London is a sprawling metropolis, a huge city that stretches for mile upon mile on either side of the River Thames, where millions of people live and many millions more tourists visit each year.
London can be a challenge to navigate. Even if it’s not your first time visiting the capital, it can be difficult figuring out one district from the next and deciding where to base yourself during your stay.
The city has many different and unique neighbourhoods to choose between, from the high-class properties and expensive accommodation in the likes of Chelsea or Kensington, to the boutique and happening streets of Shoreditch or Camden. There’s somewhere to suit every style in the capital. To help you to decide, here’s our guide to the best neighbourhoods to stay in London.
If you are planning on enjoying a really touristy trip to London, then one of the best places to stay in the city is Victoria. This is central London, and there are few other neighbourhoods that are quite so conveniently placed as this.
Victoria has excellent transport connections – numerous buses and trains connect you to the rest of the country, while London’s airports are easily reached too. If it’s your first time in London or you’re just looking to see the most popular sights, then in Victoria you are close to classic and iconic landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park.
You’re never more than a short walk away from London’s best places, and you can easily get to Westminster to see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben or cross over the River Thames to explore Southbank. You can see the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace, or stroll through the corridors and stately rooms of Kensington Palace. St James’s Park is always a beautiful place for a walk, particularly when the sun is out, while there are museums and art galleries to browse if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Kensington is the famous London district located close to palaces, museums and art galleries, and that’s known for its upscale accommodation and association with royalty.
This historic part of the city borders Hyde Park and is where you can find Kensington Palace, the royal residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge amongst other members of the Royal family. Don’t expect to find any budget accommodation here though, as this is the realm of London’s elite, although if money is no object then you can find an exceptional array of both hotels and serviced apartments in what is one of the flashiest parts of the capital.
In Kensington, as well as being able to rub shoulders with royalty, you would also be staying close to London’s best museums. This is where you can find some of London’s oldest institutions. You can visit the Natural History Museum to learn about the world around us and to marvel at the impressive dinosaur skeletons on display here. After that, head down the road to the Science Museum, where you can delve into both the history and future of science and technology. Finally, you can visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, which since the mid 19th century has been amassing the world’s largest collection of exhibits focusing on art and design.
South of Kensington, you can find the equally flamboyant and high-end streets of Chelsea. This is another of London’s most affluent areas, and you can expect to find a high level of accommodation here although, of course, you’ll also need to pay for the privilege of staying in this swanky part of the city.
In recent years, Chelsea was made famous by the reality TV show, Made in Chelsea, which follows the lavish lifestyles of the neighbourhood’s rich and young, and you’ll quickly find that this is a district of wealth and extravagance. You can enjoy some of London’s most elite bars, cafes and restaurants in Chelsea, as well as some of the city’s most high-end shopping.
The district is also incredibly close to central London, but it’s far removed from the crowds and a welcome escape from the chaos of the city centre and from the city’s most popular tourist attractions. If you can afford the price tag that comes with it, then staying in Chelsea is one of the best options for your trip to London.
Another fantastically central location to stay in during your time in London is Covent Garden. It’s hard to pin down what exactly counts as central London, such is the city’s sprawl and size, but one of the centres for all things shopping, eating and entertainment is most definitely the Covent Garden area.
This is the perfect place to stay if you are visiting London to immerse yourself in its culture, as if you’re in Covent Garden then you are just a short walk away from iconic locations such as Leicester Square and the Royal Opera House. This is the best place for lovers of the theatre, movies and musicals, and you can spend your evenings enjoying the best of the city’s shows and performances, be it at the cinema or at the opera.
As the home of London’s most important entertainment institutions, Covent Garden also has a huge range of accommodation to go with it. You’ll find an impressive array of international hotels on offer, ranging in price from budget options right through to five-star establishments.
Across the district you have a fine range of dining options too, from historic pubs and taverns serving up traditional English pub grub and plenty of drinks, to fine dining and everything else in between. From Covent Garden, it’s easy to get to the rest of London’s most well-known sights and districts too, with Buckingham Palace just a short walk away in one direction and St Paul’s Cathedral just a stroll in the other direction.
Shoreditch is in London’s East End, and this happening neighbourhood has a very different look and feel to it in comparison to the likes of Kensington or Chelsea.
This is London’s so-called ‘hipster’ district, a place at the forefront of the city’s new trends, be it fashion, food or drink, and it’s always a lively, vibrant place to stay. If you want to be in the heart of London’s contemporary cultural scene, then this is the place to be.
