Last Updated: 7/24/23 | July 24th, 2023
I’ve always liked London, but, when I visited last year, something just clicked — and poof! I finally saw the light and came to love it.
London has a million things to do to keep you busy a lifetime over. With its amazing architecture, world-class art museums, innumerable historical sites, and unique shopping experiences, what’s not to love?
But it is huge, containing more than eight million people and 48 neighborhoods stretching over 607 square miles. Stay in the wrong neighborhood and you’ll spend hours on “the tube.”
So, which are the best neighborhoods and places to stay when you visit London?
That depends on a lot of things (especially what your idea of fun is). Each neighborhood has its own charm.
Today, I want to break down the best neighborhoods in London and the best accommodations in each of those neighborhoods, so you can pick the right place to stay.
Table of Contents
- Where to Stay for Families: The City of London
- Where to Stay for History & Museums: Kensington/South Kensington
- Where to Stay for Luxury: Mayfair
- Where to Stay for Arts & Culture (1): Soho
- Where to Stay for Arts & Culture (2): Covent Garden
- Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: Shoreditch/Spitalfields
- Where to Stay for Budget Travelers: King’s Cross/Camden
- Where to Stay for Fashion: Chelsea
- Where to Stay for Foodies: Southwark
- Where to Stay for Charm: Notting Hill
- Get Your In-Depth Budget Guide to Europe!
Where to Stay for Families: The City of London
This is technically the center of London (sometimes called “The Square Mile”), and it’s where the Romans set up a small military outpost named Londinium in 43 CE. You can still see evidence of the Romans here, including the crumbling wall on Tower Hill. There are several good markets here, like Whitecross Street, Leather Lane, and the Sunday Upmarket in the Old Truman Brewery for handmade crafts and clothing. During the day, this area is busy with office workers. At night, it’s very quiet. I like it for all the history, for its quiet, and for its central location.
Best Places to Stay in The City
- BUDGET: St Christopher’s Inn Liverpool Street – Situated near the Liverpool Street train station, this is the newest of the eight St. Christopher’s hostels in London. The dorms are clean, the showers have great water pressure, and the pub right downstairs is a great place to meet other travelers.
- MIDRANGE: Citadines Barbican London – Located at the edge of The City’s boundaries close to the train station, this affordable hotel has soft-colored rooms, comfy beds, and a gym. It’s the best value hotel in the area.
- LUXURY: Counting House – The Counting House is an iconic English pub with 15 large luxury rooms above it with the most comfortable beds you’ll ever sleep in (Egyptian cotton sheets!). Some rooms come with living rooms, and there is a free, hearty breakfast included. This is a very traditional, posh British hotel!
Where to Stay for History & Museums: Kensington/South Kensington
If you have come to London to soak up British history or to indulge your love for all things royal, this is the neighborhood to stay in. Kensington is where London’s Museum Quarter is, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum. It’s really close to Hyde Park and the regal Kensington Gardens. I love to stroll the neighborhood and gaze at the mansion-lined streets. It’s quiet and classically British.
Best Places to Stay in Kensington/South Kensington
- BUDGET: Astor Hyde Park – This hostel is in a quiet neighborhood right off Hyde Park. It’s very social, and the friendly staff can help you arrange tours and activities. I love the old, wooden décor — you feel more like you’re in a home than a hostel. The dorms are huge, and there’s plenty of room to sprawl out.
- MIDRANGE: London Lodge Hotel – This bright Victorian townhouse features rooms that are each uniquely decorated with colorful patterned wallpaper and carpeting and vintage furniture. It’s a very old school but quaint style. The staff is helpful, the place is clean, and the price is great.
- LUXURY: The Ampersand Hotel – The Ampersand is a luxury boutique hotel next to the South Kensington station. Each beautiful room has a different theme, like music or astronomy, and if you’re staying on the top floor, the rooms have incredible views of the city. They also serve a posh afternoon tea in the drawing room. If you want that classic British hotel experience, stay here.
