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 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 round, but 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? You may be interested in the best area to stay in Amsterdam.
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 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.
Soho is very much the heart of the West End. Long London’s red-light district, its narrow streets have an unorthodox and slightly raffish air that’s unique to the city centre.
London’s artistic cliques still gather here and the media, film and advertising industries have a strong presence. The area’s most recent transformation has seen it become London’s most high-profile gay quarter, especially around Old Compton Street. It's also home an ever-growing selection of excellent restaurants.
Fitzrovia, the quieter Soho spillover north of Oxford Street, also has innumerable bars, cafés and restaurants.
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 and wandering around watching the street life, sipping coffee and a bit of shopping.
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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.
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If you're looking 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.
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, much of which is functional and industrial. 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.
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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, and 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.
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.
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, with a strong Arab presence and vestiges of the African-Caribbean community who initiated and run the Notting Hill Carnival.
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:
Ready for a trip to London? Check out the snapshot 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.
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