Accommodation in London is very expensive, so it is important to do the right research to get a solution that is good for you – particularly if you have children and need a little space. You have two basic decisions to take:
- What type of place to stay in, and how much you are willing to pay (Lodging Options, below) and
- Which part of London to stay in.
Where to Stay:Since London is so big, and the different parts vary so much, choosing where to stay is important. London’s hotels do tend to be clustered in the areas shown, there are of course a few hotels in other parts of the city.
The main hotel areas you might opt for are:
Mayfair and St James: Expensive, beautiful but quiet neighbourhoods, with a mix of residential and office areas. The area is convenient for almost all tourist sites and with excellent shopping in Mayfair. In the evening, there are few top end restaurants in Mayfair, but you will need to take a short tube or a cab ride to find the theatres and other nightlife. Hotel prices match the exclusivity of the area, with no cheap or mid range options.
- Knightsbridge and Sloane Square: Another expensive, classy area but slightly further away from the centre than Mayfair. You will need to take the tube to get to most tourist attractions. There is famous shopping here in the form of Harrods and Harvey Nichols, but we still prefer Mayfair.
- West End and Covent Garden: An expensive, busy area with lots of theatres, pubs and other night-life on your doorstep. It is also very central and convenient for nearly all the main tourist attractions. Cheap or even mid range options are limited – but include the Travelodge and student accommodation (outside of student term time) at around £70/night and up.
- Bloomsbury and Russel Square: This is a slightly less expensive, smart area but without the exclusivity of Mayfair. It is central and convenient for almost the main tourist attractions, with the British Museum right in the middle. Nightlife options are more limited and you will need to take a short tube or a cab ride back if you go out in the evening. There is a broad range of price options available here, from expensive boutique hotels to mid range student halls of accommodation.
- Kings Cross: The area south of Kings Cross station is a big centre for cheaper options starting around £50. Although slightly away from the centre, the area has excellent transport links, which include no less then five tube lines and a useful train option to Blackfriars. The flip side is that although it is perfectly safe (providing you keep south of Kings Cross station) the area is rather drab. Kings Cross is a long way from Heathrow, but easily accessible from Gatwick and Stansted. Since November 2007, the Eurostar train service from Paris and Brussels stops here, further adding to the excellent transport links.
- Notting Hill (NW): An attractive area with a lot of mid-range hotel options and a few boutique hotels. The area is reasonably central with good tube links, and is convenient for Heathrow, but you will need to take the tube to visit most of London’s attractions and for most of London’s nightlife.
- South Kensington and Earls Court: Although some parts of this area can be rather characterless, there are a lot of mid-range places and some good boutique hotels here. Good travel links to sight-seeing, convenient for Heathrow Airport via the tube or taxi. The area is next to the South Kensington museums (Natural History, Science, Victoria and Albert) but you will need to take a 10-20min tube ride to get anywhere else. There is also animated nightlife in the Earls Court and Gloucester Road areas, if you don’t feel like heading into the city in the evening.
- Victoria: There are few tourist sights in the area south of Victoria station, but it is very central with good tube links to the main attractions elsewhere and has several cheaper mid-range accommodation options. Victoria is convenient for Heathrow and particularly for Gatwick airports, with good train links to out-of-town attractions in the south and (via Clapham Junction) south-west.
- South of the River -Waterloo to London Bridge: This is a large area that covers a broad spread of options. The places actually on the river are quite expensive, but if you head a few blocks south, you find usually cheaper accommodation options. Here, you are close to the tourist attractions, major cultural centres (South Bank Centre, Old and Young Vic theatres) and nightlife activities on the South Bank. Waterloo station gives good access to out-of-town attractions in the south west. There are also a few hotels outside of the main Waterloo to London Bridge area – if you go for one of these more remote options, make sure you check transport links carefully.
- The City: The City is very busy during the day, and early evening, but deserted at weekends. Hotel options cater mostly for business travellers, but you can get some surprisingly reasonable deals if business custom is slack. Transport links to the rest of London are good. The area out around Clerkenwell and Farringdon is less accessible , and has a rather poorer feel, but prices reflect this.
- Paddington and Bayswater: An average area, neither rich nor poor, with lots of mid-range places, good travel links to sightseeing, and very convenient for Heathrow Airport via the Heathrow Express. You need to take a 10-20min tube ride to get to most attractions or to the main nightlife area though.
- Marylebone Village: This area near Regents Park has a broad mix of options. It is close to Regent’s Park, the zoo and Madame Tussaud's. It is a bit out of the way for the rest of the main tourist circuit though, and you will need to take a 10-20min tube ride to get to most attractions or to the main nightlife areas.
- Marylebone/Oxford St: This large area has a range of places, from mid-range options to luxury hotels. If you stay here, make sure you are close to a tube station, since the area right in the middle is poorly served with public transport. The places towards the south and Oxford St give easy access to Soho’s nightlife, but tend to be more expensive. The areas toward the north are cheaper.
- Westminster/Trafalgar Square: The area around the Strand and Trafalgar Square has a few, mostly four star, options. It is wonderfully central, with great transport links out of Charing Cross and Embankment, and you can easily walk to the main nightlife centres of Soho and Covent Garden. Prices usually reflect this convenience though.
- Hampstead or Richmond: These two areas are further out, but good if you want quick access to fresh air and green spaces, and very attractive places in their own right. Hampstead is much closer to the centre of town (20mins tube) than Richmond (30 mins, tube, or 20mins train to Waterloo) but in either case make sure you pick a hotel near the train/tube station. Of the two, Richmond is closer to a main airport (Heathrow), but book a local taxi to make the trip since pubic transport options are very slow.
Few tips before booking:
First, decide your budget.
- Decide which areas you want to look in. This will largely depend upon what you want do to in London, especially in the evenings. Most areas of London are rapidly accessible by day, but by night transport options are more limited. If you are not staying long, proximity to the airports may also be a key factor. Since London is so big, you might decide to stay in two different places if you are visiting for a week or more; the hassle of changing hotel is compensated by the experience of seeing a different part of the city.
- Decide what type of accommodation option – hotel, apartment, bed and breakfast – best fits your requirements and budget.
- Book Ahead as far in advance as you can. We also prefer to book direct with a hotel’s own website since we have often had problems with using internet booking agencies, especially around special requests such as extra beds. It is also usually easier and cheaper to change your booking if you book direct with the hotel. After booking online, we always call the hotel to confirm the booking and any special requests we have.