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First trip to London, which neighborhood to stay in?

My wife and I are going to London for the first time the week after Easter. We will have six full days in London and are trying to decide which neighborhood we should stay in? We have been looking at bundling our room and flight as it seems like a much cheaper option for us but we haven't decided on a hotel yet. We could stay in Covent Garden at the Royal Horseguard or Citadines Trafalgar or in South Kensington at the Park International, Park City, or Frasier Suites. It's about 800 dollars more to stay in Covent Garden but is is worth the extra money? We will be flying into Heathrow airport. Would using the tube daily to head toward Westminster area cost too much extra and take too much time? Are there many locations to eat around South Kensington hotels? Thanks for all the help.

Posted by
9809 posts

The South Kensington hotels are about a five minute walk to the Gloucester Road tube station. Plenty of casual restaurants near the station. The South Kensington tube station is about a 10 minute walk with lots and lots of choices.

Frasier Suites are nice and give you a kitchen in your room. It's one block east of Gloucester Road and the others are a couple of blocks west.

It's about 15 minutes by tube from Gloucester Road to Westminster. With an Oyster Card it's £2.40 for each ride on the tube in Zone 1 with a £6 daily cap.

Posted by
938 posts

I stayed in South Kensington fall before last. Nice area with restaurants and museums/parks but it missed the vibe we were looking for. We will probably try out the Citadines Trafalgar next time over just because it puts us within walking distance of more things that we want to see/visit without having to hop the tube. We enjoy walking the busy streets with lots of things to see/do and we didn't really have that in South Kensington.
The tube is easy to use and relatively cheap with the daily cap and although it does take a little time to get some places that is likely to happen no matter where you stay as interesting sites are spread out around the city. I would not pay that much extra to stay in Covent Garden.

Posted by
1217 posts

They typical European hotel doesn't have the 'micro fridge' corner like most North American ones do. And as someone who prefers the extended stay option to a standard hotel room in general*, and who doesn't need a ton of interaction with hotel staff to be happy, I'd go for the Citadines in the name of more room space and in-room amenities.

  • one of our travel mantras is 'We will eat our takeaway from the corner shop on real plates with real cutlery like civilized people, darn it!'
Posted by
5980 posts

Its hard to describe, but London is easy to visit. Just about any sight you want to see is accessible from any part of town thanks to the tube and bus system - or walking. My thinking was that any area close to a tube station is good, so we picked a hotel that was easy to get to from the airport (Piccadilly Line). You should download the CityMapper London app for your phone and it will help immensely. Also do a search for Oyster Cards, which you use for public transport, and give a cap on total daily cost.

Posted by
8249 posts

Are you going to do your "bundle" with someone like Costco? Just be cautious about Online Travel Agencies. Thoroughly vet the company if it is unfamiliar to you. Also remember that the bundles will put you in a larger hotel where they can negotiate the price and still get their commission.

I enjoy staying in the Victoria area. I take the coach in from Heathrow and am 1/2 a block from the hotel. I can walk to a lot of things altho what I sometimes wind up doing is taking the tube to a destination in the AM and working my way back on foot to the hotel.

I stayed in the Covent Garden area at the Fielding Hotel on a Rick Steves tour and enjoyed it but like this other neighborhood better. I'm with Nancy, I'd not pay $800 more for that area!

Nance...I want a report if you stay at that Citadines!

Posted by
25771 posts

Does the Citadines have real beds or pull down ones? I was in one once in Brussels which only had pull down beds which gave more room but was a hassle.

It is worth checking....

South Kensington and Covent Garden are both in Zone 1 for travel. No difference in the price. Sometimes you'll go a bit east, sometimes a bit west, it all works out. Earls Court is on the Zone 1 and Zone 2 boundary. For virtually everybody being in either Zone 1 or Zone 2 will be a good location and the travel price is the same in Zone 1 and Zone 2. Only people who intentionally want to avoid Zone 1 train stations will get a better price not entering Zone 1 on cross-London travel. That won't apply to you.

