Where to stay in London – The best places for first timers!
Are you planning a city trip to London? Cool! You’re going to love the city. But finding a hotel in London can be really overwhelming – especially if it’s your first time in London. In this post, our London expert Friederike will show you the best places to stay in London and share her hotel tips with you.
London is one of the cities in the world that you should visit at least once in your life. Preparing for a trip to London can be rather challenging, especially if you’re visiting for the first time. London is huge and travel times can really add up. So finding somewhere to stay in a strategically placed location is very important.
Every city trip starts with a few key questions, and London is no exception: Where’s the best place to stay in London? Which neighborhood should you choose for your hotel? And what do you need to keep in mind when looking for accommodation in London?
In this post, we’ll show you which neighborhoods in London are the best places to stay and give you our best tips for finding a hotel in London. For each of the neighborhoods featured here, we’ll also be sharing our personal hotel recommendations tailored to every budget.
General tips for staying in London
Make sure you have easy access to public transport
Whichever neighborhood you choose for your stay, you should always make sure to book a hotel near an Underground/Tube station (that’s a subway station for our American readers).
Easy access to public transport can drastically reduce your transit time, giving you a lot more time to enjoy your trip rather than spending hours commuting in and out of town.
Rush hour is particularly chaotic in London, and public transport is jam-packed from 8 to 9 am in the morning and 5 to 7 pm in the evening. If you can, avoid taking the Tube altogether at these times. Of course, that’s a lot easier if you’re staying in a central location.
In any case, even outside of peak hours, staying in a convenient location always makes for a more enjoyable experience overall.
Our tip: Choose a hotel north of the Thames. Despite ongoing urban renewal projects in parts of South London, some of the neighborhoods there, such as Brixton, can be a bit rough for tourists. If you aren’t comfortable with that, you’re better off staying north of the Thames.
Hotel prices in London
You’re probably well aware that a city trip to London isn’t exactly a budget vacation.
The cost of accommodation in London varies considerably depending on proximity to the city center and the main sights and attractions, and on your requirements for a good hotel.
In a nutshell: If you want a double room in a good, clean, and comfortable hotel offering good value for money in a convenient and central location you should expect to pay between 150 to 200 euros per night.
There are also some slight seasonal variations in room rates. Don’t expect any miracle off-season deals, however, since London is a popular tourist destination all year round.
If you’re on a budget and don’t mind longer transit times to the sights, we’ve also included a few cheaper places to stay in more affordable neighborhoods further down in the post.
The best neighborhoods to stay in London on a map
We’ve prepared a map for you to give a first idea of where all the neighborhoods we’ll be covering are located.
The map highlights all the neighborhoods we recommend for staying in London as well as a selection of the most famous sights for quick orientation.
The best neighborhoods to stay in London:
- West End: Ideal for your first time in London.
- Kensington & Chelsea: Ideal for luxury lovers who love the elegant side of London.
- Shoreditch: Ideal for hipsters and nightlife.
- King’s Cross: Ideal for everyone on a budget.
Each of the districts is suitable for different types of travelers. Carry on reading to find out which district is right for you.
London hotel tips for the different neighborhoods
For each recommended neighborhood in London, we’ve highlighted three or more hotels, sorted by price.
Our hotel recommendations have been carefully selected based on our own personal requirements, and we’ve only chosen accommodations that we would also book for ourselves.
We generally prefer mid-range hotels when we travel because they offer the best value for money for our purposes.
Our personal top hotel recommendation for London
We’re huge fans of CitizenM hotels. They’re only available in a few select cities, but fortunately London is one of them. We’ve already stayed at CitizenM hotels in New York and Rotterdam and they were both delightful.
All of the hotels only have a single room category, and the rooms all share the same super-modern design. The beds are very comfortable and excellent value for money is always guaranteed here.
There are 3 CitizenM hotels in London. Personally, we would opt for the hotel in Shoreditch because we really like the location.
CitizenM hotels in London:
For first-timers: Staying in the West End
Staying in the West End of London is the best option if you’re visiting London for the first time and want to be within walking distance of the main attractions.
So where would you say is the center of London? Good question! There’s no official definition. There is a district called the “City of London”, which is kind of the official center. But it’s mostly just banks and offices, so the City isn’t all that appealing to tourists.
The real heart of the city beats in the West End, which includes Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, and Trafalgar Square.
The West End has great shopping and dining options and is widely regarded as the London’s cultural hub with its huge array of museums, galleries, theaters, and musicals. It has a similar vibe to the Times Square/Broadway area in New York, but with a distinctly British flavor.
Many major tourist attractions, such as Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, are within a 15 to 20 minute walking distance from the West End, or just a few minutes by Tube.
