We have had a rare opportunity over the course of this 2015-2016 Arsenal season to experience multiple hotels and neighborhoods in London.
We visited London eight times and booked a different hotel each time, across a few neighborhoods: City, Shoreditch, Bloomsbury, Camden, Kensington.
London is a major city and hotels aren’t cheap. We set a max nightly budget of $200, and selected only hotels close to the Tube. Proximity to the Tube is a partial driver of room rates in London, but well worth it because the Tube is such a simple and budget-friendly way to get around. You can get to almost all of the major attractions on the Tube.
Because all of our visits were short and we planned to be out and about in London, we weren’t concerned about small hotel rooms. Our $200 budget put us in some neighborhoods away from more central tourist zones, all safe and nice, but perhaps in accommodations a bit nicer than we’d have in more touristy zones.
I think it’s reasonably safe to say that it should be possible to visit London at a lower price point than $200 nightly and still be able to stay in safe, clean hotels close to public transportation.
We found that our budget stretched farther in February and March. We got better hotels at our price point or cheaper hotels of the same quality during those months. London weather is probably not awesome any time of the year, but speaking as a Chicagoan, February and March aren’t bad times to be there. (Take it with a giant grain of salt from the Chicago-area roads.)
We have stayed in the Westminster area in one previous family visit, so we’ve experienced the big attractions already–Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, The London Eye, and so forth. You may enjoy being closer to these attractions if you are visiting for the first time.
We exclusively used travel sites to book hotel, including hotel.com, booking.com, and Orbitz. We haven’t had a single serious disappointment in our accommodations (maybe we’re just not picky enough), but there’s no question that different areas have different characteristics.
In the list of hotels that we’ve stayed in below, I’ve put these roughly in the order of our preference. An important note overall is that I was surprised to find that I prefer more modern accommodations. If you want a unique London experience, you may prefer the historic hotels.
Nearest Tube station: Old Street (Northern Line)
We stayed in this hotel during February when rates were low. It was by far the nicest hotel we stayed in at our price point. Modern, clean room with fun details, efficiently designed. This hotel would be suitable for a longer stay. The lobby, which held a restaurant and café, was a hotspot of activity all day and all night, but our room on the third floor was quiet. What I loved most about it was the book theme seen throughout. Books on open shelves are used to separate spaces in the lobby, baskets of books adorn the corridors, books are displayed and available in rooms. The Hoxton is close to our favorite site to date for Sunday Roast, The Princess of Shoreditch.
Shoreditch is a fun neighborhood to visit. Tons of street art, great restaurants, a fun and young vibe.
Nearest Tube Station: Tower Hill (Circle and District lines)
We stayed at this hotel on our last trip to London and, unlike the others, it was quite close to tourist destinations like the Tower of London and Borough Market. Although it’s in a prime location, the hotel itself is on a quiet little lane, Seething Lane. The hotel had nice public areas including a lounge with a lot of comfy seating and a nice restaurant with a retractable glass wall. The restaurant was open to the air on the day we arrived, but closed when the air was too cool to dine al fresco. Our room was small but well laid-out, with a small closet, a large desk, and a bathroom with a separate bath tub and shower.
Nearest Tube station: Monument (Circle and District Lines)
This hotel is in the City, the financial center of London. It’s a hive of business activity during the day and relatively more quiet at night. The hotel caters to business people as well. This hotel had a neat lobby, and our room had a more traditional feel overall. It was a bit tired but it was clean and more spacious than many hotels we visited at our price point, and therefore, more suitable for a longer stay.
City is a great location in which to stay if you enjoy looking at architecture. Lovely old buildings and interesting new structures are in the area, like the Gherkin. I couldn’t stop taking pictures in the neighorhood because there were so many interesting buildings to see.
This hotel is across from Leadenhall Market, which was used to represent Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s fun to walk through, day or night. The hotel is also close to the site of the Great London fire and the monument built to commemorate it.
Nearest Tube station: Euston Square (Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, Circle Lines)
This unique hotel is the “first ethical hotel in the UK,” focused on sustainability and environmental advocacy and was founded by Hilda Porter, a Methodist Missionary. The hotel restaurant was under construction when we were there. We did have a traditional afternoon tea in their makeshift dining room. It was a lovely tea. The hotel had charming, modern, well laid-out, small rooms. Someone had had the brilliant design idea of putting white carpets in the rooms. The rooms were clean, but those poor carpets, with people coming in from the London drizzle….you could tell someone did their best to stay on top of the spots, but a miracle worker they were not.
The hotel is located on a quiet street near a bustling area of town. It’s close to the British Library, home of some awesome documents, including original copies of Beatles music and some more minor historical documents like, oh, the Magna Carta. Nothing you should see that isn’t shown….It’s easy. All you need it love (ya da da da daaaa……). Jane Austen’s desk!
