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Where to Stay In London: Budget-friendly & Popular Areas
Wondering which part of London should you stay in? Go through our in-depth where to stay in London guide.
London is a multicultural melting pot. It is teaming with old school British history and architecture, traditional areas with English pubs and cockney markets.
It’s got a fabulous Chinatown, a “Curry Mile” and – over in Peckham – amazing Caribbean food.
If you’ve cash to splash you can shop until the end of time and stay in swanky hotels. If you’re on a budget, you can avail of the dozens of free things to do in London.
It’s one of our favourite places to visit. In this guide, we will go through the best places to stay in London so you can pick according to your preferences.
Check out the ultimate London accommodation guide right here.
- 1 Where to Stay in London on a First Visit?
- 2 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in London
- 3 Where to Stay in London on a Budget?
- 4 Best Neighborhood to Stay in London for Sightseeing
- 5 Short Trips and Weekend in London: Where to Stay?
- 6 Best Place to Stay in London for Nightlife
- 7 Best Place to Stay in London for Walking Lovers
- 8 Best Part of London to Stay with Family
- 9 Where to Stay in London for One Night?
- 10 Where to Stay in London at Christmas?
- 11 How to Pick a Hotel in London
- 12 Frequently Asked Questions
- 13 Conclusion
Where to Stay in London on a First Visit?
If you are lucky enough to be a first time visitor to London then you’ll do well to stay right bang smack in the centre. Central London is the best location to stay in London in terms of ease of access and general experience.
This is especially true for city breakers coming for a few days. The attractions are tightly packed in this area, so you can see a lot. What defines central London depends on who you ask.
Some may define it as the square mile in the City of London – which is the area around St Paul’s Cathedral. But, for the purpose of this guide, we’ll define it as ZONE 1 of the London Tube Map for ease.
So, it’s these areas here.
Most Popular Areas to Stay in London
Popular Zone 1 areas include:
- The West End
- The City
- Covent Garden
- St Paul’s
- Oxford Circus
- and Leicester Square
The advantages of these areas can only be understood when you are there. London traffic is horrendous, as is the London Underground on a busy or hot day.
Tip – You’ll pay more for a hotel here, but the atmosphere, ease of access to the top London attractions will speak volumes.
How Many Days Should I Stay in London?
If you are booking a hotel in Central London then you could get by with a visit of 3 days. That would probably be just enough to see the key attractions, enjoy a few nice meals and perhaps take in a show at the West End.
Key attractions you will be able to hit off would include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, London Bridge, a couple of museums or galleries and perhaps a local market.
Three days is a minimum in London – any shorter and you just won’t be able to cover enough to feel like you’ve seen it. We really recommend a trip of 3-5 days – there are city passes that cover all durations – and you’ll be able to see more at a more leisurely pace.
Best Neighborhoods to Stay in London
Now, we’ve recommended the city centre as the best area to stay in London. But that doesn’t mean you are restricted to it.
In this section, we’ll check out the best neighbourhoods in London. Some are in the centre, some are a little further out. Let’s explore them together.
Safest Neighborhoods in London
If you do a quick search online for the safest areas in London, you may get a bit worried. Some of the best areas we recommended above feature on the “most dangerous” list.
For example, the Westminster area – home to a range of attractions – often ranks up there, due to having over 300 crimes per 1000 people. However, this is grossly weighted to petty theft – largely due to the sheer number of tourists.
Think cameras on display, rucksacks left sitting whilst you get a beer, reduced awareness due to enjoying a few drinks and the like. The vast majority of Westminster’s crimes can be avoided if you take a few basic safety measures, so don’t be alarmed when planning your trip to the center of the city.
Below are some more areas of London that are really safe to walk around in, but have “high crime” stats that look alarming. There really should be nothing to stop you staying here.
Kensington and Chelsea
Home to Kensington Gardens, Kensington, Knightsbridge and Kings Road, this area is full of nice cars, boutiques and glamour.
It is considered one of the safest areas of London. A word of warning though – shopping on Sloane Street may not be safe for your bank balance!
Boutique stores – Sloane Street runs through Belgravia also, Hyde Park and lots of wine stores and delis. Belgravia is an affluent and architecturally stunning part of the city.
