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first trip to London

My husband and I will be in London for 4 night next April. This is our first time there. What is the best area to stay in? Would like to be close to public transportation but also able to walk to a lot of tourist "must sees" if possible. Thanks!

Posted by
403 posts

Lori: Certainly you will be able to do a lot of walking, but getting to understand and use the London Underground (our subway or metro) will save you lots of time and energy. London is a huge sprawling metropolis, and no one neighborhood is perfect. in general, you want to stay inside the "Circle Line", the underground line that encircles central London. Rick Steves' England and London books would be very helpful to you, and you should at the least read through them at a bookstore. My own personal favorite neighborhood is Bloomsbury, the area roughly from the British Museum north to the three great rail stations which line Euston Road almost next to one another. Plenty of places to eat, and Underground service is unequalled. Many posters on this site prefer the area around Victoria Station, and I am sure they will explain why. Other potential neighborhoods include Paddington (a little seedy, but very convenient if you are coming in from heathrow), South Bank (newly upscale and vibrant after years of decay), and Kensington-Notting Hill. I wouldn't recommend staying in the City or the Docklands, as this would be rather like staying in Lower Manhattan...lively until the workers go home. I wouldn't recommend staying in the suburbs either. If you can provide some additional information about your preferences, the posters here could give you additional ideas. Certainly feel free to PM me.

Posted by
28107 posts

Lori, your question is a little broad for a "starter for ten". Can you give a little background? What is important for you to see? Have been to other European destinations before? What homework have you done? Have your read the Rick Steves guidebook for England or London, or other guidebooks? Have you seen the RS tv shows on London? Is London your only stop? Are you flying into Gatwick or Heathrow? >> Thanks - the most help will come as we know what you need.....

Posted by
98 posts

sorry, you are correct..my question was very broad. We have been to Italy, Switzerland and Austria. We like to see as much as possible when we are at a destination. When in London we want to see the London Tower, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, experience Harrod's, maybe take a river cruise, try to get to a museum or two, have lunch in Covent Gardens. We will take a day trip out of London to Windsor Castle, Bath and Stonehenge so we will only have 2 full days to explore London proper. We want a decent hotel...clean, good location, we would like to spend no more than $200USD per nite. We have experienced enough European hotels to know what to expect. We have travelled enough to know that life is different outside of the US and we do our best to adapt to the enviornment and just enjoy the atmosphere of the city we are in at the moment. We are not picky travelers. I have read travel books on London and will read much more before we go. I would just like to know what different people's opinion is of where the most desirable location would be to stay in London given our short stay and the fact that there is a lot to see. Thanks so much!

Posted by
1986 posts

We do need more information- and you do need to figure out what you want to see in London - to help you better. The optimum for walking convenience to tourist spots is the West End (but probably among the more expensive choices), Bloomsbury and Russell Square (both near the British Museum) are generally more economical, quieter and still close enough to walk. Victoria and Paddington are convenient to trains, but grubbier in my opinion. Earls Court/South Kensington is another popular area, very convenient to everywhere by good tube service (and roughly near the Kensington Museums).

Posted by
10344 posts

As Roe said, to see and do the most, and have the most fun, you'll want to know when it makes sense to walk and when it makes sense to use the London Tube (subway system). You'll walk a lot, but there are times, in a large geographical area such as London, when trying to walk everywhere is counter-productive.

Posted by
28107 posts

Lori, thanks for your quick response. You say you like to see a lot -=- I wonder if you prefer to see lots of things superficially or a few things in depth. My guess is the former? If so, your plan may work, and would work from any of the places suggested. What you want to see is pretty spread out so I expect that you will also be using the bus and tube. ¶ If the latter I worry that you may be pushed for time if you lose a day on the day trip. If you want to see things in detail, in addition to general walking around London time and transportation and queuing time I would expect a minimum of :-=- Tower of London 3 or 4 hours, Buckingham Palace 2 and a half hours if you want to see the changing of the Guard, 2 minutes if you want to ride by on a HoHo bus or half an hour if you want to walk over from Green Park (not open to the public in April), Westminster Abbey 2 or 3 hours or more, St. Paul's Cathedral 2 hours unless Sunday morning when you listen to the bells for half an hour prior to a service then attend or wait until the service concludes, experience Harrod's (how long is a piece of string? me? - I won't go near the place, and it now has new owners), maybe take a river cruise half an hour to half a day depending on where and which company, try to get to a museum or two -=- I will speak separately about that, have lunch in Covent Gardens (many choices but you might spread your sights wider depending on where you wind up - Covent Garden (no "s") is really, really touristy) ¶ You have lots of time to plan and we will do what we can...

