The Absolute Best Neighborhood to Stay in the Next Time You’re in London Is… (2023)

Think London’s West End is the equivalent of staying in Times Square? Think again.

The first time I visited London, even with experience as a quote “Big Fish” with stints in New York and my adopted hometown of L.A., I was overwhelmed. Bustling, with far and wide stretches and what seemed like a laundry list of must-see attractions, haunts, and storied locales, where was I to even begin? To make matters even more dizzying, where was I to stay? There’s a million plus gorgeous hotels spread across the city, and even more popping up in ever-trendy neighborhoods like Brixton, Shoreditch, and Spitalfields.

Staying in Central London, let alone the tourist-fueled West End, seemed like a nightmare. I thought, “that’d be the equivalent of staying in Times Square.” But as it turns out, staying in the lively and whimsically playground-like hub is the best way to experience the city. The West End puts you in “Quintessential London” with a plethora of hotels (at a range of price points), a fun atmosphere, and no shortage of pubs, cocktail bars, and other unique dining experiences—and let’s not forget the world-class, award-winning theater. Still not convinced? Allow me to elaborate.

The Absolute Best Neighborhood to Stay in the Next Time You’re in London Is… (1)

Ahem, You Are a Tourist—Don’t Be Scared to Own It

In the wise words of Hugh Grant in Love, Actually, Britain has brought us “Shakespeare, Sean Connery, and Harry Potter.” Isn’t that why you’re there? The cultural touchstones and unique British iconography are part of what makes London so exciting, eternal, and, well…London! So, do the “touristy” stuff while you’re in town! Embrace it! And if you stay in the West End, you’ll be at the epicenter for this kind of fare.

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Want to play Queen for a day–literally? Make your way to Fortnum and Mason, the Queen’s favorite shop for tea and all its accouterments. The historic building will have you feeling like a kid in a candy store, as it’s home to a variety of teas and sweets, with entire floors devoted to the art of the afternoon cuppa. It also holds a luxury shopping floor, grocer, and the must experience located on its top floor, afternoon tea. Truly there might be no better afternoon spent than toggling between cups of fine teas, prosecco, cucumber sandwiches, and a cake trolley that wizzes around just for your enjoyment. It’s a must.

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For other touristy (yet delightful) activities, I recommend strolling through nearby Soho, Chinatown, and Covent Garden shops. After all, wandering in London is an activity in itself.

Related: The Best Things to Do in London

Who Said London Doesn’t Have Good Food?

Whoever said London doesn’t have good food isn’t looking hard enough. Sure, the relative blandness of British cuisine abounds in the city. But! Once you realize the city does specific cuisines (erm, anything not particularly British), you’re in for a treat. The diverse ethnic makeup of the city means there’s no shortage of incredible Asian, African, and Western European flavors across many diasporas.

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We’ve got guides specifically for Asian and Black-Owned flavors across the city but were particularly struck by these West-End adjacent spots during our last visit.

We know we just ragged on local London cuisine, but Apricity’s stunning and thoughtful take on classic flavors is not to be missed. A circular restaurant (a.k.a. the most progressive take on no-waste cuisine–down the decor), you’ll chomp on buttery beef tongue in a savory broth alongside tender gnudi and a scallop dish that, simply put, is an elevated, absolutely gorgeous take on a BLT. Acclaimed chef Chantelle Nicholson’s restaurant feels cozy and inviting and makes the perfect meal before you make the 20-minute jaunt to nearby theaters.

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We also love the restaurants at Kingly Court, another diverse and warm example of London’s popular dining hall scene, an easy 10-minute walk from the West End. Nibble on global flavors from Greece to American comfort, to East Asia, and beyond in this three-story, vibrant food hall. It’s situated on bustling Carnaby Street, which has no shortage of bars, restaurants, shops, and excellent people-watching.

Finally, in nearby Covent Garden, we delighted in the whimsy and wow factor of Italian spot Ave Mario. Enter what feels like an Italian Willy Wonka, complete with Instagrammable decor and an audacious use of color, and enjoy rustic, classic Italian cuisine. Ave Mario pulls off the near impossible, OTT, “scene-y” decor, while having actually delicious food. (Don’t forget to check out the bathroom where you may have a Soprano character or two waiting for you.)

