All eyes are on London this summer, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June and the July/August Olympics making the British capital a must-visit destination. Beyond these wow-worthy events, the stately city brims with activities for all ages, from museums and West End matinees, to horse-riding jaunts in Hyde Park. Throw in a host of kid-friendly hotels and you have the makings of the ultimate family holiday. So what are you waiting for? London’s calling…
Style Modern British wit
Setting Central secrecy
Soho Hotel is a bubble of cool calm in super-central Soho, and therefore it’s also a surprisingly child-friendly hotel. Veer off Wardour Street and head towards a twinkly-lit porch to find a 10-foot porcelain Botero cat sculpture, oversized plant pots and a clash of driftwood and neon-tinted Perspex – a refreshing alternative to the marble and brass lobbies of most hotels in this postcode.
Sleeping The two-bedroom apartments have a fully equipped kitchen, so they’re ideal for long stays and handy for whipping up kids’ meals. All rooms have minibars where you can store milk. Children up to three years old can stay for free in their parents’ bed, but if you don’t fancy sharing, extra beds are £40 a night.
Activities There are DVD players in every room, and a good selection of child-friendly DVDs to borrow at no extra charge. If you have a lot of kids (or are feeling extravagant), a private screening room is available to hire for £250 an hour. The hotel is filled with striking works of art – children adore the oversized cat sculpture in the lobby. You’ll also find entertaining galleries, shops and sightseeing within strolling distance, including the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, Chinatown, Leicester Square’s cinemas and boutique-blessed Covent Garden.
Feasting Refuel restaurant offers modern international cuisine for a full-on banquet, or cosmopolitan food platters to share. Children’s meals can be provided at half price and half the portion size – ideal for tiny tums. The hotel can also supply milk and baby food on request. If you’d rather eat out, stylish Soho offers endless tempting cafés and restaurants.
Style Hip, with history
Setting Mayfair’s Mount Street
The Connaught hotel was bound to be stately and stylish: it’s more than 100 years old, set in monied Mayfair and has the royal stamp of approval. Despite a recent revamp, old-fashioned values remain (English grandeur, top-notch butler service, antique furniture) but with modern frills added: flatscreen TVs above the baths and the UK’s only Aman Spa. All of this frippery doesn’t mean it’s not family-friendly though, with games consoles, a pool, and the expanses of nearby Hyde Park to keep kids entertained.
Sleeping Baby cots are free and extra beds for kids are £75 a night. Ask for a suite, a junior suite, or an interconnecting room – all have plenty of space for extra beds or cots.
Activities Rooms come equipped with Xbox and Wii consoles, with games for children. The indoor pool is deep, so keep an eye on less-confident swimmers. Hyde Park is close by, where kids can run free or go horse-riding on Rotton Row.
Feasting For dinners with your brood, Hélène Darroze’s more casual eatery, Espelette, is the go, offering brasserie-style meals and offbeat high teas. If you and Mr Smith want to indulge in a dinner of truffles and foie gras at the Connaught’s high-end restaurant, call in the services of a babysitter – there’s a minimum four-hour booking at £8 an hour, plus any transport costs, and you’ll need to give 24 hours’ notice. Staying in? The glitzy David Collins-designed Connaught Bar or funky Coburg Bar, by India Mahdavi, whip up a mean cocktail.
The Kensington Hotel London
Style Regal and Ravishing
Setting Sumptuous South Ken
Situated in a beautiful townhouse, just off London’s Old Brompton Road, The Kensington Hotel London is a relaxing spot in which to escape the bustle of SW7’s museum land. Style is taken seriously here, and everything from the handpicked furniture to the light installations ticks the right fashion-magazine boxes, but there’s a laid-back charm to the place that makes families feel welcome and well catered for. And it’s incredibly spacious – even the smallest rooms feel positively suite-like, a major plus when travelling with a troop.
Sleeping Baby cots are provided free of charge, and extra beds can be put into rooms for £20 a night. We love Asian-inspired Studio Suite 115 for its uplifting yellow, purple and blue colour scheme. It comes with gold-coloured hardwood floors, light-flooding windows and an enormous bathroom with double sinks and a TV built into the end of the bath tub. Bath time’s never been so much fun.
Activities Smart smalls will love taking a spin around the nearby Natural History Museum and Science Museum, or it’s just a short tube ride into town if you’d like to catch The Lion King or Wicked in the West End. After dark, if you and Mr Smith fancy hanging out with Princes William and Harry at the hotel’s Boujis Bar, draft in a babysitter for £10.50 an hour (plus £25 booking fee).
Feasting At the casual Aubrey Restaurant, chef Russell Ford serves up wonderful English cuisine –roasted lemon-and-thyme chicken, peppered sirloin steak, and rhubarb and apple crumble – all a hit with adults and kids alike, plus there’s a children’s menu specially designed for petite palates.
To book a child-friendly Smith stay visit www.mrandmrssmith.com or call the expert Travel Team on 800 905 326. What’s more, BlackSmith membership is now free for life, so book through Smith to receive life-enhancing extras and exclusive offers at more than 850 hotels and holiday houses around the world.