Where to stay in London for first time: 8 Best & Safe areas

Hi guys, on my website, I already wrote an article about staying in London without a car (I will put the links to it at the end of this article). In today’s article, I will help you to find the best places to stay in London for first-time visitors and tourists.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safe areas to stay in London for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map and areas to avoid. I’ll also share where I stayed in London and recommend some of the best hotels in London for various budgets.

Before get into the detail of the main topic, let’s look at some facts about London:

London is the capital and largest city of the United Kingdom. It is one of the world’s most prominent and influential cities, known for its rich history, diverse culture, and global significance.

London is home to the iconic Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament (containing the famous Big Ben clock), the London Eye, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The city boasts a wide array of world-class museums and galleries, such as the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate Modern.

London is a global cultural hub, with a thriving arts scene, numerous theaters, and venues for music and entertainment. The West End is renowned for its theaters and musical productions.

London is also known for its green spaces, including Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, and Greenwich Park, providing residents and visitors with places to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

The River Thames flows through the heart of London, and its banks are lined with various attractions, restaurants, and bridges, including the famous Tower Bridge.

London is a major financial center and a global hub for business. The City of London, often referred to as the Square Mile, is the historical and financial core of the city.

The city has an extensive public transportation system, including the London Underground (the Tube), buses, and a network of trains, making it easy to get around the city.

Is London safe to visit?

London is generally a safe city to visit. Most areas, especially the central and tourist districts, are safe to explore day and night. But, like any major city, you should exercise caution, particularly in crowded areas or on public transport, to guard against petty crimes like pickpocketing.

Certain neighborhoods have higher crime rates, but these are often localized and don’t typically affect tourists. Always take care of your belongings, being aware of your surroundings, and avoiding poorly lit or deserted areas at night.

Where to stay in London for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in London for first-timers and tourists are Covent Garden, Westminster, Mayfair, Soho, Kensington/Chelsea, City of London, King’s Cross, and South Bank. It is recommended to always stay alert and take care of your belongings no matter where you stay.

Also, keep in mind that London’s excellent public transport system makes it relatively easy to explore the city, so you can easily reach most of the main attractions from any of these areas.

While most tourist areas in London offer unique experiences worth exploring with common-sense precautions, it’s wise to avoid certain areas that may be less desirable due to safety. These include parts of East London, such as Hackney and Tower Hamlets, which can be rough in some areas. 

Additionally, some neighborhoods in South London, like Peckham, may have higher crime rates. Some areas near major train stations, like King’s Cross, may not offer the best experience. 

During my trip to London, I stayed at the popular Page8, Page Hotels in central London. The hotel has a prime location, between Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square. I was able to explore most sights on foot and trains. My room was comfortable and clean.

Below is a map of the popular areas in London for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the best areas to stay in London first time
Map of the best areas to stay in London first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in London, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in London have been carefully selected by me, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

8 Best/ Safe areas to stay in London for first-timers and tourists

1. Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a popular and vibrant neighborhood in the heart of London. It’s a great choice for first-time visitors due to its central location and a wide range of attractions, restaurants, and entertainment options.

Covent Garden is known for its boutique shops, high-end brands, and unique market stalls. You can find a variety of clothing, accessories, and artisanal products in the area.

There are numerous restaurants, cafes, and street food vendors in Covent Garden. From traditional British pubs to international cuisine, there’s something for every palate.

Covent Garden is famous for its street performers and entertainers. You can often catch live music, magic shows, and other performances in the area, making it a lively and entertaining place to explore.

The Royal Opera House and numerous art galleries are located in and around Covent Garden, making it a cultural hub for those interested in the arts.

The West End, known for its world-class theaters and productions, is within walking distance of Covent Garden. It’s an excellent place to catch a show or musical.

Covent Garden is close to other London landmarks like Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, and the British Museum. Many of these attractions are within walking distance.

Covent Garden has good transportation links, with a nearby underground station, making it easy to access other parts of the city.

Keep in mind that Covent Garden is a popular area, so it can get crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. If you enjoy a bustling and lively atmosphere and want to be at the center of the action, Covent Garden is a great base for your stay in London.