Posted by
2 posts

Lori, I would reccomend the Victoria Station area for central transportaion locale. You can either take the underground or the bus system to central London. Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, Parliment etc. Get one of Rick Steves' books for your best info.

Posted by
1986 posts

Lori: Check out "my revised paris/London Itinerary " By deborah on the "West" forum- last posting 9/23/2010. She has a jampacked London 5 day itinerary which sees everything. She has some great ideas. with only 4 days in London, I would not bother with Bath- its a long journey, and not worth the London sights you would miss. London: One day- Tower, Tower bridge, St Pauls, Globe Theater tour; walk back to westminster along South Bank or along Holborn, strand to Trafalgar Square; Second day: westminster Abbey, Big ben, Whitehall, Horse guards (try and see the changing of the horse guards- best sight in london); Trafalgar Square; some of National Gallery; up into Soho; Third day- (window) Shopping streets: regent Street, Bond street, Piccadilliy and the Arcades off it; Jermyn Street; mayfair; The parks- green park, St James patk, Hyde Park to Kensington gardens. I would skip Covent Garden (nothing there except tourist shops) If you must get out of town- day trip to Hampton Court or Windsor in that order. best cathedral in all of England (probably also all of Europe) Salisbury and its environs. I am in awe of Stonehenge and Avebury- but you need a car or part of a conducted tour- long way out of London. Every evening London theatre, possibly even the Globe if that interests you

Posted by
354 posts

Hi Lori, most of the sights in London are spread out so using the Tube is the best way to get to most places. Areas to stay in: I'd recommend Bloomsbury/ Russell Square, St Pancras, Victoria, and Earl's Court. There'll always be tourists who enjoy 'touristy' areas like Covent Garden or Harrod's - the Food Hall is pretty much the only part of Harrods I'd visit though. My mother likes Covent Garden and she's been visiting London for 30 years! For museums, the British Museum ought to be top of the list.

Posted by
3428 posts

Let us know more about your interests and we can make better suggesstions. I've been to London more than 40 times in 20+ years. There's lots I've not seen and much that I love to see everytime.

Posted by
2664 posts

Lori, The London Elizabeth.....http://www.londonelizabethhotel.com/. is a great hotel. It's a 2 minute walk from the Lancaster Gate Hotel, across the stree from Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park and there is a great pub around the corner. It's in a great area.

Posted by
1986 posts

Elaine; i am sure you didnt mean to give the imptression you took the Tube to Oxford, Cambridge and Blenheim? Train maybe to Oxford and Cambridge. How did you get to Blenheim?

Posted by
2664 posts

I think Elaine's post is a little misleading, and for some new people it will confuse them. You can not take the tube to Oxford, Blenheim Palace or Cambridge. You need to take a train to Cambridge and Oxford. As for Blenheim Palace, take the tain to Oxford then a bus from there to Blenheim Palace.

Posted by
1010 posts

Hello Lori, We live in Mission Viejo. Funny. We were in London in May 2009 and May of this year. We stayed both times at the Crowne Plaza Kensington area (100 Cromwell). You get Priority Club hotel points, if you join their Priority Club rewards program. We stayed there for three weeks during our trips. It was in a great area. It is right across the street from the Glocester Tube Station. We bought our Oyster Card and went everywhere. Sometimes you have to go to maybe the Victoria Tube Statin, etc. to change trains, if you want to go to the outer areas. The tube is ABSOLUTELY fabulous. We took it to see Wimbeldon (just visited), out to Oxford, Cambridge (really nice), Blemheim Palace. We also took full advantage of the Gray Line Tours. We booked some of the tours while here in the U.S. and some after we got to London. We thought the Gray Line Tour company was very efficient and thorough. We were picked up right down the steet at the Holiday Inn. We went to Stonehenge, day tours of London, the Cotswolds (great tour), Bath, etc. We totally enjoyed eating at Harrod's. Yes, it is a touristy spot, but it has great eating possibilities. We also enjoyed high tea there. Their afternoon buffet lunch is great. They serve it until 3:30. They had delicious prime rib, turkey, ham, you name it. Both the high tea and the buffet lunch is upstairs. The surroundings are beautiful. You usually need reservations for the high tea, We took our chances and just had to come back an hour later. They have two separate areas to buy souvenirs. It is interesting to go under the Tower Bridge and go on the short tour of how the bridge was made and powered. You might have to ask somebody over by the bridge, as you could easily walk right by the entrance. The Tower Bridge is beautiful. Just walking around London is spectacular. Make sure you walk through Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens. Hyde Park is huge and lush. ENJOY! Elaine

