Where to stay in London? A full guide for first time visitors

Where to Stay in London for a first time visit? An insider’s guide 2021

Where to stay in London for first time visitorsWhere to stay in London, England, for a first visit (or even second/third)? This is a question we receive many times. Therefore, we created this guide.

We wanted to make it very easy to understand. This London city guide includes the best areas for first-time visitors, families and couples.

We even included a big map with all neighborhoods and handpicked hotels for couples, families, and friends.

(This guide is always up to date, the last updated January 2021.)

But, let’s go to the most important question first. After, we will explain the answer in detail:

Question: Where to stay in London for a first-time visit?

Answer: Central London (Zone 1-2)

Why do I recommend to stay in Central London?

Sticking to Central London for a first-time visit makes it easy to get to know the transport links and move around the city quickly and painlessly.

Make sure you read my guides to one week in London as well as best places to eat in London. All my guides are handwritten and from my own experience.

For the even more curious, here is another fun guide to 37 unique experiences in London.

Please scroll down for our handpicked hotels and hostels, for the ones on a budget.

There are also plenty of Airbnb in London. I do not have any particular recommendation but have a look on the platform if you do love apartments.

Our recommended areas (as well as the top sights) are highlighted in this map below:

  • Shoreditch (in purple)
  • West End (in blue)
  • Mayfair (in red)

Please note: those are not the exact district borders. I just tried to simplify this information.

Why these areas?

As well as being central areas of London, these are extremely easy to access via the main train stations and airports.

In this article, we wanted to give you all the information you need for your London trip whether you stay in London for 3 days, 5 days, or more.

We cover many things, from the best locations to what to see in London.

Skip to your interest point or keep reading to be fully prepared for your London trip:

  1. Where to stay in London?
    1. Families
    2. Couples
    3. Luxury Traveler
    4. Design Lover
    5. Groups
    6. Solo Traveler
    7. Nightlife-seeking traveler
    8. Budget Traveler
  2. Top London sights
  3. Things to do in London
  4. London neighborhood Guide
  5. Safest area to stay in London
  6. How to move around
  7. Summary

1. Best areas and handpicked hotels for …

As mentioned, the city center of London is the perfect place for the first-time visitor.

I also understand that different travel styles match different needs.

You will notice some areas are excluded or added to the previous recommendation depending on what kind of traveler you are. It is not the same going with the family than partying with friends, right?

Also, I would like to include an amazing Airbnb discount to your first stay.

Let’s see which are the best areas to stay in London depending on which way you are traveling and my handpicked hotels.

Continue scrolling or pick your travel type on the menu:

1.1 Families
1.2 Couples
1.3 Luxury Traveler
1.4 Design Lover
1.5 Groups
1.6 Solo Traveler
1.7 Nightlife-seeking traveler
1.8 Budget Traveler

1.1 Families

London is almost always a noisy city – whether its traffic or party-goers there’s always a bit of background noise – however, there are areas of London that suit a family stay.

Also, you need an area that is easily accessible and close by to family-friendly attractions.

Therefore, the answer to where to stay in London for families is primarily West London.

However, we have also found some excellent options below:

  • West End
  • Mayfair
  • Kensington

This map shows you the areas, recommended for families:

Handpicked London places to stay for families

It is very important to be flexible and comfortable while traveling with a family group. That is why the best option would be to look centrally located hotels offering great quality service.

The Ampersand

Within a few minutes of the family favorite Natural History Museum and Science Museum, The Ampersand Hotel has a large selection of family rooms that include:

  • complimentary cots and extra beds,
  • small kitchenettes,
  • free soft drinks,
  • children’s toiletries and bathrobes,
  • activity packs

The hotel also offers discounted family menus including a kids Sci-Fi (science) afternoon tea! Have a look at the photo below. You see the beautiful, tent with the bed on the left for the little ones.

This is our definitive answer to where to stay in London with kids!

Book Ampersand Hotel here

Family room at The Apersand hotel, London

St. James Hotel and Club

The St. James Hotel also offers a ‘kids stay for free’ deal for a minimum of two nights as well as a dedicated children’s concierge service whilst being in a fantastic location and providing a luxurious stay for the parents.

It is very close to the Buckingham palace, approximately 5-minute walk.

In a walking distance, you have:

  • Big Ben,
  • London Eye, and
  • Victoria Station

The inner garden of the hotel is an additional benefit, great to sit there and have a glass of wine in the evening.

Book St James Hotel here

room at St James court Hotel, London

Afternoon tea kids party at St James hotel in London

The Kensington Hotel

Each of The Doyle Collection’s hotels in London are simply beautiful but The Kensington Hotel is perhaps the most romantic.

Set in a 19th century West London townhouse, the hotel combines grand decor with a vibrant atmosphere with plenty of corners to cozy up in.

