If you are new to London then you may wonder where are the most suited hotels to match your requirements.
In general, if you are within the Zone 1 underground area then you are sufficiently central to access all attractions easily.
(Just to explain, London tube system is divided into 6 zones which start at Zone 1 in the centre and radiate out as far as Zone 6 (Heathrow Airport). It is cheaper to buy a Travelcard for just Zones 1 and 2 than for all zones.)
There is a hierarchy in hotel pricing within these various central area.
High to Low:
The West End from Mayfair to Covent Garden
The very epicentre of most attractions!
The better known areas are Marylebone, Bloomsbury, Soho, Mayfair, Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, Piccadilly and Leicester Square.
The hotels in these areas tend to be 4 and 5 star. Cheaper accommodation can be located in the Kings Cross and Euston areas and there are several new tourist class hotels opening up around the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras.
The most expensive hotels and apartments are in Mayfair.
Pros: easy travel and access to mainstream attractions including Madame Tussauds, London Eye, British Museum, Oxford Street, Piccadilly and Leicester Square
Cons: Generally noisy 24 hours a day and expensive. Some areas are also "tourist traps", these include Oxford Street east of Oxford Circus and the area around Leicester Square where many visitors complain about low value for money satisfaction in restaurants and bars.
City of London
The City of London, or the "Square Mile" or just the plain old "City", is the oldest part of London and stretches to just over 1 square mile in area. London spread from this epicentre as the population grew but the City of London or Londinium as it was known back in Roman times was a thriving business centre and busy port being situated on the North bank of the River Thames.
Much of the Roman remains have long since vanished however, their presence is still very much in evidence with the ancient walls and the ampitheatre which was unearthed underneath the Guildhall Art Gallery. The Roman Temple of Mithras was discovered in the 1950's in Walbrook, a street within the City of London, to this day this is the most famous of a Roman Temple discoveries in London.
The City of London is London's financial centre and ranks as one of the world leaders in international finance and business services. Some of you might be surprised to learn that it has it's own Lord Mayor, not the same as the Mayor of London, so in effect London has 2 Mayors.
The City of London is quite stunning with many top banking institutions, insurance houses and legal institutions being housed in one of the many magnificent structures. The architecture is a fine blend of old and new, Historical and Modern, bringing a new and different vista at every single turn.
The population is one of the smallest in the UK, workers in the City outnumber residents by 33 / 1.
Pros: Close to the Tower of London and the River Thames, excellent places to visit on days out when visiting London. Quiet at the Weekends if you prefer to get away from the crowded West End
Cons: The area is quiet during the weekends when the workers have left and gone home. Hotels can be expensive during weekdays.
Kensington and Chelsea
From the South Western corner of Hyde Park, known as Kensington Gardens begins the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea abutting Holland Park and Earls Court to the West, with Chelsea being the Southermost area where it meets with the River Thames then Kensington continues Eastwards towards Knightsbridge and Victoria.
The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is one of the most popular places to stay in London with a vast array of 4 and 5 star Hotels. Saying that, there is also a good selection of 3 star hotels and quite a few in the budget category but these are mainly located nearer to the Victoria area of London.
Hotel prices can be somewhat higher in Kensington & Chelsea but bargains at certain times of the year are not unheard of. It is best to do your homework on your travel dates ensuring it doesn't coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show for instance. It can also be pricier when Schools are on their breaks as quite a few of London's major Museums are located in this area, including the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Another attraction worthy of a mention here is the stunning Royal Albert Hall.
In Kensington Gardens you will also find the Diana Memorial, plus her former home "Kensington Palace" where she, Prince Charles and the 2 small Prince's William and Harry lived.
Pros: Central within zone 1, excellent shopping areas such as High Street, Kensington, many top London attractions such as Museums, safe for tourists, huge choice of restaurants, pubs and clubs. Lovely quiet areas such as Kensington Gardens and Chelsea Physic Garden
Cons: Touristy especially around the Gloucester Road area and near the Museums, busy 24/7 (especially on Cromwell Rd), can be found to be a little on the expensive side
Bayswater, located on the North Western corner of Hyde Park abutts Notting Hill to the West, Paddington to the North and Marble Arch to the East. In general Bayswater is where you will find the most competitively priced hotels in London, in particular along Queensway and Inverness Terrace.
