Thursday, October 17, 2013

London Hotel Review: Park Plaza Westminster Bridge

This view and a glass of wine, balcony perfection
Hotels in London are expensive. Painfully expensive. Like you could buy a new car for the price of a few weeks expensive. My original plan for our summer 2013 vacation was to rent a flat (apartment) for the month of July, live like locals, and also take advantage of cheap airfares to get out and explore other European cities.

London is the center of the European financial world, so there are plenty of short term corporate rentals available. But with billions of pounds flowing in and out of the capital, money is usually no object. Sadly this isn't the case with C&G, and my plan came to a serious halt when I was quoted £500 per night by several rental agencies. A night. There were no monthly rates, especially in the height of summer with a royal baby on the way, so I politely declined the £15,000 (which worked out to a jaw dropping $24,000) and tried to come up with plan B.

Our 30 days in London became 10, leaving money in the budget for visiting other UK cities and maybe a swanky cocktail or two. After an exhaustive search, aided by my trusty DK Family Guide to London, I settled on the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge for their spacious two bedroom suites. Conveniently available for ten nights in a row and with an advanced purchase summer sale the price came in under the £500/night C&G debt ceiling.

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel opened in 2010, so everything is ultra modern, shiny and new. The top two floors offer studios, one and two bedroom suites, and all suites come with outdoor balconies and the best views in London. Rooms below the top two floors are more budget friendly, but some face an inner courtyard and don't have any natural light. Be aware of this when you're booking your rooms.

London HQ of the little C&Gs
Our two bedroom and two bathroom suite was enormous, and there was plenty of room for us to spread out and relax. With ten days together and another two more weeks ahead of us it was glorious to have so much space. A small galley style kitchen opens into the living room but we didn't use it for much more than storing our restaurant leftovers. Although the complimentary Nespresso machine easily saved us £25 a day.

Location is key in London, especially when traveling with kids. Walking to the tube station can easily drain everyones energy, and the hustle and bustle of London can be exhausting. The hotel is a quick five minute walk from both the Westminster and the Waterloo Underground stops, and from there you can zip anywhere around town.

Ice cream along the Thames in Southbank
London's Southbank waterfront neighborhood along the Thames is also just a ten minute walk from the hotel and is a welcome escape from all the busy streets and honking cabs. The Jubilee Gardens have lots of green space to roam and a perfectly sized kids playground, all under the shadow of the London Eye. Restaurants and cafes line the waterfront and we loved heading out for dinner with the locals while still being a short walk from our hotel.

I may have given up my dream of living like a Londoner for the summer, but watching over the city from our balcony with a glass of wine was the next best thing. The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge was a great place to call home for our vacation, even if I never got to see the city turn blue with the arrival of little Prince George.

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