Luxury London for Families

 

Four Seasons Hotel London
Four Seasons Hotel London at Canary Wharf (left) overlooks the River Thames.

Families with older children will want to check out Four Seasons Hotel London at Canary Wharf, which has a fantastic program for teenagers. The kids (and parents) can go on an escorted walking tour of east London with tour operator Urban Gentry and see all the hip and trendy city sights (think the O2 Arena and the ExCel Centre, not to mention street markets and musicians). Note: An adult needs to accompany the teenagers, and we are told the tour is best for the 13- to 18-year-old set.

Inside, we hear families would be best served by one of the hotel’s suites. They can choose from seven Four Seasons Executive suites, five One-Bedroom suites, the Penthouse or the Presidential Suite (which sprawls out over 2,400 square feet). All of these suites, except the Four Seasons Executive Suites, have connecting twin and king bedrooms to make two- to four-bedroom suites. Both the Penthouse and Presidential suites have a small kitchen so food and other supplies can be stored easily. Nice Touch: All Deluxe rooms face the River Thames and have views of the river, the city and many areas south.

For fun—but classy—family dining, we hear the new Sfizi E Stuzzichi (little bites) station at the Quadrato Restaurant is an interactive way to start a meal. Executive Chef Marco Bax creates the dishes at an open station and then delivers them to the guest’s table, explaining what each item is and how it was prepared.

 

The Athenaeum’s
The Athenaeum’s three-bedroom Roof Top Suite can be turned into two separate units.

Guest Services Manager Aidan Dempsey (aidan.dempsey@fourseasons.com; 011-44-20- 7510-1881) can arrange just about anything and specializes in getting guests to Canary Wharf’s 200 shops, boutiques and restaurants. The hotel is also very close to London’s east side (15 minutes by car, which Dempsey can arrange), where many independent shops and markets are found. Dempsey is also the luxury travel advisor contact for the hotel.

At The Athenaeum, the one-bedroom apartments are best for families, though we hear that the Rooftop Suite and Green Park Suites are also very popular. What makes the apartments stand out? They have a private entrance and are connected to the hotel by a private corridor. The kitchens make quick snacks and meals easy, and the hotel has a grocery shopping service. (Even better, guests can pre-order their groceries before arrival, so their room is stocked at check-in.)

But what makes The Athenaeum ideal for families is the dedicated Kids Concierge Serena Zandegu (zandegus@athenaeumhotel.com) and the recent addition of “Fabulous Nannies,” who will work together to keep kids entertained and amused throughout their stay. When General Manager Jonathan Critchard recently spoke with Luxury Travel Advisor, he said the nannies and the Kids Concierge ensure an extra level of service for families. The team lets parents know that their kids are taken care of by someone who can maximize their time and opportunities, rather than simply sitting with the children as they watch TV.

Children staying at The Athenaeum are given a choice of drinks, snacks, magazines and music upon arrival. They’re welcome to borrow from the hotel’s Toy Shed, which is filled with board games, DVDs, London coloring books and London sticker books. If they have any special requests for activities (like kite flying, bike riding or even pigeon feeding—just like Mary Poppins!), Zandegu can make arrangements.

 

 

ADVISOR INSIGHT:

Andrew Stevens of Luxury Vacations UK knows how to arrange a posh and fun family trip to London.

“The most important part of planning a tour of London for a family is to find out as much as possible about the family, and match them with an appropriate child-friendly guide,” Stevens advises. “Some guides really cannot get on with children.

“Most children like the film location tours. We visit Harry Potter film locations such as Platform 9 and three quarters (Kings Cross Platform 5) and Borough Market (entrance into the Leaky Cauldron),” he says.

“Climbing the 500-plus steps to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral is a challenge for children—and lots of fun,” Stevens says. “It’s windy, narrow and awe-inspiring. This is a great achievement for children ages 5-10.

“The London Eye is also a favorite family tour,” Stevens says. “Surprisingly, the British Museum is perfect for a family; our guides explain the recipe for mummification and show a perfectly preserved 5,000-year-old human body preserved by hot sand and enclosed in an airtight glass case. Visitors can also learn about everything from ancient Egypt to a seventh-century ship that may have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write The Lord of the Rings.

“The guides also tell the story of the Tower of London in a different format, posing questions to get families thinking,” Stevens says. “What was life like in a medieval castle? When did siege engine technology make castles obsolete? How did one defend a castle? What was the worst job? When families are finished with their tours, they’ll have answers to all the questions.”

 

Luxury travel advisors can contact Director of Sales Stephen Fox (foxs@athenaeumhotel.com) with questions.

51 Buckingham gate has a mix of suites
51 Buckingham gate has a mix of suites, including three-bedroom varieties.

At 51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Suites and Residences, newly designed suites come with butler service for parents and nanny service for kids.

For families, the hotel has 10 three-bedroom suites available, with the flexibility of interconnecting rooms. The Prime Minister’s Suite, a five-bedroom residence that comprises the entire first floor, is another option for larger families or groups of up to 10. The Chancellor’s Suite, connected by a spiral staircase, has the Prime Minister’s Suite’s fifth bedroom, third study and fourth reception room. Finally, The Presidential Floor has nine bedrooms and extensive living areas on two full floors connected via an internal staircase.

But a good family travel experience is more than accommodations. If guests, or their travel advisors, provide 51 Buckingham Gate’s staff with the names and ages of kids in their party, the hotel will provide Oddies books and socks (for guests up to seven years old), child-size bathrobes and slippers (up to 10), Burt’s Bees Baby Bee toiletries and children’s menus for in-room dining.

The Presidential Suite at Four Seasons London
The Presidential Suite at Four Seasons London has a dining room that seats eight guests.

The hotel also has a special partnership with London toy shop Hamleys (think FAO Schwarz): Kids receive a toy hamper (filled with a teddy bear, doll for girls or London taxi for boys, coloring books, pencils, lollipops and more), private store tours, in-store discounts and personal shopping experiences. They can also take part in a cooking or baking lesson with 51’s chef in-suite (in a personalized chef’s jacket). Nice Perk: 51’s concierge, Nelson Mendes (nm@51-buck inghamgate.co.uk), can also arrange exclusive after-hours visits to Hamleys and even themed sleepover parties in the store.

Mendes has earned a Golden Key—the ultimate sign of top concierges (two other members of the concierge team have the keys as well). While the kids run around Hamleys, parents can go on a complimentary personal shopping excursion to Knightsbridge, Oxford Street, Bond Street, Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason. Contact the concierges at concierge@51-buckinghamgate.co.uk or 011-44-20-769-7766 with queries.

Luxury travel advisors should contact Director of Sales and Marketing Araceli Rius-Perez (araceli@51-buckinghamgate.co.uk; 011-44-20-7963-8382) with further questions.