If you’re thinking of choosing the Barbican area as your local neighbourhood on a short-break spent in London, then you’re certainly spoilt for choice when it comes to things to see and do. That said, the centre of the city – a bit further west than where you’ll be based – is brimming with attractions that for you and yours will be idea for a visit. And due to the excellent transport options offered by the Tube and bus network, you can definitely take advantage of parking at Barbican Centre (and in the vicinity) and not worry about having to drive into the centre of town for them…
London Transport Museum
(Covent Garden Piazza WC2E 7BB)
An attraction that impressively covers the entire 200 years of the UK capital’s public transport history, arranged according to several themes: London Transport’s famous design heritage, the poster collection, public transport during both World Wars and plans for the capital’s development in the twenty-first century. Included too are a stylish, two-storey shop and café, which overlooks Covent Piazza (ideal for lunch then if you’re not in the mood for an afternoon tea near Barbican), and a 120-seat, state-of-the-art theatre for the filmed exhibits, school sessions and conferences.
In particular, this place is great for getting a really grasp of what getting about London’s been like for its populace since the 1920s onwards. There’s all manner of memorabilia to take a look at – uniforms, posters and tickets, as well as the big-draws that are all the vehicles of yesteryear; the likes of horse buses, electric trams and trolleybuses. Indeed, it’s simply absolutely great for little ones, as they can press buttons, turn wheels and spin signs in the KidZones, meet characters from the past or just pop into a bus or Tube simulator for a leisurely drive. This is one attraction that – for all the right reasons – will have your kids looking forward to the journey home!
The Postal Museum and Mail Rail
(Phoenix Place WC1X 0DA)
Much more engaging for tots as well as grown-ups than it may sound, enables visitors to discover and be beguiled by the impressive history of Britain’s public postal service, the Royal Mail, and – yes, best of all – travel on a network of underground tunnels that (prior to their inclusion in the attraction in 2017) hadn’t been used at for nearly a decade-and-a-half. The Mail Rail then is made up of tunnels that run from Whitechapel in the east London all the way to Paddington in the west, passing under Oxford Street as it goes. More than a century-old, this one-time everyday, subterranean rail network takes 15 minutes to travel on today and, via a theatrical audio-visual show, you and yours can find out all its ins and outs down through the decades. Elsewhere, in the main galleries of the museum, you’ll come across exhibits that tell the tale of Royal Mail itself, as well as how, several centuries ago, postal workers had to cover 217 miles a week on horseback to deliver the mail for the Tudor-era Queen Elizabeth I!
(Bankside SE1 7PB)
Now located in the eerie vaults of the County Hall building on the South Bank (so very easy to reach via public transport from Barbican hotels), the London Dungeon’s a family favourite, to say the least. Nowadays, its top features include an up-close-and-personal encounter with Guy Fawkes and the murderous monarch that was King Henry VIII, played by a high-tech 3D version of the booming-voiced actor Brian Blessed (yes, really!), while the equally murderous Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper are other notorious characters from the darker and crueller corners of London’s history that are brought to life by a cast of 20 live actors and clever-clever state-of-the-art effects. Further popular features include disgusting but awesome animatronics and waxworks, while there also theme park-style rides aplenty ensure this place is always a big hit with kids of all ages.