You know what you want to pay for a night's accommodation, but where should you stay? Our London guide will help you sort it all out. For more help, read our guide to choosing the right neighborhood in London.
BayswaterThis mostly residential area, situated north of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, is packed with affordable, often nondescript, places to sleep. Expensive apartments sit next to budget inns. Many less expensive inns line the lovely gardens and squares of Bayswater's posher, western edge. Bayswater makes a smart choice for visitors looking for a quiet neighborhood for sleeping within easy access of the city’s main sights.
BelgraviaSituated steps west of Victoria Station and within easy walking distance of Buckingham Palace, pretty Belgravia is a quiet residential neighborhood characterized by white stucco homes, leafy green squares, and affluent residents.
Like many London neighborhoods, Belgravia is a place in flux. Along with a decent selection of restaurants, shops, and pubs, its western edge is now populated by quite a few hotels and guesthouses. Most of these are to be found in the townhouses along Ebury Street, a wide street with surprisingly little vehicular traffic.
BloomsburySituated north of Piccadilly Circus and the West End, leafy Bloomsbury is famous as the former headquarters of the bohemian writing clique known as the Bloomsbury Group. The charming neighborhood is centered around Russell Square and boasts the British Museum, University of London, and Georgian townhouse-lined streets.
Budget-friendly B&Bs line Gower Street, just west of the University, easily accessible to the rest of the central city. This is London at its most charming and, arguably, most literary.
Earls CourtYoung by London standards, the area known as Earls Court wasn’t much more than a farm until the city decided to build Earls Court station in the 1860s. Located south of Hyde Park and west of pricier Kensington and Chelsea, Earls Court was popular with newcomers to the city, attracted by lower rents throughout the 20th century.
Today the area is a mix of working class and gentrified developments, combining beautiful Georgian townhouses, quiet squares, cheap fast food restaurants, gay nightlife, and a youthful buzz on the streets. The neighborhood offers innumerable anonymous budget hotels.
KensingtonSituated between Notting Hill and South Kensington, Kensington is affluent territory. It's home to Kensington Palace, the former residence of Princess Diana among other royals. Kensington High Street is the neighborhood’s main shopping thoroughfare, boasting upscale boutiques and dining. Budget accommodations can be hard to come by in this land of stately townhouses and grand gardens, though there are a few delightful exceptions to this rule.
King's CrossKing’s Cross is an area in flux. While many Londoners will warn you to stay away from the streets around King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations, the area is in fact only seedy here and there.
There are oodles of small bed & breakfasts in the area, as well as upscale restaurants, and a real range of retail, from news agents, to shops peddling ethnic goods, to chain stores. King’s Cross benefits from proximity to Bloomsbury, and offers hotels that are, on average, quite a bit less expensive.
PaddingtonThough the area surrounding Paddington Station is situated in Bayswater, we’ve set it aside as its own neighborhood. It’s chockablock with mostly uninspiring budget B&Bs. Certain streets, like Sussex Gardens, are crammed with indistinguishable budget hotels. (Don’t worry. We’ve done the hard work of paring down hotels for you!)
The area is currently undergoing a redevelopment effort. Paddington Station is one of London’s major transportation hubs. The Heathrow Express arrives at Paddington station every 15 minutes during peak hours.
SohoThe area bounded by Oxford, Piccadilly, Cambridge and St. Giles Circus is a storm of activity. Small streets buzz with nightlife and overpriced boutiques sit next to fast food restaurants. With a colorful history of residents (including tradesmen, prostitutes, and gay men) it is no surprise that Soho is so dynamic.
A centrally located neighborhood a 15 minutes on foot from Hyde Park to the west and the British Museum to the northwest, Soho is a good launching pad and a fun—if noisy—place to dine, dance, and bed down.
South KensingtonSandwiched between the posh neighborhoods of Kensington and Chelsea (and next to Earls Court), South Kensington is home to quite a few sightseeing gems, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, Imperial College, and the Royal College of Music.
A wealthy neighborhood, South Kensington is a bit livelier (and cheaper) than adjacent hoods thanks to the students and tourists on its streets. You'll find clusters of restaurants and shops around the South Kensington and Gloucester Road Tube stations. Kensington Gardens forms the area's northern border.
SouthwarkSouth of the Thames, this area has become a dynamic and exciting hub of activity. It contains Borough Market, a pavilion of good food, and the Tate Modern, which takes up space in a massive, renovated power station.
This is not, all this considered, a neighborhood with many hotels, but there are a few good options around. The ‘hood is connected to the City of London by the pedestrian Millennium Bridge. It’s adjacent to the Bermondsey, a very hip area with lots of nice restaurants and watering holes.
The CityThe historic center of London, the City originally corresponded to the Roman settlement of Londinium. There are even fragments of the original London Wall (which dates back to the 2nd Century) surrounding the City of London to this day.
Today, it’s the financial center of London and the UK, and is more or less tied with New York as a global financial hub. Historical sites include St. Paul’s Cathedral, the College of Arms and the Central Criminal Court, affectionately referred to as Old Bailey. Though centrally located, tourists will have to venture outside the area for nightlife and decent food after the suits go home.
Near Victoria StationThough not an aesthetically pleasing neighborhood, the area near Victoria Station, which comprises parts of Westminster and Pimlico, is undeniably convenient. Aside from its proximity to Victoria, Buckingham Palace and the lovely grounds of St. James's Park are just up the street and Westminster Abbey is but a short Tube ride away.
Be warned: there are countless hotels lining Belgrave Road and its peripheries lacking in the charm department. These vary wildly in size, quality, and nightly rate. This is one neighborhood where it more than pays to do your homework. Those staying in London for more than a few days might want to look elsewhere, for charm if nothing else.