Where to stay in London

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 18.04.2024

Historic, sprawling, sleepless: London is a wonderful place to visit. Monuments from the capital’s glorious past are everywhere, while you’ll also find cultural and culinary delights from across the globe. Accommodation in London, however, is expensive. But with a little savvy you can get some great deals – just don’t expect a mansion for the price of a garret. Start planning your trip with our guide to the best area to stay in London.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to London, your essential guide for visiting London.

Whitehall and Westminster - where to stay in London for tourists

The monuments and buildings in Westminster include some of London’s most famous landmarks: Nelson’s Column, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. You'll also find two of the city’s top permanent art collections here – the National Gallery and Tate Britain – as well as its finest architectural set piece, Trafalgar Square.

This is one of the easiest parts of London to walk around. That said, for the most part there are only a few shops or cafés, few residential areas and little commercial life. Like the idea of walkable cities? See our guide to the best areas to stay in Amsterdam.

    Where to stay in Whitehall and Westminster:

  • Best for boutique design: Artist Residence. This boutique guesthouse offers relaxed luxury and location-shoot style in its ten rooms. Expect exposed brick, bare wood, cool prints and quirky vintage furnishings.
  • Best for families: The Resident Victoria. This hotel is situated 300 m from Buckingham Palace. Each room at the hotel includes a modern bathroom with a bath or shower.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Whitehall and Westminster

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square © maziarz/Shutterstock

St James’s and Mayfair - for a luxurious experience

Together St James’s and Mayfair make up one of the most exclusive areas where to stay in London. Even today in St James’s, regal residences overlook nearby Green Park and the stately avenue of The Mall. Gentlemen’s clubs cluster along Pall Mall and St James’s Street, while jacket-and-tie restaurants and expense-account shops line St James’s and Jermyn Street.

Shops, offices, embassies and hotels outnumber aristocratic pieds-à-terre in Mayfair nowadays, and Piccadilly may not be the fashionable promenade it once was. Nevertheless, the social cachet of the area has also remained much the same.

London is a perfect destination for a weekend break. You will find more ideas and options in our list of the best weekend breaks in the UK.

    Where to stay in St James’s and Mayfair:

  • Best for intimate chic: Rubens At The Palace. This stunning boutique-style hotel overlooks Buckingham Palace and its mews. The rooms here provide exceptional comfort.
  • Best for Georgian elegance: Sumner Hotel. A spruce, friendly guesthouse in a Georgian terrace. The twenty rooms vary but all are tasteful, with stylish touches. Some rooms include a guest sitting room.

Mayfair - a nice place where to stay in London for unique experiences © Alexey Fedorenko/Shutterstock

Soho and Fitzrovia - for the creative and free-spirited

Soho is very much the heart of the West End. It has long been London’s red-light district. The area is known for its narrow streets that have an unorthodox and slightly raffish air that’s unique to the city centre.

London’s artistic cliques still gather here today. The media, film and advertising industries have a strong presence, and the area’s most recent transformation has seen it become London’s most high-profile LGBTQ+ quarter, especially around Old Compton Street. It's also home to an ever-growing selection of excellent restaurants. 

For a quintessentially Soho dining experience, head to Cafe Kitty. Opened in 2024, the flamboyant little restaurant is tucked away down one of Soho's historic passageways; sandwiched between a sex shop and a theatre. Once you locate Cafe Kitty's so-called 'magic' stairs, they'll lead you to a windowless restaurant decked out in lavish sofas and pink panelled walls. The delicious modern, British menu and wickedly good cocktails have won the hearts of London's fiercest food critics – and you might even spot a famous face among the diners. Cafe Kitty promises flirty fun, fantastic food and a few surprises. It's everything an evening in Soho should be.

Meanwhile Fitzrovia, the quieter Soho spillover north of Oxford Street, also has innumerable bars, cafés and restaurants.

  • Best for character and faded charm: Hazlitt’s. An early eighteenth-century building hiding romantic en-suite rooms, quirkily decorated with period furniture and old books. There’s also a small library, with a real fire, and an honesty bar.
  • Best for members-club cool: Soho Suites. Located within 300 m of Carnaby Street and 400 m of Piccadilly Theatre in the centre of London.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Soho and Fitzrovia

West End London

Theatre sign in Soho, the West End © Lance Bellers/Shutterstock

Covent Garden - for shopping and more

Covent Garden has come full circle. What started out in the seventeenth century as London’s first luxury neighbourhood is once more an aspirational place to live, work and shop.