Restaurants in the West End range from high-end to casual. Many have Michelin stars, adding to the glamour of the area. Regent Street and Piccadilly in particular are especially well known for their fine dining options.
But you’ll also be spoiled for choice if you’re looking for more affordable eateries in the West End. There are plenty of cheaper restaurants near Leicester Square and in Chinatown that offer delicious fare at reasonable prices.
Pros of staying in the West End:
- Located right in the heart of London with most of the main attractions within walking distance
- Several conveniently located Tube stations with great connections to the rest of the city
- Huge selection of hotels and restaurants
Cons of staying in the West End:
- The West End is very touristy. For a ‘real’ taste of London life, you should probably consider staying elsewhere.
- It’s always very busy and crowded. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, the West End definitely isn’t for you.
The best places to stay in the West End:
For luxury lovers: Kensington & Chelsea
Staying in Kensington or Chelsea is the best option if you’ve fallen in love with London’s elegant image and posh lifestyle.
Kensington and Chelsea are located to the southwest of the center of London.
A wide variety Michelin-starred restaurants, luxury boutiques, and exquisite museums and galleries await you here. However, hotel prices in these neighborhoods reflect their lavish lifestyle, so you’ll need deeper pockets to partake in the glitz and glamour.
But with a bit of luck, you might even spot a celebrity or two on the street among all the Gucci and Prada bags.
Getting to the center of London and most of the sights takes 20 to 25 minutes by Tube from here. Then again, Hyde Park and the charming neighborhood of Notting Hill are just a 15-minute walk away.
Pros of staying in Kensington & Chelsea:
- Two of the most elegant neighborhoods in London
- Excellent restaurants and high-class shopping
- Relatively quiet, but still right in the middle of one of the world’s most exciting cities
Cons of staying in Kensington & Chelsea:
- Higher prices for hotels, restaurants, and shopping
- Slightly longer travel times to London’s most famous sights
The best places to stay in Kesington & Chelsea:
(bed and breakfast)
For hipsters: Staying in Shoreditch
Staying in Shoreditch is the best option if you want to experience the alternative side of London and enjoy the city’s vibrant nightlife.
Once a problem district, Shoreditch has evolved into one of London’s hottest neighborhoods and is becoming increasingly popular with tourists.
So if you want to stay in the epicenter of cool, Shoreditch has everything you’re looking for.
The neighborhood is located just northeast of the city center, about 30 minutes by Tube from most of the famous sights.
Some of the city’s coolest flea markets set up shop here on the weekends, and Shoreditch has plenty to offer during the week too: hip bars, restaurants, an alternative scene, street art, thrift stores, you name it.
Shoreditch also boasts a wide variety of restaurants from all over the world, from Indian chicken tikka masala and Thai curry to German bratwurst and the quintessentially British Scotch egg. You’ll never run out of dining options here.
The neighborhood also offers a diverse range of hip hotels to suit all budgets.
Pros of staying in Shoreditch:
- One of London’s most happening neighborhoods
- Huge variety of restaurants and pubs
- Get to know a different side of London
Cons of staying in Shoreditch:
- Located about half an hour by Tube from the main sights
- Shoreditch isn’t as pretty or elegant as many other parts of London
The best places to stay in Shoreditch:
Spend less on accommodation in King’s Cross
Staying near the King’s Cross St. Pancras Tube station is the best option if you want to spend a little less on your hotel in London while still being close to the center.
King’s Cross is located in the wonderful neighborhood of Camden in North London with perfect public transport connections to the rest of the city. It takes about 30 minutes by train to get to the London Eye.
Alternatively, you can visit the Charles Dickens Museum and Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter right here in King’s Cross itself.
King’s Cross is a very modern district with a slew of museums and galleries. It’s also home to the British Library, a popular hangout for students, which also offers some fascinating exhibitions that are sure to excite visitors with a literary bent.
In recent years, King’s Cross has made great strides in urban development is becoming increasingly popular among Londoners. There are lots of restaurants, bars, and pubs at very reasonable prices. You can sample the latest food trends, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, why not tuck into some traditional English food? It’s much better than its reputation!
Pros of staying in King’s Cross:
- Many good and cheap places to stay
- Perfect transport hub for inner-city travel and long-distance rail
- Not as overrun with tourists as the rest of the city
- A very safe area that’s beloved by Londoners
Cons of staying in King’s Cross:
- Longer travel times to the city center despite great transport links
- Some hotels may look a bit shabby next to all the modern buildings
The best places to stay in King’s Cross:
Do you have questions or a hotel tip for London that you want to share?
Those were our travel tips for the best places to stay in London.
Have you ever been to London? Which part of the city did you stay in? Do you have a hotel you would recommend? Do you have any questions about staying in London? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments!