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London's best subway station for sightseeing

My husband and I will be visiting London for the first time and want to pick a hotel near the best subway/underground station that will get us to the sights in Central London, the West End, and the South Bank. I googled best areas to stay for sightseeing and the top recommendation was Covent Gardens. But when I look at the subway map, the subway station there seems to have limited connections. Would Leicester Square or Charing Cross or Westminister be better stations that allow us to connect with different lines? I am so confused because many hotels say "great location" but I am thinking that the best hotel location is the location near a subway station that will get you to or connect you to the top tourist attractions. Am I wrong about that?

Posted by
21291 posts

I like to be near an Underground station served by at least two lines. It can take quite a lot of time to transfer, and you'll reduce the need to change trains if you have access to multiple lines. The Underground schematic map is great for showing you which lines serve each station, but it's important not to use it for other purposes. It is not remotely to scale, and it's easy to be misled about distances between stations, etc. Use a map from your guide book or print something from the internet so you can plot the locations of potential hotels and check their proximity to Underground stations and sights of interest to you.

I like to walk a lot in Europe. I get to see things I'd normally miss, and by the time you walk to the nearest station, ride the train and then walk from the destination station to the sight you want to see, you may have spent almost as much time as it would take to walk the entire way. However, travelers vary a lot in their tolerance for walking more than a few blocks at a time. Even so, you may be able to find a hotel location that puts you within comfortable walking distance of a few of your sights, which would be a plus. Which area to check out first would depend on precisely which sights are on your list. A few may be so far from the center that you are sure you'll need to take the Underground; try to avoid having to make two transfers to reach such places (of which the Tower of London might be one).

If you plan multiple trips to the theatre, especially in the evening, I think it's especially nice to be able to walk back to your hotel afterward rather than going through the walk-Tube-walk process. In that case, Leicester Square or Charing Cross might be good options. Leicester Square is only about 0.7 mile from the British Museum as well as being extremely close to the National Gallery. I don't especially like the Covent Garden area as a hotel location because it is so crowded, but the wide choice of restaurants is a major plus.

After previously staying on the north side of the river (most recently near Notting Hill Gate), I chose the Premier Inn County Hall (between Waterloo Station and the river) on my last trip, and that turned out to be more convenient for me than I expected--but as I say, I'm a big walker. I walked back from the theatre district; I even walked back from the South Kensington Museums, but I guess few others would do that. Westminster Abbey, the Churchill War Rooms, the London Eye and the Imperial War Museum felt quite close to me. Most places of interest would be across the river from the hotels around Waterloo Station, and walking across the bridges--especially at night--could be rather chilly if yours is not a mid-summer trip.

Posted by
312 posts

Hi Nancy,
Bang-on advice from Acraven above. Maybe also do some research about bus lines, as tube/subway supplements. We too are London-bound after a very long absence. The South Kensington tube stop, with its Gloucester neighbour, was our first choice to be based near. Then we did more research and learned that it'd be a better fit for us to be more easterly, say closer to the multi-useful Liverpool stop station, which has three components: tube, train plus buses. I tell you this coz some major stations have multiple functions, including 'overground' transport.
Don't hesitate to create an actual map plotted with places you intend to visit, then kinda 'transpose' it as best one can atop the tube map. Your extra efforts will be rewarded by making it easier to decide.
Btw, I tried to do the same plotting with Taxi ranks but the results were sorta inconclusive.
Bon chance.
I am done. the tube

Posted by
5696 posts

There isn’t one place that’s convenient for all the sights. You are never too far away from an underground station or bus route if you stay anywhere in Zone 1 (I always travel by bus where possible as it’s not much slower door to door than the tube and it’s much pleasanter).

I have stayed in Covent Garden and it was noisy. Ditto Lancaster Gate. I would opt for Marylebone, Fitzrovia or Bloomsbury. Many here like the Premier Inn at Country Hall. It’s a reliable budget chain.

Posted by
3713 posts

The last time I was in London was at the end of a 6-week trip to England and Scotland. I arrived at Waterloo Station from Winchester. I got my Oyster Card and took a bus to my apartment/hotel in the Holborn area.

I was there a week and never used the Tube until the morning I left for home. The Holborn Tube line goes straight to Heathrow with no changes needed.

