How to visit London with small children (and have the best time)

An external view of Hamleys on Regent's Street, LondonIt’s a well-known fact that London is one of the most visited cities in the world. In 2017 the city saw over 19 million international visitors make at least one trip to London. That’s a huge figure – and in context, it’s around one third of the UK’s population visiting the comparatively small capital.

One of the city’s main attractions is the fact there’s something for all. Young or old, first visit or fiftieth, foodie or outdoorsy, you can truly flourish in London.

And this is without doubt the case for families. Travelling to London with children be a truly unforgettable experience (for all the right reasons!).

As with any trip in which children are in tow, a little preparation can go a long way – and with a large focus on accommodating families here at DUKES, we like to think we know at least a few ways to make your trip to London with children as great as it can be.

Choose the right hotel

And it can all start with the hotel itself.

Given the brilliant transport links we have in London, to a certain degree it’s almost irrelevant where it is you’re staying in any of the central or outer boroughs. Of course, everyone wants to stay close to the action (and for the most part, we’d always recommend it – the least travelling you have to do with children, the better!), but choosing the right place to stay is arguably more important.

We’re fortunate enough to be well-located in central London at DUKES, making a whole host of attractions easily accessible, but we’re also particularly family orientated.

Rooms with adjoining doors that give you and your little ones separate space whilst still being connected. Children’s food and drink from breakfast through to dinner. Readily accessible services, such as childcare (in fact, our family escapes package comes with five hours complementary childcare).

It’s these things we know families benefit from, and when you’re travelling with children, you need to make sure they’re all readily accessible wherever it is you choose to stay. You could choose to stay right next door to the main attraction you’re planning on visiting, but if the hotel is not in anyway child-friendly, is it really that great of a choice?

Do a little research before you arrive

When travelling with children, it’s so easy to think that days need to be spent doing activities that offer no excitement for adults, or that meals are bland and boring.

But when you’re visiting London, this really doesn’t have to be the case.

Take the last point. There are so many fantastic restaurants dotted right around the city that cater for both children and adults alike. The ever-popular Rainforest Cafe is a great example. The surroundings will keep little ones gripped, whilst the food on offer has something for all tastes (and there’s alcohol available, too, should it be needed!).

With the first point, one of the parts of being a parent is doing things that offer little value to you but excite your children immensely – but there are so many family-friendly activities and attractions in London that the whole family can have a brilliant time together.

Tower of London. London Eye. British Museum. Warner Bros Studio Tour. Natural History Museum. Seeing a show in the West End.

There’s more than a long weekend’s worth of family activities there, but we’ve only really picked out the most popular attractions.

And of course, it doesn’t matter how old you are, a trip to Hamleys is without doubt a brilliant experience. A must for all families.

Create an itinerary

Following on from the last point, with so much to do, if you don’t plan, you can risk doing nothing.

Slow, lazy mornings can be great as a couple, but when you have some excited children, you need at least some type of plan as to what to do and where to go to ensure you fit everything in.

It may seem a little structured for some, but particularly those families with at least two or three children – and especially children who have ideas of what they want to do themselves – an itinerary can ensure everyone gets a say in what you’re going to be doing when you’re here.

And when everyone has a say, everyone can be happy, knowing that at some point during the trip, they’ll be doing something that they are particularly looking forward to.

Visiting London with children

If you’ve ever thought of visiting London with children but not made plans as you believed it wouldn’t be suitable, please do rethink your trip. London is one of the world’s most wonderful cities, regardless of almost every possible requirement or expectation you might have.

Home to everything from expansive tranquil gardens through to the world’s greatest toy shops (we’ll repeat it – definitely do visit Hamleys!), a visit to London with small children can be a magical and truly memorable experience.

Image courtesy of Richard Law

8 of the most romantic things you can do in London

It’s the beginning of February. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner; that one day of the year where we treat our loved ones with flowers and chocolates whilst expressing our love in written words. It’s something we’ve done for centuries, with it already a firmly established tradition in the early 1600s: Shakespeare mentions it openly in Ophelia’s lament in Hamlet by saying “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.”

Over the years we’ve become even more focused on dedicating the day to those we love, going above and beyond the traditional flowers and cards.

And so being in one of the most vast and varied cities in the world, where there’s something for everyone, we’ve compiled our list of eight of the most romantic things you can do in London (whether you decide to visit us on Valentine’s Day or simply want some romantic inspiration at any point throughout the year!).

1. A picnic in the park

One of our most popular requests at DUKES, there are fewer more romantic ways to spend an afternoon than a stroll to nearby Green Park, unspoilt by little and dominated by natural beauty, with a prepared picnic hamper ready for you to enjoy under the London sky.

