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London neighborhood/hotel recommendations for first kid-free vacation for a couple?

My husband and I just booked our flights to London for February 2016. We'll be leaving our 3.5-year-old daughter with my in-laws, so this will be our first kid-free vacation since becoming parents. Rick's London book is on the way from Amazon, but I wanted to solicit opinions on what neighborhoods and hotels we should target for our stay.

A little about us and what we're looking for:

  • We're in our late 30's and from Seattle.

  • Food-wise, our preference leans towards small, ethnic restaurants. (We love Indian food.) We do plan to eat at English pubs and enjoy a pint a few times on our trip, though.

  • I've been to London once--15 years ago. I was single and traveled with another single girlfriend. We stayed in Earl's Court and quite liked the area for its restaurants and close proximity to a tube station. I'd definitely be open to staying there again, but am open to other suggestions. My husband has never been to London.

  • We'll be staying for one week. We've had a few bad experiences with renting apartments on previous trips and would prefer a hotel/B&B over an apartment rental.

  • We'd like something close to a tube station.

  • Ideally, we prefer smaller boutique hotels or B&B's.

  • If possible, I'd like to keep the cost to $100-$150 USD per night.

  • My main interests (besides visiting the usual tourist sites): Theatre and (garment) sewing. I want to definitely check out the fabric shops on Goldhawk Rd, among others, definitely visit the V&A, and I'd like to make it to the theatre once or twice on our trip.

  • Husband's main interests: English Football. He's a huge Tottenham Hotspur supporter, and our goal for this trip is to get him to a match at White Hart Lane. We know that we don't want to stay in the area around WHL, though.

Thoughts/suggestions?

Posted by
544 posts

I've stayed in the Lime Tree that's recommended in Rick's book. The breakfast was super good. It's convenient to buses and Victoria Station, so right in the middle of everything. I also suggest riding the bus vs. the Underground. It's a little slower, but the views and fewer crowds make it a nice way to get around the city. I'm going back and staying at the Lime Tree again in October.

Posted by
1133 posts

Check out www.premierinn.com and www.travelodge.co.uk. You can probably get a room for two for around $150 US (around 100 GBP) but that is pretty cheap for London. We are booked into the Premier Inn at Covent Garden in October, right in the heart of things, easily walkable to Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, the Thames, Buck palace, and west end theaters if you so desire. WE go annually and also like to stay at the Marleybone Travelodge, right across the street from the Marleybone Train and tube station. Register on both websites and you will get notices of room sales that are quite inexpensive. We once booked a room for a mere 9GBP/night, about $15USD, for 5 nights. Those bargains are long gone but you might find some for 19 or 29GBP. The key to London is to stay near a tube station and you can be whisked to anywhere in the city in a few minutes.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for the suggestions! One thing that I want to add is that we're okay with staying not quite in the middle of everything, as long as there's a decent number of inexpensive restaurants near our hotel. We're absolutely fine with staying somewhere with more of a "neighborhood" feel (in fact, that would be our preference), if it's a relatively easy tube ride to whatever we plan to do that day.

Posted by
3554 posts

Will the team be playing in town while you are there in February?

The Globe Theatre will not have the traditional performances in February, but their website may list indoor theater ones of interest to you. The museum with its costumes should be open and there might be tours of the theater, regardless of weather.

We loved seeing a musical when we were there. It happened to be Jersey Boys.

You can Google the Globe Theatre, the football team and Timeout London for details during your stay.

Posted by
5 posts

Yes, Spurs will be in town. In fact, we partially picked these dates for our trip because they'll be playing a match that my husband thinks we'll be able to get tickets to that weekend.

As far as theatre goes, when I went 15 years ago, my friend and I fully used the cheap ticket booths and saw a couple of smaller West End productions and a musical that was also playing on Broadway. I'd love to do something similar this trip.

Posted by
565 posts

Spitalfields or Hoxton would be my choice. I am the same age as you.

I stayed at a flat in Whitechapel, not too far from the aforementioned neighborhoods. PM me if you'd like it. It's run by professional landlords, so perhaps some of the problems you ran into wouldn't be there. My SO and I, too, went to a game at White Hart Lane. It's an easy, direct trip from Liverpool Station, a close 5-10 minute walk from the flat.

Do not miss Tayyab's in Whitechapel for Indian food.

Posted by
4863 posts

The weather should be OK, but if we are going to get any snow, then it is most likely to be in February. It rarely lasts long, but transport in London can grind to a halt in half an inch of snow!

If I were you, I would look at B&Bs in areas such as Islington, which has a great range of cafes and bars and is only a short bus or tube ride away or places on Sawdays website, which has a range of quirky places throughout the UK (and Europe). Shoreditch or Hoxton
would also be good.

Your budget is very low for London, so the faceless Travelodge or Premier Inn chains are central but rather boring, but within budget. Smaller boutique hotel here tend to be in the £250+ per night bracket.

A word of warning on Premiership football matches - they have a tendency to move dates to suit the TV schedules - final confirmation only 2/3 weeks out.

Buy theatre tickets on the day at the TKTS kiosk in Leicester Square. Better availability midweek, but February is usually quieter.

If you like fabrics, check out one of the Designers Guild showrooms in Marylebone or Chelsea.

Posted by
5 posts

Yup, we know that the Premier League games potentially get moved around due to tv schedules and cup matches. We cushioned our arrival/departure days with this in mind so that we'd have some flexibility if our match gets moved.

A colleague recommended the Islington area to me, so that definitely sounds like it would be worth checking out. Is there another name that I should look for to find accommodations in that neighborhood? Searcing for "Islington" on TripAdvisor doesn't turn up much.

Being from Seattle, we're not too concerned about the London weather, which should be pretty similar to what we experience at home...right down to an inch of snow bringing everything to a grinding halt.

