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London doesn’t really have a downtown area. The tourist attractions are all spread out across London as are the hotels and accommodation options with it comes to where to stay in London. As a first-time visitor, this can be overwhelming as you decide what’s the best areas to stay in London. I have also linked some of my London posts throughout this post to help you visualise some of the places I mention below as well as links to help you put together your London itinerary.
Deciding on the best areas to stay in London can be a bit difficult, especially in a city as populated as London, but, the good thing is that London has a well-regulated and interconnected public transportation system of bus and trains that can get you to between your hotels and must-see tourist attractions London.
Choosing Where to Stay In London
Depending on what you want to do and the sites you want to see, you can choose the London district that is closest to your preferred entertainment sites. But, with London’s interconnected public transportation system, you can quickly get around London once you get your Oyster card or you have it combined with the London Pass, allowing you to explore via public transport and tours. Further below I have provided additional recommendations on places to stay in London for nightlife, or if traveling with kids or if you are looking for budget areas to stay in London.
Best Areas to Stay in London
Below are some of the best hotels in London and the best areas to stay in London for tourists visiting the city. So whether you are visiting for a day, a week or sticking around for a few months, the below should give you an idea of where to stay in London to get the most of your exploring of London attractions.
Staying In Southwark & Waterloo
This is one of my favourite places to hang out in London as I have detailed on one of my posts covering London Southbank. Staying in London’s Waterloo and Southwark – and by Southwark, I mean Borough High Street area, Bermondsey, Blackfriars, Elephant and Castle, London Bridge areas because Southwark as a borough is quite big. Staying in Waterloo and Southwark means you have tourist attractions right on your door step. Big Ben, Tate Modern, St Pauls Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, the Shard, to name a few are all within walking distance. There are plenty of options to stay in this area from Airbnb to holiday rental apartments in London to beautiful hotels in every budget from frugal to Luxury budgets. Some of which I have covered on the blog, like waking up to London views from The Shangri-La Hotel within the Shard. For budgeting tips when visiting London, check out my post on money-saving hacks for trips to London. For hotels in Southwark click here.
Some of the best hotels around hear include:
- Park Plaza Waterloo, Park Plaza Westminister Bridge, Hamptons – Waterloo and a short walk to Big Ben, Westminster Abbe, Southbank and London Eye.
- Ibis Blackfriars, Novotel, Hilton Bankside, Grange Hotel St Pauls, Citizen M, Travel Lodge Blackfriars, Premier Inn Tate Modern and Mondrian – Short Walk from Tate Modern and St Pauls Cathedral.
- Grange Hotel Tower Bridge, Hilton Tower Bridge, Shangri-La At The Shard, Lalit London Bridge – Only a short walk to Tower Bridge, Tower Castle, that’s if you cannot already seem them from your hotel room.
Staying In Shoreditch
Shoreditch, like Southbank, is one of my favourite places in London. This could once have been described as desolate and rough, Shoreditch has transformed into a chic London neighbourhood. Located in the east end of London, it’s home for a lot of creative personalities and neighbour to the district of Hoxton. The eastern area of Shoreditch is primarily residential, and the westerns section has the nightlife. The west of Shoreditch hosts several nightclubs and bars located in the Shoreditch high street area. You have streets filled with colourful street art as this place forms a backdrop to many of London’s coolest street tours, some of which I have documented here and here, oh and here. If you are a lover of food then this post on exploring Shoreditch through food spots might be one to check out. For hotels in Shoreditch click here.
Some of the best hotels in Shoreditch include:
Staying In Brixton
Located in South London, Brixton is a lively area that never sleeps with a down-to-earth vibe. This multicultural area offers a multiplicity of ethnic culinary fare. Enjoy street food, clothes, and more in Brixton Market. Visit the first free public library in London at the Brixton State Library. You can also visit the O2 Academy Brixton, a large venue for live stage shows. A lot of cool cafes with an elegant flair have sprouted in recent years. Definitely, a great place to stay in London especially if you want to hang out with the London locals as well as whether you are staying a little bit longer in London as prices might be a lot cheaper than say, Kensington or even Waterloo and Southwark.
Some of the best hotels in Brixton:
Kensington is an upscale neighbourhood in West London. The commercial heart of the district is Kensington High Street which can often be seen crowded with shoppers and tourists. You can browse antiques at stores along Kensington Church Street or more chic boutiques on Kensington High Street. Some of the entertainment areas include the Natural History Museum where you can see dinosaurs, and the Science Museum which gives you a hands-on experience of many of London’s museums to check out during your visit. Take in vintage furnishing at the Kensington Palace and enjoy live classical concerts at the Grand Royal Albert Hall. A short walk you could be exploring at Kensington Palace. For hotels in Kensington click here.
