Ah, Paddington Bear. One of London’s – nay, Britain’s – unsung heroes. He may be small, admittedly clumsy and, well, a bear, but his endearing popularity has ensured the creation of children’s author Michael Bond had endured down through the generations, shifting more than 35 million books detailing his tales, a classic kids’ TV series and, of course, two hugely successful movies. So, should you be coming to London on a family trip soon and you and yours fancy the idea of having a ‘Paddington Bear Day’, where should you set off for, armed with marmalade sandwiches, of course…?
Where better to start your Paddington pilgrimage that in the area of the capital after which the adored ursine is named? After all, it was here where our diminutive hero arrived in London from Darkest Peru and so began his adventures (whether you prefer his book-based ones or his feature-film-featuring ones). Moreover, if you’re staying at The Chilworth hotel it’ll be just down the road from you – you can’t say fairer than that.
Locate yourself on the ground floor of the station’s main concourse, with the shops and cafés behind you and Platform 1 in front, and you shouldn’t fail to come across the marvellous and, itself, rather iconic bronze statue of the marmalade-lover himself – you can’t miss it; it’s right in front of the fun souvenir shop devoted to all things Paddington.
By all means pop in here after you’ve snapped that all-important selfie with the statue and maybe then follow the easy-to-find pawprint trail that enables you to discover more Paddington statues in the vicinity.
This utterly charming area with its tranquil waterways and oh-so pleasant canal-side strolls was the neighbourhood that Michael Bond called home. However, it’s worth discovering not just for that rather loose connection and all its charismatic cafés, pubs, restaurants and boutiques but also because a stretch of its canal’s towpath featured as a location in Paddington 2, specifically during a high-speed chase sequence. Like the Paddington district in general, its proximity to transport-hub-friendly accommodation such as the Park Grand London Paddington makes it somewhere easy to and well-worth the visit whether you’re doing a ‘Paddington Bear Day’ or not.
Actually, while you’re in Little Venice, why not hop on a canal boat (many offer tours) and take a ride due north-west to Camden? From here, you can stroll to Primrose Hill and see with your own eyes the quaint yet delightful pastel-painted houses of Chalcot Crescent, which in both Paddington movies stand in for the fictitious Windsor Gardens of Notting Hill, the street on which live Paddington’s human family, the Browns.
Next, head back to the centre of town and, in particular, Oxford Street; the hub of West End shopping. Why? Because this is where you’ll come across London’s flagship Selfridges department store, from where Michael Bond bought a teddy bear for his wife on Christmas Eve 1956 and from which the character that would become Paddington took shape in the former’s mind.
If you want to pick up a sizeable, dependable souvenir of your Paddington jaunt around the capital, though, your best bet is to head south at Oxford Circus and down Regent Street to nearby Hamley’s, the oldest and still one of the most prestigious toyshops in the world. As you’d expect, the people here are past-masters at stocking and selling Paddington Bears to be taken away and loved by children of all ages.
And, should you have the time to squeeze it in before your final destination, pop on to the Tube’s Victoria line at Oxford Circus, changing on to the Piccadilly line at Piccadilly Circus, and ride it down to South Kensington. Getting out here, you’ll discover the really rather awesome Natural History Museum; the locale of the first Paddington movie’s climax. This attraction’s a firm family favourite on its own, though, and no mistake – being where little ones become enchanted with collections of now-extinct animals and, of course, the dinosaur section downstairs, including its very own roaring T-Rex.
Finally, wend your way back Piccadilly-wards and, in particular, to this thoroughfare’s flagship Waterstones book store (located no more than five minutes’ walk from Piccadilly Circus). Why? Because here, naturally, you can peruse through Michael Bond’s books of his ursine hero and choose which of them to buy and get reading. Alternatively, who’d say no to a Paddington Pop-Up London book? Who, indeed!