Boosted by buskers and street entertainers, the piazza is now one of London’s major tourist attractions. The streets to the north – in particular, Long Acre, Neal Street and Floral Street – are home to fashionable clothes and shoe shops.

It’s an undeniably lively place to stay, and perfect if your top priorities are a central location. Spend your time here wandering around watching the street life, sipping coffee and a bit of shopping.

    Where to stay in Covent Garden:

  • Best for affordable cool: The Hoxton Holborn. This hip hotel in a brutalist building has 174 rooms, all good-looking and comfortable. Soothing colours and retro styling are complemented by Roberts radios and vintage paperbacks.
  • Best for a friendly welcome: Fielding Hotel. On a pedestrianized court behind the Royal Opera House, this hotel is delightfully quiet for central London, and clean and good value for this location.

London can be extremely expensive — but it doesn't have to be. Don't miss our guide to the best things to do in London for free.

Covent Garden Market

Covent Garden Market © dade72/Shutterstock

Bloomsbury and King’s Cross - for easy-going vibe

Dominated by the British Museum and London University, and famed for its literary connections, Bloomsbury is London’s most learned quarter. With its formal Georgian squares, it has an unhurried, easy-going vibe.

To the north, around King’s Cross, an exciting new city district is emerging. Squares, restaurants and galleries are all being sculpted out of the industrial landscape that once characterized the area. London can be expensive, but there are still things to do here that won't break the bank — that's why it made our list of the best cheap city breaks in the UK.

    Where to stay in Bloomsbury and King’s Cross:

  • Best for hip Victorian railway vibes: Great Northern Hotel. This lovely hotel has a vaguely Deco feel, and all the 91 boutique rooms have style. The smallest, called “couchettes”, evoke the romance of a train sleeper.
  • Best for old-fashioned charm: Ridgemount Hotel. This friendly and popular family-owned B&B is faded but clean, and offers a variety of rooms. Family rooms sleep up to five.

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British Museum © Shutterstock

The imposing British Museum © Claudio Divizia/Shutterstock

Clerkenwell - for a holiday with style

If you're looking for where to stay in London for an upscale experience, stay in Clerkenwell. Situated slightly uphill from the City, Clerkenwell is a typical London mix of Georgian and Victorian townhouses, housing estates, old warehouses, loft conversions and art studios.

It remains off the conventional tourist trail, but since the 1990s, it has established itself as one of the city’s most vibrant and fashionable areas. It is home to a host of shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs that bustle with activity during the week.

    Where to stay in Clerkenwell:

  • Best for bolthole charm: The Rookery. This rambling Georgian townhouse is all panelled walls, flagstoned floors and creaky timeworn floorboards. Rooms offer faded baroque glam, with antique fittings and superb bathrooms.
  • Best for affordable style: The Zetter Hotel. This 59-room hotel, in a stylishly converted warehouse, has simple, colourful and bold rooms. The Zetter Townhouse opposite is, if anything, even more whimsical in style.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Clerkenwell


Converted warehouse in Clerkenwell © Eugene Regis/Shutterstock

East London - for a charming nightlife

Just as the traditional image of the old “East End” conjured romantic notions of togetherness and community, today’s east London is more about the people than the urban fabric. The area has a self-perpetuating buzz, with creative goings-on in warehouses, art previews, edgy nightlife and a never ending stream of word-of-mouth soft openings.

    Where to stay in East London:

  • Best for sleek chic: Boundary London. A Conran creation, this Shoreditch hotel offers twelve rooms and suites, each themed on different art or design styles. There’s also a stunning rooftop bar.
  • Best for boutique elegance: Rose and Crown Stoke Newington. Superbly placed above a splendid neighbourhood pub opposite Clissold Park, on a lively street lined with quirky shops, restaurants and bars. The boutique rooms here are chic and luxurious.

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Brick Lane

Brick Lane, East London © S J Francis/Shutterstock

South Bank and Southwark - for a variety of tourist attractions

The South Bank holds some of London’s most popular tourist attractions, including the London Eye and, further south, the impressive Imperial War Museum. The wide, traffic-free path by the river makes it a wonderful place where to stay in London to explore it by foot. There are often events and festivals going on.

