Destination: England: London
Vibe: Family-friendly, relaxed, modern
At a Glance: This kid-friendly oasis provides an ideal base in busy Mayfair for families.
- Spacious suites with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Green Park
- Kid-friendly amenities including coloring books, free kids’ meals and nannies on call
- Complimentary wifi and mini-bar
Review: The Athenaeum may not be Mayfair’s most famous hotel, but for traveling families, it’s a name to remember. Located on Piccadilly, across from Green Park and a short walk to Hyde Park and Knightsbridge, the 164-room hotel takes the stress out of traveling with children. Spacious rooms, connecting options, even a series of eighteen sprawling apartments complete with bunk beds and kitchenettes offer a variety of options for sleeping, while the friendly staff at the hotel ensure service runs seamlessly.
Although I knew what I wanted to do with my daughter for her first trip to London, my understanding of the logistics was limited. The concierge looked at my list, pre-printed entrance tickets where needed, added a boat ride (one of my daughter’s favorite experiences) and told me where to walk, where to taxi and where I could easily do the quintessential double-decker bus, without getting caught in the equally quintessential London traffic. In years of travel, I have rarely met a more informed, helpful concierge. At the hotel, children also eat for free and hotel rooms are stocked with a treasure trove of entertainment options – kid-friendly maps, coloring books, bedtime stories, the works – all of which make a parent’s life easier.
The Athenaeum by no means welcomes only families, and I noticed equal amounts of couples and business travelers. The lobby is small and relatively quiet, with a cozy whiskey bar on the side serving as an antechamber to the restaurant. Although the food at breakfast was good, lunch or dinner would be less appealing as the restaurant is situated in the back of the hotel and without natural light. The Athenaeum also won the prestigious Tea Guild’s award for best high tea in 2012. Downstairs, there is a small but functional fitness room as well as a spa.
Despite the traditional lobby and staff, the rooms at the Athenaeum sport a more modern look, with low-slung streamlined sofas and platform beds dressed in crisp, white linens and geometric headboards. The park-view rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and Juliet balconies overlooking Green Park, allowing light even on an overcast day. Although these rooms also overlook Piccadilly, the windows are expertly sealed and soundproofed, and street noise is not an issue. City-view rooms are less appealing; request a high floor for a romantic rooftop view to avoid looking at the building next door. Junior suites come in two styles – open-plan or with a separate living room, and are ideal for families or couples who want more space without splurging on a full suite.
Who Should Stay: Parents looking for a central Mayfair location but want a more kid-focused property – and a lower price tag – than some of the more traditional five-star hotels.
The Ampersand is a very warm, family-friendly, well-priced hotel located in the heart of South Kensington. With a trio of museums practically at the Ampersand’s doorstep, the hotel’s interiors cleverly use that as their cue. Witty references to botony, music, geometry, ornithology and astronomy color the hotel’s walls, art and bookshelves. Apero is an all-day, informal bistro-style restaurant serving Mediterranean-style sharing dishes. It’s located in the boutique hotel’s vaulted cellars.
Indagare Tip: Ask for a room in the quieter back of the hotel facing the French Lycee rather than the busy Harrington Road. Rooms on the first through the third floors have the higher ceilings.
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