London. Not only the capital city of England, but one of the most visited cities in the world. And for good reason.
With its beautiful architecture, interesting history, great food, and vibrant nightlife, London has something to offer every type of traveler.
The city of London is huge and there are a lot of different neighborhoods that offer a lot of different things to do.
That is why, when choosing where to stay in London, you have to know what you want to see and how much you want to spend.
We asked local London expert Karen Worrall to create a guide on the best areas to stay in London and share her opinions on what she thinks a first time visitor to London should see.
Where to Stay in London
South Bank is where you want to base yourself if you want to be close to attractions like Big Ben, The London Eye and the Tate Museum to name a few.
Covent Garden: If this is your first time in London, Covent Garden is great because it is central and close to most of the attractions. It also has great transportation options.
South Kensington and Chelsea are the best family-friendly neighborhoods in London. They are quiet, close to places like Hyde Park and appeal to kids of all ages.
If you are looking to stay near great restaurants and food choices then Covent Garden is the area you want to stay in. Great selection and quality restaurants.
Whether you want to know where the best Jazz Club in London is or what the best Michelin star restaurant you should go to, this guide will help you plan your London vacation.
Other London Neighborhoods
There is no universal best neighborhood to stay in London, so I’ll focus on just the most popular areas, and places I have come to enjoy the most.
- Westminster – London's biggest attractions are located here.
- Soho & Trafalgar Square – Hip nightlife and restaurants meet museum culture in this ever-trendy area.
- Camden – The once weird and wacky neighbourhood is now simply a cool hang place with one of the best markets around.
The Best London Neighborhoods
London is huge. It can take over three hours to get from one side to the other by the Underground – or Tube, never mind how long it would take by bus or car.
Therefore, the most important thing to consider when deciding where to stay is how you get from there to the main things you want to see.
Choosing where to stay in London is easy once you understand the layout of the city. So, grab your London Pass and let's start planning your trip to London.
1. Covent Garden and The Strand
Literary London: Good for First-time visitors
Covent Garden is my personal favorite and definitely the best place to stay in London if you are a first-timer.
To me, it is the very heart of authentic London where you can see the living history of the place, wandering around the market seeing many local characters that wouldn’t be out of place in an Alan Jay Lerner production.
So many of the main attractions like the National Gallery, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye are walking distance from each other.
If you are into theatre then don't miss visiting The Strand as it has many of the West End’s best theatres including the Savoy, the Adelphi, and Vaudeville.
Where to Stay Near Covent Garden and The Strand
- Best AirBnB in covent Garden: This luxury studio apartment, with seperate kitchen, is beautifully decorated, spotless and really close to the Covent Garden Tube station. You have the whole apartment to yourself.
Best Hotel in Covent Garden: Covent Garden Hotel – One of the best hotels in London, with a central location right in Covent Garden, exquisite French-style decorated Luxury boutique.
Best Mid-range Hotel in Covent Garden: Strand Palace – Great location, minutes walk from Covent Garden. The clean chic rooms, excellent service every time, stylish common areas, and a high-quality restaurant.
Best Budget Hotel in covent Garden: Seven Dials Hotel – Friendly small hotel in the perfect location. Helpful staff, one of the top-rated budget places. Single, double * triple rooms, breakfast included.
Attractions Near Covent Garden:
- Covent Garden Market
- Jubilee Market
- The Crusting Pipe
- Transport Museum
- British Museum
- The Theatre – West End Shows currently playing: The Lion King, Mama Mia, Phantom of the Opera, Thriller Live
Getting There via Public Transport
Public Transport: Take the Tube on the Picadilly Line to get to Covent Garden Tube station for Covent Garden.
Take the Tube on the Circle or District Line to get to Temple Tube station for The Strand.
Or take the Bus 11 or 24 coming in from Victoria (if you arrive by train, Eurostar or coach).
Parks, Palaces, and Politics – Iconic London
This is the most iconic part of London, where the most famous skyline of the Houses of Parliament next to ever-reliable Big Ben, is.
The political center of London, and indeed the United Kingdom is Westminster. This town within the city is where all the important stuff happens.
