THATMuse

You might have been to Covent Garden —the bustling tourist market sprawling in London—but do you know everything about it? From wild punk groups to fascinating shops to a sometimes-salacious history, read on to find our 5 fun facts!

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Both Paris and London are cities with a huge number of recognisable, famous landmarks. Show most people a photo of Tower Bridge or the Eiffel Tower, and they’re likely to know what they’re looking at.

Both cities also have their share of landmarks that have been lost to time. For example, the huge Tuileries Palace in Paris was burned down during the Paris Commune of 1871.

In this post though, we’ll discover five London and Paris landmarks which were almost destroyed, but lived to tell the tale. With a bit of luck, when the current crisis is over and we can wander the streets of Paris and London once more, we’ll appreciate what we have.

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London might have more iconic landmarks than any other city in the world. Big Ben, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye are all instantly recognisable to people all over the world, even if they’ve never so much as changed flights at Heathrow. A lot of this is down to film and TV. Hundreds of establishing shots of London’s skyline have fixed it firmly in the public imagination. Let’s have a look at some of the most famous London film locations. And once the lockdown’s over, you can go and find them yourself!

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Since I moved to London, almost 5 years ago, people have been asking me what I miss most about Italy. Well, the list is long, of course. I miss the sea, the weather and my family, for a start. But most importantly, like most Italians abroad, I miss the food. While there’s nothing like my grandma’s ragu’ or my dad’s cannoli, there are some wonderful Italian restaurants in London that make me feel (almost) at home.

As lockdown’s slowly lifting, making plans:

You’re right, during lockdown restaurants have been closed a long time. But, hey! Surely, we can make plans for when we return to the new normal! When people say that pasta and pizza are always good, no matter what you put on top of them, the heart of all Italians ache a bit… If you’ve tried some authentic Italian food, I’m sure you understand the difference between a good and a mediocre pizza. In case you don’t know where to get a real taste of Italy, let me tell you about the three best Italian restaurants London has to offer!

1. La Mia Mamma, For the Best Pasta in London

La Mia Mamma is one of my favourite Italian restaurants in London, and is definitely the home of the best pasta in London. The restaurant literally ‘imports’ Italian Mammas from all different regions of Italy. There is a rotation of moms taking over the kitchen and creating a great selection of regional dishes. Other than making fresh food every day, the mammas welcome all guests singing Italian patriotic songs or hugging you when you arrive, just like a real loving mom would do. With Italian music in the background and loud Italians debating at the tables around you, it really feels like being in the Bel Paese. Located in Chelsea, I usually enjoy a nice walk after dinner. And remember, they have a super long waiting list, so make sure to reserve your table far in advance!

Until restaurants are allowed to open, La Mia Mamma are also offering deliveries of “survival packs”, DIY packs and more!

Fresh pasta, tomatoes, cheese and other Italian food

2. Santa Maria Pizzeria, for Authentic Italian Pizza

Is there anything that makes Italians happier than eating a real Napolitan pizza? The answer is no! We might be able to get used to London’s windy and rainy weather, but not to a life without pizza. Angelo and Pasquale, both from Naples, imported a wood-fired oven from Italy (without which you wouldn’t be able to make the perfect pizza). Soon afterwards, they opened Santa Maria in the borough of Ealing. I guarantee that the pizza you eat there tastes just like the ones you would eat in the top pizzerias of Naples. One of the things I love the most about Santa Maria is that it is a place for anyone! From penniless students to famous singers, to politicians and VIPs, this pizzeria welcomes everyone. Also, Santa Maria is the place to go if you’ve had a light lunch and need your daily carbs intake: the pizza is HUGE!

Of course, all of the Santa Maria Pizzeria restaurants are currently closed. But you can still order online through Deliveroo!

3. Ristorante Orsini, a Delightful Italian Restaurant in London

Ristorante Orsini is another authentic Italian restaurant in London that I love. This small, family-run restaurant is perfect for both lunch and dinner. Located in South Kensington, many people like to go there during their break from a visit to either the V&A or the Natural History Museum. There’s a familial vibe and it is incredibly hard to choose from the wide selection of authentic Italian dishes that they offer. Of their delicious plates, I tried their amazing homemade pasta, and fell in love with their tagliolini, served with plenty of seafood. They’re also famous for their ‘fritto misto’ (fried fish). But… perhaps my favourite thing was the dessert! So… if you’ve got room, don’t forget to order their gelato or Tiramisu’.

Sadly, this restaurant is fully closed during lockdown. But once restaurants and bars open again, it will be important to support local businesses, so remember to stop by!