Best places to stay in London in Covent Garden for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): St Martins Lane London, 5-star hotel located in a prime location in Covent Garden, only 5-10 mins walk from Charing Cross Station, Trafalgar Square,  Leicester Square, Covent Garden Market and Royal Opera House. It has onsite parking and Very good breakfast according to 5000 guests’ reviews.
  • Mid-range ($$): The Resident Covent Garden, 4-star good value for money hotel centrally located on Bedford Street, easy walking distance from Covent Garden Piazza, Charing Cross station, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Savoy Theatre and National Gallery. It has Luggage storage, 24-hour front desk, and comfortable family rooms.
  • Mid-range ($$): Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel, London, popular 4-star hotel located on Mercer Street, 5-10 mins walk from Soho, and Trafalgar Square, as well as tube stations at Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road.

2. Westminster 

Westminster is a historic and iconic neighborhood in London, known for its rich political and cultural significance. It’s a fantastic choice for first-time visitors who want to be in the heart of the city and explore famous attractions. 

Westminster is home to some of London’s most famous landmarks, including Big Ben (now known as the Elizabeth Tower), the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. You can easily explore these historical and architectural wonders.

While not technically in Westminster, Buckingham Palace is just a short walk away. You can witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony and explore the surrounding St. James’s Park.

You’ll find several cultural institutions nearby, including the Churchill War Rooms, which provide a fascinating glimpse into wartime history, and the Queen’s Gallery, which houses the Royal Collection.

Westminster is located along the banks of the River Thames, offering picturesque views and the opportunity for a leisurely walk by the water.

St. James’s Park and Green Park provide some peaceful greenery in the midst of the city, perfect for relaxing and enjoying the outdoors.

Westminster has excellent transportation links, with Westminster Underground Station and other transport options readily available, making it easy to explore other parts of London.

While exploring Westminster, you can also see government buildings such as the Cabinet War Rooms and the Supreme Court.

While Westminster isn’t as known for its dining and nightlife as some other areas, you can still find theaters, restaurants, and pubs within walking distance or a short ride away.

You can take a note that Westminster is a popular tourist area, so it can get crowded, particularly around major attractions. Accommodations in the area can vary in price, so it’s advisable to book in advance to have the best deals.

Best places to stay in London in Westminster for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Guardsman – Preferred Hotels and Resorts, 5-star hotel conveniently located in central London. Within easy distance from Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St James’s Park and Houses of Parliament. It has an on-site restaurant, a 24-hour front desk, Very good breakfast, and comfortable family rooms.
  • Mid-range ($$): St. Ermin’s Hotel, Autograph Collection, great 4-star hotel set on a prime location, in Buckingham Palace area, easy access to the St. James’ Park and Tube Station. Great base to explore the city.
  • Budget ($): The Sanctuary House Hotel, 3-star Victorian accommodation located in the city center of London, in the Westminster district, easy access to the tube station, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Oxford Street shopping street.

3. Mayfair

Mayfair is one of London’s most exclusive and upscale neighborhoods, making it a luxurious choice for visitors who are looking for a high-end experience and have a budget to match.

Mayfair is renowned for its high-end shopping, with famous streets like Bond Street and New Bond Street home to luxury boutiques, designer stores, and renowned department stores like Fenwick and the iconic Selfridges.

Mayfair offers a plethora of Michelin-starred restaurants, upscale brasseries, and traditional British pubs. It’s a great place to indulge in exquisite dining experiences.

The neighborhood hosts several prestigious art galleries, including the Royal Academy of Arts and the Halcyon Gallery, showcasing a wide range of artistic styles and periods.

Mayfair is adjacent to Hyde Park, one of London’s most famous and expansive parks, providing a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

You can explore historical sites like the Grosvenor Chapel and the Handel & Hendrix in London museum, which celebrates the lives and music of two iconic composers.

Mayfair is home to numerous upscale hotels, many of which are housed in historic buildings, providing a refined and elegant stay.

