See also: Best Things to Do in London
The English capital has some of the most recognisable landmarks in the world and while they are nothing short of mesmerising, London has a lot more to offer. It has been a centre for art, education, commerce and above all a melting pot of cultures for a long time now. And the result is a city that is 'global' in the true sense. A stay in London then, can be quite an experience and needs to be planned well and we are here to help.
The easiest way to travel in London is through the transit lines, among which is the London Underground, the world's oldest underground railway network. That being sorted, there are really no wrong neighbourhoods to stay in London. However, the dynamic and multicultural nature of the city makes London's many neighbourhoods variously suitable for different people.
Keeping that in mind, here is a list of some of the best neighbourhoods to choose from in London.
On the southern bank of the Thames, lie some of the most iconic theatres in London including the Old Vic and the National Theatre. That, aside from other galleries, performance halls, regular festivals and outdoor cultural events make it a catch for lovers of the fine arts. A casual walk by the riverside can be the most rewarding of experiences in London mostly owing to the beautiful walking trails and an abundance of cafes and pubs to choose from.
And for the best seat in the house, the London Eye lies at the western end of the already lovely Jubilee Gardens right on the bank of the Thames. You cannot miss out on the view from the top which offers much more than just a majestic view of the Big Ben from across the river.
And while the area has some of the best known hotels in London including the Hilton, Travelodge, the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge and the Marlin Waterloo, it also offers more affordable living options that have some of the best views in the city as well. The Waterloo station is the junction for as many as four transit lines of the London Underground and easily connects to most parts of the city.
Westminster and the West End
Across the Thames from South Bank lies the City of Westminster. Covering most part of the West End, Westminster houses the biggest tourist attraction of London: the National Parliament in the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, and Big Ben among others. The Charing Cross in Covent Garden, just east of Buckingham Palace is the 'zero kilometre' point of London and the city's literal centre. The area is better known to the international community for the iconic Trafalgar Square. The open space is an absolute wonder, especially during the holiday season when it is lit for the annual celebrations.
The Piccadilly Square and the Covent Garden Market are some of the busiest shopping districts in all of London, flooded with Londoners and tourists alike. The West End imparts its name to the theatre district of the area, which is one of the most reputed in the field. You can enjoy a top-notch act at one of the many theatres at West End, the Palace Theatre being the top choice or attend an opera performance at the Royal Opera House in Covent no far off.
Hotels and homestays are in abundance in the district and offer equally pleasant stays. That is especially true for the Covent Garden, an area where you can find hotels at every corner at a reasonable price. Start your day from the Charing Cross station and explore your way around the neighbourhood.
Just North of Westminster is the neighbourhood of Mayfair, one of the top shopping districts in London. Known otherwise for its upscale neighbourhood characterised by elegant streets and marked by Georgian townhouses and chic boutiques, Mayfair also offers some of the best options for a fine-dining experience. The Ormer Mayfair and Mayfair Kitchen are very fashionable eating spots for Londoners and an increasing number of tourists are visiting the likes of these.
If you were to spare any time from the eating and shopping in the neighbourhood, Mayfair's Crook Street also has a few art galleries showcasing modern art for the ones inclined towards it. You do not have to put in any extra effort to get to them as they are all at a walking distance from each other. The roads are not as busy as the others in London and a quaint walk is a good option here.
The area has some of the best luxury hotels in London, but finding a more affordable homestay should not be too much trouble. And while there are no London Underground stations inside of Mayfair, it is connected from the transit line on the periphery (Oxford and Piccadilly Circus stations among others).
Moving southward, you may find yourself in the company of art lovers and theatre buffs. Southwark, which is one of the oldest boroughs of London is situated at the southern end of the famed Tower Bridge. It is home for some of the finest art galleries in London including the Tate Modern and the Bankside Gallery that will keep you engaged all day long. Just about a minute away from that point is the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, another fascinating stop while you're in Southwark.
The Borough Market, one of the oldest food markets in London also offers a treat for the taste buds. It is a unique experience as you might have some of London's best and most exquisite specialty food at just about any stall in the marketplace. From cakes and pastries to savoury dishes to sides on-the-go, Borough Market has more than what you can handle on your plate. While in the Borough Market, keep an eye out for filming locations for the Prisoner of Azkaban from the Harry Potter film franchise. A nice end to a busy day in the neighbourhood is to go for an evening walk in one of many green parks in the neighbourhood. The closer you are to a night sighting of the Tower Bridge, the better it is.
You will find many a riverside establishments in Southwark to offer you a great view of the city. The Jubilee and Northern Lines of the London Underground run through the Southwark borough, besides a handful of the London Overground stations as well.
Right across the Tower Bridge from Southwark is the hamlet of Whitechapel. A relatively unheralded part of London's East End, Whitechapel is sure to surprise you with what it has to offer. It has come a long from shedding it's infamous past of 19th century murderous sprees and shady neighbourhoods and has developed into the most dynamic neighbourhoods in all of London.