The Absolute Best Neighborhood to Stay in the Next Time You’re in London Is… (7)

Take in the Spectacle of West End’s Theater

When staying in the West End, going to a show is a must. Walk outside your hotel door, and you’ll be thrust into the melodic chaos of this district. London’s West End theater scene has long been hailed as the across-the-pond equivalent to New York City’s Broadway theater district, with no shortage of iconic, long-running plays like Les Misérables, A+ list star turns (Amy Adams is currently starring in The Glass Menagerie), and newbie sensations like 2:22 A Ghost Story(Lily Allen made her West End debut in the stage sensation last year.)

I caught the most recent iteration of the show, now in its second run, with an incredible cast, including Tom Felton (Potterheads, get your bras ready.) It honestly was a thrilling and exciting story that kept me on the edge of my seat, and the Criterion Theater’s small, cozy environment made things feel intimate and all the more riveting. Also currently running are productions of Mamma Mia!, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the lauded Jerusalem starring Oscar-winner Mark Rylance.

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Want more London via West End? Use these itinerary add-ons to win over any kind of tourist.

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Want to hit all of London’s must-see landmarks in one fell swoop? Just Uber a boat! Seriously. You can hop on Uber Boat by Thames Clippers and go for a ride on the Thames for under 20 pounds. There you’ll glide by landmarks like Tower Bridge, the MI6 building, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament while getting fun photos. Reserve tickets in advance, in-app. Opt for a fun excursion on one of Skuna’s hot tub boats in chillier months! After your ride on the Thames, you can hop off and explore The British Museum, National Gallery, and Barbican Centre nearby. There’s zero shortage of exciting museums and arts experiences in the surrounding area.

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Dive Into London’s Diverse Food Scene

Hop on the tube outside of Zone 1 (neighborhoods in central London) to Zone 2 or even Zone 3, and you’ll be thrust into foodie wonderlands with a broad range of exciting and diverse cuisines. Into Afro-Caribbean food? Try heading to Brixton for food halls like Brixton Market, specializing in regional Caribbean flavors. Or devote an entire evening to Camden and its unique and very cool restaurants like The Cheese Bar (exactly what you’d think) or local fav Alexander the Great. Staying in the West End means you’re just a short walk to the Piccadilly Circus line, where you can simply tap with Apple or Google pay in lieu of an Oyster card and whiz yourself to one of these exciting dining destinations.

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Walk in the Footsteps of Your Favorite British Characters

Harry Potter, Bridget Jones, and James Bond are all wildly popular characters with one thing in common: they’re all Londoners. With so many iconic films and TV shows filmed in London, there’s plenty of sightseeing to be done surrounding film and TV favorites. You could create your own tour and bop about based on your beloved characters or do official tours from companies like Brit Movie Tours, which have tours surrounding London-based rom-coms, Doctor Who, and Peaky Blinders. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your own Mark Darcy in the process? Cheers!

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Where should a first time tourist stay in London? ›

Mayfair is the best area to stay in London for first time visitors to the city because of its proximity to Hyde Park, Green Park, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The architecture and tiny side streets also make Mayfair one of the most instagrammable spots in London.

What is the nicest place in London to live? ›

Below we have reviewed 13 of the most highly-ranked areas in London for families.
  • Isle of Dogs. It's not actually an island, but this area in East London is situated in a large meander on the River Thames. ...
  • Belgravia. ...
  • Blackheath. ...
  • East Finchley. ...
  • Notting Hill. ...
  • Fulham. ...
  • Richmond. ...
  • Kensington.
20 Jul 2022

Which is better London or Paris? ›

In general, people spend more time in London than in Paris. However, Paris has three of the world's top ten most-visited tourist attractions (the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Palace of Versailles). London has none. We also prefer Paris for a stroll.

How many days in London is enough? ›

For first time visitors, we recommend spending at least four or five days in London, which will give you enough time to get a feel for the city and see many of its main sites. With so much to do and see in London, we've come up with some bucket-list suggestions on how you can make the most of your time in London!