It’s the most expensive stop on the UK version of the Monopoly Board, and no wonder. Mayfair boasts gorgeous Edwardian mansion houses, fancy apartments and a LOT of nice cars.
The Statistically Safest Areas in London
If you want to go to a real statistically safe area in London, you need to head WAY out beyond the tourist areas.
Some of the safest areas in the whole of Greater London are Sutton – which is about 45minutes out by public transport – or Richmond Upon Thames – about 35 minutes out on the Bakerloo tube line.
Coolest Neighborhoods in London
To qualify for the position of a “cool” neighbourhood in our guide, these areas have to be awesome without trying too hard!
Of course, the cool guide wouldn’t be cool without Camden. One of the most loved artsy neighbourhoods, this place feels like it's still in the 90s.
A boho vibe, relaxed bars and street food abound. Plus you don’t need to dress up.
Street food, Brixton Market, hipster vibes. Brixton has amazing nightlife and alternative shopping.
Back in the 80s this area was purely dodgy. Now it's a buzzing multicultural area with an artsy scene and awesome food.
Hip Neighborhoods in London
Just outside of the centre, Islington is close enough to enjoy the action yet maintains a village feel. Theatres and trendy bars abound here.
“The Wick” as it is lovingly referred to by locals is a canalfront location full of bars, craft breweries and art galleries.
Cocktail bars, supper clubs and designer fashions rub against more established book stores and community gardens in this north London suburb.
Best Cheap Neighbourhoods in London
It’s fair to say that a trip to London won’t be cheap. But don’t despair if you are travelling on a budget – we can help!
Here are some of the cheapest areas.
Newham and Hammersmith & Fulham
In a survey done by British newspaper The Telegraph the boroughs of Newham (in the east of London) and Hammersmith & Fulham (in the west of London) had the lowest average hotel prices.
The gap between these areas (£99 for Newham average versus £220 average in the City of London) is quite significant! These are 2016 prices, but you get the drift.
If you don’t mind staying that little further out, then take a look at these areas. Note however what you save on a hotel bed you may sacrifice in time and public transport.
Where to Stay in London on a Budget?
Whilst Newham or Hammersmith & Fulham may be the cheapest areas to stay in London, don’t be worried if you can’t stay there. Dotted throughout the city are plenty of budget options, including hostels and simple hotels.
Let’s look at a couple of great examples for budget travellers.
EasyHotel South Kensington
A room for two in South Kensington for about £50! What’s not to like.
Well, that price is for a room with no window… The EasyHotel features “pod” style rooms and very basic accommodation with no frills. But the price for 2 people and location are excellent!
Located in Soho, this hostel offers beds in shared dorms for about £20 per person. It is located just a 3 minute walk from Oxford Street, so the location can’t be beaten.
Best Neighborhood to Stay in London for Sightseeing
Back to central London, one of our top areas for sightseeing is the West End.
This area generally comprises:
- Oxford Street
- Leicester Square
- Covent Garden
- and Soho
It is here that you will find the theatres, excellent dining options, and galleries. The famous screens of Piccadilly Circus are also in this area, as is Trafalgar Square.
Short Trips and Weekend in London: Where to Stay?
Best Place to Stay in London for a Weekend or 48 Hours
If you are only in London for the weekend then ditch any thoughts about saving a few pounds by staying out of the centre. The time you waste on the tube will eat into your sightseeing hours!
If you are only in London for 48 hours, stay central. Central London will give you the opportunity to access the attractions with minimum time and fuss.
Something to note, however – London’s sights are pretty spread out, so you can stay pretty much anywhere in the centre and still be close to something.
Where Should I Stay in London for 3 Days?
If you have 72 hours to spare then you’ve a whole extra day to explore London’s attractions. You could venture a little further out for accommodation.
Bloomsbury or Fitzrovia are good bets – just a little out of the West End but still walkable. And accommodation is slightly cheaper too.
Best Place to Stay in London for Nightlife
Long the owner of the reputation for the best place for London nightlife, Soho is the traditional nightlife spot.
Workers from nearby offices spill into traditional british pubs in the evenings, but there are also plenty of trendy coffee bars and clubs.
The trouble is there aren’t really that many hotels in the area, so try your luck in other nightlife hubs such as the East End.
Best Place to Stay in London for Walking Lovers
If you love walking then London is the city for you! Not only are the sights spread out, but even walking in some of the underground stations can take it out of you!
