Whenever you hear somebody return from a trip to London, there's one thing they'll say without fail. ‘There's so much to do‘. And they're not wrong!

England's thriving cosmopolitan city is a kaleidoscope of cultural activities, with an event, sight, or activity to suit everyone.

London straddles two main personalities. London's elegant, statesmanlike personality is seen in the incredible Houses of Parliament, the historic buildings that comprise the streets of Westminster, and the refined, celebrity-laden neighborhood of Chelsea. This is arguably what most people think of when they picture London.

Where to stay in London

London's more authentic, grittier, community-oriented side is seen in the markets of Camden, the vibrant annual Notting Hill carnival, and the family-run curry houses that line Brick Lane. If you're visiting this wonderful city, you should aim to see both.

With a city this big, the first question you'll want answers to is ‘Where should I stay in London?'. It's not easy to choose where to stay in a city with just under 50 neighborhoods! I've compiled a list of the best ones to stay in for your trip, as well as accommodation in each one.

So grab a cuppa, and let's dive into planning your next city trip.

The best neighborhoods to stay in London

Westminster – When people picture London, Westminster is likely the neighborhood that first springs to mind. Home to some of London's most iconic sights, including Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, staying in Westminster will put you at the center of all the action, with excellent transport links to elsewhere in the city. It's the best place to stay for first-time visitors simply because there's so much to see nearby. It's also considered to be a relatively safe neighborhood.

Soho – Soho is one of London's coolest spots. Centrally located to keep you near the action while having enough of its own personality to be distinct, Soho is the go-to spot for great food and drink. If you plan on staying out until the early hours of the morning, Soho is the best place for it.

Covent Garden – If upmarket shops and bustling piazzas are your thing, head to Covent Garden for your visit to London. Although you won't find many budget hotels in this area, it's worth splashing out if it's within your budget to be in this pretty corner of London with some of the best boutique stores and coziest cafes in the city.

Shoreditch – Home to a plethora of independent businesses, ranging from vintage stores to alternative coffee shops with vegan cakes, Shoreditch is where London's hipsters hang out. This doesn't mean it's uninviting, though, and you certainly don't have to be a hipster yourself to stay there. Its warm and inclusive atmosphere makes it a great place for people from all backgrounds to stay.

Kensington & Chelsea – One of the wealthiest areas of London, Kensington and Chelsea are two west London neighborhoods that play host to some of London's biggest names in fashion, business, and celebrity. Close to the center while also having their own identities, Chelsea and Kensington are where you'll find high-end eateries, designer boutiques, and bars with plenty of famous clients.

Camden – The long-standing beating heart of London's counter-culture, Camden is full of artists and creatives living alternative lifestyles. Home to one of London's most famous markets, Camden Market, this vibrant spot is also full of places to eat and drink. Street art and the residents' friendly but gritty attitude combine to make Camden one of London's coolest areas.

Angel – Located in Islington, one of London's best-known residential boroughs, Angel provides a much quieter atmosphere than some of the other destinations on this long. This doesn't mean it's boring though – quite the opposite. In this safe area in London's north, you'll find plenty of thriving independent bars and restaurants as well as cultural activities.

South Bank – Tourists and locals mingle on London's South Bank, which is home to some of the city's most iconic sights. Come here to take a leisurely stroll down the River Thames, take a trip on the London Eye, and visit the Tate Modern, one of London's most impressive art museums. Thriving with shops and eateries, the South Bank is a great place to stay for culture vultures looking to be close to art galleries and museums.

1. Where to stay in London for first-timers & sightseeing: Westminster

Westminster is the political and cultural hub of London. Home to some of the city's most important historical sites, such as Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster is the go-to destination for sightseeing and history lovers.

It's the perfect starting point for any visitor to London, especially if it's your first time in the city. The central location makes it easy to get to from other parts of the city and alongside long-standing sights and various events during the year, you certainly won't be short of things to do. You're just a short walk from the likes of Big Ben and Trafalgar Square.

Westminster, located in central London, is also home to plenty of parks and greenery, including the sprawling Hyde Park, which transforms into Winter Wonderland during the festive period.

It's one of the most touristy places, so you won't get the ultimate authentic Londoner experience, but if you're only in London for a few days, it's the best place to stay to see it all.

Major crime is pretty low here, but there are plenty of pickpockets around targeting tourists, so keep your wits about you!

