London – an enigmatic city of culture, color and contrasts. This vast metropolis draws thousands of visitors every year, all eager to view and experience its amazing treasure trove of infamous attractions. There is certainly lots of things for families to see and do on the main tourist circuit. Hordes upon hordes of eager travellers descend upon the Tower of London, The Natural History Museum and Buckingham Palace each and every day, with few venturing out to discover the delightful secrets and surprises it holds close to its beating vibrant heart. So take a journey with us, and we will show you the wondrous and enchanting offbeat experiences that await you in this city of dreams. “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Samuel Pepys
An oasis nestled in London's literary epicentre Bloomsbury, Coram's Fields comprises of a toddler and adventure playground, a large sandpit, a duck pond, a pet's corner and a café. This tranquil play haven was built on the former site of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital for unwanted babies, and it continues to protect children by enforcing a strict policy that only permits adults to enter if accompanied by a child.
Coram's Fields, 93 Guildford Street, Bloomsbury, London, www.coramsfields.org
The world's biggest candy store is the closest one can get to living out your Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fantasies. Spanning 35,000 square feet, the main highlight of this rather garish space is a giant wall of chocolate where you can create your very own custom mix of M&Ms from 100 choices. Kids will go mad for the merchandise, including plush toys, clothing, bedding and kitchenware.
M&M's World, Swiss Court, 1 Leicester Square, London, +44 207 025 717, www.mmsworld.com
This quirky emporium would not seem out of place in Harry Potter's Diagon Alley. Cast your eyes on their neatly stacked shelves of edible treats, and for a dare, try one of their rather alarming Banshee Balls, distasteful Cubed Earwax or scary Zombie Fresh Mints. Along with spooky T-shirts and stationery, they make brilliant gifts for any young witch or wizard in training.
Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, 159 Hoxton Street, Shoreditch, London, +44 207 729 4159, www.monstersupplies.org
A working farm in London? Yes - it actually exists! Set in 32 acres, this unexpected patch of countryside on the Isle of Dogs is a fun and friendly day out for all the family, with the chance to get close to pigs, sheep, goats, alpacas, donkeys, cows and chickens. Join in the regular craft sessions and if you've worked up an appetite, tuck into homemade meals at the Mudchute Kitchen.
Mudchute Park & Farm, Pier Street, Isle of Dogs, London, www.mudchute.org
Unbeknownst to many, there is actually a public garden right on the uppermost floors of London's iconic "Walkie Talkie" building. Offering breathtaking, uninterrupted 360-degree views of the London skyline, this lush oasis is awash with exotic flowering plants. Sky Garden is free to visit but we recommend booking your 90-minute slot at least three days in advance.
Sky Garden, 20 Fenchurch Street, City of London, London, +44 333 772 0020, skygarden.london
Dive into this real life Horrible Histories, and be repulsed by gruesome tales of murder, death and torture reenacted within recreated historical settings. Descend into the forbidding London Tombs (which once housed a plague pit) for a spot of terrifying fun, and run past unspeakable horrors and the creepy crawlies that prowl through the darkness. Best for over 11s.
The London Bridge Experience & London Tombs, 2-4 Tooley Street, City of London, +44 800 43 4666, www.thelondonbridgeexperience.com
Already been to the Natural History Museum to frolic with dinosaurs or The British Museum to see the mummies? For something a little different, drop by the charming Geffrye Museum to take a fasinating trip back in time. Walk through galleries resembling English interiors in the last 400 years and catch a glimpse of how Londoners lived. Special kids workshops run on the weekend.
The Geffrye, 136 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, London, +44 207 739 9893, www.geffrye-museum.org.uk
Afternoon tea is a British institution but most hotels and restaurants are often too stiff for kids. Not so at the Mercer Street Hotel, which offers the family-friendly Stupendous Afternoon Tea. Inspired by Roald Dahl's Mathilda, the tea includes Ludicrously Lovely Lemon cake and Tremendously Terrific Trifle. Each child also receives a complimentary copy of Mathilda. Bookings are essential.
Scoff & Banter, Mercer Street Hotel, 20 Mercer Street, Covent Garden, London, +44 207 845 8607, firstname.lastname@example.org
Discover is a unique venue where children can embark on a story journey, facilitated by costumed characters who are on hand to help them craft their own tales. Dress-up kits, drawing materials as well as the Story Garden fuel young imaginations. There's also a café, and a shop selling picture books and toys. Mums take note - Discover is right next to Westfield Stratford City Mall.
Discover Children's Story Centre, 383-387 Stratford High Street, Stratford, London, +44 208 536 5555, www.discover.org.uk
Alright mamas and papas - this is strictly for the girls. This special studio will sprinkle a little magic to make your little princess's Disney dreams come true. A selection of makeover packages are available, including the ultimate indulgence, the Royal Frozen experience (a hefty £1,000) which comes with three costume changes and toys. Once it's all over, have an ice cream at the Disney Café.
Bibbidi Bobbdi Boutique, Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge, +44 203 626 7911, www.disneyboutiqueatharrods.com