Posted by
6569 posts

We too usually stay in the Kensington or Bayswater section on the north end of Hyde Park. There are good and fast underground connections there to anywhere in the city.
We take the Heathrow Express into Paddington train station which is not far from the above.
And when it comes to hotels, we don't break the bank in any city. As London can quickly get expensive on rooms.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks everyone for the advice. I'm leaning toward booking in South Kensington area and saving the 800 dollars. If the cap for zone 1 tube is 12 dollars total for my wife and I that seems like a good savings. I'm mapping out all the main attractions I want to see in Rick Steve's book and it seems like no matter where I stay I'll be using the tube for several of them. I'm really focusing on his 7 day guided tour (even though we only have 6 days) to get an idea how to group the attractions to make the most of our trip. I wish we had a few more days but this is all work would allow. Someone asked me about "bundling" my travel it's through Travelocity. The delta flight alone will cost us about the same as the flight plus room if we bundle the two together.

Posted by
648 posts

Congratulations on your first visit. I have been to London about a dozen times and have stayed in Soho, Covent Garden, Victoria, and Knightsbridge over the years, but I keep coming back to South Kensington. It is a real neighborhood that is near all the major attractions (either by tube on the Piccadilly or Circle/District lines) and within walking distance of the V&A and Natural History Museum. As a solo traveler, I feel very safe there.

My husband and I are actually in South Kensington now at the Aster House, a lovely B&B for the Christmas holidays. There are a wide variety of restaurants from neighborhood take outs to Michelin star restaurants within walking distance.

Have a great trip,
Sandy

Posted by
21205 posts

I am with Pam on this one. We generally stay in the Victoria station out of habit I guess. That is where we stay on your first trip to London in 75. It is super convenient for walking, Victoria station is a major hub for transportation, handy laundry, couple of good pubs in the area along with nice restaurants, great breakfast place. We have shifted to the Best Western Victoria and stay in the annex. Our old hotel that we really liked disappeared but BW works well and the price is right. There are probably a thousand location that would work for you. London is big.

Posted by
623 posts

If the cap for zone 1 tube is 12 dollars total for my wife and I that
seems like a good savings.

Actually, it's much less than that. As of 2019, the daily cap for journeys that stay within Zones 1 AND 2, is 7 GBP per day using the Pay as You Go Oyster card. See: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/find-fares/tube-and-rail-fares/caps-and-travelcard-prices. (At current exchange rates, £7.00 is $8.82 - see xe.com.)

Zones 1-2 cover a very large area of Central London that will include most of what you want to see. You'll spend a few more pounds for the day if you venture outside those Zones.

If you stay in the S. Kensington area you can easily take the Underground from Heathrow (assuming that's where you're landing) to your hotel. The Piccadilly Line serves Heathrow, and the nice thing about it for arriving passengers is that it's the beginning of the line so you do get a seat. Once you know your arrival airport/day/time and your hotel, I'm sure people here will be happy to help with advice on that. Taking the Tube is the least expensive option for Heathrow-London (and back) especially if you're staying conveniently to the Piccadilly Line.

I've stayed in the S. Kensington area several times, and in other areas of London as well. So far I've never regretted any particular choice. There are pros and cons to all of them but as has been noted, you'll be using public transit no matter where you are. I hope ou have a good time in London!

Posted by
8249 posts

I've not booked thru Travelocity so I don't know if the airline prices they quote are "live" prices or if you get in to it and find the prices as advertised are not available.

DO look on the Delta website right now. They are having a 12 days of Christmas "sale" and there might be something on their that will work for you. In any event, sign up for their emails and you'll get notified of any sales they have.

Posted by
18911 posts

To clarify the daily Oyster Card cap situation, the OP is referring to the total cost for him and his wife, whereas Suz is citing the individual cap. The cap does tend to inch up from year to year, and Suz has given us the figure for 2019: £7.00 (per person). So £14.00 is the figure to add to the room cost in a less-expensive hotel to see whether it is still a significant bargain compared to a more expensive hotel you perceive to be in a more convenient location.

