Planning a long weekend in London? If you’re not familiar with the Big Smoke, then the process of booking accommodation can be confusing. Should you plump for the up-market west or the funky east? Is north better than south? Which neighbourhoods are the most inviting, and which are best avoided? If you’re struggling to find a great place to stay, then here are a few suggestions.
Kensington: In the eighteenth century this neighbourhood was considered dowdy by the aristocrats who socialised in St James’ Street and Mayfair – but now Kensington is one of London’s most desirable boroughs. Close to popular attractions such as the Natural History Museum and the British Museum; lined with eclectic independent cafes and delis; scattered with well-tended gardens and the odd classy Kensington hotel, this is the place to see and be seen. Accommodation can be pricey, but you can find great deals on your Kensington hotel by booking in advance with a company such as Millennium Hotels.
Borough: Located just south of the river from the City and encompassing London Bridge Station with its fantastic transport connections, this is a fabulous option if you’re looking for lower-cost but still luxurious accommodation. The borough boasts some of London’s most lavish hotels, as well as plenty of independent guest-houses and B&Bs. Don’t miss out on a trip to Borough Market – a haven for gastronomists with its hundreds of fresh food and produce stalls.
Pimlico: Chelsea’s lower-profile neighbour, Pimlico is easy to get to thanks to its proximity to Victoria Station. It epitomises what many people think of as classic London, with street upon street of well-tended white Regency houses. But the borough also has a village feel, thanks to the abundance of boutique and charity shops, organic pavement cafes and cool coffee houses populated by a creative crowd.
Hackney: Not so long ago, tourists to London would have been told to avoid Hackney if they wanted to hang on to their valuables. Like nearby Shoreditch, however, the borough has experienced a period of Renaissance, and is currently in the funky stage between downtrodden and gentrified. A host of young artists and fashion designers have their studios here, there’s street upon street of bars, pubs and clubs, and when it comes to shopping Hackney’s outlet stores and charity stores are a great place to pick up a bargain. Hackney still has an edgy feel, and since it still hasn’t quite made the tourist radar there aren’t so many hotels to choose from – but if you’re looking to party with a young and cool crowd then it’s the perfect place to base yourself.
Clapham: Londoners fall into two camps – those who love the area south of the river, and those who despise it. Clapham, the area that surrounds Clapham Common on both sides and runs all the way up to Clapham Junction Station, proves the haters wrong. It’s got good transport links, thanks to Britain’s busiest train station on one side and links to the Northern Line on the other, and it caters equally for families and young bloods with its bar-line streets and huge parks. Stay here if you want to be close to the city centre but fancy getting away from it all at the end of the day.