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Planning a trip to London can be challenging, especially when it comes to finding a place toÂ stay. With many neighborhoodsÂ to choose from, each offering something different,Â looking forÂ 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 â€˜bestâ€™ neighborhood to stay in London since all sights are spread out. Thereâ€™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. Thereâ€™s no such thing as a â€˜no-goâ€™ zone in London.
Getting to Know Different Districts of London
The first issue with London is that districts arenâ€™t always named the same everywhere. Itâ€™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 arenâ€™t even part of it.
The City is now only a tiny part of theÂ metropolis of London, though it remains a notable part ofÂ central London. Administratively, it forms one of the 33Â local authority districtsÂ ofÂ Greater London; however, the City of London is not aÂ London borough, a status reserved for the other 32 districts (including Londonâ€™s only other city, theÂ City of Westminster).
Colloquial districts of London
You might want to ask where is the West End area, as youâ€™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 â€˜zonesâ€™ of London can be divided differently and hold different names. Further on, Iâ€™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, letâ€™s introduce you to the transport system. Donâ€™t get intimidated by London tube map â€“ itâ€™s easier to navigate than it looks like and itâ€™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 donâ€™t recommend taking private transportation unless you arrive exhausted in the middle of the night.
- London has a greatÂ public transport system. Itâ€™s safe and usually works great (and it if doesnâ€™t thereâ€™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 anÂ oyster cardÂ (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 Â£5 in multiple tube stations or the airport.
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: Londonâ€™s most exclusive hotel district with many of Londonâ€™s most exclusive and expensive hotels.
- Covent Garden/SohoÂ â€“ Where all the nightlife is happening. During the day Covent Garden has live music, performers, and markets.
- Theaters â€“ Buy ticketsÂ here
- Oxford Street Shopping â€“ Most shopping you could want in London
Family Friendliness:Â Close to most things, so very recommendable. Might be noisier than elsewhere at nights.
Nightlife:Â Best area of London.
Best for:Â Young people who want to experience the nightlife and shopping in the heart of London.
Worst for:Â Families who want peace and quiet at nights.
Personal experience:Â I love hanging out in the area, but Iâ€™m not sure if I would ever live there. But if you donâ€™t have much time in the city and want to experience the busy London life, go for it.
Busy commuter area with a Royal feel.
Major Tube Stations: Victoria (Victoria, Circle, District)
Budget: Mostly affordable.
- Buckingham Palace
- St Jamesâ€™s Park & Hyde Park
Family Friendliness: Families will enjoy their stay in Victoria due to easy access to everything.
Nightlife: Decent nightlife. Thereâ€™s also easy access to other areas.
Best for: Travelers planning day trips from London.
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.
- 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 itâ€™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.
City of London
Busy suited streets of a location thatâ€™s full of rich history.
Major Tube Stations: Bank (Central, Circle, District, Northern, DLR)
Budget: Usually expensive, because targeted to business travelers
- Tower of London
- St. Paulâ€™s Cathedral
- Tate Modern
Family Friendliness: Iâ€™d not recommend.
Nightlife:Â Excellent during the week, bad over the weekend.
Best for: Business travelers, especially bankers.
Worst for:Â Weekend travelers â€“ many restaurants, bars, and shops are closed during the weekend.
History is etched into the stones of this neighborhood.
Major Tube Stations: Victoria (Victoria, District, Circle)
Budget:Â More expensive than budget friendly, but worth the price for the location.
- Big Ben & Houses of Parliament
- Buckingham Palace
- Westminster Abbey
- St. Jamesâ€™ Park
Family Friendliness: Could be ideal for families, as itâ€™s full of green areas.
Best for: Tourists interested in iconic landmarks.
Worst for:Â Nighlife seekers.
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.
- Sherlock Holmes Museum
- Little Venice
- Madame Tussauds
Family Friendliness: Great place for families.
Nightlife: Not much happening there, but itâ€™s still close to other areas of excellent nightlife.
Best for: Families.
Worst for: Young party people.
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), Shephardâ€™s BushÂ (Central, Overground)
Budget: Not ridiculously expensive, but surely not the cheapest district.
- Portobello Road Market
- Hyde Park
Family Friendliness: Very family friendly, as itâ€™s a quiet area.
Nightlife:Â Some, but not much.
Best for:Â Shoppers.
Worst for: People who fly to/from airports like Stanstead.
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:Â Prices are decent, but itâ€™s rather a more expensive than cheap district.
- British Museum â€“ Where the mummies are. One of the free museum of London.
- UCL â€“ 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:Â Those who expect posh area.
Hyde Park (Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge)
This stylish central London neighborhood works hard, plays hard, and shops hard. Elegance permeates the air.
Major Tube Stations:Â Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly, Victoria), South Kensington (District, Circle, Piccadilly)
Budget: Super posh & expensive area.
- Harrods â€“ The luxurious shopping mall.
- Victoria & Albert Museum
- Natural History Museum
- Kensington Palace â€“ Where William & Kate live.
- London Zoo
- Winter Wonderland (during the winter)
Family Friendliness:Â 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:Â Backpackers and people on a budget.
Kingâ€™s Cross & Camden Town
The alternative, underground music venues, and street markets challenge the norm.
Major Tube Stations: Kingâ€™s Cross St Pancras (almost all lines), Camden Town (Northern)
- 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:Â Plenty of nightclubs, restaurants, and street performances. More bohemian than posh.
Best for:Â Hip travelers, or Harry Potter fans (easy access to Harry Potter Studios & platform 9 3/4).
Worst for: Families with young children.
East London (Shoreditch, Brick Lane)
A creative haven for artists and designers.
Major Tube Stations: Old Street (Northern), Liverpool Street (Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City) â€“ Also accessible by Overground.
Family Friendliness: Iâ€™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 arenâ€™t fans of hip vintage neighborhoods and noisy nightlife.
Major Tube Stations: Canary Wharf (DLR, Jubilee)
Budget: Mostly expensive.
Family Friendliness: Not very suitable for children, as itâ€™s a business area.
Nightlife: Decent during weekdays, mostly dead on weekends.
Best for:Â Posh businessÂ travelers.
Worst for:Â Young travelers wanting to experience a trendyÂ neighborhood.
Timeless architecture combined with a quiet but elegant atmosphere.
Major Tube Stations: North Greenwich (Jubilee, Emirates Air Line)
Budget: Easily affordable.
- Greenwich Village
- O2 Area
- RoyalÂ 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 O2Â Arena.
Best for: People coming for an event or concert at O2Â Arena.
Worst for: Travelers who want to stay somewhere central, close to major attractions.
Donâ€™t even think about it, unless youâ€™re going to London for an event hosted in Wimbledon or Royal Ascot. Itâ€™s too far from everything.
- 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 â€˜en suiteâ€™.
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 youâ€™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
Donâ€™t forget to arrange a health insurance before heading toÂ London. The easiest and the most reliable travel insurance isÂ World Nomads Travel Insurance. Get itÂ beforeÂ your tripÂ to avoid unnecessary troubles that might ruin your holidays!
Do you have any questions about London neighborhoods? Are you thinking of staying in some areas I havenâ€™t listed here? Let me know in the comments below!