by Stephen Jermanok
All you have to do is enter the Athenaeum Hotel, across from Green Park on Piccadilly, to understand the lengths they go to cater to families. Long before you step foot in London, you’re asked to fill out a form gauging the interests of your children. Upon your arrival, a Kids Concierge greets you and brings you to your room. If you were wise you booked one of the apartments in the townhouses. Your concierge will then show you around the flat and leave you with parting gifts — kites and bird feed to be used in any of London’s grand parks, toy double-decker buses, and your kid’s favorite games to play on Wii inside your room. You can’t help but burst out in song from “Mary Poppins” (“Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and “Tuppence, Tuppence”).
Add a gluttonous spread for breakfast each morning; a delightful afternoon tea complete with scones, cakes and crumpets; milk and cookies in your room every night; and the introduction of the new nanny program to take care of any babysitting needs, and you begin to realize why many families refuse to stay anywhere else when they venture to London. Behind the hotel in the Mayfair neighborhood are a slew of family-friendly restaurants, so you don’t have to venture far at night to grab a meal. After a day of sightseeing, this is definitely a plus.
The Green Park stop on the Underground is only a five-minute walk up Piccadilly. From here, it’s an easy subway ride to many of the major sites like Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, the entertainers and nearby theater in Covent Garden, London Eye and the Thames River Cruises, the infamous Tower of London, and the lions that stand guard at Trafalgar Square near one of the finest art museums in the world, the National Gallery. Then, of course, there’s Hyde Park, Regent Park and Hampstead Heath, three great places to feed those birds.
Our Editor Loves
- Apartments, with large living room and kitchen area
- Kids Concierge
- Breakfast spread in the morning
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The 18 apartments, located in townhouses just around the corner from the hotel, are perfectly suited for families. In the master bedroom, there's a comfy king-sized bed, flat-screen television, iPod port, free Wi-Fi and ample closet space. The bathroom is found on the far side of the master bedroom, with tub, shower and heated towel rack.
In the living room, there was a pullout sofa, extra bed, flat-screen television, more closet space in the hallway that leads to the living room, and a washer and dryer to do a load of laundry. Next to the living room in a nook is a full kitchen, with a big refrigerator, oven, stove, pots, pans, dishes, and other cooking utensils, a toaster and a coffeemaker. All of the non-alcoholic beverages in the refrigerator are free to drink. There was more than enough space in the living room to relax in the daytime, when the sofa was not yet converted into a bed. There is a small elevator to bring guests up to the apartment.
Guestrooms and Suites
If you elect to stay in the hotel, the hotel works to make you feel right at home with special touches like iPod connections with Bose speakers, a pillow menu to choose your sleep poison, and a collection of your favorite magazines. Bedrooms feature floor-to-ceiling views of Green Park or Mayfair, while suites feature views of Parkview or Mayfair. Suites feature king-sized, four-poster beds or twin beds, as well as a separate sitting room. The hotel's top floor is reserved for its ultimate suite, where you have a choice of three double bedrooms, two bathrooms, six TVs, a Jacuzzi tub, and private balcony overlooking Green Park.
All mini-bar snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, including ice cream in the suites, are free, as the hotel feels you wouldn't charge a guest to raid your fridge at home, so why should they!
Fantastic location and very good value for the quality you get. Rooms are very good and bar and restaurant are also excellent. Have stayed in both the main hotel and the apartments and enjoyed both. Would visit again
Room was spacious and furniture was very nice clean as well
Hotel location was also great
Staff was very friendly
Love the balcony option which gave us fresh air during our stay
Hotel lobby was cozy and nice
While the hotel itself doesn't offer any activities or kid-friendly amenities, don't forget you are visiting London and a world of fun waits just outside the hotel doors. Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the London Eye -- get out of the hotel and explore the city's offerings.
Nearby, Leicester Square is the center of the West End theater district. You can find discounted tickets for the day's performances, including many family-friendly options such as "Billy Elliott," "The Lion King" and "Stomp."
For relatively free entertainment (you'll want to part with some of your change after seeing the performers), stop by the streets of Covent Garden to find magicians and acrobats hard at work. This is also a great spot to grab a meal before or after the theater in the West End.
Breakfast at Galvin
Breakfast at the Athenaeum's restaurant each morning is quite the feast. Start with the continental breakfast area, where you can pick from the bowls of strawberries, melons, pineapples, oranges, cereals, muffins, croissants and juices. Then you can order pancakes, waffles and fluffy omelettes from the regular menu. Definitely try the English sausage, tasty long links that will keep you energized for the rest of the morning.
The Children's Menu was created by children -- the hotel literally surveyed kids to find out what they should serve and thus the kids can find mac and cheese, bangers and mash, pizza and more. If it's not on the menu, just ask, because the hotel chefs are happy to make the kids whatever they'd like!
Tea in the hotel's Garden Room, especially if it's raining outside is another special treat. The kids can choose blueberry and peach teas, or opt for flavorful South African rooibos, all served on fine china. First course are bite-sized salmon, cucumber, egg and avocado sandwiches, followed by scrumptious scones, served with sweet cream and lemon and strawberry curds. Sweets are next, including banana and lemon poppyseed cakes and chocolate-covered strawberries. Finish with warm crumpets and butter. With Gershwin tunes playing in the background and windows looking out onto the lush ferns outside, it's a soothing and delicious outing.
Galvin at the Athenaeum
This farm-to-table restaurant serves lunch and dinner including items like fish, pasta, soup, salads and duck.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Ask about their special offerings, like the Family Fun Package, which includes free babysitting and free dining for children ages 12 and under. With a Kids Concierge and Nannies, you can expect the service to be impeccable.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available.
The Art of Smart Timing
The summer is obviously the high season for the Athenaeum. Head here over spring, winter, and fall and the rates will be reduced. You'll also save money on flights heading overseas. With many of the major sites indoors, like the National Gallery and the West End theater scene, it really doesn't make much a difference when you venture here. It's a magical city any time of year.
Heathrow Express is a 15-minute train ride from Heathrow Airport to central London. Look at their specials at www.heathrowexpress.com and you can often find discounts of 50 percent for groups of two and more.
Be sure to ask the hotel if your reservation includes free transfer from the airport. The Family Fun Package, for example, includes complimentary transfer from Heathrow.
For Mom and Dad
Spa & Fitness Center
The refurbished spa promises a quiet reprieve, so grab one of those nannies and get a couples massage in the newly opened facilities. The spa includes a hair salon, a Jacuzzi and the fitness center, which is available to hotel guests at no additional charge.
When the kids are tucked in, perhaps a visit to the hotel's bar is in order. With 270 whiskies and counting, as well as champagne, cocktails and even fruit smoothies, the bar is a quiet nook serving up snacks and a place to rest weary feet after a day pounding the London pavement.