Planning a trip to London as a tourist can be pretty overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time visiting the Big Smoke. You want to map out your bucket list and book the best restaurants, but first and foremost you want to know where to stay in London that’s safe, cheap and exciting. The city is so huge that there are endless neighbourhoods in London that you could stay in during your trip, but like every city, some are better than others. Whether you’re looking for a central location, a local experience, green space or somewhere in between, we’ve got you covered with this guide to the best areas to stay in London. Check out these neighbourhoods across the city that won’t let you down during your trip to London in 2021…
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1. London Bridge
Home to iconic British attractions like the Shard, Tower Bridge and Borough Market, London Bridge is the perfect place to stay for your first time in London. Not only are there so many at your fingertips, but from here you’ll also get to experience local culture and some of the best restaurants in the city. One of our favourite pubs, St Christopher’s, is on the high street just a few minutes walk away from the tube station, and there are plenty of great to get your caffeine fix. London Bridge tube and train stations are right opposite Borough Market, so you can reach all corners of the city within minutes if it’s not close enough on foot. Even if you decide against basing yourself in London Bridge, there’s no doubt you’ll end up stopping by at least once during your trip. Plus, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern and Embankment are all a relaxing walk along the Thames away.
When you stay in Greenwich, you have the best of both worlds. The green space and fantastic attractions make it one of the nicest parts of London. Walk to the top of Greenwich Park for sweeping views over Canary Wharf, and tick off some fascinating sights that many tourists tend to miss out on: the Queen’s House, the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark, the Old Royal Naval College and the Royal Observatory to name a few. On top of these heritage sites where you’ll get a further glimpse into British history, there’s also a great choice of more modern attractions, such as the Emirates Cable Car, the Millennium Dome’s ‘Up at the O2’, Greenwich Peninsula Driving Range and the Emirates Aviation Experience. Roll out of bed, grab a coffee and explore one of the most charming areas in London, or simply hop on a speedy train to get to central London in just 10 minutes. Greenwich is the ideal area to get a real local London feel, from the old English pubs and independent cafes to street food and vintage shopping at the well-loved Greenwich Market.
On the west side of the city sitting on not one, but four different tube lines, Hammersmith is a fantastic location to stay in during your trip to London. Staying in a neighbourhood that's out the way of the busy city centre gives you the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the local London culture whilst being able to visit the city’s main attractions with ease. In the summer, Hammersmith riverside is buzzing with young locals drinking pints and gin & tonics in the British sunshine. If walking is your thing, this part of the river is also a great starting point for long, relaxing strolls along the Thames (with plenty of pit stops at pubs along the way) heading further west towards Chiswick and Richmond or east towards central London, passing Fulham, Putney and Battersea. Plus, you’re just a stone’s throw away from Kensington’s famous museums so you can get there early and beat the crowds without the need to get out of bed at the crack of dawn. Hammersmith is one of our top recommendations for areas to stay in London, and it helps that the are some of the best, too.
London’s boho borough Camden attracts thousands of tourists a day to its quirky markets and canalside bars. Camden is a hotspot for backpackers and young travellers to stay in during their trip to the Big Smoke, so if you’re looking for a real social atmosphere amongst a bustling part of the city, then this is the place for you. When you’re not browsing through the vintage stalls and record shops in Camden Lock Market, or eating your way through the street food, you can hop on a tube at one of the many tube stations to get anywhere else in London within minutes. Plus, you’re in walking distance from one of the best views in London, Primrose Hill, as well as London Zoo, the huge green space at Regents Park and the bustling King’s Cross. When the night falls, Camden is the place to be. Home to some great pubs, clubs and bars to suit everyone’s taste as this part of town is famous for its vibrant music scene.
5. Shepherd’s Bush
If you’re looking to watch some epic performers on stage, Shepherd’s Bush is the area to stay. London is home to countless amazing music venues but the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire is legendary for hosting incredible established and up-and-coming talent inside a Grade II listed building. If you love a , get tickets to a show ahead of your trip to London and stay in She Bu (as the locals call it) to get the full experience. There are loads of great pubs, restaurants and cafes in this part of London, and you’ve got the world famous Westfields shopping mall right on your doorstep. Just a 10 minute walk away you’ll find the hidden green oasis that is Kyoto Gardens inside Holland Park, one of the most expensive places in London. To get to the rest of the city, you’re within seconds walk of the Central line and Hammersmith and City line, so exploring other boroughs is no hassle at all.