While Mayfair isn’t as known for its nightlife as some other areas like Soho, you can still find exclusive cocktail bars and members-only clubs for those who want to continue their evenings in style.

Mayfair is situated in the heart of London, making it easy to access other neighborhoods and attractions in the city.

Best places to stay in London in Mayfair for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Claridge’s, great 5-star good value for money hotel located on Brook Street, in the heart of Mayfair. Within easy walking distance from Hyde Park, Oxford Street and Bond Street. Several metro stations can be found nearby, making it easy to explore the city.
  • Mid-range ($$): The Chesterfield Mayfair, popular 4-star hotel situated on Charles Street, just off Berkeley Square, easy access to Hyde Park and Green Park, as well as Buckingham Palace, Green Park London Underground Station, and Bond Street shopping area. You can join Traditional Afternoon Tea that is served daily at this hotel.
  • Budget ($): Astor Court Hotel, 3-star Victorian town house located on Hallam Street, a short distance from Mayfair, Oxford Street, Regent Street. Also easy access to the tube station and numerous other attractions such as Regent’s Park, West End theaters, and Piccadilly.

4. Soho

Soho is a vibrant and eclectic neighborhood in the heart of London known for its lively atmosphere, diverse culture, and a wide range of entertainment options. It’s a popular area for visitors who enjoy nightlife, dining, and a lively urban experience.

Soho is famous for its nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and music venues that cater to various tastes. You can find everything from traditional pubs to trendy nightclubs and live music venues.

It is also a food lover’s paradise with an abundance of restaurants representing a variety of international cuisines.  You can find a multitude of trendy coffee shops and cafes, making it an ideal neighborhood for people-watching and relaxing with a cup of coffee.

There is also a mix of boutique shops, vintage stores, and quirky markets. It’s an excellent place to shop for unique and eclectic items.

Soho has a significant LGBTQ+ community and is known for its LGBTQ+-friendly bars and clubs. It’s a vibrant and welcoming area for LGBTQ+ visitors.

Soho’s central location makes it easy to explore other parts of London. It’s within walking distance of many iconic attractions like Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, and Leicester Square.

Soho has a lively atmosphere, which can make it a bit noisy, especially at night. Accommodations in Soho vary from budget-friendly to more upscale options, so there’s a choice for different budgets.

Best places to stay in London in Soho for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Piccadilly London West End, popular 5-star hotel centrally located in the heart of London’s Theatreland, a short walk from Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.  You can find many theaters, cinemas, restaurants and bars nearby.
  • Mid-range ($$): The Resident Soho, great 4-star hotel conveniently located on Carlisle Street, 2-minute walk from Oxford Street, also close to Tottenham Court Tube Station and British Museum. You can easily find many restaurants and cafes in its surroundings.
  • Budget ($): Hazlitt’s, 4-star boutique  hotel in central London, in the heart of the West End, featuring a 24-hour front desk, Luggage storage, and laundry services. Short walk from Soho Square, Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, and Oxford Circus.

5. Kensington/Chelsea

Kensington and Chelsea are two adjacent and affluent neighborhoods in London, known for their elegance, cultural institutions, and green spaces. They offer a more tranquil and upscale experience compared to some of the busier central neighborhoods. 

The area is home to the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), and the Science Museum. These cultural institutions offer a wealth of exhibits and are great for visitors interested in art, science, and history.

Located in Kensington, the Royal Albert Hall hosts a variety of concerts, performances, and events, making it a cultural focal point in the area. Kensington Palace, the former residence of Princess Diana, is open to the public, offering a glimpse into royal history.

Kensington Gardens, part of Hyde Park, and Holland Park provide beautiful and serene areas for leisurely walks, picnics, and relaxation.

Kensington and Chelsea feature upscale boutiques, designer stores, and antique shops, particularly along King’s Road. It’s an excellent destination for luxury shopping.

While there are upscale accommodations available, there are also mid-range options, making it accessible to a range of budgets. The neighborhoods are well-connected by public transportation, allowing easy access to other parts of London.

