programs… ranging from swimming lessons, ballet, basketball, etc.  Toddler’s World classes are offered twice a week, and the soft-play area is opened all week long. On a rainy day in London the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre can be a savior. (more…)

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Huggle — A shop, café and playspace in one!Olive Loves AlfieKentish Town City Farm

Kenwood House

Kenwood House is located at the top of London’s Hampstead Heath park and is one of my favorite places to go for brunch on a weekend.  Not only does Kenwood House boast sumptuous interiors and important paintings by many great artists (Rembrandt, Turner, Vermeer, etc.), it also has an impressive café/restaurant with one of the best ‘English Breakfasts’ in London.  They also make, in my opinion, the best hot chocolate in the city — it’s worth the walk up there just for a sip!

In nice weather you can sit outside at one of the many picnic tables set in their beautiful garden and enjoy some of the best views of London.  They also have plenty of highchairs and changing tables in the bathrooms, and kids can run freely around the garden area, or join the queue of other children waiting to buy an ice cream from the café!

Hampstead Heath is truly worth a visit if you’re in town, and a walk finishing at Kenwood House will be the icing on the cake of the whole experience!

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Carluccio'sTricycle TheatreSwiss Cottage Leisure Centre
Carluccio’sTricycle TheatreSwiss Cottage Leisure Centre

Coram’s Fields

Coram’s FieldsOne of the best things about raising kids in London is the abundant green space and spacious playgrounds.  Unlike the many small, paved playground lots you find in most cities, the playgrounds and parks in London are often set inside a beautiful grassy surrounding, removed from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of busy London.

Coram’s Fields is exactly this kind of place.  This unique 7-acre park located in the heart of central London, close to the British Museum, is home to grassy lawns (perfect for a picnic), sandpits, a few different playgrounds, a paddling pool (opened in the summer time), a kid-friendly café, and even a little city farm (sheep, goats, ducks, chickens, etc.)!  The gated lot provides a safe place for children to run freely and play; adults without children are not allowed to enter.

An entire city block devoted just to kids.  Now this is why I love London…

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Paddington Street Gardens and PlaygroundBugs, Frogs and Fish at the London Zoo…Princess Diana Memorial Playground

Princess Diana Memorial Playground

One of the most well-known of London’s many playgrounds is the Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens. Known to local mums as the “pirate ship” because of the giant wooden pirate ship in the center, this playground is certainly worth the hype.

There’s a ‘beach’ of sand surrounding the pirate ship, as well as various toys, play structures, swings, and a ‘sensory trail’ where kids can experiment with different sounds.  There’s also a separate section for younger babies, where they can play in the sand without worrying about being trampled by the older kids.

The playground opened in June 2000 in memory of the late princess, and is located next to her Kensington Palace home.  Check the website for opening times, as they change depending on the time of year. And I must warn you: on a sunny day it gets very crowded — so crowded you might have to queue to get in!

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Bugs, Frogs and Fish at the London Zoo…

London Zoo collageThe ZSL London Zoo is not largest zoo I’ve ever seen, nor does it have a very impressive range of large animals (no elephants or rhinos, etc.). But, for a zoo in the middle of such a dense city like London, the zoo does exactly as it should: it places emphasis on the smaller creatures in this world, like bugs of all sorts, butterflies, fish, reptiles and amphibians, and birds of the jungle. All of these different exhibits, each in their own separate building, are located indoors, which means even on a rainy day you can still enjoy a long day at the zoo!

In fact, I have to say, that I think my kids actually prefer these indoor exhibits. My son, with a particular fondness of sea creatures, could spend hours inside the small but extensive aquarium. He also really loves the reptiles and amphibians, with loads of large snakes, lizards, turtles and frogs. And if you arrive in the later part of the afternoon, as we usually do, you may even get to see these animals at feeding time, which is great fun! (We once spent a good 20 minutes watching a lizard chase around all the crickets in his cage!) (more…)

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The Charlotte Street HotelBenjamin PollocksOrangery Restaurant

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath

We lived in London for nearly two years before we discovered the Hampstead Heath, which is a huge shame as it is one of London’s finest gems, and is, in my opinion, the most liberating outdoor activity in London.  The fact that you can feel so far removed from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of London and yet be smack in the middle of it is a treat which is unusual for such a big city.

Hampstead Heath is London’s largest historic parkland, and arguably the most beautiful.  Unlike the more manicured and planned Royal Parks of London, the Heath is more wild in nature, offering 3.2 sq km of roaming meadows, fishing and swimming ponds, dark and lush woodlands, hiking and biking trails, and some of London’s best playgrounds. (more…)

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melrose and morganKenwood HouseElias and Grace
Melrose & MorganKenwood HouseElias & Grace

A week in London

Black Cab in LondonMonday:
Head to Lazy Daisy Café on London’s famous Portobello Road for a quick lunch. They’re all set up for kids, with a basket of toys and even changing tables (nappies and wipes) in the bathroom! If it’s a sunny day, you can even sit outside. After lunch, walk a few blocks south on Portobello Road to the Electric Cinema. They have a 3:00 screening slot set up for mums and their babies under 1-year-old. You “valet park” your buggy, take your seat at one of the cozy armchairs, and enjoy a coffee and treat. Your baby sits on your lap, and no worries if they scream– it’s actually called “Electric Scream” because it is to be expected! This is the perfect way to stay up-to-date on recent films, and is a fun way to meet other mums with babies. (Buy your ticket early on Monday because they always sell out)!

(more…)

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