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Planning a trip to London can be challenging, especially when it comes to finding a place to stay. With many neighborhoods to choose from, each offering something different, looking for accommodation in London can be terrifying. When I lived in London for many years I got to live in almost every corner of the city. Now I can tell you what each area offers.

Best Areas to Stay in London

There is no universal ‘best’ neighborhood to stay in London since all sights are spread out. There’s also no downtown as such, and much depends on your interests and budget. London is generally a safe place, no matter where you stay. There’s no such thing as a ‘no-go’ zone in London.

Getting to Know Different Districts of London

The first issue with London is that districts aren’t always named the same everywhere. It’s easy to get oriented in Paris, where districts (arrondissement) are numbered, but London is divided in a different way. Officially, the city of London is a small part of London you expect (marked white on the map below). Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, London Eye or any other iconic landmarks aren’t even part of it.

The City is now only a tiny part of the metropolis of London, though it remains a notable part of central London. Administratively, it forms one of the 33 local authority districts of Greater London; however, the City of London is not a London borough, a status reserved for the other 32 districts (including London’s only other city, the City of Westminster).Where to Stay in London


Colloquial districts of London

You might want to ask where is the West End area, as you’ve probably heard about it. West End is actually not an official geographical or municipal definition, but a term used colloquially by Londoners. Therefore the exact constituent parts are up for debate.

Depending on the person, the ‘zones’ of London can be divided differently and hold different names. Further on, I’ll be referring to the most used names of the districts and the closest major tube stations nearby.


How to Get Around London

Before we delve too deeply into descriptions of different areas, let’s introduce you to the transport system. Don’t get intimidated by London tube map – it’s easier to navigate than it looks like and it’s perfectly safe. Here are a few things you should know:

  • Hotel shuttles from airports are rare. Taxi or Uber from the airport is insanely expensive. I don’t recommend taking private transportation unless you arrive exhausted in the middle of the night.
  • London has a great public transport system. It’s safe and usually works great (and it if doesn’t there’s always a replacement bus right away). But, not all tube stations have elevators and you might have to drag your suitcase up the stairs.
  • You have to buy an oyster card (a refillable transport card) in order to use the buses and tube now. Unless you have a touch card from a UK bank. You can buy these for £5 in multiple tube stations or the airport.London tube map

Where to Stay in London

The West End (Covent Garden, Soho, Leicester Square, Oxford Street)

A vibrant district full of theaters, shops, pubs, clubs, landmarks and shopping opportunities.

Major Tube Stations: Leicester Square (Northern & Piccadilly Line), Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central & Victoria), Tottenham Court Road (Northern & Central)

Budget: London’s most exclusive hotel district with many of London’s most exclusive and expensive hotels.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Covent Garden/Soho – Where all the nightlife is happening. During the day Covent Garden has live music, performers, and markets.
  • Theaters – Buy tickets here
  • Oxford Street Shopping – Most shopping you could want in London

Family Friendliness: Close to most things, so very recommendable. Might be noisier than elsewhere at nights.

Nightlife: Best area of London.

Best for: Young people who want to experience the nightlife and shopping in the heart of London.

Worst for: Families who want peace and quiet at nights.

Personal experience: I love hanging out in the area, but I’m not sure if I would ever live there. But if you don’t have much time in the city and want to experience the busy London life, go for it.

Recommended hotel: Sofitel St James – BOOK HERE

Victoria

Busy commuter area with a Royal feel.

Major Tube Stations: Victoria (Victoria, Circle, District)

Budget: Mostly affordable.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Buckingham Palace
  • St James’s Park & Hyde Park

Family Friendliness: Families will enjoy their stay in Victoria due to easy access to everything.

Nightlife: Decent nightlife. There’s also easy access to other areas.

Best for: Travelers planning day trips from London.

Worst for:


South Bank

Sensational public attractions and spectacular people watching along the banks of the Thames.

Major Tube Stations: Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee), London Bridge (Northern, Jubilee)

Budget: High, as most hotels are luxurious, oriented towards business travelers.

