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Where to Stay in London for First Time Visitors – My favorite Areas and Hotels [2024 Edition]

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Looking for where to stay in London for your first visit?

If it’s your first time visiting London, finding the ideal area to stay can feel overwhelming. With so many neighborhoods and accommodation options, how do you decide where’s best?

With two decades of experience visiting and living in London, I’m delighted to share my insider tips on the best areas for first-timers for all travel styles and budgets, in this complete neighborhood guide.

Does it matter where you stay in London?

Absolutely! Picking the right location in this sprawling city can make or break your trip.

With so many incredible sights, neighborhoods and activities spread across London, you want an area that’s convenient and suits your interests. The last thing you want is to waste precious time commuting across the city.

Planning your trip? Use my favorite resources!

🏨 Accommodation: I recommend Booking.com
✈️ Flights: for the cheapest flights, I use Skyscanner
🚗 Rental Car: I recommend Discover Cars
🛡️ Travel Insurance: for the best deals I rely on SafetyWing

London Essentials Checklist:

✅ An excellent pair of walking shoes (for all that walking)
✅ A hoodie or warm sweater (to stay warm and keep the wind at bay)
✅ A decent raincoat (it rains a lot here)
✅ A good quality compact camera (for taking great pics)

The good news is London has excellent public transport links, so it’s easy to explore once you have a central base. The key is choosing a well-connected district that puts you near your must-see attractions.

For first-time visitors who want to pack in the sightseeing, I recommend staying in Central London. This means Zone 1 on the tube map, which covers all the major landmarks.

Here you’ll be walking distance from sights like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Covent Garden, the British Museum and more. Plus great transport connections to venture further afield.

Outside of Central London, aim for neighborhoods near Underground stations. This makes navigating the city simple for new visitors.

Now let’s dive into the best areas to stay for first-timers!

Best Areas to Stay in London for the First Time in 2024

The complete visitor guide on where to stay in London first time for couples, best area to stay in London with family, where to stay on a budget, and more.

👉 Short on time? Here’s my top recommendations on Where to Stay in Central London:

📍 The Savoy (5 star luxury hotel) – Superb 9.4

📍 The Z Hotel Piccadilly (mid-range boutique) – Very good 7.9

📍 YHA London Central (budget hostel) – Very good 8.3

📍 The Clarendon Hotel (bed and breakfast) – Very good 8.0

Best Area to Stay in London City Center

When visiting London for the first time, staying in the city center allows you to be within walking distance of major sights. This saves time and money getting around.

london cityscape

For convenient access to iconic landmarks, these central neighborhoods are ideal:

Best for first time visitors / sightseeing:

Westminster / Mayfair / Covent Garden / Bloomsbury

All the top tourist attractions like Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and the British Museum are located here. It’s easy to get around on foot or public transport.

Where to stay in London for the best nightlife?

Camden / Soho & West End / Shoreditch / Brixton

Vibrant neighborhoods packed with pubs, live music, clubs and entertainment. Perfect for first-timers looking to experience London after dark.

What’s the best district to stay in London for a local experience?

Covent Garden / Notting Hill / Tower Hill / Camden / Battersea

Less touristy areas offering boutique shops, vibrant markets, quirky cafes and a taste of authentic local London life.

What’s the best neighborhood in London for theater and arts?

The West End District / Shepherds Bush / Leicester Square / Brixton, South Bank

Immerse yourself in world-class theater and culture. The West End is home to top shows, musicals and plays in iconic venues.

🥘 Explore the culinary world of London

📍 Enjoy the Food and Drink Walking Tours in West London’s Notting Hill Area
📍 Learn more about traditional English food and culture: Traditional English Food Tasting Walking Tour in London

Best neighborhood in London for shopping

Oxford Street / Regent Street / Bond Street and Mayfair / Notting Hill / Marylebone / Carnaby / Covent Garden / Seven Dials / Portobello Road

Famous high streets, markets and malls packed with top British and international brands. Shopaholics paradise!

Where to stay in London on a budget

Kings Cross / Camden / Brixton

Save money by picking budget-friendly areas, booking early, traveling off-season and taking advantage of free museums and activities.

Tips on staying in London on a budget:

  • Explore affordable neighborhoods (Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Bayswater)
  • Stay near Tube/Underground stations
  • Book in Advance
  • Plan your visit off-peak
  • Stay Longer

The 5 Best Areas to Stay in Central London

Here are the top 5 best districts to stay in around London for first-time visitors:

1. Westminster: Best Area to Stay in London for Tourists

Westminster is home to many of London’s most famous sights, so it’s a fantastic area for first-time visitors.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve walked the streets of Westminster, and I can highly recommend staying here for easy access to top landmarks.

Staying here means iconic attractions like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square are all within walking distance.

It’s super easy to navigate Westminster on foot. But you also have excellent public transport connections via close Underground stations like Westminster, St James’s Park and Green Park.

Westminster offers plenty of accommodation options to suit different budgets.

👉 Best hotels in Westminster near Buckingham Palace:

The Ritz London (5 star luxury)
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge (4 star modern hotel)
Sanctuary House Hotel (mid-range boutique)

Where to Stay in London for First Time Visitors - My favorite Areas and Hotels [2024 Edition] 1
Junior Suite, The Ritz

2. Covent Garden: Most Central Area to Stay in London for First-Time Visitors

As a former London resident, Covent Garden was always my favorite central base with its vibrant mix of restaurants, shows, and sightseeing.

In the heart of the West End, it’s one of the best places to stay in London for sightseeing, restaurants, nightlife and entertainment.

The neighborhood is ultra walkable, with Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Somerset House and the River Thames all within easy reach.

