Best Area To Stay In London For First-Time Visitors & Tourists

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by Michael Rozenblit


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If you’re a first-time visitor to the British capital, it can be overwhelming to figure out the best area to stay in London. Given the large size of London, one of the most challenging issues for all travellers – especially first-time visitors – is determining what is the best place to stay for tourists.

As such a diverse city, each neighbourhood can provide travellers with a completely different experience of the city.

Furthermore, given London is fairly spread out, choosing the best area to stay for first-time visitors is particularly crucial to ensure you don’t spend unnecessary time commuting to the sites you want to see.

So without further to do, here’s our guide to the best London neighbourhoods for tourists to help you decide where to stay on your first trip to the British capital. It can also be helpful if you’re a returning visitor who simply wants to experience another side of one of the most exciting cities in the world!

Want a quick answer? Here are some of the top areas and accommodation choices for your trip!

Best Area For Sightseeing – Belgravia or Kensington: Astor Hyde Park Hostel (Budget), The Montana Hotel (Mid-Range) & Park Grand London Kensington (Luxury)

Best Area For Shopping – Soho: Astor Museum Inn (Budget), Z Hotel Soho (Mid-Range) & Sanderson Hotel (Luxury)

Best Area For Families – Paddington: Publove @ The Green Man (Budget), Hotel Edward (Mid-Range) & Royal Lancaster London (Luxury)

Best Area For Nightlife – Shoreditch: Prime Backpackers Angel (Budget), The Hoxton (Mid-Range) & Batty Langley’s (Luxury)

Best Area For Live Music – Camden: Smart Camden Inn Hostel (Budget), Selina Camden (Mid-Range) & Kimpton Fitzroy London (Luxury)

Choosing Where to Stay in London For First-Time Visitors

If it’s your first time in the British capital, it’s easy to get confused about where the best area in London for tourists is. After all, the city is huge, many of the attractions are spread out across the city and prices vary across the city.

The first thing to remember is that you simply can’t be close to everything in London and you will, therefore, need to prioritise.

If you want to stay in London to be close to the typical sightseeing spots then West London is ideal. If you’re visiting London to experience the nightlife then areas like Shoreditch or Camden are where you want to be.

Wherever you choose to base yourself, you’ll need to make use of the extensive public transport system to get by.

I suggest downloading the CityMapper app before arriving as it provides real-time public transport times and tells you exactly how to get from point A to B using the transport network.

If you’re arriving from outside of the EU, then buying a prepaid SIM card with data before you arrive is a good idea so you can easily get your accommodation.

Regardless of where you stay in London as a first-time visitor, you’ll never be able to experience and see everything that the city has to offer in one trip so I suggest choosing from the places below based on your trip preferences!

Famous Brick Lane in Shoreditch, London
Famous Brick Lane in Shoreditch, London

Belgravia or Kensington – Best Area For Sightseeing

If it’s your first time visiting London and the primary aim of your trip is to see all the major sites and visit the world-famous museums, then you might as well stay as close as possible to them!

Belgravia and Kensington are located in West London and, Belgravia in particular, is only a stone’s throw from some of London’s most popular attractions including Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and Westminister Abbey.

Kensington, especially South Kensington, is also home to some of the most iconic museums in the city – including the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. This area is perfect for those who’ve included visits to these places into their itineraries.

Of course, these neighbourhoods also encompass the gorgeous Hyde Park. Home to Kensington Palace and Gardens and to the Winter Wonderland around Christmas time, this is one of London’s best green spaces.

Whilst this part of London is undoubtedly more expensive, the proximity to the sites makes these neighbourhoods some of the best to stay in London for first-time visitors and tourists whose primary aim is to sightsee!

Accommodation in Belgravia or Kensington

Budget: Astor Hyde Park Hostel – A great budget option in this area offering a mix of dorm and private rooms. The hostel has a brilliant common area, a large kitchen and a cheap breakfast available with proceeds going to charity.

Mid-Range: The Montana Hotel – A mid-range hotel located just a few minutes’ walk from the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. Also well connected with nearby Tube stations.

Luxury: Park Grand London Kensington – A luxury option located close to Earl’s Court Tube Station. The hotel has a contemporary design and is popular with business travellers in London. A good option if you want to splurge in this area!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in this area!

Big Ben & Houses of Parliament in London
You’ll be close to many of London’s landmarks in West London!

Soho – Best Area for Shopping

If it’s your first time in London and you want to explore some of the world-famous shopping that the British capital has to offer then look no further than staying in Soho.

Soho is located within walking distance of Oxford Street, arguably London’s most famous shopping street with over 300 shops featuring some of the world’s best-known brands.

You can also walk to Covent Garden for more boutique shops and possibly even go to Knightsbridge to visit Harrod’s department store.

This neighbourhood is full of restaurants and bars, as well as being within walking distance of most of the major theatres if you want to see a West End show during your time in London.

All these things undoubtedly make Soho one of the best places to stay in London for first-time visitors and tourists who want to enjoy one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in the heart of London.

Accommodation in Soho

Budget: Astor Museum Inn – A great hostel located right next to the British Museum and only a short distance from the Soho neighbourhood. They offer a range of different dorms and private rooms and also organise social events so you can meet other travellers.

Mid-Range: Z Hotel Soho – A cool boutique hotel located right in central London. The rooms have been stylishly decorated and there are a number of great cafes, restaurants and bars nearby. 

Luxury: Sanderson Hotel – A sleek luxury hotel in London that is only two-minute walk from Oxford Street. The hotel has amazing facilities including a modern gym, spa and a restaurant/bar downstairs. The rooms are very spacious and they also have luxury apartments available.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in this area!

