London – Overview
Ahhh, London, we do love you so. Samuel Johnson once made an observation about this amazing city which we feel needs updating (in a cab driver patois, of course) – No guv’nor, when a bloke has a crap time in London it’s his own bloody fault; there’s loads to do, stop whining. Erm, that’ll be twenty quid. And he’s right, yet so many idiotic tourists spend half their time queuing outside Madam Tussauds (yawn), queuing outside Buckingham Palace (zzzz), or taking in some other asinine excursion recommendation that they read about in an inferior travel guide. And then head back home none the wiser. By all means take a boat trip on the Thames and visit some museums, but if you’re visiting for the first time try to escape the tourist trail too, if you can. Visit a street market, go for a run around Richmond Park, take an evening wander through Soho. Sit and drink coffee with the papers. It will be worth it.
London – Hotels – Luxury
Covent Garden Hotel
10 Monmouth Street
T. +44 020 7806 1000
Stylish and bang in the middle of the West End, the Covent Garden Hotel is an excellent choice. It’s very family friendly too – cots, extra beds, high chairs, kids robes and toiletries, books, DVDs and popcorn, babysitting and connecting rooms are all possible, and there’s a kids menu and 24 hour room service. At weekends there’s a Film Club in the hotel screening room.
Also try the other Firmdale hotels:
Charlotte Street Hotel
Dorset Square Hotel
35 St. James’s Place
T. +44 020 7318 6585
Elegant and discreet old school luxury in the heart of St James’s, Dukes is a wonderful institution. They welcome families and should be able to accommodate any requests. Dads will love the Dukes Bar where cocktail maestro Alessandro Palazzi stirs and shakes his magical Martinis. Ian Fleming used to drink here. Enough said.
Hyde Park Corner
T. +44 020 7259 5599
One of us got engaged here so it’s always going to be a Dad’s Guides favourite. The Lanesborough is a magnificent hotel in a fantastic position – uber calm and refined, and effortlessly luxurious. The hotel is well-versed in the art of dealing with visiting families – they offer the full gamut of facilities – babysitting, kids concierge, cots and high chairs, kids menu and 24 hour room service, books, games, movies and even a gift on arrival. Superb.
London – Getting about
Your best bet is to get around on public transport in London is with an Oyster card. Oyster is a plastic smartcard you can use instead of paper tickets. You can put Travelcards, Bus & Tram season tickets and pay as you go credit on it. You will need to pay £5 deposit when you get a new Oyster card. This is refundable if you return the card. Oyster is the cheapest way to pay for single journeys on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London.Details here
Under 5s travel free on all buses, Tube, trams, DLR, London Overground and National Rail when accompanied by an adult with an Oyster card or valid ticket.
5 – 10 year olds travelling with an adult or with a Zip Oyster card get ree travel on Tube, DLR, London Overground and some National Rail services. They can also travel free on London’s buses and trams unaccompanied and without an Oyster photo card.
11 – 15 year olds can get free travel at any time on buses and trams, child fares on Tube, DLR, London Overground and some National Rail services. But they do need a valid Oyster photocard to get free travel on buses and trams, to get Travelcard season tickets and pay as you go at child rate, which costs £10.
16 – 18 year olds can get a 16+ Zip Oyster photocard and pay child rate for 7 Day Travelcards and Bus & Tram Passes, and also half the adult rate when you pay as you go on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground.
Make sure you download this superb app (if you have an Android or iPhone that is). Hailo allows you to call a proper London black cab wherever you are, lets you know how long it’ll take to arrive, and even lets you know what the drivers name is. The cab fare is no more expensive than hailing a cab at the side of the road. Finding a cab in London is usually not that difficult, but if you’ve got impatient kids with you then this will be a great help.
London – Eating and Drinking
41 Beak Street
T. +44 020 7734 4479
Based on the Venetian bacaro principle (i.e. small dishes, booze, good cheer) with some NYC sensibility, Polpo (and its sister restaurants) sums up what’s cool about the London restaurant scene at the moment – low hassle, maximum enjoyment. You can’t book (except at lunchtimes) so you may well need to queue for a table, but what’s wrong with that? The concept is very child-friendly as the dishes vary in size from a mouthful to a small plate – kids portions for adults. And with meatballs and Nutella pizzetta on the menu, even the most sceptical teenager will not be able to resist. No highchairs and seating is quite tight, but staff always try their best to accommodate babes in arms. Check out the Polpo Cookbook too!
Also by the same team:
Da Polpo – 6 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7NA T. +44 020 7836 8448
Mishkin’s – 25 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5JS T. +44 020 7240 2078
Spuntino – 61 Rupert Street, Soho, London W1D 7PW (No telephone)
Perfect for time-pressed families looking for tasty fast food without compromising on quality. Leon has made its name by focusing on ingredients (seasonal veg, ethically-sourced meat and fish, fresh herbs) and creating dishes that are healthy as well as delicious. There is a kids menu, and the Leon website features a nutritional breakdown of every dish. Impressive.
Carnaby Street – 35 Great Marlborough St, London W1F 7JE
Ludgate Circus – 12 Ludgate Circus, London EC4M 7LQ
Regent Street – 275 Regent Street, London W1B 2HB
Spitalfields – 3 Crispin Place, London E1 6DW
Canary Wharf – Promenade Level, Cabot Place West, Canary Wharf, London E14 4QS
Cannon Street – 86 Cannon Street, London EC4N 6HT
Strand – 73-76 Strand, London WC2R 0DE
Bankside – 7 Canvey Street, The Blue Fin Building, (Behind the Tate Modern), London SE1 9AN
Old Compton Street – 36/38 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4TT
Kings Cross – Western Concourse, King’s Cross Station, London N1C 4AH
The Modern Pantry
48 St. John’s Square
T. +44 020 7553 9210
Cafe, restaurant and pantry (the latter selling all sorts of delicious deli bits, pies, pastries, etc to take away) in the heart of Clerkenwell. Open all day seven days a week. Beautiful food with an international / fusion feel – get your head around Grilled tamarind & miso marinated onglet steak, umeboshi fondant potato with lemongrass braised cherry tomatoes – sounds good, eh?
London Shopping – Family
Great Marlborough Street
T. +44 020 7734 1234
Fabulous department store with something for all the family (unless you have a particularly morose teenager who isn’t interested in anything other than Burial and computer games that is). Everything is superbly curated, from cutting edge menswear to home accessories and furniture, beauty stuff (yeah yeah), very cool childrenswear brands like Petit Bateau, Stella McCartney Kids and Caramel. If you need to bring a present back for someone, this is probably the place to find it.
Fortnum and Mason
T. +44 020 7734 8040
Fortnums is a bit of a tourist hotspot – peculiarly they all seem to stay on the ground floor buying tins of Earl Grey tea and jars of rhubarb and custard sweets. There is menswear and womenswear upstairs too. However, the best bit is the AMAZING food hall in the basement, which together with an equally well-stocked wine shop is what attracts most locals. The basement wine bar is also worth remembering – not especially children friendly, but the wine list is basically everything available in the shop (right up to Lafite and La Tache) and is sold at the shop price plus corkage, so quite a bargain. The shop also features possibly the best baby changing facilities in London.
London Shopping – Menswear
35 Bruton Place
T. +44 020 7629 6236
Central London outpost of top tailor Timothy Everest. The Mayfair shop focuses on ready-to-wear, shirts and accessories – head to the Spitalfields Atelier if you require something bespoke.
20 Endell Street
T. +44 020 7831 1210
Legendary retro street wear store stocking Levis, 13 Rebels, Barracuta, Buzz Rickson, Red Wing and Dockers. Super friendly staff too.
Wolf and Badger
32 Dover Street
T. +44 020 3627 3191
One of our favourites, Wolf and Badger is a great boutique with lovely mens and womenswear and accessories, focusing on young, emerging British design talent.
3 Clifford Street
T. +44 (0)20 7734 2367
Head to Drakes for the finest gentleman’s accessories – beautiful silk scarves, shirts, socks and knitwear, and even bespoke ties.
2 Davies Street
T. +44 020 7853 4440
The London home of Alfred Dunhill is a marvellous and beguiling retail concept housed in the magnificent Georgian Bourdon House. Browse the excellent and bang-up-to-date collection of ready-to-wear tailoring and general menswear then visit the spa, humidor or have a drink at the bar. Classy.
London Shopping – Other dad stuff
4 Peter Street
T. +44 020 7734 1885
Hip little fixed gear bike shop in the heart of Soho. Stocking frames from Feather Cycles, Nagasawa and Brooklyn Machine Works, bags from Chrome and SAG, and clothing from Mission Workshop and Outlier.
Other bike related ideas:
Brick Lane Bikes
London Things to Do – Dads
The Spa in Dolphin Square
T. +44 (0)20 7798 6767
We’ve written about this fabulous spa before. Super luxe and perfect if you need somewhere to unwind.
London – Exercise