Where to stay when in London


North, South, East or West? Or right in the middle? Like any city, where to stay in London can be a bit of a mystery when you first arrive – and the city’s ever-changing geography may also surprise visitors who think they already know the lay of the land.

We've taken the difficulty out of finding the perfect London accommodation to suit you. Image credit: Susan Yin/Unsplash
We’ve taken the difficulty out of finding the perfect London accommodation to suit you. Image credit: Susan Yin/Unsplash

Here, we profile all four corners of the great metropolis to help you work out which is the best area to stay in London for you.

West – where luxury London hotels line every street

For those seeking a classic, luxurious taste of London at its classiest and most genteel, West might well be best. Exquisite, world-class restaurants, great shopping, sophisticated streets, and the city’s museum quarter all add up to an irresistible combo for visitors who want a quintessential experience.

With a high concentration of luxury London hotels, the neighborhoods of Kensington, Knightsbridge, and Mayfair are peppered with five-star establishments like The Stafford and the world-renowned grandeur of The Ritz.

Less about luxury, more about museums? London’s ‘Albertropolis’ (really!) in South Kensington is the heartland for eye-popping inspiration – and has some mighty fine family hotels to boot. Eden’s Plaza Kensington and the Queen’s Gate Hotel are both just a stone’s throw from the glorious Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum too. Perfect crash pads for exploring.

There are also plenty of boutique hotels, London-style. The Laslett, in Notting Hill, combines old-fashioned, understated British charm with a clean, minimal style. Or consider La Suite West in Bayswater for an incredible location (right next to Hyde Park), vegan menu options, and all-around hospitality. Best of all, both are inside gorgeous, converted Victorian townhouses – with a flavor of the London you know and love from films like “Paddington” and “Mary Poppins”.

The Laslett's master bedroom suite, Image credit: The Laslett
The Laslett’s master bedroom suite. Image credit: The Laslett

Finally, let’s not neglect some unabashed, self-indulgent retail therapy. West has more than its fair share on this front, with Knightsbridge taking pride of place for luxury, boutique shopping, and celeb-spotting. Uptown institution The Berkeley is widely regarded as one of the best spa hotels in London, while The Lanesborough is steeped in rich heritage, with 24-hour butler service on standby for every guest. Indulgent shopping trips to Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols have never been easier. Alternatively, consider Shepherd’s Bush for more modern shopping – Dorsett Shepherd’s Bush is a short hop from the expansive Westfield center, a real retail Mecca.

The Royal suite living room at The Lanesborough. Image credit: The Lanesborough
The Royal suite living room at The Lanesborough. Image credit: The Lanesborough

South – a patchwork of colorful, vibrant London hotels

South of the river Thames, London stretches itself out in all its many colors. Here, you’ll find a huge variety of neighborhoods, each one its own, self-contained little citadel. Remember, London has always, at heart, been a patchwork of smaller towns and villages; down South you’ll get the real essence of that. From the wonderful waterside vibes of the South Bank and late-night clubbing around Elephant and Castle, down to lively Brixton, genteel Dulwich and bustling Clapham – each patch has a staggeringly strong identity that’s bound to excite urban explorers.

The South Bank currently seems to be on a mission to become a byword for stylish, contemporary hotel chic. Alongside the nautical fantasia of Sea Containers London (formerly Mondrian London), citizenM London Bankside is a tempting choice for design vultures. Small but beautiful, fully functioning rooms make it tailor-made for solo travelers in search of something distinctive.   

citizenM's interiors are bright splashes of color, a contrast to London's often grey landscape. Image credit: CitzenM Bankside
citizenM Bankside’s interiors are bright splashes of color, a contrast to London’s often grey landscape. Image credit: CitzenM Bankside

If you want to dial up the luxury – and truly feel on top of the world – book yourself into the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard. This is lofty opulence at its pinnacle. With unparalleled views and the highest infinity pool in London, it’s truly something special – and might be both one of the most romantic hotels in London and the best hotel in London for couples.

