On this page we make an attempt so the first time visitor to London can make an informed choice on suitable districts to look for accommodation. There are literally hundreds of hotel accommodation options each one of them meeting the needs of a particular market.
There is no universal “best” hotel or “best” district to stay in, there are better districts than others for your own individual preferences and budget.
Before we go any further, some key points:
The sights of London are spread out, so are the hotels, even the theatres and shops. Whichever hotel district you stay in you will be travelling around using public transport to visit them. There is no “downtown” area which is an obvious universal best located district. Some of the cheapest hotel districts have better access to some sights than the most expensive ones.
London has 5 major commercial airports plus 3 cruise and ferry ports ringed around it, and at least 10 mainline railway terminus stations each serving a different region of the UK. The most central hotel district geographically has no direct transport links to any of the airports or cruise ports. Hotel van shuttles are very rare, the only one that exists (for Heathrow Airport) is a very unattractive proposition, combining a very slow and unpredictable service with a high price. The hotel districts around the centre do have good links but only for a subset of the airports and may be straight inconvenient for others. Your entry and departure points arriving and departing should be a major factor in short listing hotel districts.
Room rates in London are volatile, business rather than leisure visitors are more important to many hotel districts even in the budget sector. Districts that have a business bias are much cheaper at the weekend than working week, in the leisure dominated hotel districts its the other way around. Highest rates in London are the shoulder periods May, June, early July, late September and October when both leisure and business custom are running full throttle.
A Broad Summary Of The Main Hotel Districts Of London
West End - Very central, expensive, 4 stars dominate, close to theatre and nightlife, tedious airport transfers.
A loosely defined area in the centre of London geographically, (Trafalgar Square is technically the centre) in London. The area is dominated by 4 /5 star hotels with some of the highest prices. The theatre district (but not all the West End theatres) and much of London's nightlife is in this area.
Leicester Square and Covent Garden is the heart of this area and where the greatest concentration of theatres and nightlife are. Poor transport links to airports, walking is the best way of getting around.
Mayfair and Piccadilly is in the western sector of the West End and is perhaps London's most exclusive hotel district with many of London's most exclusive and expensive hotels. No major attractions are here, but some of the highest class shopping is.
Oxford Street and Marble Arch is stretching the West End label to the edge of its envelope. On the norther border of Mayfair this is London's busiest shopping street. Most UK retail chains have their flagship stores here. Exclusive and niche shopping is not here really, Harrods is not here, nor Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges is. No big attractions and a couple of theatres. At the western end of Oxford Street is Marble Arch, around which most of the hotels are situated. Mostly large 4 star chain hotels. Paddington Station is nearby with convenient trains to Heathrow and there are direct airport buses to Stansted and Luton Airports.
Bloomsbury - Very central, walkable to West End, not a budget district but cheaper than West End and wider range of hotel types. Attractive district in itself to stay
Only 15 minutes walk north of Covent Garden and Leicester Square. Very interesting district with lots of bookshops, collectors places and quirky attractions as well as the British Museum. A great area to just wander the streets and make your own discoveries.
A wide range of all types of accommodation, but a step change in price downwards from the West End. Kings Cross / St Pancras just a mile north is much cheaper. The only direct airport link within the district is the London Underground to Heathrow, but is not a bad.