The rooms are beautifully furnished and the hotel restaurant offers one of the best afternoon teas in the city.

Book The Kensington Hotel here

Room at Kengsinton hotel, London

Gir Lion Lodge, London Zoo

For a London hotel with a difference, treat the family to Gir Lion Lodge where guests can sleep over at London Zoo.

Yes, you can overnight at the London Zoo!

As well as after-hours tours, a two-course dinner, and free zoo entry, families will wake in the land of the lions to the sound of the big cats’ roar!

Where to stay in London for families? At the Gir LIon Lodge

1.2 Couples

London can be an extremely romantic city, perfect for a couple’s city break.

There isn’t particularly one set area of London more suited to couples. Below is a selection of hotels best suited to a romantic getaway, each offering a cozy night’s stay.

This map shows you the areas and hotels, recommended for couples:

Handpicked accommodations for couples

When traveling as a couple it is very important to spend time together.

Look for a more intimate accommodation.

That is why staying at hotels during your trip is perfect. You won’t have to worry about cleaning or cooking… just enjoying your time in London!

Shangri-La at The Shard

What could be more romantic than waking up to one of the best views the city has to offer?

Stay at the Shangri-La Hotel at the top of London’s tallest building and you’ll be treated to sunrises, sunsets and a night’s sleep above the clouds.

Rooms come with skyline panoramas (book an iconic view room for the famous bathtub view) whilst the 52nd floor Gong Bar and infinity pool are not to be missed.

Book Shangri-La Hotel here

Where to stay in London for couples? At Shangri La Hotel, London

The Rookery

Minutes from the design hub of Clerkenwell and Farringdon, The Rookery is a romantic hideaway in an era gone by.

Dark wooden furnishings, open fires and four-poster beds make you feel that you’ve stepped back in time at this boutique hotel.

Book The Rookery here

room at The Rookery hotel London

Breakfast at the room at the Rookery hotel

The Blackbird Hotel

A flawless pub hotel in Central London made with great care, taste, and creativity.

The quirkiness and small scale of The Blackbird are a welcome difference from the usual chain and business hotel.

That is why it is a great option for couples willing to visit the city.

The rooms are not very spacious but big enough to have a comfortable stay. The room comes with some free supplies in the fridge.

Blackbird is located nearby Earl’s court road.

You will find in a walking distance:

  • Natural History Museum
  • Albert Museum
  • Royal Albert Hall
  • Olympia Exhibition Centre
  • Stanford Bridge
  • Harrods

Despite the busy area, the nights are quiet. Ideal for visiting the city!

Grab a bite to eat in the restaurant or a drink at the bar. Of course, WiFi is free.

Tip: make sure you take the breakfast at the hotel (which is included with the room rate) at least one day.

They offer a generous breakfast selection including:

  • fruit cereals,
  • pastries and
  • fruit juice

As well as hot menu and hot drinks.

Book the Blackbird here

Blackbird London, great hotel for couples

1.3 Luxury Traveler

London is jam-packed with some of the world’s best restaurants, designer shops and luxury hotels from boutique properties hidden down a narrow street, to renowned 5* names.

So where to stay in London for the luxury traveler?

Most areas of the city have a handful of impressive hotels but you’ll more likely find traditional luxury in the following districts:

  • Mayfair
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Fitzrovia

This map shows you the areas, recommended for the luxury traveler:

Handpicked accommodations for luxury traveler

Luxury in London means not only a stunning hotel but many services that will make you feel great.

High-end restaurants, swimming pools, and concierges that will help you take a cab, plan your day or suggest great restaurants in the city.

Claridges

When you think of the most luxurious hotel, nothing quite springs to mind like London’s Claridges Hotel.

The famous residence has been home to everyone from royals to A-listers for over 150 years and its glamour never goes out of style.

Located in the heart of Mayfair its famous British service is a must for the luxury traveler.

Book London’s Claridges Hotel here

Great hotel for the luxury traveler in London, The Claridges

luxury restaurant at The Claridges, London

The Langham

For a West End location, luxury travelers are invited to The Langham, a London icon on Regent Street.

The truly British hotel is famous for its beauty as well as a collection of opulent dining options including Roux at the Landau.

Book The Langham hotel here

room at The Langham, London

Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square

The Four Season’s Ten Trinity Square, the most recent London opening, is located in the heart of the City, overlooking main attractions:

  • Tower Bridge,
  • Shakespeare’s Globe and the
  • Tower of London

The magnificent building is as classic inside, with an impressive lobby that speaks elegance.

Book four Seasons Ten Trinity Square here

Four season Trinity hotel, London

room at The Four Seasons Trinity, London

Number Sixteen

With contemporary design and