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Contributed by London local travel photographer and writer Bronwyn Townsend.

London is a city unlike any other. If you’re looking for where to stay in London for the first time, this guide will help you figure out the top neighborhoods and the best hotels to stay at. Having lived in London for almost a decade, I love uncovering new corners across the city and revisiting my favorite places.

I’ve spent countless hours wandering London’s neighborhoods, from the colorful mews in Notting Hill to the edgy art scene in Shoreditch. From searching for the best coffee shops and bakeries to visiting the latest galleries and exhibitions, I love that London is a diverse and energetic city.

where to stay in london

If you’re visiting London for the first time, trying to navigate the city, and its colorful tube lines, might feel overwhelming. But there are a few top areas that will help you stay close to the world class attractions, from leading museums to the city’s thriving dining scene.

I always recommend people visit London during spring when the city really comes to life under sunny skies and houses and shop fronts are covered in wisteria. Alternatively, the city is perfectly made for autumn when the parks and mews transform into shades of orange and red. Beyond the typical tourist spots, spend time walking along the Regent’s Canal or hitting up one of the many markets peppered across the city — from Notting Hill’s Portobello market to the foodie haven of Borough Market. 

Here are my top choices for where to stay in London, whether you want to immerse yourself in the beating heart of the city’s theater district or unwind in the leafy spaces among local neighborhoods. 

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for Where to Stay in London

  1. The Henrietta Hotel, for the best central London hotel
  2. The Langham London, for the best luxury hotel
  3. Cheval Gloucester Park at Kensington, for the best hotel for families

For more London inspiration, check out my roundup of 15 essential things to do in London!

Where to Stay in London for a First-Time Trip

Where to Stay in London

London is a city full of distinct neighborhoods, each with their own personality and atmosphere. From upscale areas like Mayfair to the hipster hotspot of Shoreditch, finding the perfect area to stay in London for your travel style is key.

For your first trip to London, I recommend keeping things central so you’re close to the top attractions in the city. Covent Garden is a fan-favorite that combines historic markets, great dining options, and shopping just a stone’s throw from some of the best theater shows.

The political center of Westminster is home to some of London’s most iconic scenes, from Big Ben to Buckingham Palace. While Soho is home to many of London’s top restaurants, boutique shopping in Carnaby Street, and cozy corners like Neal’s Yard. 

Located in the beating heart of central London, the area is well-serviced by public transport. Because London is a big city and tube lines and bus rides ensure you can make the most of your time here! Hugging the north bank of the Thames, these parts of London are my top recommendations for where to stay in London if this is your first time exploring the British capital.


Top Pick for First-Timers: Covent Garden, Westminster, or Soho

If you want to be in the center of all things London, being within walking distance of many of the city’s top attractions is essential. Home to some of the city’s most iconic monuments, heritage-listed landmarks, the British Museum, and the buzz of the theater district, you can’t go wrong here. 

Hotels in this area of London typically run mid-range to luxury, but it’s a price worth paying to have the best sights on your doorstep and some of the best restaurants and entertainment just a short walk away. Visit Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben before heading over the West End to catch a show. Historic Covent Garden Market is also a must, and consider stopping by one of the tea rooms or hotels for a proper afternoon tea, scones and all. This is my top choice for where to stay in London for first time visitors.

  1. Page8, Page Hotels ($$$) — Just a short walk from Charing Cross, Leicester Square, and Piccadilly Circus, this modern hotel offers a convenient central location. Rooms are designed with sleek interiors featuring paneling and navy furnishings, and most include working spaces including a full desk and chair for those who need it too.
  2. Wilde Aparthotels London Covent Garden ($$$) — This aparthotel is just moments from Covent Garden, putting you in one of the best locations in the city. The light wood and white interiors are complemented by pops of color, including pastel-toned SMEG appliances. Best of all, you’re within walking distance of the West End theaters, Covent Garden, and Trafalgar Square.
  3. The Henrietta Hotel ($$$) — The Henrietta Hotel is painted in shades of spring and with a distinct style somewhere between 1930s vintage and French art deco. This 18-room boutique hotel is sandwiched between stores and restaurants right in the heart of Covent Garden, just a short walk from the theater district. With upscale touches, you’ll feel tucked away from the bustle of central London once you retreat to your room for the evening.
  4. NoMad London ($$$$) — The first European outpost for NoMad has found its home in Covent Garden. Previously the Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station, renovations have transformed the 19th-century building into a dazzling decadence from top to bottom. The real statement is the atrium-style dining space completed with emerald-green banquettes in the center under a three-storey high glass roof.
  5. One Aldwych ($$$$) — On the corner overlooking the Strand and Waterloo Bridge, One Aldwych occupies a charming Edwardian building that underwent a refurbishment in 2019. Rooms have an understated elegance with muted tones and airy spaces, while the swanky restaurant features large arched windows and wood paneling. Perfectly placed for exploring Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, South Bank and even Westminster, this is one of the best contemporary five-star hotels in London.