Three tube stations (Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Charing Cross) make getting around straightforward.

👉 Best Covent Garden Hotels for Visitors:

The Savoy (5 star grand dame)
The Fielding Hotel (mid-range boutique)
YHA London Central Hostel (budget dorms)

Where to Stay in London for First Time Visitors - My favorite Areas and Hotels [2024 Edition] 2
The Savoy Hotel

3. Mayfair: Best Area to Stay in London for First Timers (Sightseeing)

Stylish Mayfair is sandwiched between Westminster and trendy West End neighborhoods Soho and Covent Garden.

Despite the refined reputation, it’s a relaxed place to stay with upscale hotels and easy access to top attractions.

Green Park, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace and Oxford Street are a short walk away.

The area oozes sophistication with luxury hotels, contemporary art galleries and fine dining. But you’ll also find great casual eateries and pubs.

👉 Best Hotels in Mayfair for First Time Visitors to London:

The Ritz London (iconic 5 star)
The Beaumont Hotel (boutique luxury)
The Washington Mayfair Hotel (4 star modern)

Where to Stay in London for First Time Visitors - My favorite Areas and Hotels [2024 Edition] 3

4. The West End: Best place to stay for Theater and Arts

London’s famous West End district is packed with iconic theatres and performing arts venues.

Making it the ideal neighborhood for first-time visitors who want to experience world-class shows and musicals like The Lion King, Wicked, Hamilton and more.

Beyond the thrilling theatre scene, the West End offers vibrant nightlife, upmarket hotels, restaurants and entertainment.

Top areas to stay in include Soho, Leicester Square and Covent Garden. All walking distance to major theaters.

👉 Best hotels in The West End District for first time visitors

The Savoy (5 star luxury)
St Giles London (4 star modern hotel)
The Z Hotel Holborn (budget hotel)

Where to Stay in London for First Time Visitors - My favorite Areas and Hotels [2024 Edition] 4
St Giles Hotel

👉 Looking for things to do in London? Why not take a visit to SEA LIFE London Aquarium

5. Kings Cross / St. Pancras: Closest to Public Transport and for Day Trips outside of London

First-timers who plan on taking day trips outside London should stay at Kings Cross or St Pancras.

These interconnected stations are transit hubs with direct rail links to destinations like Oxford, Cambridge, Windsor and Brighton.

Plus, 6 Underground lines run through Kings Cross St Pancras, connecting you to landmarks across London.

The area has undergone major regeneration, with trendy new restaurants and nightlife joining the budget hotels that first put Kings Cross on the map.

It’s a great base for first-timers on a budget.

👉 Best Hotels in Kings Cross / St Pancras for First Time Visitors

Great Northern Hotel, Kings Cross (upscale boutique)
Fairway Hotel (budget hotel)
Generator Hostel London (backpacker dorms)

Where to Stay in London for First Time Visitors - My favorite Areas and Hotels [2024 Edition] 5
Great Northern Hotel, Kings Cross

👉 Related post: Getting from London to Brussels from St. Pancras

🏛️ Explore London with the tours below!

📍 See the most popular landmarks of both the City of London and Westminster Ultimate London Sightseeing Walking Tour with a local guide

📍 Explore the local streets and go off the beaten path: Hidden London Walking Tour with a local guide

📍 Step back in time while discovering the local streets on this Secret Old London Guided Walking Tour

📍 Explore London’s history from another site: Historic Pub Walking Tour of London with a local guide

📍 Discover London’s oldest neighborhood on this Historic London City Guided Walking Tour

👉 Be sure to read up on these tips for first-time visitors to London to stay well-prepared and to ensure you have the most enjoyable trip in this bustling metropolis.

Map of Top Places to Stay in London

Below is an interactive map of all the best neighborhoods to stay in London.

Staying in London FAQs:

Below are the most commonly asked questions about staying in and around London:

Where is the best place to stay in London for the first time?

For easy access to major tourist sights, first-timers are best staying in central London neighborhoods like Westminster, Covent Garden, Mayfair and the West End.

Where is the best area of London to stay?

The top areas in Central London for first-time visitors are Westminster, Mayfair and Covent Garden. All offer great sightseeing, transport links, hotels and entertainment options.

Where should I go on my first trip to London?

Top attractions for first-timers include Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, Covent Garden, Hyde Park and a West End theatre show. Staying central makes accessing these easy.

Is 3 days in London enough?

While you can see the main highlights in 3 days, I’d recommend at least 5 days to have time to explore the city at a leisurely pace without feeling rushed.

Where not to stay in London as a tourist?

I’d avoid far-flung suburbs that require lots of underground or bus trips into central London. Areas with fewer accommodation options like the City or Isle of Dogs are also less convenient.

How many days do you need in London for the first time?

Most first-timers would want at least 5 days to see all the major sights comfortably, without an overly packed schedule. To dive deeper into museums, galleries, day trips and shows, a week or longer is ideal.

Wrapping up

The best areas to stay in London for first-time visitors are within the city center for easy access to sights.

Top neighborhoods include Westminster, Covent Garden, Mayfair and the West End. Each offers great hotels, restaurants, attractions and entertainment. Drawing from my first-hand experiences as a frequent London visitor and former local resident, I’m delighted to share my best tips to make your first trip a smooth and unforgettable one.

Focus on picking a central location near a tube stop. This makes navigating London straightforward, saving you time and money getting around this amazing city!

Further reading: London

For all the best day trips from London, head over to my guide: Best day trips from the capital.
Traveling to Cardiff from London? This transport guide has you covered.
For more exciting outdoor adventures in London, check out this list of 12 top mazes near London.
Here’s The Best Places to Go Stand Up Paddleboarding in London