Brixton has long been one of the most buzzing enclaves of South London – famous for reggae, riots, a thriving music scene, and much more in-between. Far away from the polished center, it still feels like an infinitely more authentic, working patch of the big city. If this floats your boat, consider a stay at the Church Street Hotel in nearby Camberwell, which bills itself as a Spanish-American oasis in the heart of South London. A gem of a London boutique hotel, its simple, lovingly presented rooms and friendly service make it the perfect launch pad for a real local adventure.

Clapham, centered around the always-popular Clapham Common, has always felt like its own unique little bubble – best known as home to the UK’s busiest railway station. But there’s plenty more on offer besides trainspotting, with some gorgeous old pubs and top-drawer cafes in which to mingle with the young, vibrant residents. The Windmill is one such establishment; step inside this homely pub hotel and warm your bones against an old fireplace and easygoing hospitality. Rooms balance out comforting, old-style fittings with quirky little details and spacious beds.    

Finally, it would be a crime of Grindelwaldian proportions not to mention The Georgian House, a Harry Potter-themed guesthouse that brings a touch of magic to the London bed and breakfast scene. Near Pimlico and the river, this charming old building has been wizarded up from head to toe, offering guests the chance to stay in Enchanted Chambers, festooned with Potter-inspired details. Wander mysterious, gothic stone corridors, uncover hidden bookcase doors and wrap up your adventure by Slytherin-to (sorry) a plush four-poster bed. For those with the hots for Hogwarts, this may be the clincher when it comes to choosing where to stay in London.

East – an eclectic offering of boutique London hotels

The remarkable transformation the city’s Eastern half has undergone in recent decades has proven a consistent talking point for Londoners. The good: a plethora of awesome, creative, ethical businesses have reinvigorated once-deprived areas, improving the experience of living there and just making them nicer. The bad, and indeed ugly: the same wave of change has pushed up prices, enticed big property developers, and in some cases, damaged communities. The G-word – gentrification – is still very much the topic on every East Londoner’s mind – and something to consider when you’re thinking about where to stay in London.

And there’s no getting around the fact that it’s that very tension that makes East London so intoxicatingly cool, eclectic, and fun to hang out in. For pin-sharp cafes and coffee bars, trendy art galleries, graffiti tours, and new and inspiring pop-up eateries, there’s a kindred spirit with Berlin in the East’s style and spirit.

Let’s dive straight into the maelstrom of hip with The Hoxton Shoreditch, one of the most stylish boutique hotels London has to offer. Alongside Ace Hotel, the vibe here is impeccably understated, arty cool – a true reflection of the creative industries and individuals that are two-a-penny in this neck of the woods. A complete hotel experience offers you co-working spaces, great bars and restaurants, and a smorgasbord of carefully-curated cultural events, all tied together with some subtle, Instagram-friendly Scandinavian-style design. Whether you’re out East to party, work, relax, or explore, these experience-focused hotels capture the zeitgeist and are right in the heart of the action.

One of the rooms offered at The Hoxton Shoreditch. Image credit: The Hoxton
One of the rooms offered at The Hoxton Shoreditch. Image credit: The Hoxton

If you’re reading all this and thinking “but what about the real East London?”, don’t worry – we have a suggestion. Town Hall Hotel is a luxurious bolthole in Bethnal Green, an area of the East that still feels strikingly authentic, and is dotted with some fantastic old-school pubs and bars. Set in the original neighborhood town hall, Town Hall Hotel riffs on the history and splendor of its namesake while also catering to discerning guests who enjoy the best in food, drink, entertainment, and relaxation. As a base for exploring the streets, squares, parks, and canals of the wild East, its location is nigh on unbeatable, and with rooms sporting traditional Edwardian features or loft apartment touches, it’s tailored for unwinding in style too.     

Hunting for hotels in London for couples ahead of Valentine’s Day? Check out 40 Winks in Stepney Green – if you’re able to get a booking. This self-proclaimed ‘”micro boutique” hotel has a very limited number of rooms, which is partly why the hype around it is so intense. However, it’s justified in many other ways as well, most notably in how 40 Winks provides all guests with a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable, and enchanting stay, filled with bespoke storytelling and charm.  