Top Pick for Families: Hyde Park or South Kensington

If you’re traveling as a family, the Hyde Park and Kensington neighborhoods in London provide a family-friendly environment with a perfect balance of green spaces, cultural attractions, and convenient amenities. Whether you plan on museum hopping from The Natural History Museum to the V&A, or wandering through the lush grounds of Hyde Park, the transport connections also make it easy to reach the sights in central London.

The area also has more accommodation options including apartments and suites that are suited to families or groups. Whether you prefer a hotel with two-bedroom suites or a serviced apartment so you can self cater, Kensington and Hyde Park are a top choice for this with good public transport connections, plenty of dining options, and lots of green space.

  1. Cheval Gloucester Park at Kensington ($$$) — Combine the convenience of a luxury hotel and the privacy of home at Cheval Gloucester Park. Just steps from Gloucester Road tube station, you’ll be close to Hyde Park, Royal Albert Hall, and Kensington Gardens. With a stately feel, the property also offers a 12-person cinema, a fitness center, and reading areas, as well as a combination of one, two, and three-bedroom apartments.
  2. Inhabit Queen’s Gardens, a Member of Design Hotels ($$$) — Just a five-minute walk from Paddington Station, this boutique London hotel focuses on wellness and sustainability. Located in a Grade II-listed 19th-century Victorian townhouse, the interiors are calming from the moment you step inside. There is an onsite spa and restaurant specializing in plant-based dishes, and rooms that fit up to four people.
  3. Royal Lancaster London ($$$) — Boasting panoramic views across Hyde Park, you’re just across the road from the Italian Gardens or head a little further into the park to visit the Serpentine Lido and Gallery. Interiors feature light, neutral tones complemented by marble bathrooms and an extravagant foyer that sets the tone for the rest of the property. Almost a quarter of the rooms are suites, making it great to fit the whole family.
  4. Baglioni Hotel London – The Leading Hotels of the World ($$$$) — With just 67 rooms, the Baglioni is a lavish hotel with boutique charm and plenty of Italian flair. Rooms feature a color scheme of black, scarlet, and taupe, with luxurious marble floors. Just moments from some of Kensington’s best attractions, it’s also close to several tube stations serviced by the Circle, District, and Picadilly tube lines. With a mixture of rooms including one, two, and three bedroom suites, this is ideal for families looking for an upscale London experience.

Top Pick for South of the River: Southbank, Southwark, or London Bridge

Where to Stay in London

If you’re looking to stay in a central location with great transport connections but without quite so much hustle and bustle, then south of the Thames is the way to go. With major train and tube stations including London Waterloo, Blackfriars, and London Bridge, it is ideally located if you plan on day trips, and it puts you within walking distance of some of the best attractions in London. Be sure to walk across Waterloo bridge towards Covent Garden to take in 360-degree views of the Houses of parliament, Big Ben, and St Paul’s. I’ve walked it a hundred times and never get sick of that view, especially at sunset.

  1. citizenM London Bankside ($$) — For a contemporary stay close to plenty of top attractions including the Tate Modern, Borough Market and the Millennium Bridge. With quirky design features and bold accents, this hotel is bursting with color and character. Well connected by several tube lines, this is a great option for sightseeing around central London.
  2. Ruby Lucy Hotel London ($$) — Just a short walk from Southbank and the London Eye, Ruby Lucy is a funky hotel ideally suited for couples and friends. Great value for travelers looking for a central stay, Waterloo station is just a 5-minute walk away. Rooms are clean and minimalist in style with light-filled spaces and dark wood paneling.
  3. The Hoxton, Southwark ($$$) — True to the Hoxton brand, this south central London outpost couples a local feel with a fun atmosphere and plenty of design-led features. The industrial urban style influenced by the surrounding neighborhood is perfectly matched by muted palettes and large windows. The rooftop restaurant Seabird is a must-visit, with great views and even better seafood cuisine.
  4. Shangri-La The Shard, London ($$$$) — If you’re looking for a world-class stay with views to match, the Shangri-La can’t be beaten. Floor-to-ceiling windows with views of The Shard and Tower Bridge are complemented by high-end touches, making this a truly luxurious stay. The bathrooms feature marble-clad finishings and underfloor heating, alongside separate bathtubs and a glass-enclosed shower. Be sure to head to the highest champagne and cocktail bar in London at Gong on the 52nd floor.

