When you’re asking yourself, where to stay in London for the first time, it is good to know that London has quite the possibilities of recommended areas. This is because London has one of the best metro systems in the world and when visiting cities like London for the first time, moving around easily is one of the musts. Taking advantage of the metro system, which is called here the Tube, allows you to stay in areas that you might not come up with in the first place. 

Also, travelling by taxi gets quite expensive rapidly and we think that you can spend those pounds on other things in this impressive city. At the bottom of this article, you can find a map with all the recommended areas and the city’s highlights so we can give you the most complete answer to your question about where to stay in London for the first time. With that being said, let’s jump to our recommendations.
 
where to stay in London first time
Where to stay in London for the first time? Keep reading!
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What are the best areas to stay in London for the first time?


The best areas in London for the first time include Convent Garden, South Bank & Bankside, Westminster, The West End, Mayfair and Belgravia. Aside from these common and popular areas, there are plenty of other interesting neighbourhoods to stay in that are suitable for first-time visitors in London. Especially when you’re travelling on a stricter budget or with a (larger) group or family, some areas have their benefits, not only money-wise. In the next paragraphs, we dive deeper into each recommended area including the alternatives. 

Important: Keep in mind that a holiday in London is far from a budget trip. Hotel prices in London are in general high and staying at top touristic locations near some of the city highlights doesn’t make it any cheaper either. There are some areas that do offer cheaper alternatives, but they are located further away from the touristic city centre. If you’re willing to travel by metro, you can find something easier that fits your budget. At the bottom of this article, you can find a map with the city highlights, recommended areas and metro lines. Hopefully, this will help you to pick the right area when visiting London for the first time.
 
where to stay in London first time
Your best friend when visiting London for the first time: the Tube.
 
where to stay in London first time
Buckingham Palace
 
where to stay in London first time
London Bridge
 
where to stay in London first time
Big Ben.
 
where to stay in London first time
London's iconic Double Decker Bus.
 
where to stay in London first time
London Eye.
 
where to stay in London first time
A pub that serves Fish & Chips.
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Where to stay in London for the first time?

 

1. Covent Garden - Tourist hot spot


Covent Garden is by far the most popular area in London among tourists thanks to its central location. Iconic highlights such as Picadilly Circus and Chinatown are just around the corner but landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, the British Museum and the National Gallery are close by too. Keep in mind that overall, the city highlights are a bit spread over the city, and the city itself is enormous. Even though you want to pick an area that’s central, it’s impossible to have the perfect location with all the attractions located within walking distance. So, taking the metro is (almost) inevitable.

With that being said, one of the other benefits of staying at Convent Garden is that you are located near three different metro lines, which makes it super easy to move around the city. As you can expect from an area like Convent Garden, there are plenty of shops, restaurants and bars to discover. For those who are in for a full night out, the always-bustling nightlife area called Soho is also located nearby. As you can imagine, London’s most visited area by tourists does have a lot of benefits but also the price tag. 


For who: sightseeing tourists - tourist hot spot.

Pros: most popular area in London for tourists, access to three different metro lines, vibrant, near the touristic highlights.

Cons: pricy. 
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2. South Bank & Bankside - Transportation hub


This area is located on the opposite side of the Thames river viewed from Covent Garden and is home to Waterloo Station, the central London terminal. As mentioned in the introduction, as a first-timer visitor who wants to see most of the city, moving around easily is one of the important factors when picking a good area to stay. South Bank and Bankside both have that possibility. But both areas have more to offer than good transportation alone. 

First of all, you have this magnificent river view with the Big Ben, London Eye and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background (depending on which side you’re looking). Secondly, you are not far from places like Westminster Abbey and the city highlights mentioned in the previously recommended area. You can wander around here and enjoy the beautiful architecture the city has to offer and a stroll next to the river can be done easily. During that, there are many cool bars and restaurants to discover, though the nightlife scene is far less vibrant than in Soho. Make sure to stop by Borough Market, which is located in a different area, but a short metro ride will get you there. This famous market offers a wide variety of street food and unique shops that excites every type of food lover. 


For who: sightseeing tourists

Pros: good accessibility to public transportation, central location

Cons: pricy, the nightlife is less vibrant.
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3. Westminster - Touristic area with access to the train station


Westminster is yet another recommended area in London for first-time visitors as it’s located right under Buckingham Palace and nearby the Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, Wellington Arch and Westminster Cathedral. Because of all these iconic landmarks and city highlights, Westminster is among the top choices among tourists. But there is a catch. Most hotels are concentrated south of Westminster, meaning that the highlights are not always within walking distance. 

This is something you must understand and that’s why it’s so difficult to choose one specific best area in London for first-timers: the city highlights are a bit spread over the city. So, you need to use the metro or another form of transport. Luckily, Victoria Station is close by, which lets you allow to move around the city super easy as well as travel to other cities and countries. 

Keep in mind that hotels in a top location like Westminster are pricy. You might want to consider staying in another area that offers more affordable hotels but with good access to the metro. You do have to travel a bit to see the city highlights anyway. Then again, a riverside view with London’s iconic buildings in the background might be worth the extra bucks. 


For who: sightseeing tourists with access to Victoria Train Station. 

Pros: top location, good transportation, riverside view.

