london tube

What Is the Best Tube Station for Buckingham Palace?

Buckingham Palace, the official residence and administrative home of Britain’s Monarchy, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of London, and no trip to the capital is complete without paying it a visit. But which tube station is the best when it comes to getting there?

Victoria

For those in a hurry to pay the Queen a visit and watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony starting at 10:45am sharp, the closest tube station is the bustling Victoria Underground Station (serviced by the Circle, District, and Victoria lines). From here it’s a short walk of 5 to 10 minutes, past the Royal Mews, to get to the gates of Buckingham Palace.

St. James’s Park & Westminster

If you’re after a more scenic walk, it’s recommended to get the tube to St James’s Park Station (Circle and District lines) or Westminster Underground Station (Circle, District, and Jubilee line). Walking time ranges from about 10 to 15 minutes from either of these stops, but the bonus is that you’ll get to walk through the leafy St James’s Park, where squirrels clamber up trees and birds mill about on the pretty lake.

underground

Hyde Park Corner & Green Park

If you’re coming from either North or West London, the Piccadilly Line stops at Hyde Park Corner and Green Park Underground Stations, both a short walk of about 5 to 10 minutes through Green Park.

Other Transport to Buckingham Palace

Being London, there are a myriad of other ways to get to Buckingham Palace. If you’re coming from South London, Kent, Surrey, or Sussex, a train to Victoria Station is hard to beat when it comes to convenience and proximity to the Palace. Victoria is also serviced by the Gatwick Express, so if you’re coming directly from the airport you can easily make Buckingham Palace first on the list of things to see in the city.

If you’re on the red hop-on hop-off bus touring the most famous landmarks of the city, there’s a stop right out the front of Buckingham Palace. Public buses numbers 11, 211, C1 and C10 all stop at Buckingham Palace Road.

Visiting Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is only open to the public between July and October, while the Queen is staying at her summer residence in Balmoral, Scotland. Waiting inside on a tour are 19 grand State Rooms, adorned much like a Royal residence should be, with magnificent works of art and opulent furnishings. If your curiosity is piqued and you fancy learning more about one of London’s most popular attractions, you can read our Ultimate Guide to Buckingham Palace.

changing of the guard

If visiting outside of these months you can still catch a glimpse inside the Palace at the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery. The former is where the Royals keep their cars and carriages, with different ones used for various occasions, such as weddings or transporting a new Ambassador to England to visit the Queen. The latter is a beautifully and expertly curated (expectedly so) selection of some of the finest art in the Western Hemisphere.

Don’t miss the chance to visit two royal residences in one day with Premium Tours’ Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace Tour.

hotel

17 of the Best Family Hotels in London

London is one of the most visited cities in the world, and for good reason. Steeped in history and culture, around every corner there is something waiting to be discovered. The diversity that exists in the city is like nowhere else, making it the most international city in Europe, if not the world. All of this combines to reveal a perfect destination for families looking for an urban adventure. There are penty of activities for kids and adults, as well as things that the entire family will enjoy, but to really make the trip one to remember you need to choose the right hotel.

Here are 17 of the best family hotels in London that will help make your stay in the city that bit more enjoyable.

Luxury Hotels

Browns Hotel, Mayfair

A very luxurious affair, both parents and children will greatly enjoy spending time at the Browns Hotel in Mayfair. Included in the rooms are a lot of kid-friendly items: teddy bears, rubber ducks for bath time, fun cartoon bed sheets, and more. Take a browse through the in-house picture books about an imaginary character that lives in the hotel, Albermarle the monkey. The character is paying homage to author of The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the novel inside the hotel. Under-10s in the restaurants eat for free, and the hotel often puts on seasonal family packages, so keep an eye out.

Browns Hotel Mayfair

Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences, Victoria

This suite-only hotel is an opulent choice for a family holiday, but one that will be remembered for years to come. All the attention is in the detail at this establishment, where they provide kids with crayons and sketchbooks, hot chocolate with marshmallows at bedtime, and even kid-friendly amenities. The full kitchen in the suites also makes it a breeze to prepare food in the room, though the child’s menu in the restaurant is exceptional as well.