Attractions Nearby:

  • London Eye
  • London Aquarium
  • London Dungeon
  • Big Ben & Parliament
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Borough Market
  • Globe Theatre
  • Southbank Centre
  • The Shard

Family Friendliness: Fine for families as it’s very centrally located.

Nightlife: Plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from.

Best for: Those who want to do as much sightseeing as they can.

Worst for: People who hate crowds and want to shop nearby.

Southbank London

City of London

Busy suited streets of a location that’s full of rich history.

Major Tube Stations: Bank (Central, Circle, District, Northern, DLR)

Budget: Usually expensive, because targeted to business travelers

Attractions Nearby:

  • Tower of London
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Tate Modern
  • Barbican

Family Friendliness: I’d not recommend.

Nightlife: Excellent during the week, bad over the weekend.

Best for: Business travelers, especially bankers.

Worst for: Weekend travelers – many restaurants, bars, and shops are closed during the weekend.

Recommended hotel: Batty Langley’s – BOOK NOW

Westminster

History is etched into the stones of this neighborhood.

Major Tube Stations: Victoria (Victoria, District, Circle)

Budget: More expensive than budget friendly, but worth the price for the location.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Big Ben & Houses of Parliament
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Westminster Abbey
  • St. James’ Park

Family Friendliness: Could be ideal for families, as it’s full of green areas.

Nightlife: Some.

Best for: Tourists interested in iconic landmarks.

Worst for: Nighlife seekers.

Recommended hotel: Rubens at the Palace – BOOK NOW

Paddington, Bayswater & Marylebone & Maida Vale

These swanky London neighborhoods feel less crowded despite the central location.

Major Tube Stations: Edgware Road (Northern), Bond Street (Jubilee, Central)

Budget: Affordable and easily accessible district of London.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Sherlock Holmes Museum
  • Little Venice
  • Madame Tussauds

Family Friendliness: Great place for families.

Nightlife: Not much happening there, but it’s still close to other areas of excellent nightlife.

Best for: Families.

Worst for: Young party people.

Recommended hotel: Henry VIII – BOOK NOW

Notting Hill & Hammersmith

Quaint streets and rustic townhomes earn this west London neighborhood its cinematic credentials.

Major Tube Stations: Hammersmith (Piccadilly, Hammersmith & City, Circle, District), Shephard’s Bush (Central, Overground)

Budget: Not ridiculously expensive, but surely not the cheapest district.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Portobello Road Market
  • Hyde Park

Family Friendliness: Very family friendly, as it’s a quiet area.

Nightlife: Some, but not much.

Best for: Shoppers.

Worst for: People who fly to/from airports like Stanstead.

Recommended hotel: Dawson Place – BOOK NOW

Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia

College district with many gardens. Where history, creativity, and the latest trends form a unique cultural fusion.

Major Tube Stations: Euston (Victoria, Northern)

Budget: Prices are decent, but it’s rather a more expensive than cheap district.

Attractions Nearby:

  • British Museum – Where the mummies are. One of the free museum of London.
  • UCL – One of the major colleges in London.
  • British Library

Family Friendliness: Good area, easily walkable.

Nightlife: This area has easy access to the West End where the nightlife is booming.

Best for: Visiting or prospective students, families.

Worst for: Those who expect posh area.

Recommended hotel: Hotel Canvendish – BOOK HERE

Hyde Park (Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge)

This stylish central London neighborhood works hard, plays hard, and shops hard. Elegance permeates the air.

Major Tube Stations: Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly, Victoria), South Kensington (District, Circle, Piccadilly)

Budget: Super posh & expensive area.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Harrods – The luxurious shopping mall.
  • Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • Kensington Palace – Where William & Kate live.
  • London Zoo
  • Winter Wonderland (during the winter)

Family Friendliness: South Kensington is great for museums and shopping, so easy for families with kids.

Nightlife: Plenty of incredible rooftop lounges, nightclubs, and bars. Incredible restaurants. However, surely not cheap.

Best for: Posh travelers and families willing to spend money.