Posted by
2 posts

I'd echo the Premier Inn suggestion above. We stayed at County Hall right behind the London Eye and it wasn't as touristy or crowded as I anticipated. You're 5 minutes walking time from Waterloo Station which is a good place to get anywhere in London. There's lots of great ethnic food choices (Wagamama Noodles) bookstores, boutiques, and bars also about a 5 minutes away on the Southbank River walk. The street in front is closed to traffic and has food choices ranging from fairly expensive Italian, pizza, ice cream and sushi places right outside your door. There's actually a British Film Museum down the street as well. There's also a small grocery store across the street to stock your room if you need. You're almost directly across the Thames from Big Ben, Parliament Building, and Westminster Abbey. BTW there's a $400 a night Marriott right down the street and you'll probably be paying just over 1/4 of that. It was safe, quiet, clean, with good access to public transportation. Place called the Slug and Lettuce down the street serves good "Full English Breakfast,"don't let the name deter you from trying it out.

Posted by
6570 posts

I would suggest staying in the Bayswater-Kensington Palace area. It's a really happening place with all kinds of restaurants and u. There are numerous tube stations in this area too. Booking.com can find rooms easily in this popular area.

Posted by
4555 posts

Look at The Nadler Kensington near the Earl's Court tube. It has nice modern bathrooms and kitchenettes in every room which is nice for a longer stay.

Posted by
908 posts

A second vote for Bayswater Road area along the stretch between Lancaster Gate to Queensway to Notting Hill Gate and the side streets in that area. Convenient, plenty of restaurants and neighborhood feel. Have a good trip!

Posted by
861 posts

Another vote for the Bayswater area. Good connections with the rest of London and Heathrow but close the park for a stroll if the weather permits (you can walk to the V&A in about 30mins from Bayswater through the park). You will definitely have your pick of ethnic restaurants (Thai, Indian, Ethiopian, Arabic, etc) in that area plus a few traditional pubs.

DJ

Posted by
1251 posts

Michelle - For lodging check out the Falcon Hotel(www.falcon-hotel.com) a Double ensuite is £89 per night. It is an easy walk from Paddington Station.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks everyone for your responses!

My husband and I spent quite a while reading through hotel reviews last night and found that we actually did have some pretty decent options if we stretched our budget slightly (but not outside of our comfort zone). By booking far in advance (and going in the off-season--February and staying for 6 nights), it looks like we'll be able to take advantage of some really nice discounts in a few places.

Here are the places that we've zoned in on (for now):

  • London House Hotel (Bayswater)

  • Nadler Kensington Hotel (Earl's Court)

  • Captain Bligh Guest House (if available--location is of slight concern, just that it doesn't seem close to much of anything)

Has anyone stayed at and have any thoughts on these specific hotels? I think we're leaning towards London House Hotel at the moment but could be swayed.

Posted by
4555 posts

I stayed at The Nadler about 5 years ago and will be staying there next month. I was quite. satisfied with it and I got a decent price. It is fairly modern and I like having a fridge in the room. I like the fact that Earl's Court is on the Piccadilly line as it is an easy trip from Heathrow and just 15 minutes to Leicester Square. It is also on the District Line.

Posted by
248 posts

First, I LOVE that you and your husband are traveling as a couple to Europe after having kids - we have done so every couple of years throughout our 20 year marriage (including wonderful kid-less trips to London , Paris and Germany) even when our friends with young kids expressed their "opinion" they could never leave the kids for a week. HA - now these same people say they wish they had gone when they were younger and we have had years of great memories as a couple on vacation in Europe!

So, my husband and I did London for a week alone in December 2011. It was a special birthday trip so we stayed at the Kensington Hotel in South Ken which was great. (I think it was a buy three nights, get the fourth free or something). I would suggest the same neighborhood because we loved all the little, cool restaurants within walking distance of hotel - e.g. Bumpkin for great local fare, a couple small French and Italian restaurants and a really neat Indian places, some good pubs. At the Indian place, we told the owner to bring us a meal that would show us what he would serve guests in his own home. It was fabulous (we still recall it) and not expensive. South Ken has the added advantage of a tube stop close by.

We are returning this December to London with our three sons (age 19, 17, 15) in tow. We are staying in South Ken at the Pelham Hotel, right across from the tube. We chose South Ken again because of the neighborhood feel. Pelham is a Rick Steves pick too.

London is freaky expensive and in 2011 we used a National Rail travel card unlimited pass with the 2-1 entries to local sites. However, my understanding is that deal is not as good so I am on RS today trying to figure out our cheapest options for taking our boys across the pond while traveling and site seeing on the cheap. Our oldest is a huge soccer fan - hope to see a game.

Happy Travels!

Posted by
248 posts

PS - another tip. Download Rick's podcasts and guides to your smart phone. And check out the list of "Free" sites, top for us was the Victoria and Albert Museum. Enjoy!

Posted by
340 posts

Another suggestion for the Earls Court tube stop area is the London Lodge Hotel. My husband and I have stayed there a number of times, and hope to next month if they have a cancellation. The rooms are comfortable, very good Continental breakfast bar included (cooked breakfast available at a reasonable price), friendly staff, and a 10 minute walk from the Earls Court tube stop. There are a lot of good pubs, restaurants, and a small grocery within walking distance; and since Earls Court is on the Piccadilly line, it's a straight shot to and from Heathrow.

Posted by
6667 posts

Emma - Thanks for sharing your knowledge on fabric shopping. I have checked out a lot of those places but the Joel and Son sounds fabulous for checking out, just to see something so fashionable (which is far from my style, but still fun to see!!). I'll remember the Walthamstow tip for my next visit as well.