But to add a little something extra, our picnic in the park is inclusive of your own butler service. A butler will meet you at the park, lay your rug, set up your food and serve your drinks before leaving you to enjoy your time alone.

You might need a few extra layers to enjoy it on Valentine’s Day, but in the warmer months it can be one of the most relaxing – and romantic – ways to spend an afternoon.

2. London through the Eye

Whilst it’s ‘only’ been a fixture of the London skyline for 18 years, the London Eye has become synonymous with the city. Allowing you to see unparalleled views of all of London from the comfort of an enclosed pod, the experience of being on the London Eye itself is fantastic – but it can be made all that more special for those looking for something a little more romantic.

Taking advantage of the ‘Cupid’s Capsule’, you can enjoy a 30 minute rotation of the Eye whilst sipping a bottle of champagne and nibbling on luxury chocolates. Time it for when the sun is setting and you have an ideal way to finish a day (or start an evening!).

3. Dine on the Thames

If the London Eye offers a brilliant experience of London from above, why not step out of your Cupid’s Capsule and straight onto a river cruise along the Thames to enjoy a bite to eat?

Available for lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, you can sail along the Thames, taking in some of the most notable sights that the city has to offer, at a truly leisurely pace, whilst continuing your loving indulgence with food and drink.

4. Take a trip to the USA

One of the more untraditional romantic options when in London, there’s no arguing, however, that if you’re a fan of life across the Atlantic, a visit to somewhere such as The Love Shake or The Diner can be a brilliant way to while away the time.

With the former a particularly accurate USA dinner in Shoreditch (inclusive of free coffee) and the latter having an extensive menu that could have been taken straight out of any Hollywood movie from the 1950s, you can cuddle up in a booth and chat away whilst eating, drinking and thinking you’re in that movie yourselves.

5. Get tucked away for the night

Sometimes, after busy weeks working, family commitments and everything else life throws at you, your idea of a ‘romantic break’ is one where you can fall into your hotel room and not have to reemerge for at least 24 hours.

And that’s exactly what we’ve perfected at DUKES.

Looking at our romantic escapes, you could take up residence in our Duke of Clarence Penthouse Suite, which has its own private balcony, and enjoy 24 red roses, chilled champagne and luxury Fortnum & Mason chocolates on arrival.

Including a massage for two (available in the suite itself), and breakfast in the room the following day, you only need to leave to enjoy the five course meal in our Great British Restaurant (GBR) and a wonderful romantic horse and carriage ride around Hyde Park – bliss!

6. Looking longingly to the stars

Sometimes, the stars align perfectly and everything falls into place. Whether that’s work or relationships, it can be a truly breathtaking experience to see the London sky lit up and dominated by the glorious stars.

With it possible to enjoy a spot of stargazing easily (Morden Hall Park is a renowned location for it), the Royal Observatory in Greenwich is perfect for a bit of advice and guidance – and use of their Victorian telescope – to help all starry-eyed romantics enjoy the wonders of our universe.

7. Go back to the Roaring Twenties

Whether it’s the smarter attire, formal pleasantries or the music of the time, it’s hard to argue the 1920s doesn’t have a romantic appeal to it. And whilst London can’t whisk you back in time directly, it can do a very good impression with some beautifully themed bars and restaurants.

Giving you the opportunity to get truly suited and booted, there are numerous bars and restaurants that allow you to enjoy the era, but few do so as well as The Candlelight Club.

A ‘pop up’ that doesn’t have a permanent home, it moves around London with events throughout the year that allow you to become fully immersed in the 1920s era – and that includes only being lit by very romantic and cosy candlelight.

8. Get lost and explore

One of the most alluring qualities of London for many is being such a vast city, you can easily fade into a crowd. You can be anybody you want to be and enjoy the anonymity that you simply don’t get elsewhere.

And if this is particularly appealing, holding your loved one by the hand, jumping on a Tube or into a taxi and heading to a random location can be such a liberating experience.

Whether you decide to head to a part of Central London you’ve never been to before or explore the likes of Hampstead Village a little further out, you can find shops, try food and enjoy a tipple or two in places you simply won’t have come across by sticking to a strict schedule.

It takes a little bit of an adventurous mind, but sometimes that’s what keeps a relationship as healthy as ever.

Want to stay in London this Valentine’s Day? Explore our romantic offers for something truly special and memorable.

Image courtesy of Shaherald Chia

5 Royal sights to visit when in London

Buckingham Palace on a bright summer's dayAs many of you will know, London is filled with many fantastic attractions and sights – from the London Eye to Big Ben – but the Queen and the Royal family are a particularly big attraction for many people.

So, we wanted to share some information and ideas about the Royal attractions in the capital. And there are a wide variety for you to choose from!

If you were Queen (or King) for the day, where would you spend your time? Continue reading “5 Royal sights to visit when in London”