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When people plan a trip to London, I often get asked where I’d recommend they stay. Which neighborhoods are the best, the closest to the center, and the cheapest. I could talk about London’s many different neighborhoods for hours, and I have about eight that I absolutely love, but I narrowed it down to my top five places I think visitors should consider for their trip to London. Read on to find out which neighborhoods top my list, why I think they’re making for a great base and which types of travelers they are for.
Before I start, a quick word on your choice of accommodation in London. There has never been a greater variety of places to stay at than now – from hostels to luxury hotels, vacation rentals and short-term lets, long-term rooms to self-catering apartments… the selection is sheer endless, and researching the perfect option can be overwhelming. Check out AirBnb for some amazing places to stay in – be it a room in somebody’s apartment (a great way for solo travelers to meet locals!) or an entire ‘flat’, as the British call their apartments. If you’re not using AirBnb yet – you can sign up here and get $20 off your first booking.
Now on to my favorite neighborhoods:
Everyone who knows me knows that I need a little bit of grittiness around me – if a place is too pretty, too clean and too cookie-cutter, I am bored quickly. That’s why I love Kreuzberg in Berlin, Brooklyn in New York, and East London. There’s street art everywhere, funky bars, slightly chaotic flea markets, independent boutique and shops with a unique flair. Shoreditch doesn’t have any typical British sights (except for many many pubs, of course!) but here you’ll find the hippest people, the coolest restaurants and the most eclectic vibe.
This is for you if… you are looking for a neighborhood that is teeming with young people (you will spot hipsters here, yes), a fantastic bar scene, urban art and good transportation connections that bring you to Central London in only 15 minutes.
I know, this one is pretty cliché, but there is a reason that there is a movie that focuses on this charming neighborhood – you can’t help but fall in love with this typical English and at the same time gorgeous area. Located in West London, Notting Hill has some of the prettiest streets in all of London; streets and mews (little alleyways) that invite to wander. On Saturdays, the famous Portobello Road Market flea & antiques market takes place here, but on all other days a stroll down Portobello Road is simply delightful. You are close to Kensington Gardens, one of my favorite parks in London, and you’ll have tons of cute cafes, cozy pubs and fabulous boutiques around here.
This is for you if… you want a truly British neighborhood experience with quiet, beautiful streets, lots of attractions nearby, and easy access to Central London (about 10 minutes on the tube).
Much has changed in Camden Town over the past few years – while it was one of the grittier, even seedy neighborhoods in the early 2000s still, the neighborhood has been transforming into one of the most sought-after areas to buy or rent in. The massive Camden Market is a huge tourist attraction these days, but go a couple of streets away from Camden High Street and you’ll find some wonderfully peaceful streets with snuggish apartments and, one of my favorite places in the city, Regents Canal, which goes all the way to Primrose Hill and further down to Regents Park (a lovely walk). The pub scene here is glorious, and you are close to some marvelous lesser known sights such as Hampstead Heath (fantastic views over the city!), Abney Park Cemetery or Islington, another lovely neighborhood. The Northern Line brings you right into Central London in only 20 minutes.
This is for you if… you want to go shopping-crazy at Camden Lock Market, are not too fussed about the prettiness of a neighborhood, love cheapie pubs and a local flair away from Central London’s tourist madness.
Have you been to London? What are your favorite neighborhoods?