Heading on to Southwark, further east, you’ll come to the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the soaring Shard. As the streets become more residential moving southeast, attractions become largely epicurean. Borough market is the biggest draw for gourmets, but Bermondsey and Maltby streets are both de rigueur destinations for foodies in the know.

    Where to stay in South Bank and Southwark:

  • Best for minimalism on a budget: London Tower Bridge Apartments are placed in a quiet residential area less than a kilometer from London Bridge and the Tower of London. They offer fully equipped kitchens, free Wi-Fi and secure private parking.
  • Best for modern design: CitizenM Bankside. Though the high-design concept may jar – guests are “citizens” and staff are “ambassadors” – this is a good option, with 192 small rooms with a modern, pod-like design, touch-tablet room controls and big beds.
London Eye

The London Eye and South Bank © Lukasz Pajor/Shutterstock

Kensington and Chelsea - for a posh experience

As well as being home to London’s top museums – the V&A, Natural History and Science museums – South Kensington includes some of the world’s most expensive slices of real estate. This is the heartland of London’s wealthiest families and also the stamping ground of the international rich and famous.

Chelsea, to the south, was once at the forefront of “Swinging London”, with the likes of David Bailey, Mick Jagger and George Best hanging here in the 1960s. Today, however, it’s far from cutting edge and has become a byword for posh London, though some of its residents like to think of themselves as a cut above the purely moneyed types of Kensington.

    Where to stay in Kensington and Chelsea:

  • Best for contemporary value: The Resident Kensington. Excellent-value modern accommodation near Earls Court, with no fussy extras.
  • Best for bohemian luxury: Baglioni Hotel London. Exquisite luxury beside Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, the elegant Baglioni Hotel London with spa is close to the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington High Street.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Kensington and Chelsea

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum © Pajor Pawel/Shutterstock

Notting Hill - where to stay in London for a romantic escape

Despite the presence of royalty in Kensington Palace, the village of Kensington remained surrounded by fields until well into the nineteenth century. The village has disappeared entirely now in the busy shopping district around Kensington High Street, and the chief attractions are the wooded Holland Park and the exotically decorated Leighton House.

Bayswater and Notting Hill were for many years the bad boys of the borough, dens of vice and crime comparable to Soho. Gentrification has changed them beyond all recognition, though they remain more cosmopolitan districts. This area has a strong Arab presence and vestiges of the African-Caribbean community who initiated and run the Notting Hill Carnival.

    Where to stay in Notting Hill:

  • Best for B&B: Dawson Place, Juliette's Bed and Breakfast. Located in the heart of Notting Hill, Dawson Place, Juliette's Bed and Breakfast offers en suite accommodation and a pretty garden. The property is set in a Victorian villa just 6 minutes’ walk from Notting Hill Gate Tube Station.
  • Best for luxury experience: The Laslett. Spread across 5 Victorian mansions, The Laslett is less than 1 minute from Notting Hill Gate Underground Station, and offers free WiFi in all areas.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Notting Hill

Notting Hill in London © andersphoto/Shutterstock

Notting Hill in London © andersphoto/Shutterstock

Where to stay in London with family

Needless to say, London is the perfect place for a family holiday, with plenty of entertainment and activities to suit all tastes. Depending on your preferences, you can tour the many London museums, go to the London Eye, visit the West End Theatre Quarter or simply spend time picnicking in one of the beautiful parks.

When it comes to where to stay in London in comfort for the whole family, we've tried to pick a couple of appealing options for you:

  • Best for hospitality: Radisson Blu Edwardian New Providence Wharf Hotel, London. 4-star Radisson Blu Edwardian, New Providence Wharf offers elegant décor, free Wi-Fi and a gym. Blackwall and East India DLR stations are both 10 minutes' walk away, and the O2 Arena and ExCel Centre are easily accessible via the DLR.
  • Best for calm stays: Kings Wardrobe Apartments. Just 100 m from St Paul's Cathedral, Kings Wardrobe Apartments are situated in the heart of The City. With stylish decor the apartments have separate bedrooms and luxury bathrooms.
An interior shot of the Science Museum in London © Shutterstock

An interior shot of the Science Museum in the Natural History Museum complex © Shutterstock

Ready for a trip to London? Check out The Rough Guide to London or The Rough Guide to England. If you travel further in England, read more about the best time to go, the best places to visit and best things to do in England. For inspiration use the England itineraries from The Rough Guide to England and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to England without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 18.04.2024

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