If you are traveling with a family, instead of looking for a hotel, I would suggest renting an apartment (or a flat, as the Brits call it) through Flipkey or Homeaway. We did just that when we went to London for a week in January 2013 – we rented the “Embankment House,” a two-bedroom apartment on Homeaway.
The apartment is in a townhouse located steps from:
- Charing Cross Station,
- the Strand (a busy street with tons of stores, restaurants, cafes, banks, and so on),
- the Embankment Underground Station,
- the Trafalgar Square, and
- the National Gallery.
The “Embankment House” is managed by Your London Holiday Home, and when you decide to book the property, they will send you several forms to fill out, and, of course, ask for a 20% deposit.
(Update 11/14/14: The apartment was managed by Your London Holiday Home when we stayed there in January 2013. I’m not sure who’s managing it now. It seems you can book this place through various sites now, not just HomeAway. On HomeAway it’s currently listed as “Westminster, spacious & light apartment in the buzzing centre of Westminster.”)
The building where the apartment is located has a small and slow elevator, but it comes in handy if you have a lot of luggage, otherwise, whether you take the stairs or the elevator, you’d get to your floor at just about the same time.
As you can see from the photos and the description on HomeAway, the apartment is advertised as having two king size bedrooms, but one of the beds is really two beds pushed together. If you’re traveling with kids, you can ask that these beds be separated. This way each kid gets his or her own bed.
The two beds are in a smaller room (with windows looking out onto the back of neighboring buildings) and if you separate the beds, the room will be a bit cramped, but you don’t go to London to stay in your bedroom, do you?
The other bedroom is larger, with a true king size bed. The windows of that bedroom look out onto John Adam street, but they keep the noise out pretty well. Unfortunately the windows in the living room, which also look out onto John Adam street are not as sound proof, so if you have someone sleep on the sofa bed in the living room, they might complain about the late night bar noise below, or the early morning delivery noises.
The bathroom is small for American standards, but nice, though we had some problems with the bathtub faucet. Also, the bathtub is pretty deep, much deeper than American bathtubs, so keep that in mind when you’re climbing in. Better hold on to the glass door frame, or you might slip.
Other than that, I really liked the long shelf running the whole length of the wall above the sink to the bathtub. There’s also a medicine cabinet behind the mirror. So there’s plenty of place to spread your toiletries around.
The kitchen corner (the kitchen / dining room / living room are all in the same room) has everything you might need to make meals on your own – full stove, microwave, coffee maker, pots, pans, plates, utensils, and so on.
Because we travel with kids, one of whom is a fussy eater, and the other one gets impatient in restaurants, we like to eat at “home” and though the nearby grocery stores are not very big and don’t offer a huge selection, we did have most of our meals at the apartment.
Important to Remember
The apartment does NOT have a washer and a dryer in the unit, so if you need to do laundry, you either do it by hand (and let it dry on the heated towel rail), or look for a laundromat.
Nearby Grocery Stores
There are three grocery stores close to the “Embankment House”:
All three are rather small, but they will have the necessities – milk, cereal, bread, cheese, yogurts, and basic stuff for supper. I marked their location on the map above. The images below are taken from Google map streetview.
There are two Underground (or “Tube”) stations very close to the apartment:
- Charing Cross, where the Bakerloo (Brown), and Northern (Black) lines stop, and
- Embankment, where the Circle (Yellow), and District (Green) lines stop.
There are also several bus lines stopping in front of the Charing Cross station, and a bit further away, by the Trafalgar Square.
Between all of these, you should be able to get to anywhere in London you want to go.
By the way, if you are a fan of Thor: The Dark World or Skyfall – you might be interested to know that both movies include scenes shot at the Charing Cross station.
A few of the Closest Attractions
The National Gallery
Whatever you do while you stay in London, do visit the National Gallery, located just steps away, in the Trafalgar Square! Trust me, it is worth seeing the magnificent paintings it houses in the original.
For instance, if you look at the shot of Long Grass with Butterflies, by Van Gogh, you might dismiss it as not that interesting. To be quite honest, I also think the online reproduction is just… “meh” – just a bunch of green and yellow lines.
But the original…. Oh, the original is simply amazing! I stood in front of it for a good couple minutes admiring the brush strokes that make this painting basically three-dimensional. Go check it out for yourself!
Cleopatra’s Needle may not seem like a big deal compared with everything that London has to offer, but if your kids enjoyed Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles, I guarantee you they will want to see the place where Julius and Ruby Kane freed Bast from her imprisonment, and where Ruby Kane died. Unfortunately, our schedule was so packed, we didn’t get to see it by daylight. But… seeing it in the evening, in the dark, was quite fun as well.
Naturally, if you or your kids like The Kane Chronicles, you’d also want to see the Rosetta Stone, at the British Museum.
Though, even if you’ve never heard of The Kane Chronicles, you should go to the British Museum anyway.
Preferably more than once. (It’s huge.)
All in all, if nobody in your family will need to sleep in the living room, if you remember to be careful getting into the bathtub, and, of course, if you’re visiting London for at least four nights (four nights stay is their minimum), the “Embankment House” is a great place to stay at. Most nearby hotels are actually more expensive.
p.s. And in case you’re wondering, no, we do not own the “Embankment House,” nor did we get a discount to stay there. I wish. I just really think it’s a neat place to stay at and next time we go to London, I’ll definitely check if they’re available.
Other Lodging Options in London
On another hand, there really are PLENTY of options to choose from if you’re looking for a place to stay in London. Take your pick!
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