Where to Stay for Luxury: Mayfair
Mayfair is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in London. Centrally located between Hyde Park and the West End, it’s home to numerous five-star hotels, classy art galleries, and ultra-expensive shops — but it’s quiet at night. If you’re looking to stay in one of the city’s fancier and more beautiful neighborhoods, this is it. It’s a stunning place to stay.
Best Places to Stay in Mayfair
- BUDGET: Mermaid Suite Hotel – There are no hostels in this neighborhood (it’s entirely filled with four- and five-star hotels), but the Mermaid Suite Hotel on Oxford Street is one of the best affordable, no-frills options.
- MIDRANGE: Marble Arch Inn – There are no midrange hotels in this neighborhood either, but Marble Arch just outside of the northern bounds of Mayfair is a good choice. The rooms are clean and comfy, the bathrooms are spotless, and the service is excellent.
- LUXURY: The Beaumont Hotel – Walking into the lobby is like stepping back into time. The walnut-paneled walls with 1920s charm are covered in original classic paintings and photography, and all the rooms are art deco style, with king-sized beds. The marble bathroom floors are heated too. There’s also a sauna, steam room, fitness center, and hammam as well. It’s one of the nicest hotels in the district.
Where to Stay for Arts & Culture (1): Soho
Soho is one of London’s most vibrant neighborhoods and one of my favorite. This former red-light district is home to hundreds of restaurants, pubs, all-night coffee shops, stores, and theaters. I love Soho at night, when the pubs here spill onto the street with folks having a pint after work. You’re also a twenty-minute walk from a lot of the main attractions (especially the theaters of the West End). It’s central and lively.
Best Places to Stay in Soho
- BUDGET: YHA Oxford Street – This is one of my favorite YHA locations in London, with a bar and lots of organized social activities to meet other travelers. The rooms are standard.
- MIDRANGE: Mimi’s Hotel Soho – Mimi’s is a newer hotel, and its affordability is based on the size of its rooms. They come in “tiny,” “mini,” cozy,” and “lux,” but even the lux rooms are pretty small. On the other hand, there’s floor heating, filtered water, and really nice marble bathrooms. The hotel’s on-street bar, Henson’s, gets really busy at night.
- LUXURY: The Soho Hotel – No two guest rooms are the same at the Soho Hotel; they’re also enormous, and most have floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a well-equipped gym and even a personal trainer on-site, but if you’d rather take a book to the cozy library and read, you can do that too. There are tons of restaurants, bars, cafés, and theaters surrounding the hotel, and Oxford and Regent Streets are both just a quick walk away.
Where to Stay for Arts & Culture (2): Covent Garden
Covent Garden is just east of Soho. This is the theater district and is also known for its historic indoor market and throngs of tourists. There are plenty of street performers and lots of shopping opportunities. But it’s also a quirky neighborhood with cobblestone streets, cool shops and restaurants, and a historic square. It’s also very central and busy.
Best Places to Stay in Covent Garden
- BUDGET: The Z Hotel Covent Garden – There are no hostels in this area, but for a budget-friendly option, the Z Hotel can’t be beat. The rooms are small and simple yet comfortable and clean, with all the common amenities, including in-room tea and coffee, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi.
- MIDRANGE: Strand Palace Hotel – This hotel has been around since the early 1900s, and all its rooms are built around six inner courtyards. (If you want a quiet space, ask for a room overlooking the interior.) The lobby and bar have a historic art deco design, while the rooms are all done in a modern style. It’s has great value for the area.
- LUXURY: NoMad London – Located in a stately 19th-century building that used to be a magistrates’ court, NoMad oozes crisp elegance and class. My two favorite highlights are the curated library and the subterranean cocktail bar. All rooms have marble mosaic–tiled bathrooms with walk-in rain showers (some even have clawfoot tubs), lush king-size beds, hardwood floors, and minibars.
Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: Shoreditch/Spitalfields
These artsy, hip neighborhoods in East London are filled with outdoor markets, vintage clothing stores, bars, and restaurants, and together they’re one of the best nightlife districts in town. The abundance of street art contrasts with the old industrial warehouses and dimly lit streets. Thanks to the immigrant influence here, you’re never too far from a döner kebab or a plate of Peruvian ceviche. It is the hip place to be.
Best Places to Stay in Shoreditch/Spitalfields
- BUDGET: Brick Lane Hotel – This offers basic but very clean accommodations. Each room has a tea and coffee station and a desk. There are only eight rooms total, so you’ll get to know your hosts quite well. The on-site Sheraz Bangla Lounge serves cheap curry and is a neighborhood favorite, so be sure to eat there at least once!
- MIDRANGE: citizenM London Shoreditch – citizenM has a cool, artsy feel to it, with fun, colorful, and comfortable rooms that have modern amenities, like an international plug system, blackout blinds, and a tablet to control all the high-tech features. There’s also a 24/7 bar and restaurant offering everything from a breakfast buffet to late-night drinks.
- LUXURY: Mondrian London – Every nook of this hotel has some sort of quirky design touch, whether it’s contemporary artwork or a wall-mounted (fake) stag. This a luxurious modern place with spacious rooms that come with exposed brick walls, seating areas, and rainfall showers. There’s a small rooftop pool, and the fitness center has daily yoga and cycling classes.
Where to Stay for Budget Travelers: King’s Cross/Camden
These two neighboring areas are especially popular with backpackers. King’s Cross has a lot of hostels, and the canal banks are full of warehouses that have been transformed into restaurants and bars. Camden has always been a hot spot for the alternative crowd. Like Shoreditch, it has a lot of vintage and unusual shops (like Cyberdog, the futuristic glow-in-the-dark shop that’s also part rave). While Camden is a little far out from Central London (at least from a visitor’s perspective), it’s a really cool district to stay in that’s far more affordable than other parts of London.
Best Places to Stay in King’s Cross/Camden
- BUDGET: Generator – This hostel is housed in an old police station. It has lots of modern, upscale fixtures, a huge common area, a bar, and a restaurant (no common kitchen though). The beds are plush, but there are not many charging outlets, so you’ll have to fight for space.
- MIDRANGE: Ambassadors Bloomsbury – The rooms here are simple and small, but the hotel makes really good use of its space. The beds are excellent, there are blackout curtains, and the showers have strong water pressure. The hotel does a nice afternoon tea too. It’s a good, standard, mid-range lodging.
- LUXURY: Great Northern Hotel – This luxury boutique hotel has been around since the 1850s. Each floor also has a pantry where you can get free snacks and treats, like home-cooked cakes and plenty of tea and coffee. The rooms have high ceilings, walnut furniture, giant walk-in showers, and beds you’ll never want to leave. It’s an incredibly nice place to stay, with attentive staff!
Where to Stay for Fashion: Chelsea
Chelsea has a reputation as London’s most fashionable neighborhood. There are also some very picturesque hidden squares you can find with a little exploration, and the colorful buildings make for great photography. It’s located on the Thames, and Albert Bridge (one of the “most romantic bridges in the world”) has beautiful views over London. Chelsea is pretty residential so it’s also a very quiet place to stay.
Best Places to Stay in Chelsea
- BUDGET: Oakley Hotel – Located in Victorian building just a few blocks from Chelsea Embankment along the Thames River, the Oakley is the most affordable option in this high-end neighborhood. While the rooms are a bit dated, they’re comfortable and clean. The hotel offers a free breakfast as well.
- MIDRANGE: Sydney House Chelsea – This Georgian townhouse has been converted into a lovely boutique hotel with snug rooms that have all the amenities you’d expect in a mid-range hotel: flat-screen TVs, toiletries, and free coffee and tea. There’s also free continental breakfast every morning.
- LUXURY: Sloane Place – Sloane Place offers beautifully decorated rooms with a focus on comfort and style, including modern amenities like rainfall showers, Nespresso machines, and smart TVs. There’s also a chic, colorful bar, as well as a garden room with a terrace. It’s the best place to splurge in the area.