Transforming your Home into an Italian Restaurant

It’s true that it’s possible to eat good Italian food in London. But… be careful! While almost every single restaurant in London serves pasta, finding ‘real pasta’ in London is not easy. I’m looking forward to being able to visit my favourite Italian restaurants, but for now I’m cooking plenty of Italian dishes at home. For those of you are not lucky enough to be on lockdown with an Italian, don’t worry! Cooking Italian food is really easy. If the ingredients are fresh, they won’t need much elaboration.

Need some ideas for fun things to do at home (apart from making pizza, of course)? Subscribe to our blog for some inspiration!

Is the lockdown giving you the urge to travel? We may have to stay put for a while, but that shouldn’t stop up dreaming and planning our next trips. And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying whatever movies, TV shows and documentaries it takes to scratch that travel itch. Here’s our list of the best travel movies on Netflix to enjoy while you’re at home (and give those itchy feet some relief). We’ve even thrown in a few TV shows and documentaries for good measure.

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Our THATMuse Dinosaur and Extinct beasts Treasure Hunt focus on the incredible treasures inside the Natural History Museum’s 80 million strong collection, but this blog contains 7 fascinating facts about the natural history museum building itself.  

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Introducing our London KidPack!

We are very excited to announce the arrival of our new London KidPack! Joining our ever-successful Paris KidPack, it is full of fun activities, puzzles and creative fun. Add one as a bonus after a family treasure hunt at any of our three London museums, and keep the discovery going!

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When to book your Louvre Tickets

Before you can begin treasure hunting through the Louvre’s amazing collection, you first have to get inside! The museum has a charge to enter and it is much easier, and much faster to book online in advance, to save you waiting in long boring queues.

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Cafés at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Gamble room by Joseph Gamble in the V&A restaurant. Beatiful white marble and gold columns and decoration.
Gamble room, James Gamble, 1865 – 78. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Fittingly for a museum of art and design, there are three beautiful and inspiring places to eat, drink and rest inside the V&A. The Main Cafe is also the worlds very first museum cafe, with its three rooms still in their original design. All of these can also make great places for score tallying and prize giving after you THATMuse Treasure Hunt!

V&A garden cafe, with tables and chairs under umbrellas near trees and water feature
The Garden Café. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Garden Café

In one corner of the V&A’s beautiful garden is the relaxed Garden Café. Serving coffees, cakes and other refreshments in the heart of the buildings, its the perfect place to admire the building’s uniquely beautiful architecture.
We often begin our Travel Trail and Fashion Hunts here, (weather permitting!) and it can be a lovely place to dip your toes in the pool and enjoy the sun.

The Garden Café is open all year, weather dependent in December and January.

Sleek glass front of Sackler Courtyard cafe with white tables and chairs outside V&A
The Courtyard Café. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Courtyard Café

The new Courtyard Café at the Exhibition Road entrance is a stylish place to grab a bite, right next to the exciting special exhibition gallery. Depending o time of day it serves healthy breakfast pastries, open sandwiches and salads for lunch, as well as an interesting selection of British craft beer and sparkling wine.

Opening times:
Daily: 8.30 – 17.45
Friday: 8.30 – 20.30

Please note: occasionally the Courtyard Café will not open until 10.00 due to museum events.

Green decorated walls and stained glass windows in Morris room, 1866 – 8 Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Morris room, 1866 – 8. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Main Café
Gamble, Morris and Poynter Rooms

The V&A’s main cafe is actually the world’s first museum cafe! First built in the 1860’s, long before London’s other museums invested in catering, the South Kensington Museum as it was then known was a bit more of a trek out of the city proper than it is today. So the founding Director Henry Cole decided a restaurant would attract more visitors and aid in their enjoyment of the wonderful collection. He hired three eminent designers to decorate the rooms;  James Gamble, William Morris and Edward Poynter.
These incredible rooms now host a huge range of hot and cold meals, drinks and treat. You can even book a replica High Tea that Queen Victoria herself enjoyed!

Opening hours:
Daily: 10.00 – 17.10
Friday: 10.00 – 21.15

Blue porcelain wall decoration, stained glass windows and iron fireplace in Poynter room V&A
The Poynter Room

By Masha Voyles

Everything is ready for your trip, bags packed, itinerary all planned out. And then you realize…you haven’t bought your tickets to the Louvre, and everything is sold out! In the high season this is often a major pain. Never fear, however, there are a number of solutions available.

