London is one of the great world cities but if you are planning your first visit to London it can be overwhelming especially when looking at what area and which hotels to stay at. In this where to stay in London first time guide we will break down all the best areas of London to stay in for first time visitors and the best hotels in each area for every budget to help you pick the perfect London accommodation.
Note: Written by a Londoner
London is a vast metropolitan area with over 30 boroughs however in this guide we will be recommending the more central areas as if it is your first time in London you will not be wanting to waste a lot of time travelling to the main attractions especially if you have limited time in the city. While you are here be sure to check out the perfect 4 day London itinerary for first timers.
Where to Stay in London First Time Guide
Where to stay in London for the first time: London Southbank
We are often asked by friends and family where to stay in London for the first time visitor and one of the places I always suggest is the London Southbank. One of the reasons we love the London Southbank is that it is so close to many of the tourist attractions as well as a wealth of restaurants and of course having great public transport links.
By staying on the London Southbank you are within walking distance to :
- London Eye (advance booking is essential)
- London Merlin Attractions such as Sealife Centre, Shrek and London Dungeons
- The Globe Theatre
- Tate Modern
- Borough Market
to name just a few. You also have great public transport access being close to London Waterloo which offers both London Underground services as well as train links to places such as Hampton Court Palace, one of my favourite day trips from London. The South Bank is also a great place to be situated for foodies as you are adjacent to Borough Market and the Southbank has a good variety of restaurants at every price point. There are also family friendly dining options here such as Giraffe, Wahacca and Pizza Express to name but a few. There is also a good playground next to the London Eye if families decide to stay here and need somewhere for their kids to blow off some steam.
Best London hotels for first time visitors on the Southbank
Budget: Now I like a bit of luxury but when I am in London I will often look at some of the more budget hotels as I spend hardly anytime in the hotel. Whenever I am looking at budget hotels in the UK and London in particular one of the chains that I always look to is Premier Inn. Premier Inn is a budget hotel chain but offers good sized, quality clean rooms and they have some pretty great locations too like the Premier Inn County Hall.
There is another Premier Inn further along the Southbank – Premier Inn Southwark (click here to see reviews of this alternative).
MidRange: The County Hall section of the London Southbank is a great option for travellers as you are practical on top of the London Eye. If you are looking for a midrange property in this area then the Park Plaza County Hall is another highly rated option.
Luxury: There are a few good high-end/luxury options along the Southbank. If you are a Marriott Rewards member then the best option for you may be the London Marriott County Hall.
However if you want something a bit different and iconic then I would look at Sea Containers formerly Mondrian London. This property is at the other end of the Southbank to the County Hall Hotels but is an equally good position The restaurant here has one of my favourite London views looking over the Millennium Bridge and St Pauls Cathedral. Formerly The Mondrian this hotel has some beautiful bespoke interior decorations. This hotel does have family rooms however I think this hotel is particularly suitable for couples looking for a special weekend away.
Why Covent Garden is the Answer to where to stay when Visiting London for the First Time
When looking at where to stay when visiting London for the first time Covent Garden is definitely not an area that should be overlooked. If you want to be in the heart of everything then Covent Garden is a great location to be in. Covent Garden is served by the Piccadilly Line, a useful line for getting around London but is within walking distance of both Holborn, Embankment and Leicester Square Underground stations.
Covent Garden is close to :
- Major Shopping Areas of London
- London Theatreland
- London Film Museum and London Transport Museum (my favourite museum to visit in London with toddlers).
- National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery
- Trafalgar Square
Best London Covent Hotels for London first timers:
Budget: Now the Covent Garden Area isn’t renowned for its wealth of good quality budget hotels so budget here can be a bit more expensive that in other areas. If you are looking for a good budget option my go to again is Premier Inn. The Premier Inn in Covent Garden (St Martin Lane Location) is actually a Premier Inn Hub hotel. These hotel rooms are smaller than the usual Premier Inn rooms however they are actually quite high tech with apple tv with ability to mirror your phone which I like. If you don’t mind a smaller room but is still of good quality then the Premier Inn Hub might be perfect for you.
Another good hotel in this area is the Z Hotel Covent Garden with a location close to the piazza of Covent Garden.
Mid-Range: Again mid-range hotels in Covent Garden can be on the pricier side but one hotel that gets consistently high reviews across all the online travel agent sites is the Fielding Hotel. This hotel is adjacent to the Royal Opera House and meters from the tube stop.
If you prefer a branded mid range Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercier Street is another highly rated hotel across the board.
Luxury Hotels: Now you aren’t short of high end / luxury hotels in Covent Garden. When I celebrated my birthday in London we stayed as One Aldwych as a treat and I have to say that we had an absolutely amazing time at this hotel. The staff at this modern hotel were extremely helpful, the rooms and restuarants on site are beautiful (The Aldwych does the famous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea) but my favourite feature on site is the pool. Not many hotels in London have pools so this is a treat to have but on top of that this pool has underwater music!