This area of London is very central, still within zone 1 with Queensway and Bayswater tube stations serving the majority of the area. It is what you would describe as touristy but many of the buildings are residential.
You will find that with Bayswaters close proximity to Oxford Street and Marble Arch that this is where the visitor is targetting their visits, however Kensington, Chelsea and Knightsbridge are still very easily reached.
Hyde Park is entered via Bayswater Road, this wonderful open space in central London offers a great choice of things to do without breaking the bank balance, be it boating on the Serpentine Lake, cycling, jogging, horseback riding, visiting the Serpentine Gallery or Kensington Palace and Gardens, or what better on a nice Summers day than taking a deck chair by the lake and while away the hours simply people watching. It's all here in Hyde Park!
Bayswater is well served with many different types and styles of restaurants, for instance, on Queensway you can have a great fun night out at the Tirolerhut, a family run restaurant in the veign of an Apres Ski Bar, the food is served by staff in traditional lederhosen, with great cheese fondues, traditional weinerschitzel, applestrudel and beers come in litre measures. The entertainment is something else with the accordian music, singalongs and yodelling, not to mention the Tiroleon Cow Bell show which has been featured on TV. The choice is wide and varied in Bayswater.
The vast array of hotels in all categories means it is a great location for the visitor to London.
Pros: Zone 1, Central, Cheap / budget hotels, it's proximity to Oxford Street, Hyde Park and the West End. Paddington Station with the 15 minute train link to Heathrow Airport. Whiteleys Shopping Centre. White Stucco Buildings and Garden Squares. Good restaurants.
Cons: Congestion Zone charge, busy roads, busy shops, budget hotels lacking services due to lower rates, high density but quite upmarket housing.
Earls Court, Borders to the North Kensington, South, Chelsea, West, West Kensington and East, South Kensington. Earls Court is a sub district within the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.
Earls Court Road is the epicentre of the district, here is where you will find many different shops, pubs, gastropubs and restaurants.
Hotels are scattered all around Earls Court, you will find hotels of all categories, some excellent smaller family run hotels are located in this area, especially around Trebovir Road.
Earls Court area is known to be a bustling busy place.
Earls Court Underground station sits centrally on Earls Court Road, from here you can take the tube out to Heathrow Airport in approximately 30 minutes.
Visitors to Earls Court may take advantage of one of the many exhibitions held at the Earls Court and Olympia Exhibition Centres. These exhibitions range from the Ideal Home Exhibiton to Learning and Technology shows with the annual Horse show normally held at Olympia. Many larger conferences and exhibitions have now moved out East to the 02 Arena so it is worthwhile checking which venue your exhibition / show is being held.
One very notable Earls Court Resident was the late Diana Spencer, later she become the much adored Princess Diana, she lived at number 60 Coleherne Court, a three bedroomed flat which she shared with friends. The property was bought for Diana's 18th Birthday by her Mother, Frances Ruth Shand Kydd.
There are numerous pubs in the area but worthy of a mention here for the good food is the the Abingdon and the Hand and Flowers.
A little further afield, the Hammersmith Apollo stages some wonderful nights from comedy to musical entertainment. Be sure to check what is on if you come to stay in this area.
Earls Court has been nicknamed Kangaroo Valley, a little salute to all the Australian visitors who came and settled in this particular area of London.
Pros: Earls Court is an excellent locality within zone 1. Transport links are easy with the Piccadilly line at Earls Court enabling visitors to get in and out of Heathrow airport easily. Well positioned for the M4 motorway. There is a good mix of things to do. The residential housing mixes well with the Hotels and incoming tourists. Hotels are less expensive than the neighbouring Kensington & Chelsea. Easy walking access to Kensington and a huge choice of restaurants.
Cons: The congestion charge, parking costs and parking in general, especially busy if the Earls Court and Olympia Exhibition centres are staging a large show.
South of the river
A great place to meander "South of the River" is the South Bank. From Westminster station, cross over Westminster Bridge, whilst taking in the amazing sights of the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben, not to mention the London Eye and below the bustling and busy River Thames.