Where to Stay for Foodies: Southwark
This historic district on the south bank of the Thames has a lot going for it. Tourists flock to the neighborhood, as it is home to the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. There are several food markets, but Borough Market is the best. You can cross the Thames via the Tower, Millennium, or London Bridges. I like this area for all the food markets, its proximity to a lot of sights, and the nighttime quiet.
Best Places to Stay in Southwark
- BUDGET: St. Christopher’s Inn Village – London Bridge – This hostel chain has eight London locations, but I like this one the best — especially for being so near the Borough Market (an absolute haven for foodies). It’s also a short walk to the London Eye and Tower Bridge. This is a pretty big party place, though, with an outdoor terrace and a ton of social events to get you well acquainted with your fellow travelers, like regular beer pong nights and musical performances. It’s also the first hostel in London to have cozy pod-style beds. They are actually super comfortable and provided one of the best night’s sleeps I had in the city!
- MIDRANGE: The Bridge Hotel – Near London South Bank University and the Tate Modern, the Bridge Hotel has a ton of value for the money. The beds are big, the linens are soft, and the shower pressure is super strong. During the week, you can access the Fitness First gym too. The hotel’s classic English pub is a really nice spot to hang out, especially when there are small musical acts.
- LUXURY: H10 London Waterloo – The rooms here are bright and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows and tons of natural light. There’s a lot of extra space, and the beds are really comfortable. Watching the sun go down from the rooftop Waterloo Sky Bar is a must, especially with a drink in hand. From here you can look out over the skyline and see the London Eye turning lazily in the distance.
Where to Stay for Charm: Notting Hill
Notting Hill is really stylish! This neighborhood is famed for its cobblestone streets, Victorian townhouses, and quaint charm. You’ll find shop after shop with walls lined with antiques, as well as street food vendors, mom-and-pop shops, and small cafés and pubs that serve up some delicious grub. Each Saturday, it hosts the country’s largest antiques market on Portobello Road. If you want that quintessential London experience as well as an area that’s a bit quieter and more “local” than other parts of town, stay here.
Best Places to Stay in Notting Hill
- BUDGET: Onefam Notting Hill – This hostel is awesome. Guests get a free homemade dinner each night and can join in on organized activities (including drinking games). It’s a very social hostel with friendly staff and a good vibe. The rooms are a little cramped and the pillows somewhat flat, but the vibe more than makes up for the beds!
- MIDRANGE: Ravna Gora – Located on a calm, tree-lined street in a Victorian mansion, this is a nice boutique retreat from urban life. The rooms are clean and come with your usual hotel amenities. There’s a lot of natural light here too. The staff are friendly and helpful, and there is a common room offering free coffee and tea all day.
- LUXURY: Portobello Hotel – All the rooms in this luxurious boutique hotel are decorated in completely different styles. Some have extra character, like round beds with feather toppers, or mattresses so high you need a set of stairs to climb in. You feel like you’re stepping back into the Victorian era! The rooms are all brightly colored, and the staff brings a flask of hot chocolate to your room every night.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of London neighborhoods. If you look on a map, you’ll see plenty I didn’t include. These are just my favorites. I think they all have something to offer — from crowds to nightlife to peace and quiet to arts and culture.
London is fairly spread out, so expect some time on “the tube” no matter where you stay. Just find the area right for you at the price you want. You can’t go wrong!
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Book Your Trip to London: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner. It is my favorite search engine, because it searches websites and airlines around the globe ,so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld, as it has the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
For my favorite hostels, check out this list of the best hostels in London!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancelations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money too.
Want a Guide?
London has some really interesting tours. My favorite company is Take Walks. It has expert guides and can get you behind the scenes at the city’s best attractions. It’s my go-to walking tour company!
If you prefer food tours, Devour is the best company. I always learn a ton and eat incredible food on its tours!
Want More Information on London?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide to London for even more planning tips!