The Ritz, St James’s

Perhaps the most luxurious hotel in all of London, the Ritz’s exceptional service extends to every member of the family. The kids will love the free ice-cream, and the parents will love some time to themselves whilst the staff take care of the kids as part of The Kids @ The Ritz program, where they can play video game consoles, board games, rent out DVDs, books, and more.

The Berkeley, Knightsbridge

The big suites at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge provide enough room for all the family and, being a luxury hotel, offer all kinds of amenities for little grown-ups and babies alike. The rooftop pool is a favourite with the entire family, and the concierge is well versed in knowledge pertaining to family activities around the city.

Mid-Range Hotels

Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington

The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington is a wondrous place to stay with children. Perched right on the edge of Hyde Park, the location couldn’t be better for letting the kids loose across the beautiful and safe space to burn some energy. There’s free breakfast, and the hotel even provides mini scooters for kids to zoom around on in the park. Views out over the park are amazing, and you can also see Kensington Palace from some of the rooms as well.

Ham Yard Hotel, Soho

This hotel in the West End is a colourful hotel whose interior alone could keep kids entertained for days. Luckily, that’s not all the hotel has on offer for children. The standard babysitting services and interconnecting rooms for families are here, as well as snacks and amenities for the little ones. But what makes this place really shine is the bowling alley in the basement – it’ll be hard to get the kids to leave.

Bowling Alley Ham Yard Hotel

The Ampersand Hotel, Kensington

A game room is the star of the show at this hotel, with all kinds of different toys, books, and board games, and even a full-size ping-pong table. The splendidly modern suites are the best option for families, as they come with a foldout couch and a small kitchenette for preparing snacks for the hungry. The location right near the museum mile is stellar as well. The Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are right around the corner, both of which could keep kids entertained for days on end, let alone the parents.

Premier Inn London, Waterloo

The Premier Inn in Waterloo is a good mid-range choice for a hotel near to the main tourist attractions. A 5-minute walk to the London Eye, you’re bound to go up on the famed Ferris wheel at least once during your stay. Family rooms are available, some with splendid views over towards the Big Ben on the other side of the Thames, and breakfast is free for kids under 16.

Park Plaza County Hall, Waterloo

With a winning location right next to the Sea Life Aquarium, London Dungeon, the London Eye and many other popular family sights in London, your days in the city will whisk by and be over before you know it. The hotel makes a wonderful retreat for some downtime as well, with modern facilities and staff that treat the little ones like royalty. There are events for kids held during the week, such as movie night or games night to give parents a breather as well.

Budget Hotels

Comfort Inn, Victoria

This relatively inexpensive hotel is all about location. Exceptionally close to Victoria Station, a bustling transport hub, the entire city is within easy grasp. But short walks away are some of London’s biggest tourist attractions as well, saving you money for transporting the whole family. Buckingham Palace, The Big Ben and Westminster Abbey are all under 20 minutes’ walk from the Inn.

Chessington Safari Hotel, Chessington

This option is great for those who are visiting London to experience the Chessington World of Adventures theme park. While it’s a little bit out of London (about an hour from Victoria Station), this helps to keep the prices down for the rooms that you’ll get to enjoy. Themed rooms make for an exciting adventure before the kids even get into the theme park, and they’ll also get to do that before the gates open to the public.

Giraffe Room

The Nadler, Victoria

Ideal as a budget option for families wishing to stay near to the West End, this comfortable hotel offers compact rooms with enough room for 2 adults and a child, and comes with a small kitchenette where you can knock up a bit of breakfast before heading out for the day. Otherwise, pay a visit to the bakery immediately next door.

Luna and Simone Hotel, Victoria

This hotel focuses solely on providing affordable, family-friendly rooms, and is family run as well. You’ll feel right at home with the staff, as if you’ve been welcomed into their home for the duration of your visit. The location is excellent (minutes away from Buckingham Palace and St James’s Park), and the rooms comfortable.