Right in the heart of the city in amongst all the action is Soho, another great place for you to stay in London. This super diverse part of the city offers a bit of everything from quaint coffee shops to grungy underground bars to some of London’s most popular restaurants. When you’re deciding where to stay in London or any other city, location plays a big part, and it doesn’t get any more central than Soho with Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and Covent Garden on your doorstep. There are some classic London experiences you can tick off in Soho: a walk down Carnaby Street, catching a West End show, window shopping at Liberty London and spending an evening at the world-class jazz club Ronnie Scott’s. The area is also a major hangout amongst the city’s LGBTQ+ community, being home to many of the best gay and lesbian clubs. Being so central, Soho is bound to be a more expensive place to stay, however if you manage to reserve yourself a room in this part of town then you’ve hit the jackpot.
While this London neighbourhood is really quite central, few tourists give it the time and attention it deserves. Clerkenwell is a great area to base yourself if you’re looking for somewhere a little more off the beaten path while having a great choice of pubs, clubs, restaurants and things to do within easy reach. The cobbled streets of Clerkenwell are steeped in history with parts dating back to the 11th century. Take a tour of the Charles Dickens Museum, explore the Postal Museum or dive right into London’s medieval past at the Museum of the Order of St John. Locals love Clerkenwell for its abundance of independent shops and food markets - Exmouth Market in particular. Hop on the tube at Angel, Russell Square or Farringdon to explore the rest of London or walk down to the Thames in just 20 minutes.
8. Covent Garden
One of the most iconic areas of London to stay in is Covent Garden. With its charming undercover market, multitude of restaurants, pubs and bars and ever-entertaining street performers, this is a part of London all tourists are bound to visit. Choosing to stay in Covent Garden means you could spend days not needing to catch any public transport as there is so much to see and do within walking distance. It’s a pretty touristy part of the city, however it’s popular for good reason. Covent Garden provides a great mix of upscale shopping and restaurants with affordable eateries and bars as well as some free attractions. Then on the days you decide to go further afield you can do so easily from the nearby tube stations. Just don’t be one of those tourists that hops on for one stop between Covent Garden and Leicester Square - a . By staying in this central part of the city, you get the most buzzing and exciting bits of London right outside your door. Just expect it to cost you a little more than other neighbourhoods.
9. Kensington, Chelsea and Knightsbridge
The beautiful area of Kensington, Chelsea and Knightsbridge is without a doubt the best place to stay in London for history and museums. Around this neighbourhood you have the three major museums for tourists to visit: the Natural History Museum, the V&A and the Science Museum, plus the Saatchi Gallery and National Army Museum are both within walking distance, too. You could easily spend days exploring the quaint (and expensive) streets and charming mews in between visits to the tourist sights around this part of town - Kensington Palace, the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park are all a short walk away. Kensington, Knightsbridge or Chelsea are all fantastic neighbourhoods to stay in London for first time visitors. It’s a little quieter yet still home to exciting, iconic attractions, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to places to eat and drink, and the charm in this part of London offers tourists countless.
Since at least around the 17th century, Marylebone has been one of the most fashionable areas of London due to its opulent architecture and upper class shops and eateries. The same goes for today and while there are many expensive restaurants for special occasions in this London borough, you’ll find plenty of affordable places to eat and drink, too. Make Marylebone your home in London while you tour the city’s sights and attractions both on foot and by tube. The Wallace Collection, Madame Tussauds and 221b Baker Street (home of the fictional character, Sherlock Holmes) are all major Marylebone attractions, plus you’re a stone’s throw away from Regents Park. If you keep a lookout you’ll be able to see round blue plaques attached to buildings across London, indicating that a significant figure was once linked to the building - in Marylebone you will see loads including the residence of Charles Dickens and Jimi Hendrix. So if you fancy the opportunity to stay in the same area as these past legends then this central London neighbourhood is a must.
Still wondering where to stay in London? Check out our city guides for more inspiration…