Westminster

Things to do in Westminster

  • Enjoy art at the National Gallery and Tate Britain

  • Look at Westminster Abbey

  • Listen to the chimes of Big Ben

  • Stroll around Trafalgar Square

  • See a show in London's West End

  • Visit the Houses of Parliament

  • See Buckingham Palace in all its splendor

  • Walk down to Oxford Street for some retail therapy

  • Visit the famous Leicester Square

Best area for:

  • Tourists

  • Famous sights and landmarks

  • Green spaces

  • Sight-seers

  • First-time visitors

  • Political pundits

  • History lovers

Best hotels to stay in Westminster

Luxury ($$$): Rubens At The Palace

Mid-range ($$): Riu Plaza London Victoria

Budget ($): Luna and Simone Hotel

2. Where to stay in London for nightlife: Soho

London's Soho is where residents and tourists alike go to be shown a good time. Home to watering holes that have been around for centuries, Soho is London's nightlife beating heart, full of pubs, bars, and nightclubs with something to offer for every type of partygoer.

Equal parts grubby and swanky, Soho is not the faint-hearted, with plenty of lively gay bars and sex shops adorning its streets. It's also London's unofficial red-light district, so it's probably not the best neighborhood for families!

It's been home to a whole host of famous faces over the years, from Karl Marx to the Sex Pistols, all of whom have come to this lively quarter to experience London's underground scene and best places to grab a pint.

Soho

Things to do in Soho

  • Visit the Grade-II listed pub The French House

  • Walk down to Chinatown for top-notch authentic Asian cuisine

  • See a show at the Prince Edward Theatre

  • Watch the incredible Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre on Cambridge Circus

  • Browse shops on Carnaby Street

Best area for:

  • Nightlife

  • Pubs

  • Grabbing a good old-fashioned British pint

  • LGBTQ+ travelers

Best hotels to stay in Soho

Luxury ($$$): The Piccadilly London West End

Mid-range ($$): The Resident Soho

Budget ($): The Z Hotel

3. Where to stay in London for shopping: Covent Garden

One of the most upmarket places in the city, Covent Garden is one of London's best shopping districts, home to a blend of independent boutique stores and large multi-national retailers.

In the center of Covent Garden is its traffic-free piazza, which is the perfect spot for grabbing a cup of coffee after a busy day of retail therapy.

There are plenty of other cultural activities to do in the area which don't involve shopping. Plus, it's just an incredibly picturesque area to walk around and a great place to soak up the authentic London atmosphere.

Thanks to its relatively upmarket status, it's a great place to find luxury hotels and designer boutiques, too. If you plan on visiting London during Christmas, Covent Garden is an excellent choice, as the area transforms with twinkly Christmas lights and heated al fresco dining.

Covent Garden

Things to do in Covent Garden

  • Hit the shops

  • See memorabilia from James Bond films at the London Film Museum

  • Visit the London Transport Museum

  • Watch a show at the Royal Opera House

  • Take a short walk to the British Museum

  • Hang out in Covent Garden's piazza

  • Buy fresh fruit and veg from the Covent Garden market

Best area for:

  • Shopping

  • Boutique hotels

Best hotels to stay in Covent Garden

Luxury ($$$): The Henrietta Hotel

Mid-range ($$): Fielding Hotel

Budget ($): Radisson Blu Edwardian

4. Where to stay in London for hipster vibes: Shoreditch

20 years ago, Shoreditch was not really one of the main spots on the radar of visitors to London.

Over time, however, artists attracted by the low rent started to move into the area in East London, which soon became a hotspot of hipsters and creatives living an alternative lifestyle.

These days, Shoreditch is where you'll find independent marketing agencies, small breweries, vegan cafes, and vintage clothing shops.

Still home to a community of creatives, this area is the go-to for people seeking out cool, alternative bars and independent shops you won't find elsewhere. If alternative culture is your thing, Shoreditch should be your destination for your next stay in London.

Nightlove lovers will also be spoilt for choice in this area, which is home to some of London's hippest clubs and bars. It's slightly out of the way of the center, but transport links make it easy to reach the biggest sights.

Despite being edgy, Shoreditch is considered safe apart from some petty crimes like pickpocketing, so keep a close eye on your belongings and you should be fine.

Shoreditch

Things to do in Shoreditch

  • Check out the street art around the neighborhood
  • Eat at Spitalfields Market
  • Enjoy a night of dancing at The Blues Kitchen
  • Stroll around Columbia Road Flower Market
  • Shop in the many vintage boutiques
  • Go for a drink at one of the funky bars on Old Street
  • Visit the Museum of the Home

Best area for:

  • Laid-back nightlife

  • Hipsters

  • Alternative lifestyles

Best hotels to stay in Shoreditch

Luxury ($$$): Boundary Shoreditch

Mid-range ($$): One Hundred Shoreditch

Budget ($): Citizen M London Shoreditch

5. Where to stay in London for luxury: Kensington & Chelsea

If you're going to London in search of glamour, the Kensington and Chelsea borough is where you'll find it. Tree-lined streets with designer boutiques meet some of the city's most prestigious cultural sights to create this thriving area, where you're likely to spot plenty of British celebrities.