Worst for: Backpackers and people on a budget.

Recommended hotel: Gainsborough Hotel – BOOK NOW
Museum of Natural History London

King’s Cross & Camden Town

The alternative, underground music venues, and street markets challenge the norm.

Major Tube Stations: King’s Cross St Pancras (almost all lines), Camden Town (Northern)

Budget: Well-priced.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Camden Market
  • Platform 9 3/4
  • Highgate Cemetery
  • The Stables Market

Family Friendliness: Probably not the best for families. It can get slightly sketchy at nights.

Nightlife: Plenty of nightclubs, restaurants, and street performances. More bohemian than posh.

Best for: Hip travelers, or Harry Potter fans (easy access to Harry Potter Studios & platform 9 3/4).

Worst for: Families with young children.

Recommended hotel: St Pancras Renaissance Hotel – BOOK NOW

East London (Shoreditch, Brick Lane)

A creative haven for artists and designers.

Major Tube Stations: Old Street (Northern), Liverpool Street (Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City) – Also accessible by Overground.

Budget:

Attractions Nearby:

Family Friendliness: I’d probably not recommend it for children, due to a lot of nightlife.

Nightlife: Lots of clubs, bars, restaurants and pop up places.

Best for: Food, street markets & art lovers.

Worst for: Luxury travelers who aren’t fans of hip vintage neighborhoods and noisy nightlife.

Recommended hotel: Ace Hotel Shoreditch – BOOK NOW

Canary Wharf

Major Tube Stations: Canary Wharf (DLR, Jubilee)

Budget: Mostly expensive.

Family Friendliness: Not very suitable for children, as it’s a business area.

Nightlife: Decent during weekdays, mostly dead on weekends.

Best for: Posh business travelers.

Worst for: Young travelers wanting to experience a trendy neighborhood.

Recommended hotel: Doubletree by Hilton Riverside – BOOK NOW

Greenwich

Timeless architecture combined with a quiet but elegant atmosphere.

Major Tube Stations: North Greenwich (Jubilee, Emirates Air Line)

Budget: Easily affordable.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Greenwich Village
  • O2 Area
  • Royal Observatory
  • The Maritime Museum

Family Friendliness: If your kids dislike being on public transport for a long time, it might not be the best area.

Nightlife: Nothing is really going on, apart from events at O2 Arena.

Best for: People coming for an event or concert at O2 Arena.

Worst for: Travelers who want to stay somewhere central, close to major attractions.

Recommended hotel: De Vere Devonport House – BOOK HERE

Wimbledon

Don’t even think about it, unless you’re going to London for an event hosted in Wimbledon or Royal Ascot. It’s too far from everything.


Best for…

  • Best Neighborhood for Sightseeing: South Bank
  • Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: Soho & Camden
  • Best Neighbourhood for Families: Victoria & Marylebone
  • Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timer: Covent Garden
  • Most Romantic Neighborhood: Notting Hill & South Kensington
  • Best Neighborhood for a Local Vibe: Camden & Shoreditch
  • Best Neighbourhood for Ethnic Food: Anywhere in East London.


Other things to note about London

Make sure what room are you booking at the hotel. Smaller hotels and guesthouses often have shared bathrooms, unless the room is listed as ‘en suite’.

London might seem expensive at first, but if you drink during happy hour, look for discount codes, and use other money saving tricks, it can be affordable.

Nightlife starts and ends early in London, or anywhere in the UK really. Pubs and bars usually close at 11 PM (10 PM on Sundays) while the food is usually served until 9-9:30 PM. If you’re planning on going out leave early. Many posher nightclubs require registration online, so make sure you get on that guest list before heading to a fancy place.

Arrange your travel insurance

Don’t forget to arrange a health insurance before heading to London. The easiest and the most reliable travel insurance is World Nomads Travel Insurance. Get it before your trip to avoid unnecessary troubles that might ruin your holidays!


Where to Stay in London

Do you have any questions about London neighborhoods? Are you thinking of staying in some areas I haven’t listed here? Let me know in the comments below!

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Anna

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