  • If you have already bought your tickets to the Louvre, but can’t make the time, you can easily change the date and time of your purchase if you look in the ‘My Orders’ section of your account. Of course, this is the best-case scenario, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
  • Another method is the “Paris Museum Pass” which covers city monuments (incl: Louvre & Musée d’Orsay, Versailles, etc). However, please note that although it is sold as a ‘skip the line’ pass, the line for these is much longer than the Louvre’s own e-tickets. Please note that you’ll still need to book timed entry in order to be able to get into the museum. You can do so here.
  • Fnac, and a number of other French retail chains, also have ticket services. Please bear in mind though, that their website is not at all user-friendly, and they can be difficult to deal with without any knowledge of French. However, if you’re in a serious bind it’s worth the struggle.  The closest FNAC is in the basement of Les Halles, a 10-15 minute walk from the Louvre
  • Another option that sells Louvre entry tickets for a small surcharge is this website, tiquets. The site’s straightforward and easy to use—definitely an easier option than Fnac, but often has fewer/more limited options in terms of timings.
  • Finally, a slightly more expensive option is through Viator, which charges a whopping £36.77 per ticket, though they do offer a wider range of last-minute timings.

NB: other small points to remember: All kids under 18 enter free (without the need for a blank ticket) and EU citizens under the age of 26 enter free with photo ID. We always recommend our clients who have kids aged 15 or older to bring photo ID with them wherever they go in Paris, anyway. We recommend you buy your tickets for 30 mins after you hunt start time.

child asleep on adults lap on seat in centre of an art gallery
TOURISTING can be tiring, we’ve all been there!


NB: The Louvre’s closed Tuesdays, open till 9:45 pm on Wed and Fridays. It tends to be more crowded on weekends and when it rains.

NB: A small plus many overlook, an entry ticket to the Louvre also gains access to the 6th Arrt’s Musée Delacroix, which has a lovely, quiet garden.

Okay, that’s about it folks! If you have any tips about getting last-minute tickets that aren’t listed here, please do share with us—we’re always looking for new ways to beat the system!

Rainy shot of the Louvre courtyard

We get it.

Kids don’t always love museums. You’ve tried your best, we know. The day begins well, with the whole family excited for a trip to the museum. Maybe your kids last an hour. A little more, if you’re incredibly lucky. Or maybe just a few minutes. But somewhere along the lines, the meltdown begins. The fun-filled day out you envisioned starts to seem like a distant dream.

The kids are tired. They’re hungry. Museums are boring anyway. Who wants to traipse around looking at old stuff when you could be watching TV?

And the truth is, you’re tired too. A part of you wonders if the kids are right. Are museums just boring, dusty old places? Because no matter how genuinely fascinating the exhibits, “museum legs” are a thing.

Is it your fault your kids just aren’t into this museum thing? Have you doomed them to a colourless, cultureless life? Will these traumatic childhood experiences leave them refusing to visit museums at all as adults?

Well, no. The truth is, we all feel like this at one point or another. But, while it’s tempting to think that maybe museums and kids just don’t mix, this simply isn’t true.

At THATMuse, we’ve helped hundreds of people visit some of the biggest and best museums in Paris and London. Lots of those people are families with kids aged from 5-13. And guess what – most of them leave saying that the British Museum is one of the best things to do in London with kids. Or that their trip to Paris with kids wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the Louvre.

Players strategizing for a Louvre scavenger hunt. Kid having fun.
Strategizing

How is this possible?

If even your local museum exhausts your kids (and you), how could you possibly fathom bringing them to some of the largest museums in the world? Because although the Louvre, the British Museum, the Musée d’Orsay & the V&A are among the most beautiful, impressive museums in the world, their sheer size mean that they are a challenge. For anyone. The Louvre alone contains eight miles of museum, for God’s sake.

The answer is pretty simple. And it’s something you can totally do on your own.

There’s one missing ingredient from your museum trips:

Competition.

That’s it.

After all, all parents have tried it:

“I bet you can’t tidy up your bedroom faster than your sister!”

“Let’s see who can be the first to finish their greens!”

“The first one ready at the door in their shoes and coat gets a treat!” (because after all, what is a competition without a prize?).

Museums are no different. By making them a game – one that can be won – you make museums… well, fun.

5 star tripadvisor reviews

3 Ways to Inject Some Competition into Your Day at the Museum:

  1. The Miniature Museum Treasure Hunt:

This particularly simple game works best with art museums. Pick something – anything – and have your kids compete to see who can spot the most of them. It really could be almost anything. Dogs. Angels. Redheads. Paintings of people who look like Grandma. Or better yet – have the kids pick something themselves.

Hint: things tend to stick in kids minds more if they’re gory, weird, or gross. Ask your kids to choose what they want to be on the hunt for, and don’t stress if they choose “skulls” or “ugly guys” or “boobies”. It’s their game, and if it makes it more fun for them, why not (though maybe have a chat beforehand about which words its appropriate to shout to their siblings from across the gallery).

