Kid-friendly luxury at London's Athenaeum

A Mayfair Suite at the Athenaeum in London. Located at Piccadilly and Down streets, the property is within easy walking distance to many kid-friendly attractions.
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Before my twin 11-year-old girls' first trip to England, I enlisted their help choosing a London hotel. Certainly they'll go for something royal and old-fashioned, I thought. But no, they quickly passed on those as well as the ones they deemed too posh.



When we finally landed on the Athenaeum's website, they selected it immediately and instinctively. "Cool and stylish and modern but looks comfy," they reported, and our visit confirmed their instincts.

We found the atmosphere throughout the five-star hotel's recently remodeled lobby, lounge and Galvin restaurant comfortable and welcoming to kids of all ages.

A children's concierge asked the girls about their favorite activities and movies; DVDs were provided along with a list of activity recommendations.

The girls were also pampered with cookies and milk at 8 p.m. and given two Big Friendly Giant dolls.

The main hotel's 132 rooms and 12 suites have been amended with 18 residences that contain private entrances in the Victorian row buildings behind the main hotel on Down Street.

These feature large kitchenettes (with a washer and dryer), well-appointed living and dining areas, roomy bathtubs and my favorite simple luxury, heated towel racks.

Since a good night's rest is essential for not just kids but parents, the Hypnos mattresses, handcrafted from natural fibers, were very much appreciated.

We also enjoyed the creative touches, including a 10-floor-tall Living Wall vertical garden created by artist Patrick Blanc on the exterior of the hotel, a bronze dog statue in the lobby and the antique penny-farthing bike outside the entry.

Situated on the corner of Piccadilly and Down streets, the Athenaeum affords an easy stroll across Green Park to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Also within a short walk, the child-pleasing home goods of Cath Kidston and great Mayfair shopping as well as the well-known brunch at the Wolseley and the Green Park tube station.

The original Hard Rock Cafe is a block from the hotel, and Hamley's toy store, Big Ben, the River Thames and the London Eye are all within a 30-minute walk (walking or the tube are definitely recommended as cabs move slowly in this area).

When we set out for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, the children's concierge gave each of the girls his card with the hotel's address.

He told them that if they got separated or lost in the crowds, they could hand it to a cabbie who would bring them back safely, compliments of the hotel.

As we left, we were treated to a "cheerio" by the very tall and friendly doorman, Jim Burns, made even taller by his top hat.

"We say goodbye as a friend just for now," the Athenaeum's general manager, Jeremy Hopkins, is fond of saying upon checkout. "Because we like to think you'll come back soon."

No argument here.

Rates begin at $455 per night for one to four nights, $390 for five nights or more. Visit www.athenaeumhotel.com.
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