Harrods Department Store in Soho
Harrods Department Store

Paddington – Best Place To Stay For Families

Located to the north of Hyde Park, using the lovely neighbourhood of Paddington as a base is a great option if you’re visiting London as a family.

In case you’re not aware, Hyde Park is one of the largest green spaces in London and home to a number of attractions. It is also a wonderful place for children to play if you’re looking to take them somewhere fun.

Though Paddington itself doesn’t have many attractions, it is a pleasant residential area with convenient transport links into the centre of London. Paddington is also a super convenient place to stay if you’re arriving at Heathrow Airport, as the Heathrow Express goes directly into Paddington Station in a fraction of the time it takes to take the underground.

If you’re looking for a pleasant place to explore with lots of nice cafes, the area of Little Venice along the canal also calls Paddington home and it’s not an area that attracts many tourists.

Also, those who want to explore the famed colourful houses of Notting Hill and the sprawling antique market on Portobello Road will find Paddington well poised for this, as well.

Accommodation in Paddington

Budget: Publove @ The Green Man – if you want to full English experience of staying above a pub then this is a great option! This hostel has been recently refurbished and sits above a London pub that is open 24 hours. Dorms only.

Mid-Range: Hotel Edward – Located a few minutes’ walk from Paddington station, this is a great mid-range hotel that offers basic amenities. 

Luxury: Royal Lancaster London – If money isn’t an issue for your trip to London, then staying at this 5-star hotel will undoubtedly be an amazing experience. It’s located close to Hyde Park, has a range of luxury rooms and several high-quality restaurants and cafes on site.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in this area!

Natural History Museum in London
Natural History Museum in London

Shoreditch – Best Area for Nightlife

Once considered the dodgy part of London, gentrified Shoreditch is now arguably the most trendy part of England’s capital. This is a great place to stay for first-time visitors to London who want to experience the city’s best nightlife, hip restaurants and cool cocktail bars.

Whilst Shoreditch might be best known for its evening activities there is also plenty to keep you occupied throughout the day including exploring the famous Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market or gazing at all the street art that lines Shoreditch’s streets.

There are plenty of street art walking tours that you can take that will take you to some of the most iconic artworks in the area while also giving important historical context to the area.

Shoreditch is without a doubt one of the coolest parts of London and potentially the best area to stay for young people and those into a cool, “alternative” scene.

Despite being further away from West London, there are still some famous landmarks located close to Shoreditch such as the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London.

Though it has been gentrified for some time, Shoreditch is still a super cool area with a lot to offer visitors.

Accommodation in Shoreditch

Budget: Prime Backpackers Angel – This hostel is located in Angel just a few minutes walk along the canal to all the action in Shoreditch. They offer a range of dorms and private rooms and organise regular events that make it easy to meet people while you’re in London.

Mid-Range: The Hoxton – A boutique hotel with funky and stylish rooms, located only a few minutes from Old Street Tube Station. Downstairs is a popular bar and restaurant that gets busy on weekends, however, the rooms are completely soundproof. 

Luxury: Batty Langley’s – A stylish hotel located within a few minutes walk of Liverpool Street Station. There are a wide range of rooms including double rooms and suites making it the perfect luxury option in Shoreditch. 

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in this area!

Lovely Regents' Canal
Lovely Regent’s Canal

Camden – Best Area for Live Music

Whilst these days Shoreditch might be considered London’s capital of cool, if you’re primarily interested in listening to live music during your evenings then it’s worth staying in Camden.

In a lot of ways, Camden is quite similar to Shoreditch with its own set of cool markets to explore, hip eateries to try and bars to have a drink at.

However, what makes Camden stand apart from the rest of London is its live music scene. There are plenty of historic venues where world-famous artists such as Prince, Blur, Coldplay and many more have performed. There are also plenty of venues where lesser-known artists can play music and you will find something every night of the week if you look for it.

Camden has also produced many musicians, most famously Amy Winehouse who has a statue dedicated to her in Camden Market.

The sheer music history in Camden makes it the best area to stay for tourists who want to immerse themselves in live music and see as many gigs as they can during their stay in London!

Accommodation in Camden

Budget: Smart Camden Inn HostelThis hostel offers both dorms and private rooms and is located close to Camden Town Station so you’re close to all the action in this part of London. =

Mid-Range: Selina Camden – A great mid-range hotel, located in the heart of Camden. They offer a range of standard double, family and single rooms with the option to include breakfast in your nightly rate. 

Luxury: Kimpton Fitzroy London – A lavish high-end hotel with a striking exterior located in Russell Square. Another great place to consider if money isn’t a factor! 

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in this area!

Camden Lock Market - best area to stay in london for live music
Camden Lock

There’s a reason why London is one of the most popular cities in the world for travellers. The sheer number of neighbourhoods in the British capital can make it difficult to decide on the best place to stay in London for tourists.

However, the fact of the matter is that you’ll never be able to see all of London in one visit and therefore it’ll probably only be a matter of time before you return and get a chance to experience a different London neighbourhood.

Are you planning to visit London? Have any questions about any of these neighbourhoods? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Both solo and with his partner, Maggie, he has travelled to over 50 countries across the globe and has a particular affinity for the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He’s lived in numerous countries worldwide but currently resides in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Read more about Michael

Comments

  1. Hi there…Im heading over to LHR in Dec…can you reccommend me the best place to stay? Which area? Hotel or Apt? Not so pricey pls..Im travelling with my wife and son…will be in LHR for about 1 week.
    And i will continued my journey to Paris…so i need to stay somwhere near to the Rail Stn…
    Thanks for your help.

    Reply

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