South Kensington is home to the Imperial College London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Royal Albert Hall. In this part of London, you'll also find Sloane Square, which is akin to New York's 5th Avenue.

Home to not only a plethora of Britain's best designer stores but also of British celebrities and socialites, Sloane Square is the hangout of the city's rich and famous. Even if your budget will only allow for window shopping, it's still well worth visiting.

Chelsea is well known for the reality TV show that's set here, Made in Chelsea, which explores the lives of the area's socialites and heirs of huge family fortunes.

It's also famous for the Chelsea Flower Show, which takes place here annually and is a must-visit if you're coming at the right time of year.

Kensington Palace

Things to do in Kensington & Chelsea

  • Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, also known as the V&A

  • Stroll around the Chelsea Embankment

  • Look around the Saatchi Gallery

  • Take a trip to the Natural History Museum

  • Catch a show at the Royal Albert Hall

  • Take a stroll to the nearby leafy upmarket area, Knightsbridge

Best area for:

  • Luxury lovers

  • Fans of the TV show ‘Made in Chelsea'

  • Shoppers

  • Celebrity spotters

Best hotels to stay in Kensington & Chelsea

Luxury ($$$): San Domenico House

Mid-range ($$): London Lodge Hotel

Budget ($): CG Kensington

6. Where to stay in London like a local: Camden

If you're looking to stay in a vibrant, alternative spot with plenty of hipster hangouts and areas where real London locals live, head to Camden.

While it can be a little rough around the edges, Camden has a charm that promises the sort of authenticity you'll struggle to find in more tourist-driven areas like Westminster.

The streets are adorned with colorful street art and independent businesses of all types, from vegan bakeries to ethical clothing stores. Its loud and proud energy is reflected in its pubs, where locals go to hang out and drink a pint.

It's long attracted the more creative types, so you'll find plenty of residents here who work in creative industries such as art and media.

There's a rich musical history here, too. This London neighborhood has been home to musical greats such as Amy Winehouse and was home to many British punk rock bands in the 70s and 80s. It's this gritty edge that makes it so loveable. Don't confuse grit with safety – Camden is still a relatively safe neighborhood apart from petty crimes like pickpocketing.

Camden is a great destination for shoppers, too. You'll find plenty of independent and vintage clothing shops and thrift stores. Then there's Camden Market, which features stalls selling handcrafted and one-of-a-kind goods as well as street food to fuel your retail therapy session.

The best part is that Camden town is central enough to be easily reached by public transport as well as within walking distance from plenty of other sought-after boroughs making exploring London easy.

Camden

Things to do in Camden

  • Go shopping in Camden Market

  • Check out street art

  • Stroll over to the colorful neighborhood of Primrose Hill

  • See the Amy Winehouse statue

  • Get a pint at The World's End

  • Visit the Jewish Museum London

Best area for:

  • Vintage shopping

  • Music lovers

  • Tourists who want to stay like a local

Best hotels to stay in Camden

Luxury ($$$): York & Albany

Mid-range ($$): The Wesley Camden Town

Budget ($): Camden Enterprise Hotel

7. Where to stay in London for couples and families: Angel

Angel isn't one of the first places that come up when you search for where to stay in London. This isn't because Angel isn't worth visiting – quite the opposite, in fact.

It's more than Angel is somewhat of a hidden gem. Quieter than places like Camden, Angel doesn't attract tourists coming to the city for a huge blowout party. But, if you're a mature traveler, couple, or visiting with family, you might want somewhere a little more refined and elegant to lay your head. That's exactly what you'll find in Angel.

Tucked away on the edge of a popular residential borough, Islington, Angel is upmarket, elegant, and picturesque. Classic British townhouses line its streets and you'll find a range of independent businesses from upmarket coffee shops to stylish eateries.

It manages to retain proximity to the center while having a personality of its own and feels a far cry from the uber-touristy streets of Covent Garden or Westminster.

With the Regent's Canal waterway on its doorstep and plenty of quintessentially English houses lining its leafy streets, Angel is the ultimate destination for the upmarket traveler who likes seeing where the locals live without having to rough it.

Angel

Things to do in Angel

  • Take a wander through the Camden Passage

  • Stroll down Regent's Canal

  • Grab lunch at Exmouth Market

  • Catch a flick at the famous Screen on the Green

  • Grab a pint and some ‘grub' at one of Angel's many watering holes

  • Try vegan Chinese food at Tofu Vegan

Best area for:

  • Upmarket eateries

  • Seeing authentic London

  • Families

  • Couples

  • Solo travelers

  • Mature travelers

Best hotels to stay in Angel

Luxury ($$$): Hilton London Angel Islington

Mid-range ($$): Citadines Islington London

Budget ($): Angel Townhouse

8. Where to stay in London for culture: South Bank

Located South of the River Thames, as the name suggests, London's South Bank is home to some of the best cultural spots the city has to offer.

