It doesn’t come cheap, but a stay at 51 Buckingham Gate (Taj Suites and Residences) is a huge treat for parents and kids alike. Part of the appeal is its incredible location a minute’s walk from Buckingham Palace and also from one of London’s very best parks for kids – St James’s. The downside is that the self-catering suites are just so cosseting that you’ll be loathe to set foot out of the door.
We stayed there when my first two sons were five and three, and I was pregnant with my third, so I was very much in favour of some serious relaxation. An 80-minute pregnancy massage in the small but excellent spa saw to that. Another relaxing feature is that 51 Buckingham Gate has three on-site restaurants, so even though you have a fantastic, fully equipped kitchen, you can find great food without venturing very far – indeed, you can even order in from some of them. We fed the kids pizza and treated ourselves to a luxury take-out from the on-site Quilon with its Michelin-starred south Indian cuisine, serving the likes of halibut simmered in coconut, chilli and raw mango sauce.
Our threee-bedroom suite was vast – far bigger than our own home! – and so luxurious we dreaded going home and facing the reality of our everyday lives. The vast, pristine bathrooms were especially alluring, and there was a washer-drier that would have been useful for a longer stay and kids’ amenities including books and colouring books, DVDS, a Playstation, mini-bathrobes and slippers, and posh toiletries.
The suite enjoyed views over the hotel’s courtyard garden, where you can sit outside in fine weather, although to properly stretch your legs and air your lungs, St James’s Park can’t be beat. Though less well known than some of London’s other royal parks, it’s fabulous for kids, with an small but brilliant playpark including some giant wooden snails, Duck Island, with birdlife including five pelicans that you can watch being fed fresh fish (daily at 2.30pm), a fantastic, family- and environmentally-friendly café and restaurant, Inn the Park, and plenty of space for picnicking. With view of three palaces (Westminster, St James’s and Buckingham) as well as the iconic London Eye, it’s one of the capital’s loveliest spots.
Although I often think that you might as well stay in a Travelodge when you go to London – in fact we often do! – there is a lot to be said, every once in a while, for marking a special occasion such as a child’s big birthday with a true splurge that none of you will ever forget. Just as long as you manage to get out of your hotel room at some point.
Read more about London family breaks, including things to see and do with kids.