Staying In Chelsea
If you want to enjoy a spot of shopping, then you will enjoy the high-end stores in Chelsea. Located on the River Thames, it’s amongst one of the more affluent areas of London. If you choose to stay in Chelsea in London, make sure to check out the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square and the Saatchi Gallery located at the Duke of York Square. If you’re a football fan (soccer in America), take in a match at the Chelsea football club stadium at Stamford Bridge, or enjoy a tour of the stadium. You also have Sloan Square and Knightsbridge which are a mecca for London’s upscale boutiques. Hotels in Chelsea click here.
Some of the best hotels in the area include:
Staying In Camden
Camden is a charming area to stay. You’ll enjoy the Camden market in Camden Town which sells a variety of crafts and cultural items. It’s a perfect market for souvenirs from your trip to London. Among London’s markets, the likes of Borough Market, Portobello Market, Camden Market is another unmissable market in London. The market is located alongside the Regent’s Canal. The area is popular with tourists, teenagers, and gothic personalities. It has a thriving nightlife with live music, clubs, and old schools pubs. You can’t stay in Camden without visiting the Shaka Zulu Restaurant or the London Zoo. There are also several parks including the popular Regent Park. You can easily access the area using the northern line of the London Underground from the Camden Town Train Station. Although more suited to the younger crowds, a short ride on the canal you will find yourself in Marylebourne and Paddington with plenty of accommodation suited to the young at heart and those with children as it has plenty of quieter spots without feeling like you are living in the middle of an entertainment hub. For hotels in Camden click here.
Staying In Covent Garden
Located in the Westend of London, Covent Garden is the main entertainment and theatre area. You can enjoy live theatre shows at the Royal Opera House or live shows at the Apollo Theatre. Other entertainment activities include the London Transport Museum. Take in some of the street performers on your way to enjoy the architectural beauty of the St. Paul’s Church, which is not too far from here. The Covent Market – also known as the Apple Market – has loads of crafts, fashion stores for you to shop to your heart’s content. This is also where you will find the little Instagram paradise that is Neals Yard. There are hotel accommodations available and many restaurants and entertainment spots to choose from. For more hotels in Covent Garden click here.
Some of the best hotels in the Covent Garden include:
Staying In Soho
In the West End is the London red-light district of Soho. From its fashionable history for the aristocracy, it’s been one of the main entertainment districts in London since the 19th century. Today, it’s the energetic heart of the West End with an eclectic mix of eating and entertainment options and is never quiet. Firth, Old Campton, and Beak are the main areas of activities at night with multiple jazz clubs and restaurants while theatre fans can head to Shaftesbury Avenue for shows. For hotels in Soho check out my guide to hotels in London Soho.
Staying In Leicester Square
Also located in the West End, Leicester Square is one of the entertainment areas of London. Find the famous Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and China Town nearby. It is the site of British movie premieres and also some of the more expensive movie theatres in London. Tourists and locals enjoy visiting the restaurants and bars in the nights as the area comes even more alive. For hotels in Leicester Square click here.
Some of the best hotels in the Leicester Square include:
Staying In Westminster and Southbank
The city of Westminster located in Central London is also a part of the famous West End area. It is home to some of the most famous monuments and buildings in London on the north bank of the River Thames. These include the Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Palace of Westminster – aka House of Parliament, and the Westminster Cathedral. You shouldn’t miss the 150+-year-old Big Ben, one of London’s most famous landmarks. Trafalgar Square is also in Westminster and the area is one of the easiest to go around by foot. For more hotels in Westminister and Southbank click here.
Some of the best hotels in Near Westminister’s Big Ben include:
Where To Stay In London First Time
Best Area To Stay In London For First Time Visitors
If you are looking for the best area to stay in London as a first-time visitor then my next question to ask would be whether you are coming for a short visit, say a weekend, 2-3 days in London or a week or more. If it’s a short visit, choosing where to stay in London for the first time, I would recommend Southwark and Waterloo as they are super close to tourist attractions and really walking distance. This gives you access to Big Ben, Tate Modern, London Eye, St Pauls, Tower Bridge Borough Market, the shard and more, among some of the 20 top tourist attractions to see in London. In the area, you also have a wide range of hotels within walking distance to tourist attractions too.
For budget accommodation, within this area, I would remember looking at my post on the best hostels in London as that gives you an overview of hostels in London Bridge, Waterloo, St Pauls and Liverpool street.
For mid-range places to stay for first-time visitors, you have the likes of Hilton, Hampton, which are in Waterloo, which means a 10-minute walk to Big Ben or London Eye to 5 minutes bus to Trafalgar Square and the Westend. Then Ibis, Novotel and Holiday Inn and Hilton which are a short walk to Jubilee Line’s Southwark station which are a short walk to Tate Modern, St Pauls Cathedral and Tower Bridge.
For something a little Lux in this area then you are looking at Mondrian on Blackfriars Bridge, Grange Hotel next to St Pauls or The Shard in London Bridge. For additional hotels for first-time visitors to London see the link above for Southwark, Waterloo and London Bridge.
