London is a mind-bogglingly massive city and where you stay in London can have a big impact on your time there. Although its public transport is pretty good, there are often train or Tube delays and it can take some time to make your way around the city.
Due to the size of London and the experiences it offers travelers and locals alike, there really isn’t any “best” place to stay in London. Rather, you should decide what is most important to you and plan accordingly. It may be your first time in London and you want to see its most famous sights. Or, you may have visited a few times before and now wish to experience life like a London local.
This London guide will help you decide where’s most suitable for you to stay in London, so you can experience the very best of this vibrant and ever-changing city.
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Covent Garden is an ideal place to stay during your first visit to London, as it’s nearby many of London’s famous sights. There are plenty of shopping options, restaurants, and bars to explore, as well as local history and culture. The area is also easy walking distance to the Thames River and Soho.
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Pros: Right in Central London, plenty to do, see and eat. You’ll be able to walk on foot to many of the city’s attractions from here and won’t have to rely on the Tube so much.
Cons: Always busy and quite an expensive spot to stay in, due to its central location.
Things to do in Covent Garden
- Witness the hustle and bustle of both Leicester and Trafalgar Square
- Check out the National Gallery
- Take Afternoon Tea at The Savoy or One Aldwych
- See a West End show at one of the nearby theaters
- Browse the Covent Garden Market
- Shop along Oxford Street
- Visit the Houses of Parliament
The closest Tube Station is Covent Garden on the Northern Line (although Charing Cross Station, Leicester Square Station and Holborn are all within ten minutes walk of each other).
City of London/Tower Bridge
For a slightly quieter but still central experience, base yourself around Tower Bridge. You’ll still be within stone’s throw of many attractions and the transport links are great. Although this corner of the city is busy with workers during the week, it tends to be a bit of a ghost town on the weekends.
This means you’ll get the best of both worlds – you’ll be close to main attractions, without having to deal with the hustle and bustle of constant people at your accommodation. Well, 24/7 that is.
Pros: Close to many sights (both old and new), centrally based and quieter than other central parts of the city. The connections at London Bridge Station are ideal for traveling to Gatwick Airport.
Cons: As you’re staying in London central, still more expensive than putting up shop in other parts of the city.
Things to do in the City of London/Tower Bridge
- Visit the Tower of London
- Take a boat trip down the Thames
- Tour Tower Bridge
- Visit HMS Belfast, a ship from the Second World War which is now moored along the Thames.
- Have a late-night meal at Duck & Waffle restaurant in the city
- Check out the view of London (for free) at the Walkie Talkie’s Sky Garden (advanced bookings essential).
The closest Tube Stations are Tower Hill (District Line) and London Bridge (Northern and Jubilee).
The area of Bermondsey is advantageous as it’s still within stone’s throw of many of the city’s attractions, whilst having pockets where it’s quiet and residential. It’s an ideal area to stay in if you want to experience what life is like for someone living in the city, whilst still being within walking distance (or a short Tube ride) of much of the action.
Pros: Quiet, slightly cheaper than staying centrally. Lots of good local restaurants, bars, and cafes around.
Cons: Only really good for seeing tourist sights around South London and Southbank on foot – anywhere else will need to be traveled to by Tube.
Things to do in Bermondsey
- Check out the View from The Shard
- Eat at one of the many restaurants along Bermondsey Street
- Visit the Tate Modern
- Tour Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
- Have a poke around Borough Markets
The closest Tube Stations are Bermondsey (Northern Line) and London Bridge (Northern and Jubilee Lines).
If you’re into museums or shopping (or both!) South Kensington is an ideal place to stay – particularly for young families, wanting to see London’s Attractions. While pricey, South Kensington is certainly one of London’s safest neighbourhoods. And hey, if your itinerary mostly consists of visiting London’s museums – remember that they’re free to enter. More money for your shopping and accommodation budget, hurrah!
Pros: Pleasant and safe, close to many beautiful gardens. Ideal for museum hopping as some of the best and most beloved in the city are located here.
Cons: As one of the wealthiest areas of London, it’s quite expensive to stay in.
