Where the best area to stay in London may be is ultimately down to you. Choosing the best neighborhood to stay in London can be bewildering, especially if you’re planning your first visit there. It’s a vast, diverse metropolis, and some of the best areas to stay in London are in the central area, but there are also some great places to stay in the suburbs.
It all depends on what sights in London you’d like to see, your interests, and your budget for your trip and London accommodation. When deciding where to stay in London, you should also consider your fitness and whether or not you’re prepared to walk much, as you can end up doing a lot of walking in London. You may be travelling with kids, in which case you need to think about what might be the best area to stay in London for family would be.
Wherever you stay, whatever you plan to see, you can expect to be doing a fair bit of travelling around London. You may want to stay very close to the sights in central London, or be happier to travel back and forth from somewhere a little further out.
We’ve broken it down into thirteen suggested areas to stay in London, and given some background information on each, including what there is to see, what dining options are in the area, what attractions are nearby, what transport connections are like from points of arrival (whether by air, rail or coach) and onward to the main sights of London.
For reference, we refer throughout to ‘central London’. By this we mean the following areas, starting in the west: Kensington and Paddington, both of which border Hyde Park, the West End, Victoria, Westminster, Covent Garden, Bloomsbury and King’s Cross, the City of London and the East End, all of which are to the north of the river Thames. The one area we have covered to the south of the river, South Bank, Bankside and Southwark, is also part of Central London.
We also refer to ‘the city’ and ‘the City’. When we refer to ‘the city’, we are referring to London as a whole. When we use the capital C instead we are referring specifically to the City of London, the so-called ‘Square Mile’ where many of London’s financial institutions are concentrated, as well as major London sights such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.
- 1 Best areas to stay in London – Getting around London
- 2 Victoria & Westminster
- 3 The West End
- 4 Covent Garden & The Strand
- 5 Bloomsbury, King’s Cross and around
- 6 City of London
- 7 Paddington & Marylebone
- 8 Kensington & Chelsea
- 9 London East End
- 10 Southwark, Bankside & South Bank
- 11 Camden
- 12 Hampstead & Highgate
- 13 Highgate
- 14 Greenwich
Best areas to stay in London – Getting around London
Victoria & Westminster
- Great if you’re interested in royal London and want to be close to the sights
- The heart of iconic London, with Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace
- Fantastic central location
- Excellent transport connections from Victoria
- Good range of budget hotels in London Victoria
The West End
- Great for a base for those who wish to be in close to shows on West End
- With over 50 theatres and many music venues and cinemas, the West End is one of the best areas for entertainment in the world
- Oxford Street and Regent Street among the best shopping areas in London
- Fantastic dining options at all budgets within walking distance
- Most options are deluxe and expensive – though there are a few budget options
- Awkward for arrivals from airports at present – but this will improve greatly after Crossrail opens in 2018
Covent Garden & The Strand
- Great location only 10-minute walk from Trafalgar Square
- Some walking involved as no buses run in Covent Garden
- Covent Garden Market and the Royal Opera House the highlights
- Brilliant for eating out, nightlife and shopping
- In heart of Theatreland
- Other sights easily reached by Tube or bus
Bloomsbury, King’s Cross and around
- Bloomsbury a much quieter area than the West End, but very close by
- London’s main academic area
- Main attraction is the British Museum
- Good selection of budget hotels in London King’s Cross and around Euston
- Good range of Central London student accommodation outside term time
- St Pancras is the Eurostar terminal, with trains arriving from (and departing to) Paris and continental Europe
City of London
- Great for history buffs
- The location of many of the top sights in London
- St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, Tower Bridge all here
- Some great historic pubs – but many only open Monday to Frisay
- Quieter on weekends – when prices drop considerably
- Great if you’re flying in to Stansted or City Airport
The City of London is a fascinating place to explore and one of the best areas in London to stay in and base yourself. It has three of the great icons of the city, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, and much more besides. There are some remains of Roman Londinium, including some of the city wall close to the Tower, and a few medieval survivals, but much of the City was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666 – Christopher Wren built over twenty churches as well as St Paul’s. The Inns of Court, off Fleet Street in the west of the City, are also worth seeking out for a glimpse of legal London, an oasis of quiet very different from the rest of the city.
And then there is the matter of the City of London – together with nearby Canary Wharf – being one of the world’s leading financial centres. As a result the skyline has sprouted buildings in all kinds of shapes, from vegetables (the Gherkin) to household appliances (the Cheese Grater) to telephone handsets (the Walkie Talkie) – the Gherkin in particular has become one of the most iconic buildings in London. The mixture of new and old, and the buzz of busyness all around, makes it an intriguing place to visit and explore.
The City is also well-placed for nightlife, with regular arts, theatre and music events on at the Barbican Centre, and many great pubs open during the week.
During the week, when the offices are full, most City of London accommodation tends to be more expensive, with business account travellers filling up the 4- and 5-star hotels in the area. Once the City’s offices empty for the weekend, it becomes much quieter, and many shops and pubs remain closed over the weekend, lending it a bit of a ghost town feel. The good news with this is that hotel rates often drop on weekends, and if you take advantage of this you can get some of the best hotel deals in London.
The budget chains also have a strong presence in the City, with several hotels near London Liverpool Street station worth considering. There is also a youth hostel very close to St Paul’s Cathedral, housed in one of the more unusual places to stay in London – a former school for choirboys, no less.
Liverpool Street is the main transport hub of the City of London and it’s where the train arrives from Stansted Airport in Essex. It is also on the Circle, Central, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City Tube lines, so reaching it from the west of the city is pretty easy. It will also be on Crossrail’s Elizabeth Line, so this journey will become easier from Heathrow Airport and all points on the way.
Otherwise, if you’re travelling in from Victoria and you’re not pushed for time, why not take the scenic route on the number 11 bus, which passes Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square, continuing up Whitehall and Trafalgar Square, then the Strand, before crossing the City, passing Fleet Street and St Paul’s Cathedral en route to Liverpool Street.
Paddington & Marylebone
- Short distance to West End, Kensington or Notting Hill
- Easiest and quickest option if you’re flying into Heathrow – you can get the Heathrow Express directly to Paddington in 15 minutes
- Close to Hyde Park but few other sights in what is largely a residential area
- Excellent connections to the rest of Central London, especially via the Circle and District lines on the Tube
- Good range of Paddington hotels covering most budgets
Kensington & ChelseaHighlights
- Kensington a firm family favourite with the Museums and Hyde Park close by
- Most hotels in Chelsea towards the luxury end of the scale
- Chelsea rich in historical associations, including art, fashion and music
- Much of Chelsea some distance (10-15 minute walk) from Tube stops
- Cheap hotels in Earls Court London, to the west
London East EndHighlights
- Ideal if you’re arriving at City Airport or Stansted
- One of the best areas for London nightlife, especially the clubs around Shoreditch
- Good connections, close to Liverpool Street station and the City of London
- Sights quite thinly spread out to the east of Brick Lane
- Many London East End hotels are in the budget bracket
Southwark, Bankside & South BankNeed to know…
- Great sights to see all along the river, from the London Eye at one end to the Shard at the other
- Most places tend to work out a bit cheaper than similar hotels across the river
- A lot of chain hotels in the budget and moderate price ranges
- South Bank arts complex at one end of area
- Borough Market and surrounding area great for eating out and nightlife
- Easy connections to sights across the river
- Has always been one of the cool areas in London
- Ideal if you’re staying for a gig locally or in nearby Chalk Farm or Kentish Town
- Camden Market is hugely popular, especially at weekends
- Quick connections by Tube or bus to Central London
- Not family-friendly