Family Hotels in London
Living in central London, kids are such a rare sight that it’s easy to forget they exist. Bar the odd aberration like Hamley’s, all the shops and restaurants cater pretty much exclusively to a 16+ demographic. During the school holidays though, it’s a time-honoured tradition for kids from all over the south of England to come and visit some of London’s best family-friendly attractions. I’m talking stuff like the interactive exhibits at the Science Museum, wax celebrities at Madame Tussaud’s and caged monsters of the deep at the London Aquarium.
Finding a family-friendly base for these activities in the middle of London ain’t always easy, though. Most London hotels are used largely by business people and couples of all ages looking to take some time away from their families and absorb some culture. Children, therefore, are often implicitly if not actively discouraged, in the fear that they might disrupt the tranquillity of the other guests. It’s rare to find an establishment that really goes out of its way to make children feel welcome, but they do exist, and we’ve rounded up a few of them that you should consider for your next family weekend in London.
There are Novotels all over the city, but this one is a nice and out-of-the-way hotel near Greenwich, which is one of the more scenic parts of London, and an area where you don’t have to deal with the same levels of noise, pollution and manic activity. This four star hotel offers purpose-built family rooms designed to accommodate two adults and two children. The best part is that accommodation and breakfast are both free to the kids, as long as they’re under eighteen years old.
The closest tube station is Greenwich, which services National Rail, the Docklands Light Railway and even has a ferry service running up the river.
Greenwich is chiefly desirable as a more relaxed alternative to staying in central London, though it obviously has great transport links to the city. Near the Novotel you will find the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory, but the big draw is the O2 Arena, which is swiftly becoming a major venue for family entertainment, housing a cinema, many restaurants and events ranging from concerts to NBA games to invasions of animatronic dinosaurs.
Base2Stay Hotel, Kensington
Base2Stay has been winning awards and much repeat business for its gently innovative approach to hotels which centres around just being honest and straightforward, with absolutely no hidden fees. Even the minibar has been replaced with a vending machine, so you know exactly what you’re getting at all times. One of its most welcome ideas has been to put a little minikitchen in each room, allowing guests to prepare their own food in their rooms. Ideal for families as little snacks are some of the most expensive things you can buy in Kensington. The rooms are larger than you’d expect as well, and can sleep up to four people. Local restaurants offer exclusive discounts to Base2Stay guests, and will even deliver food to your room if you’re feeling lazy.
This Kensington hotel is within a kilometre of three tube stations: Earls Court, Gloucester Road and High Street Kensington.
Aside from being a few short stops from central London, Base2Stay is particularly close to Albertopolis, which is the home of museums including the V&A, the Natural History Museum and that perennial family favourite, the Science Museum (all of which are free to enter). For more outdoorsy pursuits, it’s also within walking distance of Hyde Park.
The Ritz, Piccadilly
For an extremely upmarket family vacation, check out The Ritz, most venerable of the Piccadilly Hotels, but much friendlier to children than its slightly fusty image would suggest. This beautiful symbol of OTT regency glamour enjoys an enviable location in the heart of London, and offers kids the world, including their own bathrobes and slippers, a concierge specially trained to entertain them, and milk and cookies before bedtime. The clincher, though is that kids are offered free ice cream. A risky gambit, to be sure, but one which could sear the Ritz into your kids’ affections for the rest of their lives.
The Ritz is right on top of Green Park station, but also a short walk from Piccadilly Circus.
You’re not going to run out of things to do in the very centre of London. To the West is the finery of Knightsbridge , including Green Park, Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace, all great for tourism. East of the hotel are more specialist places for kids. Hamley’s, of course, is the centre of the universe as far as kids are concerned, but there’s also Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Planet Hollywood (which I thought was amazing as a kid. Not sure if the glamour has faded there) and Theatreland, where the musicals make for an exciting treat.
Athenaeum Hotel, Mayfair
Taking the family friendly crown, though, is the Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair. An independent, family-run five star hotel, the Athenaeum makes boasts of its big personality, but this is one place which doesn’t disappoint, and really does have its own unique charm. The hotel’s apartments in particular are fantastic places to stay as a family, offering plenty of space and adjoining apartments for families of more than four people. Before you arrive, the specialist kid’s concierge will be in touch, ensuring that your kids will be greeted with their own personal toy box, full to the brim with toys, books and DVDs, all chosen for exactly the right age and gender. The Kids Concierge will also arrange any tickets you need, come up with great ideas for family activities and bring the requisite milk and cookies at bedtime. If you don’t fancy going out to eat, the apartments all come with their own kitchens, as well as washers and tumble driers, making it a real home away from home.
The Athenaeum is situated between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner tube stations.
Well, pretty much the same as The Ritz, really, if a bit closer to the museums in Knightsbridge. The great thing about the Kids Concierge is that you don’t need to worry about this stuff, though, so why not just relax and let them figure it out?
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