Nearest Tube station: Old Street (Northern Line)
Modern hotel in a part of town known for its street art, clubs, restaurants. Charming, cozy lobby with coffee shop/restaurant, complimentary wine and cheese served nightly. We stayed in one of the windowless room options, cheapest room available. It would be tight for more than a few days, but it was very nice, clean, and modern. The bathroom was tight, a bit too close for comfort; glassed in but not heavily frosted, it featured a real lack of privacy. Fine for cozy couples or a single traveler.
Nearest Tube station: Camden Town (Northern Line)
This hotel is typically outside of the $200 max price point referenced above. My husband invited a friend to one of the matches and the friend was able to access the hotel at a discounted price. It still was not within the $200 budget! They required a double/double which naturally influenced price.
My husband says the room was relatively large, “unexceptional,” “charmless,” but he produced no pictures. (Do you trust him?)
Camden is a lot of fun to visit. Trinket vendors, tattoos, odd houseboats galore. To me it’s not a quintessential London neighborhood in which to stay, but it’s mad fun to visit! Then again, I didn’t stay at the hotel. (Do you trust me?) My husband says that the location is “Great: Everyone wants to stay there.”
Good luck, traveler.
Nearest Tube station: Gloucester Road (Piccadilly Line)
A historic hotel in a Georgian building typical of the neighborhood. We received a mysterious upgrade, so it’s unclear whether our room was typical at the price point. The room rate for this hotel was significantly below our price point when we stayed here in March.
This room was the largest we had in our multiple stays in London, with a large bathroom (including a tub, very rare), and a large closet. The decor was not my style, kind of an interesting statement because hotel furniture is usually somewhat nondescript. The room was very clean, but it had carpet that had seen better days, many years ago. This hotel had a parlor in which complimentary wine was served in the evening and a breakfast room downstairs. This was the only hotel we stayed in for which continental breakfast was included in the room rate. Breakfast was very good.
This hotel is near Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Palace, and the Museum of Natural History. This neighborhood is much closer to the airport than some others where we stayed, making for a faster Tube ride. We chose this area because my husband’s arrival to London was late at night and we had an early flight scheduled on the way out. Very convenient.
Nearest tube station: Goodge Street (Northern Line)
This tiny hotel is situated in Bloomsbury near several universities on a quiet street. It is in a 200-year old Georgian town house with an interesting history, the previous home of Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais. The hotel had a sweet lobby with pretty antiques. We had an absolutely charming but tiny room with twin beds. The tiniest bathroom I’ve ever seen, almost unusable and a bit musty smelling. It took us a few hours, but we came to love the hotel. I suggest looking into one of the larger rooms if you stay here. The hotel has a garden behind it available for guest relaxation. We were there in December so did not get to enjoy it, but it is mentioned by many guests in reviews on travel sites.
The British Museum is very near this hotel. In addition to being close to the Goodge Tube station, it’s quite close to Russell Square station on the Piccadilly line. Russell Square is close to the Charles Dickens museum.
In a previous family trip to London at the end of 2012, we stayed in three different hotels. I have provided information about them here as well.
Nearest Tube stop: St. James Park (District Line)
This is my favorite hotel in London, but it’s not in the $200 a night max price point mentioned up top (although I did sometimes see it come up in our searches this season briefly; so briefly, we never managed to get it). Historic with a charming lobby, patio, and modern, beautiful, and relatively spacious, updated, lovely rooms. This hotel had the rare double/double bed combination that a family of four requires and that Americans take for granted in a hotel. Friendly, helpful staff.
It’s close to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, everything!
Nearest Tube station: Edgware (Bakerloo line)
This is a typical conference hotel. A bit lacking in charm overall, but all the amenities of a giant hotel, including a restaurant. We checked in late with a hungry child and we’re happy not to have to step outside for a bite. Also had a rare, true double double room, reasonably spacious and modern. This hotel is located near the famous Abbey Road studios (you can walk in the same crosswalk depicted in the famous Abbey Road album cover) and the British Museum which contains all the amazing items that British explorers took in their travels, including the Rosetta Stone and artifacts from ancient Greece, Pompeii, too much to name here. Very worthwhile destination.
Nearest Tube Stop: Hammersmith (Piccadilly line)
Ok, this one was honestly a bit of a dump. The room had a musty smell and it had seen better days. It was reasonably clean but not clean clean. What was great about the hotel was a totally hopping lobby, great breakfast included in the price. We have no idea what the real price of this hotel was because it was packaged with some Arsenal tickets. Given its distance to central London, it would be great for travellers on a budget who need a bed and are up for a Tube ride to the attractions. It’s a very short Tube ride to and from the airport.
London is such a great destination. No matter where you stay, you’ll almost certainly come home with great experiences, memories, and photos.