However if you would like to stay at an institution on the London hotel scene then the Savoy might be the place for you. This is a beautiful art deco hotel that has quite a history and is often featured in films and Tv.
Fun fact about the Savoy is that it is one of the few places in London where the traffic drives on the wrong side of the road.
For a full Covent Garden area guide check out this post.
Why Tower Bridge might be the best place to stay in London for first time visitors
Tower Bridge at the East end of the London Southbank and spreading across to the North side of the river might be the best place to stay in London for first time visitors who want to be close to some of London’s most famous landmarks including
- London Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- Borough Market
- St Pauls Cathedral
Best Places to stay in London for first time visitors in the Tower Bridge Area
Budget: I’m starting to feel a bit like a broken record but my top budget hotel choice in this area would again be a Premier Inn – this time Premier Inn Tower Bridge. This is another clean and comfortable hotel perfect for those on a budget but who are looking for a good standard of room in a great location.
Midrange: A good mid-range hotel in the London Bridge area is the Double Tree Hilton. This hotel has great views of the London skyline and is metres away from the Tower Bridge Tube Stop.
Luxury: If you are looking for luxury in this area then there is literally one hotel I would look at -The Shangri-La. The Shangri La is special because it is housed on levels 32-54 of the Shard – the tallest and one of the most iconic buildings in London. Among this hotels claims to fame is that it has the highest bar in London. If you want a treat and to stay in an iconic London building then I am not sure that the Shangri-La can be beaten. I would particularly say that this hotel is suitable for couples looking for something special.
Kensington – the answer to where to stay in London with kids
Kensington is now my go to area when we travel to London. As we are travelling to London with kids we find this area one of the best areas to stay in with families because of its proximity to family friendly London attractions including parks and some of London’s best museums – as an added bonus these are free things to do in London. In my opinion the Princess Diana Memorial Playground is actually one of if not the best thing to do in London with kids.
For a full family friendly London itinerary check out this post.
Note: Kensington is a large borough. We recommend staying in South Kensington over other parts of the borough.This is the part of Kensington that is home to the parks, museums and good range of hotels. It is walking distance from the main attractions and has a good mix of restaurants that are particularly suitable for families.
By staying in South Kensington you are close to:
- Natural History Museum
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Science Museum
- Kensington Palace
- Hyde Park and the Princess Diana Memorial Playground
The best places to stay in London with a family in the South Kensington Area
The South Kensington area is not renowned for its budget hotel options and hotels here tend to be in the mid-range and luxury bracket. But here are the best places to stay in London with a family in the South Kensington area in the midrange and luxury brackets.
Midrange: When I travelled to South Kensington for work I always stayed at The Queens Gate Hotel. This is metres away from all the museums in this area. The hotel is recently refurbished and is a great option for families as the rooms are a good size for London.
If you would prefer a branded hotel in the midrange then another good option in this area is Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt.
Luxury: The Ampersand is a great option for a luxury hotel in South Kensington. The Ampersand is a boutique hotel that is a stones throw from South Kensington Station. It also has a renowned London afternoon tea which is Science themed that is currently top of the London afternoon teas that I would like to try.
Kings Cross/ Bloomsbury
Bloomsbury is another nice area to stay in because of its proximity to great tourist attractions such as
- British Museum
- British Library
- Wellcome Collection (medical museum)
- Grany Museum of Zoology
- Platform 9 and 3/4s
But perhaps one of the best reasons to stay in this area is the public transport options. The area is connected to many of the London Underground Lines but it is also home to not one but three of the London train stations – Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston. These train service service north of London particularly well so if you are looking to do some day trips from London to places such as York and Cambridge then this is a perfect place to stay.
St Pancras is also home to the Eurostar so if you are planning to combine your London itinerary with a trip to Paris then this is a perfect place for you to stay.
Note: When I am picking my hotel in this area I personally try and avoid the hotels directly around Euston as this is not my favourite area. I either try and be in the heart of Bloomsbury or around Kings Cross.
Budget: Broken record time again but again the best budget hotel in this area is the Premier Inn Kings Cross
Midrange: This is another hotel I stay at frequently. The Great Northern Hotel is literally adjacent to Kings Cross and some rooms overlook the beautiful glass roof of the station. The rooms here can be on a little on the small size but they are themed after art deco sleeper train carriages so it works for the theming. The restaurant at this hotel is particularly good especially for breakfast. I also love that there are pantries at the end of every corridor of this hotel which are fully stocked with tea, coffee, snacks and a lovely Victoria Sponge.
Note: Some rooms in this hotel only have a bath so if you want a shower be sure to make sure that has a room with a shower or shower and a bath.
Luxury: St Pancra the Renaissance. I have not yet managed to stay at this hotel yet but it is the top hotel on my London bucket list. I have been lucky enough to go inside though and its opulent and luxurious decor have made me want to stay. There is also a lovely champagne bar in this hotel. If you have an early Eurostar this hotel is the closest being at the station.
So that is my Where to stay in London first time guide – Where did you stay on your first visit to London?