What is the best time of year to visit London? ›

The best time to visit London is March through May when the temperatures are mild and the city's parks are green and blooming. However, late spring – along with summer – is also prime tourist season, and hotel and flight prices reflect the surge.

What is the cheapest month to travel to London? ›

Top tips for finding cheap flights to London

Book at least 4 weeks before departure in order to get a below-average price. High season is considered to be June, July and August. The cheapest month to fly from the United States is February.

Should I stay in Chelsea London? ›

Chelsea – Best Area to Stay in London for Fashion and Shopping. The Chelsea area is a perfect place to stay in London especially if you love to shop and take in some fine dining. Known as the fashion capital of London, Chelsea has a charm all to its own.

Why London is the best place to live? ›

With restaurants, theatres, galleries, parks, gigs and traditional British pubs to be found on every corner, there's no shortage of places to socialise. London is home to the highest number of police officers in the country and is ranked as the 4th safest city in the UK to live in alone or with family.

What's the richest area in London? ›

1- Mayfair

As well as the many wealthy Georgian homes, Mayfair is also home to the world-famous tailor district of Savile Row.

What is the safest place to live in London? ›

Richmond and Twickenham have been considered as the safest boroughs in 2021. Richmond is the safest place to live in the capital. It is a calm, welcoming village with beautiful riverside café's, shops, pubs, 100 parks and 140 hectares of Metropolitan Green Belt area.

Which city is best in London? ›

The 10 best neighborhoods to live in London
  • Camden. Located just to the north of the capital's only international station, St Pancras, Camden is well-established as one of North London's liveliest neighborhoods. ...
  • North Greenwich. ...
  • Shoreditch and Hoxton. ...
  • Putney. ...
  • Marylebone. ...
  • Brixton. ...
  • Dulwich. ...
  • Bermondsey.

Which is cheaper Paris or London? ›

To sum up, living in London is around 21% more expensive, than living in Paris. Yet, taking into consideration the average salary, it is also higher in London than in Paris.

Which is cheaper to visit Paris or London? ›

It will help you make a comparison or find out more about each city. Concerning clothing and accommodation, prices in Paris and London are very similar. However, although London is cheaper in terms of food, transport prices are much more expensive than in Paris.

Is New York or London better to live in? ›

The biggest difference between these two cities is the culture. New York is a grind – long hours, expensive rent, and always-full restaurants. London also has expensive rent, but the restaurants are more likely to have a spot, and the corner pub always has room.

Do you tip in London? ›

Typically, people tip around 10-15% in London, except for when using taxis or public transport, where a smaller tip is frequently accepted. Tour guides do not need to be tipped, but this is up to the customer to decide. Some restaurants add an automatic tip to your bill.

Is London expensive for tourists? ›

As you plan your trip to London, you've probably notice one thing: that place is expensive! London is one of the most expensive cities in the world – both for visitors and for locals who live there.

Do I need cash in London? ›

“If you're in a city, in London, for example, or if you're on a group tour, you should be 100 percent OK relying on a card. But if you're backpacking or going to small stores, small restaurants, no matter where you are in the world, there's a decent chance you might have to use some cash.”

Is Paddington a good area to stay in London? ›

It's the best place to stay for families

Paddington is great for families and has something to offer kids of any age. If you're staying in an Air-BNB or a rented flat, Paddington has plenty of shopping to keep you and your family well stocked on groceries, toiletries and practically any item you may need.

Is Covent Garden a good place to stay? ›

Covent Garden is the best area to stay in London, especially if you're visiting for the first time, it has many attractions, it offers easy access to transport and you'll find some of the best hotels like Covent Garden Hotel, Firmdale Hotels.

Is Bloomsbury a good area to stay in London? ›

Bloomsbury is one of the most central areas for inexpensive accommodation in London. It's within walking distance of the West End, but has a sedate atmosphere and is surprisingly quiet, especially at night.