A good mix of cultures, Whitechapel reflects upon its diversity with graffiti and street art (which developed as a small movement in the neighbourhood, only to catch the fancy of the entire population) and art exhibits at venues ranging from huge galleries including the Whitechapel Gallery to open spaces. The cobblestone streets are the best for casual walks in the day. You will also get to explore your own taste in food with ample options available as street vendors in the area. Savour a bite at one the South Asian or Chinese restaurants while you take in the rich (mostly anti-authoritarian) history of the neighbourhood.
You can find a lot of budget and luxury hotels in the area without much trouble. Whitechapel is the main station on the transit line, but there are smaller stations on the London Underground in the neighbourhood.
East End (Shoreditch and Spitalfields)
East End district of London, which stretches from the City till River Lea, is London's up-and-coming area so to say. Reading up a little bit of the area's history beforehand to understand its distinctive culture which stands out in all of London is a great idea to kick-start your trip. Shoreditch and Spitalfields are some of the neighbourhoods that offer the pleasant stays possible.
Spitalfields is home to the Old Spitalfields Market, a covered market which houses everything from restaurants to small boutique shops which can end up taking up a big part of your day-out in the neighborhood and is ideal for lovers of food and fashion. Keep an eye out for street art in the neighborhood as the area, like most of East End boasts of a culture of graffiti.
Shoreditch is one of the best places in London to go out drinking with your buddies as it has numerous trendy bars, pubs, and clubs in the offing. It also has the Columbia Road Flower Market, one of London's most famous weekend markets and also houses some of the best cinemas in London. Brick Lane which is dominated by the Bangladeshi immigrants is a dynamic part of the neighbourhood and has the now famous curry houses which serve great South Asian food.
The area is serviceable through the Shoreditch tube station on the London Underground and a few London Overground stations close by. Hotels in the neighborhood might be a little pricey, especially in Shoreditch which has come to be known for its boutique hotels. More affordable options might need some searching, but should not be very difficult to find.
An eclectic neighbourhood in the truest sense, Soho is nothing like any other part of London. The outlook of the neighbourhood can be best described as a reflection of some of its most prolific residents like Mozart and Sex Pistols. It is easily the liveliest of all areas in London, with streets buzzing with activity all day and even during nighttime.
The neighbourhood has a number of clubs and bars that offer an insight into London's nightlife. The eponymous Soho Bar, the Jazz Club Ronnie Scott's are among some of the most popular spots. The neighbourhood had at one point developed a reputation for being sleazy, owing mostly to its red light district only remnants of which remain. However, as it stands today, following significant gentrification during the turn of the century, Londoners and tourists have flooded the neighbourhood for casual outings. Soho can be best experienced through casual walks in the streets and alleyways. While on a walking trail in Soho, soak in some of the many subcultures that thrive in the neighbourhood.
You can catch a quick theatre performance at one of many local venues at the Shaftesbury Avenue. Find your way to the neighboring Chinatown for a whole different experience. Owing to its large LGBTQ+ community the neighbourhood also hosts several events during the Pride in London festival.
Getting to Soho is easy and you can find plenty of living options ranging from shacking up at one of the many hostels to luxury stays in a five-star hotel.
Kensington and Chelsea
Chelsea is much more than just an affluent neighbourhood that has come to be known synonymously with the Chelsea FC. And while a day spent to explore the club at Stamford Bridge in the neighboring Fulham is definitely a good way to start your stay, you can do much more in the neighbourhood.
The Saatchi Gallery and the National Army Museum lead the list of the many attractions in Chelsea and offers some of the best visionary art exhibits in the city. The adjacent Duke of York Square offers a unique shopping experience, with the open air marketplace in the very chic neighbourhood. Chelsea has had many notable residents over the years and as it stands is flooded with the iconic blue plaques left, right and centre. Enjoy tea or cake sitting by the wayside of one of these as you look for your next stop.
Chelsea has a long list of luxury hotels to choose from: the Belmon Cadogan, the Blakes London and The Hari to name a few. The area is well connected through the transit line and reaching here should not be a problem.
On the South-West end of London lies the Wimbledon village, home to the best known tennis tournament in the world. The neighbourhood, however, has much more to offer. The quaint countryside village that has resisted urbanisation for long to maintain its vintage charm is a perfect setting for a weekend getaway from city life. Large lawns and open green spaces are perfect for a family picnic and quiet holiday.
While in Wimbledon you can always visit the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club to discover the behind the scenes workings of the Championships Wimbledon, the village setup will in itself be a delight. You can find a nice homestay in the village and wander about the streets of the village, visit a pub or cafe in the neighbourhood or even shop at one of the many chic boutiques nearby.
Also, you can always visit at the end of June, just in time for the Championships to begin.
That's it from our side, here's to hoping for a very pleasant stay for you in the English capital!