One of the best things about the city of London is its incredible diversity. Every area of the capital has its own unique culture and attractions, meaning that truthfully, there is no definitive best place to stay! Depending on your interests, budget, and itinerary, your ideal spot could be a hostel in Kings Cross or a swanky hotel in Mayfair. From the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street to quiet squares in Kensington, we’re breaking down some of the best places to stay in London.
The best areas to stay in London
While the mainstays of London sightseeing are spread out across the city, many of the most famous spots are in the center. So, wherever you stay, you’ll want easy and reliable access to public transport. London is a huge city, so staying within travel zones 1 and 2 means that your commute time to many popular museums, galleries, and monuments will remain under 30 minutes.
That’s not to say that places in zones further out don’t have anything going on. In fact, every area in zones 3-6 has its own unique attractions including specialized art collections (like the Esoterick Collection in Islington), historic institutions (like the Greenwich Royal Observatory), and local markets (like Croydon’s Surrey Street, the oldest street market in Britain).
However many of the most popular attractions for first-time visitors are found throughout zones 1 & 2. Here are some of the best areas to stay with easy access to all the London favorites!
KINGS CROSS: The best place to stay in London if you’re on a budget
For those on a budget, the best place to stay in London is Kings Cross. The Kings Cross area is full of affordable hostels and B&Bs with excellent transport links. This area includes St Pancras International and Kings Cross train stations, the latter of which is home to Harry Potter’s magical Platform 9 ¾. The world-class British Library regularly has free events with everything from da Vinci’s manuscripts to lyrics handwritten by The Beatles. Here and in nearby Camden, you’ll find alternative music venues, dive bars, and nightclubs.
Looking for tips on how to find cheap accommodation? Check out our easy guide!
Pros: Cheap and convenient area to stay in with easy transport links to London Underground (the tube) as well as airport, national, and international rail services.
Cons: Not the best place to hang out at night. Can be very crowded and hectic, particularly during peak times near the stations.
Main tube stations: King’s Cross St Pancras (most lines), Camden Town (Northern line).
SOUTH BANK: The best area to stay in London for first-timers
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The most central spot is the best place for a first-time visitor to London. Perfectly located right in the center, the South Bank area drops you within walking distance of multiple popular London attractions. With the labyrinthine Borough Market, the imposing Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament (plus, of course, the tower housing Big Ben), and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, South Bank is perfect for exploring the city’s most famous sights. You’ll also be close to the London Eye, the London Aquarium, and the Tate Modern.
Pros: For first-time visitors wanting to see the sights, this is about as central as you can get. Plenty of bars, especially with views over the Thames River.
Cons: As the area is home to many UK government buildings, hotels are geared towards business travelers and can get very expensive.
Main tube stations: Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo, & Jubilee lines), London Bridge (Northern & Jubilee lines)
PADDINGTON & SOUTH KENSINGTON: The best neighborhoods to stay in London for families
For families looking for a London base, some of the best areas to stay are Paddington and South Kensington. These quieter, affluent areas to the east of London’s center border on Hyde Park. Both areas provide excellent opportunities for walking and picnics, plus connections to the city center. Paddington Station, the home of beloved British children’s character Paddington Bear, is the terminus for the Heathrow Express train to and from Heathrow Airport. South Kensington is home to popular museums including the Natural History Museum, the V&A Museum, and the Science Museum. You’ll also find plenty of charming cafes, boutiques, and events going on. With lots of hotels for most budgets, Paddington and South Kensington are both good spots for families to make a base from which to explore London.
Pros: Mix of affordable and expensive options, easy access to trains and the airport, easy access to city center and museums, quiet and pleasant area to stay in.
Cons: Paddington itself doesn’t have a lot going on, while Kensington can get very expensive.
Main tube stations: Paddington Station (Bakerloo, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City lines), Lancaster Gate (Central line), South Kensington (Circle, District, Piccadilly lines).
WEST END: The best place to stay for London nightlife
The West End is right in the center of the city, perfect for those looking to stay where it’s all happening. Here you’ll find Covent Garden and Leicester Square, which have the largest concentration of London’s famous theatres as well as plenty of restaurants and bars. Oxford Street and Marble Arch are perfect for shopping (both high street and independent), while Mayfair and Piccadilly are where you’ll find high-end, expensive hotels. Soho is home to some of the best clubs and bars in London as well as being London’s gay district, with historic LGBTQ+ institutions like G-A-Y. Just around the corner is Chinatown, chock-full of world-class food and shopping opportunities.
Pros: Very central, great for nightlife, theatre, shopping, and feeling like you’re in the beating heart of the city. Easy to get just about everywhere by walking or on the tube.
Cons: Very expensive if you don’t want to stay in a hostel, very noisy.
Main tube stations: Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central & Victoria lines), Leicester Square (Northern & Piccadilly lines), Tottenham Court Road (Northern & Central lines).
BLOOMSBURY: The best place to stay in London for couples
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Just 15 minutes from the boutiques and eateries of Covent Garden and the theatres of the West End, the quiet greenery of Bloomsbury is central while still being affordable, making it one of the best places for couples visiting London. Here you can wander through the lovely Russell Square, wonder at the treasures of the British Museum, and share a slice of cake in one of the many pretty cafes. As the location of several London universities, Bloomsbury is also home to a wealth of bookshops including Gay’s The Word and Skoob Books. Cheaper than the West End, Bloomsbury is the perfect base for a romantic getaway.
Pros: Very central, with a range of accommodation options. Lots of areas to wander aimlessly as well as easy access to monuments and museums.
Cons: Not as cheap as Kings Cross to the north. AirBnBs are often cheaper than hotels.
Main tube stations: Euston (Victoria & Northern lines), Russell Square (Piccadilly line).
Want to experience another side of London? Head off the beaten track with our guide to alternative things to do in this incredible city 🇬🇧