3 September 2010
Unless you live in London then my suggestion for shopping with kids in London would be don't bother. There is far more on offer in London without having to endure the crowds and stress of shopping in London.
But then I'm a bloke and my wife and many others will probably disagree with me. So when we went to London we did the usual trip around some of the toy shops / departments in London. We went on a Saturday when the shops were very busy, they are often much quieter during the week. I suggest you avoid shopping in London with children during the last few weeks before Christmas as the crowds in the stores are awful.
I've already provided details of a previous shopping trip to London when our eldest child was still a baby, but shopping with a toddler and 5 year old is a completely different experience.
We travelled around using a combination of bus and underground train (see travelling around London using public transport for more information).
Hamley's Toy Store
Hamley's toy store is on Regents street between Oxford Circus and Picaddilly Circus tube stations, or on 7 of the key bus routes through central London.
It is a huge toy store covering several floors accessed via a central escalator route, a staircase (decorated in a Narnia theme) and two elevators. As we had a pushchair we went to the top floor via the elevator, but it took some time before we were able to get on the lift. We then went back down via the escalators taking the empty pushchair on the escalator and our son walking / carried.
The store is like a child's dream which can work both ways. The children certainly enjoyed looking around, but as we had a schedule to keep it was difficult getting them to move on when they'd not seen half of the toys they wanted to play with. If time is not an issue then definitely worth a visit, but the stress of having to move the kids on every few minutes did take some of the fun away for parents and children alike.
Eating at the restaurant in Hamley's Toy Store
We ate lunch in the restaurant on the top floor of Hamley's and I was disappointed. Unsurprisingly the restaurant was busy, but a large table came vacant which we occupied half and another family sat down opposite.
As you would expect for a Toy store they had a children's menu, but the price of the "children's food" was as much as, or in some cases more than the normal adult meals. They were large portions, but young children do not need the same size portions as adults.
The freshly cooked food was good, but I had a Lasagne from the hot display counter which had been left under the heat lamp for too long and was very dry.
Our order was wrong with a mistake on the topping of the pizza and on the vegetable option for the other child's meal.
The staff were friendly, but I'm sure we could have got a much better meal from one of the other restaurants on the side roads off Regent's Street. I won't be in a rush to have another meal in Hamley's I'm afraid.
Harrods is located in Knightsbridge. If travelling by Tube then head for the Brompton Road exit which is right next to the Harrods store.
The ground floor has the Harrods Arcade (like a Harrods tourist / gift shop) selling Harrods branded items and the food halls. The ground floor tends to be very busy.
On the fourth floor (available via express elevator near the entrance by the Tube station, or via the Egyptian Escalator) there is a children's department which is much less busy than the Harrods Arcade and Hamley's, and is a good place to shop for toys. They do have some very expensive toys (a £10,000 toy car for instance), but most of the toys are regular high-street toys at the recommended retail price.
Don't miss the Button-in-the-Ear Bear animated display at the back of the baby toy section which our son thought was great. It's getting quite old now, but is worth seeing.
I have had a meal at one of the Easy Eateries (Dim Sum Bar) in the food halls on a previous visit; it was very nice, though expensive, but I wouldn't recommend it for children. There is a family restaurant on the fourth floor, but I haven't eaten there so can't comment on what it is like.
As we were meeting family in London we didn't have time to visit the Disney store on this occasion. We often visit the Disney stores in Solihull, Birmingham and Merry Hill which are all within driving distance of our home so we didn't think we were missing out of anything.
If you are interested in visiting the Disney Store it is located directly across from the Bond Street Underground Station.
More about the London Visit
- London with toddlers and children – part 1: Travel around London using cars, train, tube and bus
- London with toddlers and children – part 2: Holiday Inn Express Hotel Family Room
- London with toddlers and children - part 3: Shopping with kids
- London with toddlers and children - part 4: Day out at London Zoo
Our previous visit to London with a baby
- Trip to London with a Baby – Part 1 – Hotel at Wembley Park and travelling around London on the Underground
- Trip to London with a Baby – Part 2 – St. John’s Gate Museum and Priory tours, London Tourist Attraction
- Trip to London with a Baby – Part 3 – London in London with Babies and Children
- Trip to London with a Baby – Part 4 – The London Aquarium, Tourist Attraction