Where should my family stay in London? Europe?
September 29, 2015 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I've got some paternity leave and my family and I are going to Europe in January, starting in London. Where should we stay in London? Where should we go elsewhere? We'll have a two-month-old and a two-year-old.

So far we've booked flights arriving at Heathrow in early January and returning from Heathrow three and a half weeks later. So far our plans are vague--we want to stay in London for a couple days, see Paris in the snow, and then who knows what?

While we're in London, where should we stay? We're planning on getting a two-bedroom AirBNB, but are open to hotels or other accommodations. We want to be somewhere close to museums and art galleries and restaurants so that we can easily swing back to our accommodations for naps and feedings.

After London, we figure we'll take a train to Paris. Unclear where to stay there as well. And after that? We've got some wild ideas--Copenhagen? Germany? Southern France? Where's good for a young family with really little ones?
posted by ugly to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
i would look at the holiday inn in mayfair (centrally located) near the tube/green park/ and it is inexpensive (for london) and clean
posted by prk60091 at 10:13 AM on September 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

You could always book the 2 hour chunnel from London to Paris. Maybe take a train from Paris to Nice (if you can afford it) and spend a few days there by the white sand beach. Nice is very walkable and it is warm which will be a benefit in January. Or fly to Berlin, I don't think Berlin is as kid friendly though - it's primarily for young people who want to party. But maybe Milan or something more in the middle/south.

I for one am extremely partial to Prague. I wouldn't necessarily say it is kid friendly (and your kids are very young as it is) but it is extremely beautiful and serene.

Venice (Italy) could be a relaxing destination where you and your wife can get lost amidst the alleys and spend time by the water without feeling like you have tons of touristy sites that you need to check off your list.

I've heard good things about Belgium but no personal experience there.

Have a wonderful trip.
posted by BitterYouth at 10:18 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

We stayed at this VRBO and loved it. Was right in the middle of everything, including a five-minute walk to the British Museum, tube stop across the street. The only thing is, this is a two-story with the bedrooms upstairs. Not sure if you want stairs with the toddler. But seriously, picking this location was the reason our trip was so successful.
posted by raisingsand at 10:24 AM on September 29, 2015

I think you should get a nice AirBnB in South Kensington.
posted by derbs at 10:43 AM on September 29, 2015

I stayed here in May:


It's literally right on trafalgar square. You can see Nelson's column from the windows out front.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2015

I stayed in an AirBnB in Montmartre when I went to Paris, it was really pretty and picturesque, Sacre Cour was MIND-BLOWING but I don't know that I'd stay in that area again (I was traveling alone, I am a trans woman and felt pretty vulnerable in Pigalle, which is right down the road and is where the "red light district" is.)

I also went to scotland, Edinburgh was a dream, but in January I'll bet it's a terrible place to visit, lol!

Also, to get to Paris from London, be nice to yourself and take that awesome train. I took a bus and um. It was inexpensive, but I'll never do that again either.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:05 AM on September 29, 2015

'Where in Europe should we go' is a rather broad question. Can you tell us what kind of stuff you like to see and do?
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:25 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe Brittany/Normandy so the kids can play on the beach and see some countryside after two big cities?
posted by runincircles at 12:47 PM on September 29, 2015

Response by poster: Sorry for lack of clarity.

The things we want to do are visit museums, see cool art, see the sights and landmarks, eat at really great restaurants. We like to walk, but aren't against taking cabs or public transit. But I don't want to restrict suggestions to these things--we love the suggestions for Brittany and Normandy, and would love to see some countryside. We're into skiing, but without support from friends/family it'd be pretty challenging with two youngsters.