I'm a big-time walker but still use the tube quite a lot in London. I pay a great deal of attention to how far a hotel is from the nearest tube station, because I will be covering that ground twice on most days, though I do try to vary the exact path as much as I can to avoid boredom. I have a strong preference for hotels near stations served by at least two tube lines, because that reduces the need to transfer. Signage in the London tube stations is exceptionally good, but having to transfer can add a good bit of time, because the walks inside the stations can be quite long.

Posted by
623 posts

Good catch about the two people vs. one person fare totals, acraven. Thanks. I was focusing on the OP's stating the fare in dollars instead of GBP, and lost track of part of the plot there.

Am I correct in thinking that you don't get any advantage on the Oyster/contactless PAYG daily cap, for staying completely within Zone 1 vs. traveling within the larger area of Zones 1-2? That's my conclusion from entering sample journeys on the TfL site but it would be helpful for someone with this expertise to weigh in.

I assume there must be some reason for those two separate fare zones to exist - single ticket journeys, perhaps? But for practical purposes as a tourist using the Tube and buses with an Oyster, I have come to think of Zones 1-2 as a single area in which I can roam and not exceed the daily fare cap.

Posted by
25771 posts

correct, Suz.

Zone 2 is handy for locals who want to avoid Zone 1 on their commute and save a bit of money over the year....

Posted by
5635 posts

Here’s my take. Stay in Kensington at the Park International. Why?

Well you’ve said you are arriving at Heathrow. Then consider using the Heathrow Express. Book tickets 3 months out for considerable savings. I’m heading to London in January, booked my tickets and printed them out last month. It’s what I do every trip to London because I stay in the area near Paddington Station and after an overnight flight don’t wish to dawdle. The 15 minute ride is comfortable and convenient. I would also use the Travelex machines to get 30 pounds.

When you arrive at Paddington Use these funds to purchase your Oyster Cards. Take the Ungerground Circle Line ( yellow ) from Paddington to the Gloucester Road stop. 10 minutes. “Mind the Gap” exit the train at Glouschester and walk to your hotel.

Easy 10 minute stroll.

You’ll be able to walk from your hotel into Kensington Gardens to Kensington Palace in 20 minutes, over the V & A museum, the Natural History Museum , etc.

Plenty of restaurants along Cromwell Road

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks, I was looking at the Park International and the Fraser Suites in Kensington. Is it too difficult to just take the Tube from LHR to Gloucester Road station via the Piccadilly line? My wife prefers to stay the The Grand at Trafalgar Square but it's about 600 dollars more for this hotel. I know the location would be better for walking out of the hotel and avoiding the Tube but not sure it's worth the extra money.

Posted by
3222 posts

There are plenty of hotels by the Gloucester tube station. We stay at the Radisson on Cromwell road, just a hundred or so yards from the station. The Baileys right next to the station is also nice. From the airport, just get on the tube and get off at Gloucester tube stop. It couldn’t be easier. Off peak fare was less than £4 from Gloucester to terminal 5.

Posted by
5635 posts

Yes you can take the Piccadilly line from LHR to Gloucester Road and then stroll over to the Hotel.

You and your wife to decide if paying more for a room
You won’t be spending much time in is worth the extra monies.

Great city. Very walkable and public transport is excellent.

Enjoy!

Posted by
2634 posts

Before you book the package deal, do check booking your airfare and hotel yourself.
Try looking at British Airways website.
We have found some great deals there for our trips to England.

You may wish to look at some hotels in London and choose one for yourself.
I had rather choose my own hotel than to have some company choose one for me.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks I've checked the different sites for flights but so far it seems most flights are around 2200 for 2 round trip tickets so with the packages I'm paying ver little for the hotel. I'll scan again just to make sure before booking.

Posted by
2634 posts

In your post right before the latest one, you said,
"My wife prefers to stay at The Grand at Trafalgar Square but it's about 600 dollars more for this hotel. I know the location would be better for walking out of the hotel and avoiding the Tube but not sure it's worth the extra money. "

Look at this bus map of London.
You may want to print it on a color printer and take that along with you.
http://content.tfl.gov.uk/bus-route-maps/key-bus-routes-in-central-london.pdf

From Trafalgar Square you can access many bus lines.
Very convenient. (You said something about "avoiding the Tube")
This information is given just in case you decide you really want the Trafalgar Square hotel.