This lively stretch of the river boasts attractions such as the Southbank Centre, the National Theatre, the Tate Modern, Borough Market, Shakespeare's Globe, and the London Dungeon. There's also the London Eye, of course, which gives you arguably the best view out over Central London that you'll find anywhere.

After Westminster, the South Bank is probably the best place to stay for first-time visitors to the city who need to stay somewhere within easy reach of the main sights. If you decide to stay in South Bank, you can rest assured you'll be in the best location and won't be short of things to do.

This doesn't mean it's just for tourists, though. Look a little closer and you'll see young professionals on their way home from work lining the bars at around 5 pm on weekdays as well as runners out for their evening jog down this beautiful stretch next to the river.

This mix of residents and tourists is what gives the South Bank its lively, friendly, and welcoming atmosphere.

Tower Bridge

Things to do in South Bank

  • Visit the iconic Tower Bridge

  • Grab something to eat at Borough Market

  • Check out some modern art at the Tate Modern

  • Catch a show at the National Theatre

  • Enjoy the best views over London on the London Eye

  • Uncover the secrets of London's history at the London Dungeon

Best area for:

  • First-time tourists

  • Culture vultures

  • People visiting on a business trip

Best hotels to stay in South Bank

Luxury ($$$): London Marriott Hotel County Hall

Mid-range ($$): Park Plaza Westminster Bridge

Budget ($): The Wellington Hotel

Where to stay in London – Frequently Asked Questions

📍 What's the safest part of London to stay in?

While Westminster does experience pickpocketing, in general, it's a safe place to stay in, especially people there are always plenty of people around. Other safe places in London include Covent Garden, Angel, South Kensington, Chelsea, and Mayfair.

❌ Where should I avoid staying in London as a tourist?

In general, most of London is safe apart from crimes like pickpocketing which are typical in a big city like London. London is a huge city, so avoid staying in one of the outer neighborhoods or an area without bus or tube connections. Otherwise, you might find yourself staying too far from the action.

Tower Hamlets, Croydon, and Lewisham are some of the less safe areas in the city, so avoid staying here. Where possible, stay as close to the center as possible to ensure you're not only close to the sights but also to tourist areas which tend to be safer.

💸 Is it possible to stay in London on a budget?

London is known for being an expensive city and things here tend to cost more than the average in the UK and across Europe. It is possible, however, to find budget accommodation, eateries, and pubs during your stay.

When searching for somewhere to stay, prioritize less central locations and look for accommodation that's slightly further away from the main sites. You can also use filters to look for cheaper prices when searching websites like Booking.com. Plus, I've provided you with a budget hotel option for each neighborhood to make it easier to save money.

During your actual trip to London, avoid eating in places right next to tourist attractions. Walk around 5 minutes away or travel to a more authentic neighborhood to find pubs and restaurants. Chelsea, Kensington, Covent Garden, and Westminster are all pretty expensive for eating out. Look to Camden and Shoreditch for more budget-friendly options.

🚇 What's the best way to get around in London?

The good news for visiting London is that you don't need a car to get around. The best way to travel during your trip to London is via public transport. There are buses, trains, and an overground and underground system, known as the tube. Public transport in London is much cheaper than hiring a car or getting a taxi and it's frequent and easy to navigate. Areas like Westminster are walkable, too, but you might find it's quite a long way to walk from one neighborhood to another. After all, London is a pretty big city!

📅 Is 3 days enough for London?

With 3 days in London, you could definitely see the main sights and visit some of the city's most famous museums. However, if you want to get the most out of your trip to London and get to know some of the neighborhoods beyond just the best-known ones, I'd advise you to stay for longer. The truth is that there's so much to do in London you could stay for two weeks and still wouldn't have time to fit everything in!

☀️ When's the best time to visit London?

The best time to visit London is either from April to June or September to November. In the summer, London becomes incredibly busy. Plus, despite the preconceptions you may have about British weather, London can get hot in the summer, and thanks to the humidity and large buildings, it really traps the heat in and can become unbearable!

London has four distinct seasons, so if you visit in the winter, you're likely to encounter cold and grey weather and dark evenings. If you can deal with the cold though, Christmas in London is incredible, so don't rule out spending the festive period there!

Where to Stay in London – Final Words

So there you have it! Although it's almost impossible to choose only a few neighborhoods in this incredible city, I've whittled it down to just 8 of the best places to stay when you visit London.

Although London isn't known for being budget-friendly, there is a range of accommodation available, from Chelsea's 5-star luxury boutiques to more affordable, down-to-earth hotels in Camden.

Wherever you stay in London, you're bound to have an amazing time exploring everything this impressive city has to offer. Plus, with such a robust public transport system, it's easy to explore a wide range of London's neighborhoods in one trip. Happy travels!

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