Top Pick for Chic Stay: Mayfair or Marylebone

Renowned for their elegant charm and prime location in London. Marylebone and Mayfair offer a blend of upscale boutiques, artisanal cafes, Michelin-starred restaurants, and beautiful Georgian architecture. Both areas offer easy access to iconic landmarks like Hyde Park and Oxford Street, making them a great base for those looking for convenience and luxury. With excellent transport links and a sophisticated atmosphere, Marylebone and Mayfair provide a high-end experience for visitors in central London.

  1. Treehouse Hotel London ($$$) — A once mediocre office block has been transformed into a seven-storey hotel filled with lush green living spaces and a vibrant mexican restaurant with iconic London views. Retro-style details fit out rooms with a cozy, eccentric feel and just a touch of industrial chic. Situated between the leafy spaces of Regent’s Park and the buzzy atmosphere of Soho and Oxford Street, it’s easy to reach most of central London’s top attractions.
  2. The BoTree – Preferred Hotels and Resorts ($$$) — A playful addition in Marylebone, this hotel attracts young, cool crowds with an eye for design. Rather than stuffiness, it’s more about fun here, with bold color accents, velvet furnishings, and a subtle nod to mid century modern styling. Lavo, the onsite Italian restaurant is the latest in the group adding to outposts in places like Los Angeles and New York.
  3. The Langham London ($$$$) — A timeless classic, The Langham has been a London luxury staple for more than 150 years. Occupying prime residence where Portland Place meets Regent Street, this hotel is more traditional than some of its cutting-edge neighbors, but remains a firm favorite in the London hotel scene. Rooms feature plush furnishings dressed in cream in sage, and the glamorous bar, Artesian, has been voted as one of the best in the world.
  4. Brown’s Hotel, a Rocco Forte Hotel ($$$$) — With a long list of royals and legendary authors among its guestlist, Brown’s Hotel is about as charismatic as they come. Rich wood paneling, stain-glass windows, and blossom-adorned wallpaper tick all of the boxes when it comes to grandeur. Don’t miss Afternoon Tea in the Drawing Room, one of the oldest traditional tea rooms in London.

Top Pick for Local Feel: Shoreditch or Notting Hill

Where to Stay in London

Known for its street art and creative scene, with numerous galleries, studios, and graffiti-adorned streets, Shoreditch is ideal if you want to explore contemporary art exhibitions and discover emerging talents. Shoreditch is also a foodie paradise, offering a diverse range of dining options, from street food markets to Michelin-starred restaurants. And the nightlife scene is where it’s at, from quirky cocktail bars to underground clubs, where you can mingle with locals.

Notting Hill has a bohemian spirit that attracts artists, creatives, and free-spirited individuals, but a contrast to the industrial-esque feel of Shoreditch. Immerse yourself in the neighborhood’s eclectic culture, with independent shops, quirky cafes, and vintage markets showcasing local talent. With elegant Victorian townhouses, leafy squares, and quaint mews streets, Notting Hill is also surrounded by loads of green spaces, including Holland Park and Kensington Gardens, providing tranquil retreats amidst the urban hustle and bustle.

  1. One Hundred Shoreditch ($$$) — A local hipster hangout, the vibe here is low-key cool. Rooms are tranquil havens with soft shapes and light palettes, while common spaces feature large floor to ceiling windows and plush furnishings. There’s also an impressive number of bars and restaurants across the property, with the Rooftop the highlight of them all.
  2. The Hoxton, Shoreditch ($$$) — The original Hoxton property first launched in 2006 and it still stands as one of East London’s best hotels. With a more industrial-feel than some of the brand’s other outposts, exposed brick and red leather banquettes keep it true to Shoreditch’s vibe. The Peruvian rooftop restaurant, Llama Inn, opened in 2023 and offers innovative flavor combinations that you shouldn’t miss.
  3. The Portobello Hotel ($$)—Just a 10-minute walk from Notting Hill Gate, The Portobello occupies two neoclassical mansions that are more spacious inside than the exterior would suggest. Every room is a feast for the senses, with bold color palettes, intricately detailed wallpaper, and copper roll-top baths.
  4. The Laslett ($$$) — Set across five interconnected Victorian townhouses, this artsy hotel is perfect if you want to explore London like a local. Surrounded by excellent restaurants, bars, and boutique stores, you can also enjoy meals at the in-house Henderson Bar daily. Dove-gray rooms are decorated with a series of artworks and Penguin classics line the shelves.

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Where to Stay in London: Best Areas For First-Timers

PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


Xx,
Jessica

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