Wherever you stay in London, the city buses are an alternative to the tube.

Posted by
10 posts

Oh no sorry if it came across that way I just meant we could do more walking directly from the hotel rather that using the tube every time. I'm not really trying to avoid it just might prefer an area we can walk to more sights/restaurants.

Posted by
5635 posts

Emma I’m at a loss why you say London isn’t walkable.

Each visit I’m there I enjoy walking through and around neighborhoods. It’s how I’ve enjoyed London for years.

Last November it was from where I stay in Paddington neighborhood through Hyde Park along to the Serpentine path for an early nosh at the Lido Cafe. Then strolling over to watch the Horse Guards practice. From there over to Brompton road for a quick peak in Harrods then over to meet a friend at the V & A. From there a pleasant pint and some pub grub at the convivial Queens Arms pub in the Queen Gates Mews. After a stroll into Kensington Gardens to see the parrots by the Round Pond and then back to my accommodation for a nap. Later that evening out the door and a walk to the neon filled free Winter Wonderland. Couple of hours there then a return walk via Bayswater road. Nary a bus or tube taken.

So very walkable for my 67 year old legs and lungs.

And that was just one day out of 14.

Yes I use the busses and the tube ( which I love) but walking is my favorite means of experiencing London.

Posted by
21205 posts

Before you beat up on Emma too much, I would agree with her. Not that you cannot walk easily in London and some area are fairly compact for sights. London is huge and spread out so a lot of what you may want to see is not within easy walking distance. Once it goes pass a mile or two I will start looking for the tube or a taxi. While I love walking it also can suck up a lot of time.

Posted by
25771 posts

$1,100 pp for an air ticket? Sounds high. Where from?

Posted by
5635 posts

Spread out is Los Angeles.

Beating up Emma is far from what I was doing? Bad choice of words I think.

Yes bit of a sojourn from Brick Lane to Kensington Palace. Or from Denis Servers House to Trafalgar Square. Or Highgate Cementary to the Globe.

But from Elizabeth’s Tower to Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square to the London Eye easy peasy. Or Tower of London to St Paul’s. Merely depends on how you choose to explore a city. I walk when I can.

Posted by
8249 posts

"$1,100 pp for an air ticket? Sounds high. Where from?"

Gosh, and I thought it sounded low, hahaha!!

Posted by
9809 posts

If I may I'd like to add or clear some things up with some responses.

I spend 3-4 months a year in London mostly at the same hotel. If I walked out the door right now I could be in front of the Park International in about 7 minutes. I know the neighborhood. I shop at either the Sainsbury's across the street from the hotel or the Waitrose just above the Gloucester Road tube station. (They're supermarkets.)

Do not take the Heathrow Express. It is a waste of time and money if staying in South Kensington. If you can manage your bags take the Piccadilly line to Gloucester Road for either the Fraser Suites or the Park International. From the tube station it is less than a five minute walk to either hotel. They are in opposite directions. (Both hotels are owned by the same company.)

From Gloucester Road it will be about 15 minutes by tube to Leicester Square and then a five minute walk to Trafalgar Square. You could walk the whole thing. It's about 3 miles. You'd be much better off taking the tube.

Quite often, a combination air/hotel package can save money. Look at the airlines for these as well. If you are flying from Atlanta your best bets are Delta and British Airways.

The daily cap for the tube per person will be 7 GBP in 2019. That's pounds, not dollars. In today's dollars that's $8.85/person. So the daily cap is just under $18/day for 2. That's $108 for six days. You may want to look into a 7 day travelcard. It costs 32.10 GBP or about $80 for two. The travelcard can be put on your Oyster Card. The travelcard won't cover your trip to and from Heathrow because the card I quoted is for zone 1 & 2 and Heathrow is in Zone 6. You just put a few extra pounds on the card to cover that journey.

From either of the two hotels mentioned, you are just a few minutes walk to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum. Around the South Kensington tube station, a 7-10 minute walk from Gloucster Road are many more restaurants and shops. The area is safe.