If you are a first time visitor in London then I would look for places to stay within zones 1-4, as the gives you more leeway on places to stay, whether you want budget accommodation, luxury hotel or whether you want an apartment and also don’t mind commuting. So I wouldn’t really root out places even as far and wide as Canary Wharf or Hampstead Heath depending on budget and plans for your exploring.
Best Area To Stay In London For Families
Where To Stay In London With Kids
This is usually a tough one to answer as the answer depends on whether you are a family looking to save money or money is no object. If you are looking at quiet places to stay with kids as well as amenities for children then look at Greenwich, there are some Lovely flats in the area to rent as well as the beautiful Greenwich park for the kids to run around until their little hearts are content.
You also have places the around Hyde Park like Marylebone, Mayfair, Knightsbridge Paddington, and Kensington. You have the beautiful Hydepark with Pedlos on the Serpentine, there are beautiful cafes and galleries in the park, you can also find the beautiful Little Venice here as well as the and you are also close to the shopping Mecca that is Oxford street as well as theatres but not too close that you will be hit with the noise or hustle and bustle. There is a great choice of hotels and homes to rent here too. The only thing to be aware of is that it tends to be pricier than places like Greenwich but you can still find bargains.
The other place to consider for the best areas to stay in London for families is surrounding Regents park. This is where you can find the Regents Park Zoo, the beautiful park is perfect for kids. Here you have Primrose Hill too with great views of London and again you are not too far from Paddington for Little Venice. So look at places in Fitzrovia, Primrose Hill, Bloomsbury. Other places to consider are Battersea Park area. Again plenty of hotel and rental home options.
Where To Stay In London For A Weekend
Visiting London For 2 Days or Shorter Visits
If you are looking for where to stay in London for a weekend or short visit then the response would be same as above for where to stay in London first time as that included where to stay to be located fairly central in London to maximize the time you have in the city.
Best Places To Stay In London On A Budget
Best Place To Stay In London For Backpackers
For best places to stay in London on a budget, I would check out my post on hostels as that also includes student halls which can usually be rented during the summer and most. If hostels are not your thing then check out Travelodge which you can now find fairly way located but even though this is a budget accommodation, I have found that the prices are not really budget when they are centrally located. You need to book well in advance for them. For budget accommodation, this is a list of budget accommodation in London which you can then filter down by location as recommended above.
Best Area To Stay In London For Nightlife
If you are coming to London for the nightlife then the best area to stay in London for nightlife are Shoreditch, Brixton, Camden and the Westend. Shoreditch is more of the younger crowd say, 19-25 years, there are plenty of bars, pubs and music events to cater to that audience, in addition, you also have Camden Market here which is a much visit. You then have Shoreditch and Brixton both places which have been revived in recent years and I guess I would classify both these areas as places that are still very hype and filled with creatives but more suited I guess to 25-year-olds and up. Shoreditch has plenty of Street Art, you have cafes, design studios, markets, restaurants over a background of London’s Business district. You can see what I am talking about in a couple of posts I have made on the blog covering Shoreditch.
Brixton is similar to Camden but like I said for a slightly older crowd, and by old I mean 25 year olds, 30 years old and up, a more sophisticated crowd, the work hards and play hard with a touch of creative streak as you have jazz events, cool cafes with a little more adult ambiance to them but you also get to mingle with plenty of locals too. There are markets too. I wouldn’t consider it central but its easily accessible and not always on the radar of tourists mostly.
Soho & Westend
You also have Soho and Westend which are perfect places to stay in London for nightlife as they are alive with enterainment, bars, nightclubs, casinos, shops and all. This place is alive and always awake. Again you can still find a quiet spot to sleep and prices in this area are a little steeper than most parts in London.
Best Area To Stay In London For Tourist Attractions
Best Area To Stay In London England For Sightseeing
So you want to the best areas to stay in London for tourists or want to be close to the sightseeing attractions in London, then ideal locations would be London Bridge, Borough, Waterloo, Pimlico, Westend, Mayfair, Fitzrovia, Kings Cross, Blackfriars, Kensington, Shoreditch Battersea, Vauxhall and Greenwich including their immediate surrounding area as they easily accessible to tourist attractions in London and usually within walking distance to sightseeing as I have highlighted above. With over overall not going in too a lot of detail, I think that kind of gives you an idea of the places to start your search for where to stay in London depending on your plans and budget need.
Getting Around London
The trains and buses are almost always on time, and the stations or bus stops can tell you how long before the next bus or train. Or, you can download the Transport for London Live Bus Countdown app. To get around you’ll need to get an oyster card which is quite easy at one of the Oyster machines at the train station or the airports. The card can be topped at any oyster machine or online.
The card is valid on the trains (tube), bus, and river routes. For all areas not covered by the tube, the bus can help. You can also use a contactless bank card in place of the Oyster card, but you need to keep in mind your bank’s conversion rates and bank fees you may incur.
Have you decided where you will be staying when you visit London? If you’ve been to London, tell us which district was your favourite and why.
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