Stay in London Southbank so you have easy access to one of the city's best walks – the route from the Tate Modern Gallery through to Jubilee Gardens, across to Embankment and round to Blackfriars.
Tip – If you fancy something a little less “cityscape” and more “little England” then you can get a taste for it by walking the Jubilee Greenway.
Best Part of London to Stay with Family
Where to Stay in London with Kids
If you are travelling with little kids trust us – you don’t want to be navigating the underground or the bus network more than necessary.
Some of the tube stations don’t even have elevators (although Transport For London does publish an extensive guide on how to navigate this). No, if you’re there with a young family then the good old, reliable and central locations mentioned in this guide are the best bet.
Any area in central London will mean you can walk to the main attractions without too many problems. There are also plenty of museums and art galleries around – perfect for a rainy day with kids.
Where to Stay with Teenagers
Good areas for teenagers include Leicester Square so you are near to the theatres and musical shows. If your teenager is into shopping – or perhaps this is a special birthday trip – you may want to be near Oxford Street.
And if you have big kids and little kids in your family you may want to consider an Airbnb instead of a hotel – this will give everyone the freedom to relax in the evenings, more space, and the chance to cook as a family.
Where to Stay in London for One Night?
If you are only in London for one night, pick an area that is easy to get to and easy to get out of. This may depend on your point of arrival or departure.
For example, if you are arriving in London Stansted and departing from there the next day, it makes no sense to stay in the west of the city. Avoid connections to your accommodation with multiple tube station changes – or worse a tube , train or bus combination.
So, if you are arriving at Gatwick, pick accommodation around Westminster or Belgravia so you only need to go on the Gatwick Express and avoid any underground travel.
Likewise, those coming in from Heathrow can take the Heathrow Express direct to any accommodation in Paddington.
Where to Stay in London at Christmas?
If you are doing a spot of Christmas shopping in London at Christmas, then be aware the good old British weather may cause you to become damp or cold or both!
Pick a central hotel with a Christmassy vibe in order to get home quickly in the evening. Even better if you can find one with a spa or pool to give you something to do on a particularly bad day.
We love the Hilton Bankside for centrally located style with a great pool, or the Park Plaza in Westminster which has a pool and an excellent executive lounge.
How to Pick a Hotel in London
We could write for days about the hotels – the choice is literally huge!!!
For ideas on where to stay in London at a particular time of year we recommend you check out our London By Month section for inspiration.
Here are a few more of our favourites.
Amongst the list of the best hotels in London include some of the big hitters you would expect – such as The Savoy or The Shangri La. But in the top ten rated hotels on booking.com for example are some hidden gems, and some of them don’t even have 5 star ratings!
Blackbird is located in Kensington – in an old English pub! What better way to spend your trip than here. This 4* boutique hotel offers a full English breakfast in the mornings and uniquely styled rooms. Get a double for around £200.
For 5* luxury try 41. Located on Buckingham Palace Road you’ll have a great address during your stay! The hotel offers luxurious, old school British decor and a fabulous roof terrace. Expect however to pay over £700 for a double room.
For a great hostel at a reasonable price try the YHA. Situated in Kensington and Chelsea, this place is right beside Earl’s Court Tube Station and offers basic and clean accommodation from £40.
Hostel One in Notting Hill gets absolutely amazing reviews – and the price for a bed in one of the shared dorms is pretty fabulous too. Get a bed from around £24.
The United Kingdom has an established bed and breakfast tradition, where you book a room in someone’s home.
Try Central Rooms in Westminster for a local experience. Gorgeous decor, fab breakfast and a double room for £120.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where's the best area to stay in London?
For first timers, Central London. As a rule of thumb, any area within the Circle Line on the tube map will do!
What area of London is best for tourists to stay?
We recommend the West End - its close to bars, shops, hotels and many sights as well as the entertainment districts.
Where to stay in central London?
Look for hotels in areas around Oxford Street, Soho or Leicester Square.
Where do young people live in London?
A lot of young people club together to rent shared flats or houses in London. Outlying areas are pretty popular, as are places like Brixton or Clapham.
This complete guide to London accommodation should have you well prepared for selecting where to stay on your trip.
Now, it's time to sort out other things such as travel cards or city passes. Luckily, we have everything you need for your stay on our website.
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