Posted by
990 posts

The advantages of the Paddington or Victoria neighborhoods is that they are super convenient for transit to the airport. There is a National Express bus from the airport to Victoria Coach Station and the Heathrow Express (15 minutes but expensive) or the Heathrow Connect (slower with a few stops but cheaper) trains to Paddington. Neither neighborhood is at all unsafe; I have stayed frequently in both as a single woman and am fine walking about at any hour. Victoria is better for walking to sites (easy walk to Buckingham Palace and Westminster-Big Ben and to Hyde Park). Both give easy access to the Tube system. When in Victoria I stay at the Windermere Hotel, a classic B and B with an exceptionally good included breakfast, a terrific staff and a reasonably priced onsite bar and restaurant. In the Paddington area, my choice is the Hotel Indigo, a brand new boutique hotel with small but stylish rooms and again, a super helpful staff. Neither are Rick Steves listings, which means that they probably won't book up as fast as Rick listings, but I can personally vouch for each as being as good or better than the Rick Steves listed hotels in your price range.

Posted by
98 posts

A great big "thank you" to all who have replied with your valuable insight and information. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experiences....it is all very helpful!

Posted by
94 posts

We just returned from our 1st trip to London. We stayed at the Rhodes Hotel in Paddington. It is not seedy there. It is 5 mins walk from Paddington Station. The day we arrived, we walked to Harrods, Victoria & Albert, Kensington Gardens & Palace. Chris, the owner is quite a character and our beautiful room had an amazing bathroom complete with jacuzzi tub. Our room also had a lovely terrace. I paid 100 pounds/night which included breakfast. They also sell tickets for hop on hop off bus and museums at the front desk (no additional charges).

Posted by
103 posts

I agree that the Paddington Area is just fine. Not seedy.

Posted by
31521 posts

Lori, I'd also recommend staying in the Victoria Station area, as it's very convenient for transportation and IMO it's easy walking distance to Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and other sites. For locations further afield, the Tube is close by. ¶ Could you clarify how you're planning to get from London to Windsor Castle, Bath and Stonehenge? Visiting all three of those locations on a "day trip" could be a bit challenging. If you arrive in Bath fairly early, you could use Mad Max Tours to reach Stonehenge. Cheers!

Posted by
875 posts

We stayed in a great apt in Leicester Square - the midst of the theatre center; close to Trafalgar Square & Piccadilly Circus; National Gallery; Covent Garden.
Property #430330 on holiday-rentals.co.uk
Owner is an interior designer living in London but from Scotland. Very nice & helpful. I hope I can always stay in this apt when I am in London!

Posted by
72 posts

London is my favorite city! I have been there three times in the last six years and each time stayed in the victoria station neighborhood. It is safe and very convenient. If not victoria station do stay in the main city. London is lively at all hours and staying in the city, you will never be far from a tube station. The tube is the best way to get someplace fast, though one thing I like to do is walk from Parliament all the way to Tower Bridge (this is a long walk just fyi) because it is a great way to see a lot of the city. I would suggest the rick steves' books for tips on transportation between london and other sites. I can tell you the train from King's Cross to Oxford is 2O Pounds for a sameday roundtrip ticket and it takes an hour to get there. Have fun!!!

Posted by
643 posts

Agree with Robert, stay near Victoria Station. From there you can walk just about anywhere in Central London, or hop on a bus.

Posted by
780 posts

Earls Ct is one of the best places I have stayed in London. Not crowded as it isn't in the middle of the action but is only 3 tube stops from Westminster, etc. and utilizes the Piccadilly (from Heathrow), District and Circle underground lines. Its near alot of amenities and is basically a residential area. Huge Tesco grocers to pick up stuff on the way back to hotel at the end of the night, and alot of places along Earls Ct road near the tube station and also Kensington High St shops near the Ken High St station as well. Safe lovely area. Walking distance to V&A museum, Natural history, Kensington gardens, Hyde park, Harrods.

It is the first place I stayed on my frist trip to London, and am staying there again on my 4th next spring! Stayed in Paddington before but feels a bit more crowded and unsafe at night to me.

Posted by
2002 posts

I recommend the Premier Inn at County Hall. Fantastic location right across the river from the Houses of Parliament, next to London Eye. You can walk to many major sights from there. Book early and be sure to ask for an "outside" room location, not an inner courtyard one.