The Royal London Hotel, Hammersmith

An excellent choice when it comes to value for money, the Royal London Hotel in the charming Hammersmith neighbourhood is very family friendly. The inexpensive rooms, the simple but delicious breakfast, and friendly staff all make this a wonderful place for a family’s urban adventure.

The Best Hotels for Toddlers and Babies

Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments

This 5-star luxury hotel is perfectly located overlooking the leafy and pleasant Green Park, minutes away from Buckingham Palace and a short walk from the main shopping streets on Oxford. But what really makes this hotel stand out is its commitment to making sure the little ones enjoy their stay as much as you do – the kids concierge will even be in contact with you before you arrive to make sure that they have the favourite DVDs and treats ready for your arrival, and will always be on hand to help you plan and execute the perfect kid-friendly itinerary around London. The one-bedroom suites have their own entrances, include bunk beds, and always have cribs readily available.

toddler sleeping

Park Plaza County Hall, Waterloo

The perfect choice of hotel if you’ve got a few toddlers in tow, as children under 12 stay for free, eat breakfast for free, and will even get to enjoy a pizza-making class every Saturday and movie nights throughout the week. The usual board games and toys can be found in the hotel as well.

Beaufort House, Knightsbridge

Travelling with a baby can be stressful at the best of times, which is why a stay at the Beaufort House comes so highly recommended. The staff at this property go the extra mile – the kitchen will be stocked with fresh groceries upon arrival (think milk, juice, jam, bread, fruit), and housekeeping will turn over the rooms daily, which is a rare thing for apartment rentals. The apartments themselves are bright, spacious, and very airy, located in the bustling and luxurious area of Knightsbridge.

General Tips

When to Go

London enjoys quite a mild climate, which means that generally any time of year is ideal for visiting. Spring is a lovely time of year, as the days are getting longer and the temperature usually sits comfortable between 11°-15°C. Summer time is the busiest period, and the main tourist sites are chock full of people, but the bonus is that the weather is usually incredibly pleasant and perfect for enjoying the city’s wide-open parks. Autumn blows in with it generally rainy weather, and the winter time of course means that the entire city is decked out with Christmas lights, brightening the darkening light. Always remember to book well in advance, as family rooms are in high demand.

Things to Do

This expansive and diverse city has activities on offer for kids of all ages, and some of them might even inspire the hidden kids inside the adult as well. The HMS Belfast is one such attraction, the only European cruiser to survive from World War II. Clambering up and down ladders and making your way throughout the ships decks is something the whole family will enjoy.

Another great family outing is to the Warner Brothers Studios in London, home to the sets where the Harry Potter films were shot. Visit the sets of the Great Hall from Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and more. It’s a fun day out for the whole family.

The Natural History Museum has a vast array of exhibitions that could take days to fully explore and appreciate, while the Science Museum never fails to entertain and educate both kids and adults. The British Museum has particularly good audio guides for children as well.

Legoland in Windsor doesn’t really need any introduction, and neither does the London Eye; both are attractions that the whole family will love.

london eye

Getting Around

By far the easiest way to get around London with kids is by taking the tube. Kids under the age of 10 ride for free, so swipe your oyster card and have them follow you in. If kids are between the ages of 10 and 15, you’ll need a special oyster card that can be bought at any of the manned ticket booths.

The beauty of getting an oyster card is that it not only covers the London underground, but also the Overground – buses around the city and river buses as well. The daily cap for getting around on any of these transportation methods in the city with an Oyster Card is £6.50.

Restaurants

Some family-friendly restaurants around the city:

  • All Star Lanes: a bowling alley with easy dining
  • Jamie’s Italian Family Restaurant: delicious and budget-friendly meals that kids love
  • Rain Forest Café
  • Wagamama
  • The Golden Chippy
  • The Crepe Factory

Feeling inspired to take the family on a trip to London? Our team of London experts know all there is to know about the city, so check out our amazing range of London tours, or call our team. For even more ideas of what to do in the city, you can read about our recommended things to do with a toddler here.

flowers

Guide to Alexandra Gardens in Windsor

A beautiful and well-kept green park by the River Thames, Alexandra Gardens is well worth a visit on a trip to Windsor. The traditional Victorian park is perfect for picnics, and there are often events going on to entertain the whole family. The park is painstakingly maintained with beautiful floral displays and pruned trees, and there’s ample grassy space for everyone to find their own area, perfect for letting kids run around in.