If you are interested in politics, it is the best place to stay in London, or if not, the stunning architecture, and many excellent pubs might tempt you.
Where to Stay in Westminster
- Best AirBnB in Westminster: Located on a quiet street in Westminster this 2 bedroom flat is close to everything, comes with high-speed broadband and self checkin via intercom.
- Best 5 Star Hotel in Westminster: Corinthia Hotel – If you’re looking for luxury right in Westminster, in a lavish building with opulent décor and an exquisite restaurant, and you’re not worried about the price tag, then this is the place for you.
- Best Mid Range Hotel in Westminster: Doubletree by Hilton – Just a five-minute walk from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and overlooking the River Thames, this is a great place to have as a base while you are visiting the Westminster area.
- Best budget hotel in Westminster: The Walrus Bar and Hostel – Westminster isn’t known for being a budget location, but this clean & friendly hostel is about the cheapest. Dorm and private rooms for those who prefer basic hotel facilities.
Attractions near Westminster
- The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
- Pall Mall
- Downing Street
- Buckingham Palace
- London Eye
- Westminster Abbey
Take the Tube on the Circle, District or Jubilee Line to get to Westminster Tube station.
Or take the Bus 11, 24, 148, 211 coming in from Victoria (if you arrive by train, Eurostar or coach).
3. Soho and Trafalgar Square
History Meets Modern Sophistication
If you are wondering where the best place to stay in London is and want fashion and history, Soho is it.
One of the most fashionable areas of London meets history with Nelson’s column, and art at the National Gallery.
Trafalgar Square is for many, the most iconic spot in London, with the towering statue of the diminutive Lord Nelson watching over the city, with his trusty lion guards.
Just behind it is Leicester Square, and right behind that, the cool cat that is Soho.
Soho is one of the best spots for culinary fans of haute cuisine, with Michelin star restaurants, such as Social Eating House and Lima London, starting many food trends here.
Where to Stay in Soho and Trafalgar Square
- Best Air BnB in Trafalgar Square: Beautifully decorated and centrally located right next to Trafalgar Square. 2 Bedroom Flat that has everything at your doorstep.
- Best Hotel in Soho/Trafalgar Square: The Savoy – This is pure 5 star living. Located right on the Thames it has impeccable rooms, over the top service, free wifi and a pool.
- Best Mid-Rage Hotel Trafalgar Square: The Grand at Trafalgar Square – Just off Trafalgar Square, you can find four-star luxury in this Victorian building, which is just meters from all of the area’s main attractions.
- Best Budget Hotel in Soho: The Z Hotel in Soho – Economically friendly option, but still with clean crisp décor and all the amenities you could need in a central area. This is such a great location for theatre goers.
Attractions Near Soho and Trafalgar Square:
- Take in some Jazz at Ronnie Scott's
- Leicester Square
- National Gallery
Take the Tube on the Bakerloo or Picadilly Line to get to Picadilly Circus Tube station for Soho.
Take the Tube on the Bakerloo or Northern Line to get to Charing Cross Underground Tube station for Trafalgar Square.
Or take the Bus 38 coming in from Victoria (if you arrive by train, Eurostar or coach).
4. South Bank
One of the things I love the most about the the South Bank neighborhood is its easy access to a lot of the main attractions and it is a great place to people watch.
I loved being so close to the Tate Museum, London Eye and treating myself to afternoon tea at the Shard.
This is what makes central London such a great place to stay if you are into sightseeing and like to be in the heart of things.
There are also some great restaurants in this area and if you are into street food then you have come to the right place.
Although most of the area is populated with luxury hotels there are a few midrange and budget options.
Where to Stay on the South Bank
- Best Air BnB in the South Bank: This lovely 1 bedroom flat is perfectly located in the centre of it all yet is quiet. Super clean, Wifi, kitchen and a washer and dryer.
- Best Hotel in South Bank: Shangri-La at The Shard – Unparalleled service, beautiful rooms and a true luxury experience. Make sure to check out afternoon tea at their restaurant.
