Where to Stay in London
Where you stay in London in large part depends on what you plan on doing in London while you are there. While I spend most of my time in the West End, I rarely stay in the West End because the nice places are too rich for my blood and the affordable places are dingy, small and nasty. So I stay in a different neighborhood.
I'll give you some of my favorite London neighborhoods to stay in, but before selecting where to lay your head at night I recommend figuring out where you plan to spend most of your time during the day and matching those locations up on the map of the London Underground. While the London Underground is highly convenienent for travel, it is even more convenient if you minimize transferring between Lines because frequently it is a long walk between platforms.
Small Hotel Room - London
This is about the size of the last hotel room I stayed in while in London. Granted, this is a single, but it should give you an idea of how ludicrous the accommodation situation in London can be. A room this size cost me about $100 a night! In 2003!
London Travel Guides
Best London Neighborhoods to Sleep In
Also, I don't recommend specific hotels. The reason why is because no matter what class of hotel you plan to stay in, if you are traveling from the US and used to American hotels, you will be in for a rude awakening. London hotel rooms are small.
Let me say this again -- London hotel rooms are much smaller than hotel rooms in America. The Motel 6 motel room that costs you $35 a night in Nowheresville, USA is three times the size of a hotel room that will cost you at least a $100 a night (or more) in London. In fact, the last time I stayed in London, I actually had to turn sideways to get down the hallway to my room. 'Nuff said!
Are there American style hotels in London? Yes, but I've never stayed in one because they are generally outside my price range so I can't even say for sure if any of them are really that comparable.
With that said, since your hotel room isn't going to be all that special anyway, the only important thing is location. Nowadays, I usually just book my hotel with my airfare, using the airline's service. However, I have shown up in London on a number of trips without bothering to book anywhere to stay, including the time I went to live there for six months.
If you fly into Gatwick, you can take the train to Victoria Station and book accommodation at the Tourist Information Centre. You should be able to do the same thing at Paddington if you fly into Heathrow, but it is also possible at Paddington to just get out into the neighborhood and walk around looking for accommodation signs. Same with Bayswater. As a general rule, I find small, private B&Bs to be nicer than the standard hotel accommodation.
My preferred neighborhoods to sleep in are as follows for hotels that cost around a $100-$150 per night:
Bayswater is only one stop from Paddington Station which connects to the Heathrow Express. The reason I prefer Bayswater to Paddington is because in addition to being directly on the Circle/District tube lines it is also a very short walk to Queensway, which is on the District line. This makes it easy to pick one station or the other depending on my destination.
There's also tons of places to stay, restaurants, pubs, Boots, internet cafes, etc. nearby. While London is not really a 24-hour city like New York, you'll find a few places to at least grab a soda and sandwich that stay open late in this area.
Beautiful neighborhood right on the Circle/District line - it is bordered by some of the nicest parts of London - Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Belgravia. Kings Road antique shops are within walking distance. The Knightsbridge shopping district is nearby as well and it is only one stop to exchange onto either the Victoria line or Piccadilly line. This area is much quieter at night though than Bayswater, fewer pubs and places to eat after 9pm. If you are a night owl I do not recommend it, but if you are looking for a quiet and attractive neighborhood, it's wonderful.
Sloane Square at Christmas
Neighborhood around Sloane Square
I've stayed in the area near Liverpool Street Station once and it was hugely convenient in terms of Tube travel as it is right on the District and Circle lines. Liverpool Street Station is a great modern Tube station (featured in Mission Impossible!) with shops inside it. We ate breakfast here every day before heading out.
Liverpool Street Station itself is near the northern edge of the "City of London" -- London's financial district. The Portobello Road Market is near here, as well as several other markets, but it is the Portobello Road Market that is not to be missed (even though it took me until my fifth trip over to get to it myself!) Liverpool Street is also near the Barbican Theatre.
Liverpool Street Station
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