Normally I'm an advocate of staying slap-bang in the centre when enjoying a city break with or without kids – who wants to waste time getting in and out of the heart of the action? But sometimes there's a very good argument in favour of choosing a slightly unconventional location. On one family break in London, we opted to stay in the City, a part of the British capital that's normally associated with finance and thus has acccommodation catering primarily to business travellers. The Leonardo Royal London City may well get its fair share of the latter, but it's also super child-friendly, as well as being very handy for some of London's best family attractions, including the Tower of London and, just across Tower Bridge, The Unicorn children's theatre. For exploring further afield, it's virtually next door to a Tube station.
We stayed in an Executive twin room with two double beds plus a small seating area that could house an extra bed or cot. It was a nice enough room, if not entirely to our taste decor-wise. But we didn't really care about that when we opened the door and realised that from the floor-to-ceiling windows we looked right down into the Tower of London, against a backdrop of Tower Bridge. The view couldn't have been more iconic, and the boys found it thrilling. If we're honest, so did my husband and I.
We grown-ups had an evening event to attend, so after a swim in the hotel's excellent 25m basement pool, we fed the boys from the room-service menu, which has a very good kids' section. With prior notice, the hotel had organised us a sitter from a reputable agency that is used by many of the big-name London hotels, Rockabye Babysitters, and this is where the seating area came into its own, giving her some proper space in which to relax and read while the kids slept.
In the morning, after breakfast in our room, we went for another swim, then headed off sightseeing. The highlight for the boys was probably the DLR, the Driverless Light Railway where kids can sit up front and pretend to drive as it dips and climbs rollercoaster-style between Tower Gateway and Greenwich stations. Greenwich with its National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark and glorious park is a family day out in itself. Alternatively, City Cruises or Thames Clippers (the cheaper but no less enjoyable commuter boats) have departures from City Pier for Greenwich and also back to Westminster and the London Eye, in the centre. So there really is no need to feel cut off by choosing the City – indeed, having the DLR and riverboats on your doorstep make exploring London even more fun.
Maybe the biggest highlight of staying in the City is its historical ambiance, which is perhaps more pronounced in this district than anywhere else in London. And this was brought back to us at the hotel itself, where my husband and I sat basking in the sun over drinks in its spacious private piazza as the kids played tag beside a section of London's original Roman wall.
Image courtesy of newsteam.co.uk / HRP