2. The Postcard Game:

All museums have a gift shop, and all museum gift shops have postcards. Visit the gift shop before entering the main museum, and have the kids pick 3-5 postcards of pieces they like the look of (they’re usually quite cheap). Then, have the kids hold the postcards and hunt out the pieces themselves. Want to add some extra incentive? While in the gift shop, have the kids pick out their “prize” (within whatever price limit you decide on), on the promise that you’ll return to buy it afterwards if they complete their treasure hunt.

Hint: this works best in smaller museums – hunting the entirety of the Louvre or British Museum for one piece (unless it’s the Mona Lisa or the Rosetta Stone), is probably a bit too challenging, and puts your kids at risk of getting bored before they find their treasure.

two women and young girl examining wedding feast at cana painting by paolo veronese 16th century louvre
Hunting for treasure

3. The Imitation Game:

Challenge your kids to recreate as many paintings, sculptures or artefacts as they can, using nothing but their own bodies. They’ll have fun picking pieces to imitate, contorting themselves and being silly, and if you photograph it all, you’ll end up with some great shots for the album. What’s not to love? You might have to get a bit creative as to how to turn it into a competition, but perhaps you could have another family member judge who “wins” for each piece the kids choose to imitate.

Hint: To make it even more fun, join in! As we said before, kids remember silly things, so seeing you – their all-knowing, sensible parents turn yourselves into Michelangelo sculptures and Egyptian mummies will most likely stick in their minds forever. Embarrassed? Good! That just makes it all the more memorable.

Need some extra help?

You can do all of this and more all by yourselves, in any museum. The kids will benefit from soaking up all that lovely museum-juice, and may even learn a thing or two.  

If you’re visiting Paris or London with kids and would like a bit of extra help, THATMuse is ready to turn your miserable museum meltdown into a memorable day out.

Our hunts have been tried, tested and triumphed over by hundreds of kids. Some of those kids are now adults, and we’d be willing to bet they still remember their dads posing on all fours like a dog to win bonus points, or rushing against the clock with mom past magnificent Roman sculptures to try and rack up just a few more points.

The best part? It’s never been easier to book a Treasure Hunt with THATMuse! You can now book your Louvre Treasure Hunt with “friendly competition” directly online, by using our automated booking service. Ready to pit family against another like-minded group?

Click here to book your THATMuse Louvre treasure hunt today!

The comfortable spacious T. Rex Grill seating area
T. Rex Grill eating area

The T. Rex Grill

– Located in the Green Zone           
– Hours: 11:00 – 16:00
– Very cool display with moving dinos. A large space, great for large or small groups to meet up for score tallying (more of a sit-down place)
– Children welcome! Lots of space
– Offers burgers, steaks and pizzas at a pretty affordable price range- prices £10 and up; also offers desserts

The Kitchen's ordering bar
The Kitchen’s ordering bar

The Kitchen

– Located in the Red Zone         
– Hours: 10:00 – 17:00 
– Very kid friendly – offers lunch and activity packs to keep them entertained while parents eat (or tally up their hunts!) sit down place 
– Offers a variety of food from sandwiches, wraps and salads, pizza and burgers; also has dessert options (similar to the coffee house)           
– Prices range from £8.50- £12.50 for adults and £4.25- £5 for the children’s menu (kids under 12)         
– Adult Meal Deal: main, dessert, soft drink for £12.95            
– Kids Meal Deal: main, dessert, soft drink for £8   

Muffins on a cake stand in the Natural History Museum's The Coffee House
Great-looking muffins at the Coffee House

The Coffee House

– Located in the Red Zone (Lasting Impressions Gallery)            
– Hours: 10:00- 17:00            
– Offers pastries and baked goods ranging from £4-£6; perfect for grabbing a quick bite on the hunt (or some caffeine to refuel) or for small groups to score tally; better for on-the-go and for groups without children        

Dining area at the Natural History Museum's Central Café
Dining area at the Central Café

Central Café

– Located in the Blue Zone
– Hours: 10:00- 17:30
– Very family friendly; offers high chairs for babies and toddlers
– Mostly offers sandwiches and salads, but has on the go snacks like crisps and fruit if you need to stop and refuel; this is mostly on-the-go

Darwin centre research building lit with neon green

Darwin Centre Café

– Located in the Orange Zone            
– Hours: 10:00- 17:00 
– Very similar to the Central Café in terms of food – offers sandwiches and salads for more filling options, but also has crisps and a variety of baked goods like caked and pastries