The music room at 40 Winks. Image credit: Linnea Hurtig
The music room at 40 Winks. Image credit: Linnea Hurtig

Last, but certainly not least, Stoke Newington comes highly recommended for those heading East – and the Rose and Crown pub and hotel really sums up this marvelous little corner of the city. With sumptuous wood-panelling, comforting fittings, and outstanding pub grub and beer – plus a private roof terrace for guests – this is a no-nonsense slice of East London social life at its finest, and is completely ideal for exploring your surroundings by bike (the East’s transport mode of choice, naturally) or book a convenient and fast Blacklane car service in London.

North – one of the best areas to stay in London

Echoing South London (though don’t tell the locals that), the city’s Northern reaches offer up an eclectic mix of down-to-earth, edgy cool and fancy, upmarket indulgence with a little hint of countryside (I’m looking at you, Hampstead). While it may not sport the Hollywood familiarity of central and West London, there’s still plenty of inspiring historical and cultural currents to hook into when you go rambling into the North, from suffragettes to political powerhouses, poets to psychological pioneers. Could it be the best area to stay in London for the thinking visitor? Take that, snooty Southerners.    

Camden Town has long been linked to the legend of modern London, with its incredible music pedigree (Amy Winehouse, punk, Britpop) and status as an alternative epicenter full of tattoos, t-shirts, denim, and leather. It remains a vibrant, brilliant night out, and can now be enjoyed in a more luxurious style thanks to the York & Albany, a plush, boutique London hotel twinned with an outstanding Gordon Ramsey restaurant. The ambiance here couldn’t be further away from Camden’s rough-and-ready vibes – but perhaps you deserve a four-poster bed and a glass of champagne after a night on the tiles.

Elsewhere, Highgate is a real jewel in the crown for visitors who love long walks and lazy pub lunches. The illustrious Highgate Cemetery may sound like a surefire downer but, in fact, offers one of the finest death-related days out London has to offer. Famous graves include Douglas Adams, Christina Rossetti, Michael Faraday, and Karl Marx, and the beautifully preserved avenues are ripe for a reflective stroll. Sadly, there aren’t many hotel options in the direct vicinity, but nearby Hampstead instead offers up some great choices, including Haverstock Hotel – a chic, modern spot with a minimalist, monochrome design. Or for something more traditional, The King William IV is a pub hotel within spitting distance of the lovely Hampstead Heath and the house of romantic poet John Keats – which might just swing it for literature lovers (or just lovers full stop) wondering where to stay in London.

Looking for something completely different? We give you Green Rooms, an awesome, arty hotel smack bang in the middle of Wood Green, situated in a huge, gorgeous old building from the 1920s. While the local neighborhood isn’t renowned as a tourist hotspot, Green Rooms has reinvented its site to offer a laid back stylish paradise that hosts arts, music and a pop-up kitchen in its welcoming downstairs lounge, and simple but lovable rooms upstairs.     There’s plenty to explore in the North’s long streets – which is why we advise that you book a reliable Blacklane car service in London to get you from A to B. After all, when you’re discovering a new city for yourself, it makes sense to do it in style.

Central London – where spa hotels and tourist sights abound

Of course, sometimes you want the best of all worlds – and choosing from one of the many luxurious central London hotels is just the way to get it when you’re fresh in town. Whether you’re heading to Theatreland for a dazzling new West End show or hoping to get your selfie game on in Trafalgar Square, a hotel in the heart of it all is just the ticket. From the impeccably styled Hospital Club in Covent Garden to the new enfant terrible of the scene, The Ned in the City of London, choose which hotel in central London best suits your trip.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Hagan

Nick Hagan is a freelance writer based in London and Oxford, UK. He writes about culture, travel, food and drink and just about everything in-between, and is fueled by coffee, music and re-runs of "Agatha Christie's Poirot".