Presiding over everything to the east is striking Windsor Castle, which you can see from everywhere within the park. It’s a tranquil spot to come on a sunny day to relax by the river and take a break from seeing the sights.

windsor castle

‘Windsor 06-06-2012’ by Karen Roe – https://flic.kr/p/bVkr88

Alexandra Gardens

Inside Alexandra Gardens you’ll find walking paths that meander past the river, perfect for riding a bike or a scooter. Perhaps their most important feature is the wonderfully restored bandstand, commemorating the close ties between Windsor, the British Armed Forces, and the Queen, as well as celebrating Queen Elizabeth as the longest-reigning Monarch in British history. There are six plaques on the bandstand that explore the role of the Armed Forces in the UK.

The Jubilee Fountain at the eastern end of the park is a great place for kids to have a paddle on a hot summer’s day. For refreshments, you can head to one of two cafes found in the gardens: Riverside Café near the eastern end near Windsor Castle, and Extreme Motion, which doubles as a bicycle rental shop.

Jubilee Fountain

‘Diamond Jubilee Fountain’ by Matt Brown – https://flic.kr/p/22spUyP

At the western end of the gardens, you’ll find a small amusement park, perfect for toddlers to have some fun in, plus a skate park for older kids. You can buy candyfloss and hot dogs here to stave off hunger pangs.

During the Christmas months, there is an ice rink set up for skating called ‘Windsor on Ice’, and a small but lively winter wonderland with food stalls serving tasty treats. Summer brings a local theatre group to the gardens to perform live shows, plays, and comedies during the balmy evenings.

sunny day windsor

‘Windsor’ by Dmitry Dzhus – https://flic.kr/p/YiSwak

Location

Located immediately next to the rushing River Thames in Windsor, Alexandra Gardens enjoys a close proximity to popular Windsor Castle. The main shopping area of Windsor is just a short hop away, with numerous pubs, restaurants, cafes, and of course public toilets. The riverfront on either side of the park is also generously sprinkled with ice creameries, fish and chip shops and pubs.

Getting to Alexandra Gardens

Windsor is just over an hour from Victoria Station on the train. If heading out from the city, it’s easiest to make your way to Victoria Station first, then take the Southern Rail (in the Brighton direction) to the next stop, Clapham Junction. From here you can jump on the South Western Railway and ride it all the way to Windsor, alighting at Windsor and Eton Riverside. From here, it’s a short 10-minute walk to the park. It can also be easily accessed from Windsor Station.

As London experts, we know how to make the most of a visit to Alexandra Gardens and Windsor. To find out more about exploring London, you can have a look at our range of tours here.

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Retro Travel Posters Bring Old Memories Back to Life

The sun is shining and the summer holiday season is well and truly upon us at home and abroad.

With the summer vibes taking over Premium Tours HQ we have been reminiscing about some of our favourite summer holidays of years gone by.

Our tales of past travels have also reminded us of some of our once beloved holiday traditions (when did you last send a postcard?)… and frustrations (we’re looking at you travellers’ cheques).

Thinking back on these old holiday habits, we were filled with both nostalgia and also fascination at how quickly and unremarkably many of these changes happened; can you even imagine not being able to connect to wi-fi at your hotel now? Do you remember the day you stopped bringing a compact camera with you, relying only on your phone?

So, we decided to bring some of these old traditions back to life in our animated Travel Back in Time illustrative series.

Have a look at our illustrations below and reminisce about some of these retro travel items.

Walkmans

Walkman

Before the days of streaming, before the days of downloads, even before the days of CDs there was cassettes, and with cassettes came Walkmans. The Walkman was a must have for long journeys or sunbathing on the beach. Of course you had to bring along each cassette too in your portable carry case. Skipping songs wasn’t an option, unless you wanted to gamble with the fast forward option.