As for budget, we're thinking of staying within a budget of about 10-15k US (not including flights, which we've already purchased).
posted by ugly at 12:54 PM on September 29, 2015

My go to recommendation for London is the Premier Inn London County Hall. It's not charming or anything, but it's inexpensive for London, has reasonably sized rooms, couldn't be more perfectly located, has superb reviews and is open 24 hours, which saved me a major, major headache on a 13 hour flight delay.
posted by cnc at 2:02 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would do a rented apartment - either AirBnB or something else - probably somewhere that is an easy walk to the British Museum, but not entirely in the hustle and bustle of the West End. I'm partial to Clerkenwell/Islington. Though give your price range maybe other areas a bit further west of the west end, but north or south might be equally good? Like NW1.
Especially with a family and young kids I would skip a hotel if possible.

For other destinations - I mean that's a miserable gray time of year to be in Normandy and Brittany - both of which I really like - but I once spent a February in Saint-Malo - and wow. Not a lot of sun.

What about taking a cheap flight to Southern Spain or Sicily? Great food, Great sights. Maybe not so much on the Museum front.

I wouldn't Train it any further than Paris really. American liberals way overrate trains relative to airplanes for meaningful distances.
posted by JPD at 2:20 PM on September 29, 2015

With two children I would personally avoid a hotel, and definitely try to find a rented apartment, as having your own space and somewhere to recuperate is really important.

Worth noting that taking a pram on the underground can be unpleasant, especially if your pram is not lightweight. There are lots of buses round London, but they're slower and harder to navigate. That said, the City of London itself is relatively compact and often walkable, so it's worth bearing that in mind. London is jam packed full of free things to do and see, but some of those are further out: The National History Museum and Science Museum are worth a look, but they are in Kensington and will be an hour on the bus if you are staying in central London. However, if you want art, the Tate, Tate Moden and National Gallery are all nice and centrally located, and are big and airy with decent eateries (although the tate modern less so), which is what I like when going round with small children. If you don't mind journeying a bit further, London Zoo is also great.

If you want to travel round the UK, day trips to Bath, Oxford or Cambridge could be pretty fun. As others have said, Paris is definitely doable, although you'd want to leave at least a few days to do it. I feel like Paris is maybe a little less compact than London is in terms of the big sites, and I've only ever explored it using the underground there, so I don't know what above ground services are like (also, all drivers in Paris are trying to kill you, from my experience).
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:51 AM on September 30, 2015

If you like museums and cool art you'll love Berlin for sure, it's positively vibrant and public transport is great. Good and affordable food is all over the place.
Seeing some countryside would be harder without a car, not sure if you're planning on renting one... but you could use a train to take you out of the city.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:09 AM on September 30, 2015

Since you have a 2 year old, life with a 2 month old is probably still fresh in your mind. Is there any contingency plan for your wife's health? At 8 weeks post-partum, I was still bleeding. I remember going to a party at about that time and how badly I needed to sit down but I couldn't sit on the ground because I wouldn't be able to get myself back up. This was normal according to the MD. I hope your wife feels better than I did by that time, but I think the maternity/paternity leave doesn't exist because "it sure would be nice to have a vacation," but because mothers and babies might not be well.
posted by SandiBeech at 6:16 AM on September 30, 2015

Bloomsbury is a nice area for you. Walking distance to the British Museum, very good transport links to London and the rest of the UK, accomodation to suit all budgets, and close to town. I live near myself.

5 Things to do:

1. The British Museum is peerless. We looted the whole world for centuries to fill it, so it ought to be good, and it is. Listen to as much of BBC's History of the World in 100 objects (on the BM website) to get a sense of just what's there.

2. Smaller Museums - Grant Museum of Zoology, Courtauld, John Soane Museum, Apsley House. All good and a bit more digestable

3. Eat at Borough Market (Wed-Sat). Gourmet Food Mecca - wander and graze.

4. South Bank Centre - Theatres, concert halls, national film theatre, etc. Some baby friendly stuff there.

5. Eat some first class indian food. Tayyabs is a classic, much loved by my spectacularly hard-to-please* Indian in-laws. (Avoid Brick Lane in this regard)

Have fun.

*about food, otherwise lovely.
posted by Touchstone at 9:12 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

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