Things to do in South Kensington
- Visit the Natural History Museum (you can ice skate out the front in winter!)
- Try and spot Wills and Kate at Kensington Palace
- Stroll around the Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park
- Catch an opera at the Royal Albert Hall
- Ogle at the art at the Victoria & Albert Museum
- Head to Piccadilly Circus to take in the lights and sights
The closest Tube Stations are South Kensington and Knightsbridge, on the Piccadilly Line.
Once considered the slums of the city, East London is where most of the bright, young things tend to hang out these days. The brightly colored and vibrant areas of Shoreditch and Hackney, in particular, are popular amongst the young set.
Here you can find plenty of interesting street art, boutique shops, places to eat, drink and be merry. There are many varied and interesting activities to be had in this part of London, from exploring old bookstores, to petting animals at one of the city’s farms.
Pros: Close to the city but with its own distinct vibe. Great nightlife and food scene. Multicultural, with lots of art and history.
Cons: Quite far-flung from the city’s central sights. Less expensive than staying in the city, but still pricey. Not as much hotel choice as other parts of the city. Noisy, not ideal for families.
Things to do in Shoreditch and Hackney
- Grab a drink at the Queen of Hoxton or a bite and tipple at Boxpark
- Tour Shoreditch’s diverse and colourful street art scene
- Cuddle the animals at Hackney City Farm
- Check out the blooms at Columbia Road Flower Market
- Peruse the shelves of the Broadway Bookshop
The closest Tube Stations are Highbury and Islington (Overground) and Shoreditch (the Northern Line).
If you’re after a local vibe, Camden in the city’s north is another great option. This grungy and rough area is located not far from London Zoo and is best known for its sprawling eponymous market, along with adjoining markets that sell vintage items, records, art and street food.
The area is intersected by Regents Canal which is great for a stroll, a cycle – you can even kayak through it!
Pros: Vibrant, student vibe. Great food and music scene. Full of street art and electric vintage markets
Cons: Still a bit of a rough neighbour at night. The market is very touristy and navigating the crowds can be a real pain.
Things to do in Camden
- Walk around Regents Canal (and grab some brunch!)
- Visit the London Zoo
- Shop for bargains at Camden Market
- Check out some live music at the Barfly or Underworld
- Grab some artisan coffee at Primrose Hill
- Drink in any of the great pubs in the area
The closest Tube Stations are Camden Town and Chalk Farm (the Northern Line).
Located in the southeast of the city, Greenwich is an area of great historical value. Here you can learn about the night skies, London’s maritime history and check out the exact spot where Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is determined. There’s a lovely big park to explore and plenty of shops and restaurants around in town.
Greenwich is rather self-contained, but it’s quite easy to explore the rest of the city if you don’t mind travelling… particularly by the boats that leave the pier to travel up the Thames.
Pros: Ideal for families. Plenty to do, see and eat. Cheaper than staying in the city.
Cons: Less of a range of hotels. City access is available but can take some time to get there on public transport.
Things to do in Greenwich
- Visit the National Maritime Museum
- Have a picnic in Greenwich Park
- Take to the skies at the Peter Harrison Planetarium
- Straddle the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory
- Explore the Cutty Sark
The closest Tube Station is North Greenwich on the Jubilee Line. The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) stops at Greenwich and Cutty Sark.
London is serviced by FIVE airports – Heathrow (west), Gatwick (south), City, Luton (north) and Stansted (east). Apart from City, most of the airports are considerable distances from the city centre.
It’s quite easy to get to each airport if your flight is at a conventional time, it’s quite easy to get to each airport from the city.
However, London’s trains do not run every single night and if you have a late or early night, you’ll be much better served by staying on-site at the airports you can even sleep overnight at airports such as Gatwick.
LC is an ex-expat who is currently re-exploring her home country of Australia and writing about her travels on her blog, Birdgehls. Her life’s aspiration is to one day live in Tasmania with a Shetland pony, miniature pig, and several pygmy goats.
Hopefully, this gives you a bit of an idea of where to stay in London during your next trip to the UK’s capital.
What’s your favourite part of London? Are there any particular hotels that you frequent?