Writer Claire Powell takes her husband, Scott, and one-year-old daughter, Bea, for an exciting family weekend break in the capital city
View from the Penthouse suite at Park Plaza County Hall Hotel
If you are looking for an affordable family break away in London, but are not willing to compromise on style, then the Park Plaza County Hall Hotel certainly ticks all of those boxes. The location simply could not be any better, surrounded by some of the best attractions London has to offer with entertainment for all ages and budgets. Spacious rooms (big enough for a family of four) offer both parents and kids a comfortable haven with considered details that ensure a relaxing break for the whole family to remember.
Entrance to the Park Plaza County Hall Hotel
Conveniently located within an easy 5 minute walk of mainline and underground station Waterloo, the hotel is easily accessible whichever direction you travel into London. The hotel is positioned just behind the iconic County Hall next to the Thames, offering families a central location that is pleasantly set back from the hustle of the South Bank. Attractions within walking distance of the hotel include The London Eye, The London Aquarium, BFI Imax cinema and The London Dungeon as well as cultural destinations such as Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Churchill’s War Rooms and the Tate Modern.
Bea tests out the bed
We stayed in a penthouse suite on the eight floor, selected due to the fact that the room had a totally separate living space which was divided by doors: a must when sleeping anywhere with a 13-month old baby. The rooms within the Park Plaza have been generously designed with the family in mind, many offering separate lounge and living areas with kitchen facilities meaning that everyone can stay in one suite, rather than the usual two for the average family. With eight floors the Park Plaza offers outstanding views across the river and kids will delight in spotting Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from the window, especially when the dark sets in and the city really comes to life.
Brilliant to have a cot ready for Bea set up in her own room
The layout of the suite was superb with a well equipped kitchen and dining area, generous bathroom, stunning balcony area with a panoramic view of the Thames and an elegant media room with large TV with a selection of movies (kids' movies are complimentary). The media room doubled up as Bea’s bedroom for the night and with black out curtains and its own adjustable air con options she slept soundly the whole night in a travel cot that was assembled all ready on arrival ( a great bonus we didn't have to lug one around on the train).
Kitchen, complete with drinks for parents, and kids...
The kitchen area was a real godsend, as with Bea's early bed time, going out for an evening meal just wasn't an option. We bought some treats from a nearby deli and ate in the suite, which was actually very welcome after a day pounding the streets of London all the while in the knowledge that we could then retire to our room for a movie while she slept soundly next door.
The interior of the room was modern and fresh with comfortable leather sofas (that incorporate a pull out bed for older children) and a large king bed. A great selection of Elemis toiletries were a real treat as well as the hand delivered honeycomb chocolates delivered before bed time.
Treats for adults, treats for children!
The Park Plaza really does treat children like VIPs, giving each child an excellent welcome bag on arrival that includes fun activities, food vouchers and lollipops. A recent poll by Park Plaza Hotel & Resorts revealed that a whopping 80 per cent of us have something to complain about when it comes to half term, mainly citing inflated holiday prices as our number one bugbear. Considering children can stay and eat breakfast for free (when staying with parents), it really is an excellent option for parents looking for an affordable and stress free alternative to the holiday abroad at half term.
Fun for all ages!
What we did
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and decided to enjoy a leisurely stroll from London Bridge along the south bank, stopping at Borough Market and the Tate Modern along the way. We were keen to get to the hotel for Bea’s afternoon nap and she settled very well in her room. We rose early on the Sunday and as the weather was so beautiful walked over the river, through to parliament and went in search of the infamous pelicans in St James Park. It really was such a treat being in London so early on a Sunday before the hoards of tourists arrived. Bea loved looking at all of the different birds and people watching of course!
What we ate
The hotel offers an extensive, very affordable and child-friendly room service menu, including classic favourites such as fish and chips, as well as curry and fresh pasta dishes. The buffet breakfast (included in the room price) is outstanding. We arrived at 8am, which was a great time, apparently, as it can get very busy after 8.30am. The range of food was fantastic everything from tropical fresh fruit, waffles, cereals, pastries and a mouth watering selection of cooked food including quality sausages and bacon and eggs cooked to your preference. Bea was in her element, feasting on fresh apricots, watermelon, boiled egg and soldiers and pieces of sausage, I don’t think she is going to look at her usual order of 'porridge' in the same way, ever again...
All in all, a surprisingly relaxed city break with a toddler (dare I say, a little romantic too). The Park Plaza supplied us with everything we needed to thoroughly enjoy ourselves, and London provided us with unlimited entertainment, which didn't have to cost us a penny.
The hotel offers spacious suites and a range of free kids’ activities, from pizza making classes every Saturday afternoon to regular movie nights.
Accommodation for up to two adults and two children in a spacious Studio Room costs from £245 per night for the whole family. For more information, and to book, visit The Park Plaza hotel, online
Read more family travel reviews...