Cons: pricy. 
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4. The West End, Mayfair & Belgravia - Luxury area


West End, Mayfair and Belgravia are three neighbouring areas located around Hyde Park and Green Park, where you can find Buckingham Palace. Similar to the previously recommended Westminster, you do have access to quite some important landmarks and for those who love to spend an evening in the pub, the bustling nightlife area called Soho is also nearby. The reason why we choose Westminster over The West End & Mayfair is purely the location and the access to Victoria Station, but the difference is incredibly tiny. Also, Mayfair can be seen as a luxurious area with some of the most prestigious addresses in London, so expect to pay a hefty price to stay at some of London’s best hotels. And if you are used to luxury, the high-end restaurants and luxurious shops in this area will certainly satisfy you. 


For who: luxury travellers

Pros: top location, some of the most prestigious areas of London.

Cons: pricy
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5. London Bridge - Foodies area


Staying near London Bridge gives you a few advantages. First of all, you’re staying near the Tower of London, Winchester Palace and of course the London Bridge, which are all popular tourist attractions. Secondly, you’re located near Borough Market, a true foodies paradise full of street food at your doorstep. Another great maker is Maltby Street Market, which is located nearby as well. Then there is the advantage of staying near Waterloo Station, which gives you the benefit of travelling easy to every part of the city as well as outside the city for day trips. For sightseeing purposes, London Bridge is an excellent option. But some city highlights are located a bit far away and during the night, places like Piccadilly Circus are much more bustling. 

For who: sightseeing tourists and foodies.

Pros: good location, plenty of public transportation to move around easily.

Cons: some city highlights are a bit far away. 
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6. Paddington & Marylebone


These two neighbouring areas are located north of Hyde Park and especially Paddington is already located further from the city centre. You have good access to the metro lines while staying in a more quiet neighbourhood. During my second visit to London, I stayed in this area and although sometimes you do have to take a few different metro lines to get to your final destination, the relatively quiet neighbourhood is a nice feature. In the morning, a stroll through Hyde Park and a visit to Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, the Kensington Palace and the Royal Albert Hall with the upcoming sun in your face is something I never got tired of. Conveniently, Soho and Covent Garden are only a few stops away which is where the nightlife takes place. Although not the perfect location, if you do enjoy your relative quietness, both Paddington and Marylebone are absolutely recommended areas in London for first-time visitors.

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7. Soho - Nightlife area


Soho is the place to be for those seeking fun nights out in London. Yes, it has an excellent central location right near other top areas in London for first-timers but it’s dubbed as London’s nightlife area. Those who enjoy a peaceful evening should definitely find another area to stay in, but for the younger generation, Soho is worth checking out. Other recommended nightlife areas are Shoreditch and Camden, whereas the latter is the place to be for students with many live music bars and exciting pubs. 


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8. Chelsea - Posh and shopping area


Chelsea is an area that is located on the west side of the city centre, near Hyde Park. It attracts a bit of the rich and famous of London and as plenty of luxury brands have stores here, you can imagine what kind of hotels you can find here as well. Heading to the western parts of the city and away from its touristic centre, you will notice that these parts are more for residential purposes. It’s these two areas, Kensington and Chelsea, that basically are the buffer zone between the touristic area and the residential area of London, but in a posh and luxurious theme. You can find several art galleries here as well as plenty of shopping facilities. Fashionistas can eat their hearts out. The famous Harrods is only one neighbourhood further away. And the food scene here is as posh as you’d expect it to be. 

For who: Tourists who love to shop, and spend time in a posh neighbourhood. 

Pros: Great for shopping, access to Hyde Park, a unique posh area.

Cons: High-end neighbourhood comes with a hefty price tag.
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9. Shoreditch - Upcoming area


This upcoming neighbourhood used to be not the safest area in London as it got sketchy in the evening. But nowadays, with the help of the government, things changed one hundred and eighty degrees and because of it’s safe and still nostalgic, this area is one of the hippest places in London. When picking this area to stay in London, you’re basically located above the Tower of London, which is the east end of the tourist centre. That means that in order to reach other landmarks and attractions, you do have to travel a bit compared to other recommended areas. In return, you get a less touristy area with nice and unique shops and markets and reasonably priced hotels. 

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10. Kings Cross/Camden and St Pancras - Budget traveller


So far, it feels like most areas are kind of similar with minor changes. Some are vibrant during the evening while others are not ideal for nightlife. And then you have a difference in luxury, posh and simply high-end areas. But other than that, the majority of the recommended areas in London for first-time visitors have many similarities. And that is because these areas are located centrally, either on the west or east side of the river Themes. Once you go further away from the city’s touristic centre, then the differences will get larger, including the hotel room prices. As long as you’re staying near a metro station that will allow switching metro lines nearby, generally speaking, you’re good. But when you’re on a strict budget, there is one area that’s an absolute winner, namely around Kings Cross and St Pancras. 

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Map of the best areas in London for first-timers


The next image is a map of the best areas in London for first-timers including the city highlights. The image is in high resolution so you can easily zoom in to see all the details. 
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There you have it, all our recommendations to your question about the best areas to stay in London for first-timers. We hope you enjoyed it and hopefully, you can make a good decision and have the time of your life in this amazing city!
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