Is it good to stay in Notting Hill? ›

Notting Hill

Notting Hill
Notting Hill is a district of West London, England, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Notting Hill is known for being a cosmopolitan and multicultural neighbourhood, hosting the annual Notting Hill Carnival and Portobello Road Market. From around 1870, Notting Hill had an association with artists. › wiki › Notting_Hill
is the perfect alternative to staying in Central London. It's beautiful, well-connected and has some of the best restaurants and bars in West London.

What is the safest neighborhood in London? ›

  1. RICHMOND. This area was originally founded as a royal retreat in the 16th century and known as, Richmond-upon-Thames in South-West London and is one of the safest places to live in the whole of the city. ...
  2. BEXLEY. ...
  4. SUTTON. ...
  5. HARROW. ...
  6. BROMLEY. ...
  7. MERTON. ...
4 Aug 2022

What is Paddington London known for? ›

Historically, Paddington is famous for St Mary's Hospital, where Nobel Prize winner Sir Alexander Fleming revolutionised the world of medicine with his discovery of penicillin. It is also where Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince George and Princess Charlotte were all born.

Is it nice to live in Paddington? ›

A bustling city atmosphere, luscious green parks and world-class entertainment on your doorstep – these are just a handful of the benefits of living in Paddington.

Is Chelsea London a good place to stay? ›

Chelsea – Best Area to Stay in London for Fashion and Shopping. The Chelsea area is a perfect place to stay in London especially if you love to shop and take in some fine dining. Known as the fashion capital of London, Chelsea has a charm all to its own.

Is London walkable? ›

In October, London was named the fifth most walkable city in the world, based on residents' proximity to car-free spaces, schools and healthcare, and the overall shortness of journeys.

Is Covent Garden a nice part of London? ›

If it's your first time in London, then Covent Garden is the best neighborhood to base yourself. It is centrally located, has a great dining and theatre scene and is within an easy walking distance of numerous big attractions, such as the National Gallery, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.

Is it safe to walk in Bloomsbury at night? ›

Safest Areas of London

Mayfair, South Kensington, Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Chelsea – all these are largely safe to walk around any time of day. Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia are also very safe, but standard precautions apply at night. Covent Garden is generally fine but things can get lively late on weekend nights.

Where do intellectuals live in London? ›

Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London

West End of London
The West End of London (commonly referred to as the West End) is a district of Central London, west of the City of London and north of the River Thames, in which many of the city's major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings and entertainment venues, including West End theatres, are concentrated. › wiki › West_End_of_London
. It is considered a fashionable residential area, and is the location of numerous cultural, intellectual, and educational institutions.

Is Waterloo a good place to stay in London? ›

What is this? Waterloo is, by far, the most convenient area to stay in London for tourists. It's right next to the London Eye and is right across the river from the famous Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliement and Big Ben and a short walk away from the famed Buckingham Palace.

Is Notting Hill expensive area? ›

Notting Hill

Notting Hill
Notting Hill is a district of West London, England, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Notting Hill is known for being a cosmopolitan and multicultural neighbourhood, hosting the annual Notting Hill Carnival and Portobello Road Market. From around 1870, Notting Hill had an association with artists. › wiki › Notting_Hill
is among London's most expensive neighbourhoods in its most expensive borough, Kensington & Chelsea. Flats in the area start from around £500,000 while family homes run into millions.

Is Hyde Park London a good neighborhood? ›

Hyde Park

Hyde Park
Hyde Park is a Grade I-listed major park in Westminster, Greater London, the largest of the four Royal Parks that form a chain from the entrance to Kensington Palace through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, via Hyde Park Corner and Green Park past the main entrance to Buckingham Palace. › wiki › Hyde_Park,_London
is one of the most desirable areas in London. It has both the open green space of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, while being close to the shops and restaurants of the West End. Many buyers are attracted to the grand white stucco terraces and garden squares of this beautiful area.

Is Kensington a nice area in London? ›

Located south of Notting Hill and north of South Kensington, this upscale area is full of colorful houses, pretty London mews, and elegant architecture. It has hidden pubs, bustling shopping streets, and photo opportunities galore. It's also right by Kensington Palace and its famous gardens.


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