Shoreditch has a great range of accommodation, and being located further out from central London you’ll find that the prices are much more reasonable here, especially given the value on offer. You can find excellent hotels at good prices, and plenty of bustling hostels filled with budget travellers.
Shoreditch is known for its nightlife too. If you are looking for a fun-filled evening, late night parties and great drink deals, then this is the place to stay. Every night of the week you can find something happening in Shoreditch, and it’s a fantastic place if you’re up for a few drinks.
Camden is also a neighbourhood that has a big reputation when it comes to being at the forefront of trends. This bustling part of London is a fantastic place to stay if you are looking to be immersed in both London’s multi-cultural atmosphere and contemporary culture.
Camden is known for its canals and its markets. The beautiful Regent’s Canal flows through the neighbourhood, and you can walk along its banks and enjoy the local pubs that line the waterway.
Camden Market is a dense collection of lively market stalls and shops, and you can find almost anything imaginable for sale here. The market is also home to some excellent food, from busy restaurants and bars to simple yet delicious street food vendors. You can find food from across the world here, from Jamaican Jerk Chicken to authentic Indian curries, reflecting the interesting mix of communities that call North London home.
Like Shoreditch, as Camden is a little further out from central London, you can expect to find cheaper accommodation here, including plenty of budget hotels and hostels. Camden also has a lively nightlife too and is well regarded for its music scene. You’ll find bands and musicians performing at local pubs and venues all through the week.
Located on the south side of the Thames just over the iconic London Bridge, Bermondsey is one of the best neighbourhoods to stay in London if you are looking to be close to the action, but don’t want to spend a fortune.
Bermondsey was traditionally very much a working-class area, and it was historically a place of industry and factories. Much has changed though, and today many of the old warehouses and factory buildings have now been renovated and redesigned as flats, venues and even bars and restaurants, making this very much a revitalised place to visit.
The mix of old and new in Bermondsey is wonderful and you’ll find excellent boutique accommodation as well as budget options, while the area is never too far from central London and from some of the city’s best sights. You can easily walk to the fantastic Borough Market, where you’ll find some of London’s best food. You can explore old cathedrals, the Tower of London is just across the river, and there’s plenty more to do, too.
One of London’s most famous areas is Notting Hill, the district made world famous by the film of the same name, which brought the neighbourhood to international attention in the 1990s.
Notting Hill is a great place to stay if you love colourful houses, charming cafes and enjoy both the vibrancy and creativity of London. You can explore filming locations from Notting Hill if you’re a movie fan, and you can enjoy the fact that the neighbourhood is far enough out from the city to make it an enjoyable place to stay, yet close enough to still get around easily.
On weekends Notting Hill is the site of Portobello Market, which attracts people from across the city, while once a year the neighbourhood hosts the epic Notting Hill Carnival, a celebration of the area’s incredible diversity, tolerance and multiculturalism that’s become one of the biggest events of its kind in Europe.
There’s a good range of accommodation too, including lots of guesthouses, B&Bs and boutique-style accommodation. Notting Hill can get busy when events are on, particularly the carnival, so make sure to book in advance if the dates of your trip coincide with this.
Often overlooked, particularly by first-time visitors to London, Greenwich is a little further out from the centre of the city than other neighbourhoods you could stay in, but it offers you the chance to see a different side of the capital.
Greenwich is on the eastern side of the city, stretching along the south of the River Thames, and it’s one of the capital’s most historic destinations. This is where Greenwich Mean Time begins, where you can find the important Greenwich Observatory, and where you can explore the intriguing Cutty Sark Museum. You can stroll along the banks of the river or take the lengthy Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs under the Thames itself and connects both sides of the river together.
As well as the Cutty Sark – an old merchant ship that’s been beautifully restored – you can also learn more about Greenwich’s fascinating maritime history at the excellent National Maritime Museum, where you’ll be given an insight into the area’s long association with the oceans.
Greenwich is also home to the Millennium Dome, the iconic building that was constructed to celebrate the year 2000. Today it’s one of London’s premier events arenas, where you can watch bands and shows throughout the year.
There are markets, pubs, restaurants and everything else you might need for your stay in London, and with an excellent range of accommodation available, from small family run B&Bs to international hotels, you might find that Greenwich keeps you in the city for longer than you were expecting.
To discover more about the culture, history and attractions of London, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic range of London tours