I used the buses for every place I wanted to go that I couldn't get to totally on foot. I agree that the bus is a more pleasant means of transport. I like being able to actually see where I'm going and get off if I notice something of possible interest along the way.

There are lots of ways to look at how to get from where you might want to stay to where you might want to go. I find Google Maps to be the easiest. You can put in your starting point and your destination and choose how to get there.

Google Maps seems to choose bus lines as the best method. But if you click on Options, you can choose subway or something else as your preferred method.

If you haven't used Google Maps for directions other than by car you may be surprised at how detailed it is, including how long different ways to go will take, even by walking.

Posted by
2927 posts

I stay in the Victoria Station area, bordering Pimlico and Belgravia, usually on a side street. This area is good because within a couple of blocks is the coach station, Victoria Station(train) with so many city bus lines converging just outside the station, and the Tube(subway). In addition, I/we like to walk so we can walk to Buckingham Palace/the Mall or directly down to Parliament, the Strand, or up to Trafalgar Square, etc. We've also walked over to and through Hyde Park. To me, this is the most central location in such a large city.

I also suggest you ask for the map of all the bus numbers and routes no matter where you stay. This map, which we always had to ask for, will get you anywhere with little problems. I prefer learning the buses for ease of travel and seeing the sites simultaneously.

Posted by
3702 posts

There’s no right answer of course, but I think the most sensible London visit is to pick an area where there are several things you want to see within walking distance, say 5 days worth of sites, and stay there. Don’t take the tube at all.

For some reason people don’t really pay attention to all their tube commuting minutes, it’s often 20% of the day when counting the walking to and from stations, waiting for trains, and owning up to the lost minutes trying to find a station or choosing a bad transfer or a slow line.

Most tourists stay to the west in Kensington, South Kensington, Earls Court, Victoria Station, so the recommendations will be mostly for that area. There’s more time lost to commuting from those areas, unless you are interested in the museums and parks right around there.

Posted by
11432 posts

I've been to London more times than I can count. There is no good answer to your question because the sights in London are all over the place.

First, lets talk terminology. A "subway" in British English is an underground passage for walking. The train system is called the "Underground" or the "Tube."

Transferring at a tube station is not difficult. Just follow the signs. Usually no more than a one or two minute walk.

Find a hotel you like in an area you want to be in. Taking the tube or bus with a transfer is not a big deal. Let's say you decided to stay in Covent Garden. The walk (above ground) to the closest entrance to the Leicester Square station is about 5 minutes. Or just get on at Covent Garden to either Leicester Square or Holborn and easily transfer to a different line.

Remember, the more centrally located you are, the busier, noisier and more expensive it will be.

I usually stay near Earls Court because I like the hotel there and I like the neighborhood. It's probably a little further west than you want to be but it only takes 15-20 minutes to get into the center of London.

Posted by
940 posts

We stayed at the Limetree Hotel near Victoria Station and found it to be excellent for all our adventures in London!

Posted by
1300 posts

I like to stay near Victoria Station. Usually the hotel I choose is Luna & Simone as it is also close to the Pimlico station. It is close enough to walk to the Westminster area or just catch a bus. The #24 bus is right outside the door and I use it to get to Trafalgar area. The theater area and Covent Garden is within walking distance from there. The area is full of hotel and restaurant choices, pubs and small stores and grocery shops. I have recommended this area to friends and family and they always thank me. One perk I learned on a trip not many years ago when we were still able to travel was there is a mini clinic at Victoria Station so when I came down with a horrendous cold I was able to get in and get antibiotics. There are also many shops within Victoria Station.

Posted by
2401 posts

Another way to think about it is to stay within an area that suits your evening needs after you're tired from a day of sightseeing We stayed in Covent Garden in an apartment about a 2 minute walk from Leicester Square Station and found it to be within a 20 minute walk of most things we wanted to see or an easy transport to other places such as the Museum of London and Tower of London. While it is loud and busy in the evening, you've got plenty of restaurant choices within a short walk to where you'll be staying, plus you have the theatre district.

Posted by
7980 posts

And we like the Kensington area. We can get all over the city from there but love being back there when not exploring the city.