- Best Mid-range Hotel in South Bank: Sea Containers London – A beautiful boutique hotel on the banks of the Thames. Gorgeous rooms and an award winning restaurant.
- Best Budget Hotel in South Bank: Ibis London Blackfriars Hotel – Clean basic rooms that are close to some of London's best markets, independent stores and live music venues.
- London Eye
- Tate Museum
- The Shard
- Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament
- Globe Theatre
- National Theatre
5. Kensington and Chelsea
Parks, Museums and shopping oh my!
The Kensington and Chelsea area is a perfect place to stay in London especially if you are visiting with kids or as a family.
Nobody of any age will be bored or disappointed. For the younger ones there is the Natural History Museum and the London Zoo.
For teenagers they can browse the cool shops of King’s Road, High Street Kensington and Notting Hill.
For adults you can dine in some of the finest restaurants in London, Shop at Harrods or check out one of the many art galleries.
Where to Stay in Kensington or Chelsea
- Best Air BnB in Kensington/Chelsea: Bordering both Kensington and Chelsea this comfortable and stylish flat has a great location. It is walking distance to the Tube, museums, markets and several excellent pubs.
- Best Hotel: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park: Located right on Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, The Mandarin offers luxury accommodations at a luxury price. If you want o be pampered stay here!
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: The Resident Kensington – Perfectly located in the heart of Kensington this hotel gets rave reviews for its great staff and beautiful rooms.
- Best Budget Hotel: Park Grand London Kensington – Perfect family-friendly hotel with great rooms and amenities. Close to the Earl's Court Tube station.
- Shopping at Harrods
- Natural History Museum
- Kensington Palace
- Hyde Park
- London Zoo
6. Camden and Kings Cross
Cool and Quirky, Markets and Music
Weird and wonderful Camden, was once a scruffy area only for hippies and artists. Camden is now a thriving popular place full of hipsters and fashionistas.
Camden is London’s Harajuku. It has its own distinct style and flavour and people there dress to stand out and show their personality.
It is my favourite spot for clothes shopping with such a variety of personality-filled finds in shops and markets and is a foodie haven too.
Kings Cross is another area that used to be seedy but is undergoing a re-generation. Now home to great eateries and nice hotels, it has transformed itself into an excellent neighbourhood to base yourself especially if you are a return visitor.
The prices for staying here are still lower in general than the other neighborhoods in London featured.
It has more hostels and B&Bs than expensive hotels, but with its gentrification and rising popularity, that won’t last long. So come and enjoy that aspect while you can.
Where to Stay in Camden
- Best Air BnB in Camden: Located on a quiet street next to Regent's Park this beautifully decorated flat is close to Camden Markets and the Tube station.
- Best Hotel in Camden: York & Albany -Ideally located between Camden and Regent's Park, this is a refined hotel to base yourself in the Camden area. Relaxing with a book in the hotel's library and creating your own cocktail at the bar are some of the highlights.
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Camden: Holiday Inn – Camden Lock – Camden doesn’t really do luxury, but this extremely well located, comfortable hotel right on Camden Lock is a good choice if you want to be in this area. It is a little nicer than the hipster digs which are the norm.
- Best Budget hotel in Camden: Christopher’s Inn – Camden – This low priced hostel offers double & twin rooms as well as bunk dorm beds for the budget traveller. Right on Camden High Street, a 2 min walk from a tube stop, with friendly staff & discounts at the restaurant for guests, it's a popular choice.
- Camden Markets
- Regents Canal
- Live Music
- Platform 9 3/4 for Harry Potter fans
- Camley Street Natural Park
Take the Tube on the Northern Line to get to Camden Town Tube station.
Or take the Bus 24 coming in from Victoria (if you arrive by train, Eurostar or coach).
So there you have it. My choices on where to stay in London.
The ever-popular London is world-famous and filled with such a variety of things to do that whatever your interests are, you’ll find things to fulfill them here with many world-class attractions, museums, galleries, theatres, restaurants and so many pubs.
It offers variety, and freedom to be yourself in it, and have a royally good time.
So book your flights and pack your bags, as London’s calling.
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