Developing Photos

Developing Photos

Ah the days before you could take hundreds of selfies until you got the perfect #travelgoals shot. Nope there was no sneaky previews of your travel snaps back in the day, and with a limit of how many photos you could take per spool you had to be extra selective in deciding what to capture. After your holiday you would take your photos along to be developed, the actual finished results remaining a total surprise and often a total disappointment, with a good portion of your snaps including a rogue finger covering the lens. The acceptable shots you did have would be stuck in an album or brought to the office and family gatherings for the next six months.

Travel Brochures

Travel Brochures

While travel brochures do of course still exist they are in no way the main planning tool for holidays that they once were. While nowadays we browse social media and online booking sites for our travel inspiration, up until a mere 10 years ago we would stock up on a selection of travel brochures from around the world flicking through page after page of exotic hotels and dreaming of our next getaway.

Travellers Cheques

traveller-cheques

Once the go-to way of spending money abroad, travellers cheques seem to have almost disappeared into oblivion. While travellers cheques were deemed a safer option than carrying cash over time more convenient options arose making travellers cheques less popular. As the use of travellers cheques declined it became harder and harder to find places to accept or exchange them, and many of us will have memories of traipsing around an unknown city looking for a bureau to exchange our cheques. While much less popular, travellers cheques are still available today.

Phone Cards

Payphone

Nowadays public payphones are rapidly on the decline, either being eradicated entirely or given quirky new leases of life, such as a pop up phone box library. However, before mobile phones were the norm public payphone were important in keeping us connected and safe while travelling. In many countries we also needed to use a phone card when calling abroad which we loaded with credit, and could even use to reverse charge the call to whoever we were calling. However, using phone cards was a task often filled with frustrations as you typed in unnecessarily long codes while juggling your bags only to be cut off mid-dial…or was that just us?

Internet Cafés

internet cafe

As the world progressed to favour online communications over telephone, internet cafés became the way to stay in touch during our travels. Many of us will remember setting out to find the nearest internet café to our hotel. In fact, even up until the very recent addition of mobile boarding passes, internet cafés were often still needed for a last minute printing mission, but as more of our life becomes mobilised the thought of having to search for a special internet café to stay connected seems almost alien.

Postcards

sending-postcards

With the evolution of our online life, another long-standing holiday habit fell into decline – postcards. It used to be the case that we would pick out ‘Wish You Were Here’ postcards to send smug tales of our travels to our parents, colleagues, friends, neighbours, great Aunt Doris, and whoever else was stuck back home. Now with the invention of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram it’s so much easier to be smug with one just one quick click.

Digital Cameras

compact digital cameras

Ok, we’re not talking about high quality DSLR cameras here. If you are a photography enthusiast with a pro camera chances are you still bring this on your travels today, but for us novice photographers our once beloved compact cameras are a thing of the past, with our phones being perfectly capable of capturing the highlights of our week in Marbella. Not too long ago it was standard practice to bring our mini digital camera along with us on holiday, loving our new spool-free freedom we would snap shots of everything throughout our holiday and upload every single image into a massive Facebook album upon arriving home. Now, compact cameras seem pretty irrelevant as camera quality becomes an ever bigger selling point of smartphones, and large Facebook albums are also rather extinct, as we instead favour the instantaneous and temporary nature of tools such as Snapchat to chart our holidays.

Paper Maps

Paper Maps

While it may seem impossible to believe now, there was a day when Google maps didn’t exist. Rather than using our phones to navigate we’d unfold our paper maps, larger than our own heads, turning this way and that looking for a recognisable landmark and our desired route. Was this really any more difficult than deciphering Google maps’ directions? We’ll leave that one up to you.

Phrase Books

Phrase-book

While every word we could possibly want to know is now at our fingertips with a plethora of translation apps available, we once had to pack a whole phrase book with us to aid in international conversations. The advantage of the phrase book was that rather than searching the words we wanted to know it suggested to us the words we never even knew we wanted to know. Many guide phrase books also included useful city tips and menu suggestions – and some even came with their very own massive fold-out map.