Posted by
189 posts

Hi! I love London, and I've stayed in many of the places the others have described. I enjoyed the area near the British Museum quite a bit. I've stayed near Victoria, too, and in Mayfair. The last few times (because I will do the B&B route when I get into the countryside)I have stayed at the Travelodge Covent Garden. The BIG drawback is that they will not accept luggage before check-in and this can ruin your day if you don't already know that.

One thing to consider is doing a hop-on, hop-off tour to get acclimated if it is your first time. Oh, and if you don't get a London card, make sure to buy your Tower of London tickets from the hop-on, hop-off people. It is a lot cheaper.

Covent Garden is a lively, lively place and if you are staying during the weekend, the tube station is PACKED getting on and off. Just a few things to consider.

Posted by
588 posts

I stayed at the Premier Inn County Hall at Westminster and had an outside room. It was a great location. However I am staying near Victoria next spring for a change of scenery.

Posted by
2 posts

I am a native of London and usually stay with my family, but on one visit I stayed in a hotel near Russell Square with my husband. I thought that was a really good area to stay in, very central. You could walk to a lot of things, and it was lovely being near all the leafy squares and beautiful Georgian houses. You need more than three days to see London though.

Posted by
5 posts

To coin a phrase "The Tube's the thing." I have been in London 15 times during the past 10 years and all but two of those times I stayed in Bayswater, near the Bayswater, Queensway and Notting Hill Tube stations. It is an area adjacent to Kensington Palace. The major sights can be easily seen in 4 days, but with little "in-depth" exploration. I would also recommend an early morning visit to one of the Markets (Burough, Portobello, Camden, et.al.), in that order, since many of the standard sights do not open until, 10:00 A. M. I agree that you need to see a show on the West End, but get tickets at the TKTS booth in Leicester (les-ter) Square. They are 1/2 price, but be sure you buy from them and not from the wannabees surrounding the square. One note--what we Yanks call "high tea" is actually "afternoon tea" in the UK--and no "pinkies" are necessary.

Posted by
136 posts

Not sure if anyone posted to you but look at the Original London Walks, www.walks.com and try their walking tours as they take you to many places you may not have considered and you just meet up at the tube station about 5 mins before the time the tour starts and off you go, also they have days out of London such as Stonehenge and Salisbury and Hampton Court and Royal Richmond, their evening pub walks are good also (not really drinking tours but informational with stops in pubs). Stay on the circle line area as you will get to all the main areas, go to the Tower of London early in the morning to avoid the lines and wait for the Beefeater tours they are free and great, walk along the river at night as the city is all lights, St. Pauls and evening song at 5pm just sit and listen to the choir, London walks does a good overview of the British Museum, but all their walks are great.
We stay near Paddington Station (not the most posh place to stay) but Darlyington Hyde Park Hotel is a gem of a place and very near both Paddington and Hyde Park. Have fun

Posted by
40 posts

Lori, we made our 1st trip to London in 2004 (dying to go back!). We traveled with my parents who at that time were in their late 70s. Our travel agent booked us into the Thistle Hyde Park and it was very reasonable. It was the quintessential British experience we were looking for: utterly charming, quiet, comfortable, and convenient. I believe we paid about $150 per night and had a lovely room complete with a huge, deep, soaking bathtub. We were an easy walk right between the Queensway and Lancaster Gate Tube stations. Also, a one block walk to a delightful pub, The Swan, and the neighborhood was pleasant as well. We were there for 5 days and before leaving home we planned our trip around the absolute "must do" attractions. We ended up taking a one day guided bus tour (our guide was an absolute delight) that hit all the biggies and included lunch at a pub and the Tower. We also took a day guided tour to Windsor which included a guided Castle tour and shopping in town.

Posted by
800 posts

Lori - my advice is maybe a little different from the others - one of the things I love about London is it doesn't seem to matter much where you stay, in terms of being able to see things I mean. It is like staying in New York - I would NEVER want to stay in the heart of Times Square, but I love to catch the subway to see it at least once on each trip. So my opinion is that it is not neccesary to be close to any one particular tourist attraction but it IS important to be close to a good tube stop. We have stayed in South Kensington Area and easily made it over to see the Tower of London, St. Paul's, Westminster Abbey, etc. We liked staying in a bit quieter area and I like researching smaller hotels. So bottom line, if you get a rec on a great hotel at the right price, don't worry so much if it isn't near "all the tourist sites" - you'll find it pretty easy to get around and see what you'll want to see. I love London, truly one of the great world cities!