Begin your walk on the opposite bank, past the London Aquarium and Waterloo Millennium Pier and the first attraction you will come upon is the London Eye. From the London Eye continue walking Eastwards, you will pass the Southbank Centre, home of the London Philarmonic Orchestra's Royal Festival Hall, look out for weekly markets here and there are a number of good cafe's and bars to tempt you into chilling out and observing the wonderful sights of London in front of you.
If you have an hour to spare then you could continue as far as Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, but do not rush, take your time as this route takes in some amazing sights which include the stunning, Christopher Wren's, St.Pauls Cathedral.
Gabriels Wharf is another place worthy of a stop off to eat or just sit on one of the many benches dotted on the riverbank and take in the amazing city life passing you by.
The South Bank is by far one of our favourite places to observe London at it's best. On this walk towards Tower Bridge and the Tower of London you will pass Hungerford Bridge, Embankment Bridge, Waterloo Bridge (remember from the Kinks famous song "Waterloo Sunset") a very iconic song from London in the 1960's, Waterloo Bridge offers in our opinion one of the best views of London, especially at sunset, continuing the journey onwards past Blackfriars Bridge, Southwark Bridge, worth stopping off here to visit Borough Market, a must for food lovers and again there are some lovely places to eat, also the lovely Southwark Cathedral is located here. Continuing your journey onwards the next bridge you come upon is London Bridge, which is NOT the bridge with the two Towers, a very common mistake made by visiting tourists to London, finally you will approach Tower Bridge and the imposing Tower of London passing HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy ship permanently moored on the Thames as part of the Imperial War Museum.
Staying on this side of the river offers some wonderful hotel choices although we would add they are on the whole not budget hotels. Hotels like the Park Plaza County Hall are very popular and often fully booked. If this side of the river appeals to you then our advice would be to book well in advance.
pros: Walking doesn't break the bank, it's an inexpensive activity yet you can take in many of the top sights of London. There is a great choice of things to stop off and do along this walk, lots of eateries to choose from. In a nutshell, this is a great day out and you can make it as cheap or as expensive as you like. Lots of attractions including Borough Market, Gabriels Wharf, Tate Modern and Globe Theatre.
cons: Not everybody enjoys walking or cycling which is the best way to enjoy the above. The tube or trains are less abundant in this particular area. Some good, some bad areas.
Hampstead to the North of Regents Park is easily reached and one can be in the West End in around 30 minutes. Hampstead has a number of hotels, generally mid range with some having free car parking. A plus when driving to London and avoiding the congestion charge. There are some nice restaurants and pubs not to mention the ever popular Hampstead Heath.
Greenwich, another Royal Borough to the South East is worthy of a mention, it has a fascinating Royal History, with links to all things Naval and of course there is the Old Father Time connection, Greenwich Mean Time. The Thames Barrier is nearby. There are good links back to the West End with the train system. Even if you choose to stay in zone 1, Greenwich is worthy of a day trip and is often overlooked.
Camden in zone 2 is an area North East of central London, again this is an area we would recommend visiting. Yes, it has a kind of studenty, musical vibe but worth visiting for the market alone. Camden is well placed for visiting London Zoo, Primrose Hill and Regents Park. You will find mid range hotels here. If you enjoy a good pub or club crawl then stay here as there are many choices of pubs/clubs in Camden. Coldplay staged their first gig here in Camden which shows the high regard Camden commands from musicians and the music industry alike. We would say this is not the best location for families with small children but great if you want to be part of the hip and trendy side of London then this is it.
Shepherds Bush is located to the West of Central London, is easily accessed via the tube and buses. The hotels here are varied from 2 star up to 4 star standard. The ease with which you can travel into central London is aided by Shepherds Bush tube station. London's newest shopping Mall, Westfield is located here so worth mentioning if you are coming to London to shop.
Depending on your visit requirements and budget its sure one of these areas will provide your ideal accommodation; if they are available. London can be full during major events such as New Year and Christmas shopping weeks. If this is the case then expect prices to be higher and it may be advisable to look outside Zone 1.