Posted by
5495 posts

Premier Inn Waterloo (very close to Premier Inn County Hall and London Eye) is a great location. You are just a few blocks from Waterloo Station and its great subway connections as well as train connections to places such as Hampton Court. You can walk across the bridge to Westminster, Churchill War Rooms etc.

Posted by
21291 posts

As someone with a generally good sense of direction, I'm embarrassed to admit I never mastered the art of leaving the Waterloo Underground Station via the shortest route to the optimal exit for the quickest walk back to the Premier Inn County Hall. I ended up with some unnecessarily-long walks. Since multiple lines converge at Waterloo (and I used all of them), I kept encountering different arrival points. Outbound trips were no problem.

Posted by
28087 posts

speaking of convenient stations - South Kensington is often considered really convenient.

It has the District Line which goes around the bottom of the Circle Line route and to various western and southwestern areas, and it has the Piccadilly Line which whisks folks quickly between Heathrow and Central London, and up to Kings Cross and further...

BUT until well into Spring South Kensington is closed to Piccadilly Line trains - they travel through the station but are non-stopping while work is done to the Piccadilly part of the station...District Line trains are still stopping, and it doesn't affect any other part of the Piccadilly Line - but maybe not such a great base in the short term...

Posted by
292 posts

I'm not sure you can really go wrong with anything there. I've stayed in a lot of different areas of London and they've all been interesting. For me, the hotel is part of the whole experience and, admittedly, I like a nice hotel. For a stay in Paddington with a group, that hotel was a reasonably cheap, centralized place but I felt it was crowded and shabby. Personally, I wouldn't stay in anything rated less than 4 stars in that area...mostly because I like hot showers. Twice, I stayed at a Thistle near Bloomsbury. It was between between Tube stations, with lots of shops and an easy walk to Covent Gardens and Seven Dials. I liked the proximity to the British Museum. Once, a friend arranged a stay at the Royal Horseguards near Westminster. Pricey but I loved the elegance, dignity and the weight of history there. For one week-long visit, I stayed with friends-of-friends in Fulham. Being in a neighborhood was a whole different thing. Last time, it was my sister's first trip to London. I wanted a place with a plush, Victorian London ambiance but close to what she wanted to see. We stayed at the Mad Hatter Hotel in Southwark near Blackfriar Station and the Millennium Bridge. It was a lovely, old place and just what I wanted her to experience. We spent a lot of time walking the pathway along the Thames. It was interesting to be in an area I'd never really been to before. Nearby was Bilborough Market, Southwark Cathedral and the Tate. It ended up being an easy connection to our train to the north. For me, getting from one place to another is half the fun and no place in central London is really that far away. Make it your experience. Do you want to be near parks or shops? In a historic area? Do you want to walk places? Is the hotel just a place to sleep? What speaks to your heart?

Posted by
2328 posts

Here's something I have encountered on all 3 of my trips to London--no matter where you stay, there is likely to be work done on various lines, usually at the week end, thus forcing you to to get creative when needing to use the tube to get somewhere. I made connections at other stations, I used the bus a couple of times, walked at others (London is lovely for walking), and when I needed to absolutely be on time for a guided tour leaving way across town at 7 am on a Sunday I just took a taxi. So, choose a central location and you should be fine--I prefer to be near Paddington in the Bayswater/Notting Hill area, or Kensington near the Gloucester Rd station.

Posted by
5648 posts

Last 2 trips to London, we stayed very near the Baker Street station. Unfortunately, the B&B there that we loved, “22 York St,” appears to have shut down - a casualty of the Pandemic.

Posted by
1005 posts

The County Hall area has been my go-to on numerous visits. I find I can actually walk to many sites. In addition to walking, there are various tube stops nearby, and a bus stop outside Premier Inn.

I have found the TFL map of walking times between tube stops (on the same line) to be interesting in informing my overall knowledge of how I may get where I am going. That and various bus maps.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks very much to everyone who helped me!!! I booked a hotel across from the St. James Park tube which is only one stop from Victoria Station and which is just south of Covent Garden so I think we will be in a fairly central location. Safe travels to all for 2022!

Posted by
28087 posts

and when you are back at the room you can walk across the road into St James' Park and watch the feeding of the pelicans. An absolutely tremendous park.