Best places to stay in London in Kensington/Chelsea for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Ampersand Hotel, 5-star hotel situated on Harrington Road, a short walk from South Kensington Underground Station, Harrods and Hyde Park. It has very good breakfast and comfortable Family rooms.
  • Mid-range ($$): The Queens Gate Hotel, popular 4-star 19th-century town house located in the Kensington and Chelsea area, easy distance from Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park. You’ll also be close to Gloucester Road Tube Station, Natural History Museum, V&A Museum, as well as the designer shops at Knightsbridge and Harrods department store.
  • Budget ($): London Lodge Hotel, 3-star accommodation located in the upscale Kensington, within walking distance from Hyde Park, Earl’s Court Underground Station, Knightsbridge, and Holland Park.

6. City of London 

The City of London is the historic and financial heart of London. It’s a unique and dynamic part of the city with a rich history and a focus on business and finance. It is a suitable choice for business travelers and tourists who want a central location and easy access to major transportation hubs. 

The City is home to some of London’s most iconic and historic landmarks, including the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. These sites offer a rich glimpse into London’s past.

The City is the primary financial district in London, housing the Bank of England, numerous banking institutions, and major corporations. It’s an ideal location for business travelers.

Alongside its historic buildings, the City boasts an array of modern architecture, including the famous Gherkin and the Shard. The contrast between old and new is a notable feature of the area.

The area features several cultural attractions, such as the Museum of London and the Barbican Centre, a cultural complex offering music, theater, and art exhibitions.

Despite its business focus, the City offers a few green spaces, such as Postman’s Park and St. Dunstan in the East Church Garden, which provide peaceful escapes.

You’ll find a variety of dining options, including high-end restaurants and traditional British pubs. Due to its business-oriented nature, many venues cater to weekday working hours.

The City is well-connected with several major train and underground stations, making it a convenient base for exploring London and beyond.

The City is bustling during weekdays, particularly in the financial district, but it can be quieter on weekends and in the evenings. It may not have as much nightlife and entertainment as other areas like Soho.

Best places to stay in City of London for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Vintry & Mercer, superb 5-star hotel, that has great location, short distance from St Paul’s Cathedral, easy access to the Mansion House station for further exploration.
  • Mid-range ($$): COVE Cannon Street, 4-star good value for money hotel, located on Cannon Street, a few steps to Mansion House station where you can get public transportation to the city center and the train station. 
  • Budget ($): Motel One London-Tower Hill, popular 3-star hotel located in the heart of London’s financial center, short distance from the lively bars and eateries of Brick Lane, as well as the vibrant nightlife of Shoreditch and Hoxton. Also easy to access Aldgate Underground Station, the Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London.

7. King’s Cross

King’s Cross is a vibrant and rapidly evolving neighborhood in the heart of London, known for its transportation connections, cultural attractions, and ongoing redevelopment. It’s a great choice for travelers who want easy access to train stations and the excitement of urban renewal.

King’s Cross and St Pancras International stations make it a central transportation hub in London. You can easily access national and international train services, including the Eurostar to Paris and Brussels.

The British Library, home to a vast collection of books and manuscripts, is located in King’s Cross. It’s an excellent destination for literature and history enthusiasts.

Granary Square, a large public square, hosts events, outdoor art installations, and offers a scenic setting along Regent’s Canal. It’s a popular place for socializing and relaxation.

King’s Cross is located near Regent’s Canal, making it a pleasant area for leisurely walks or even boat trips. You can enjoy the scenic waterway and beautiful surroundings.

King’s Cross is well-connected to the rest of London by public transportation, so you can easily explore other parts of the city.

The neighborhood offers a mix of accommodation options, including hotels, hostels, and serviced apartments, catering to various budgets.

Best places to stay in London  King’s Cross for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Standard London, popular 5-star hotel located in the former Camden Town Hall Annex, a short walk from  St Pancras International and Underground stations. It has Good breakfast, impressive rooftop, and comfortable family rooms.
  • Mid-range ($$): The Gyle, 4-star accommodation located in central London, convenient location to access the King’s Cross Station, Euston Station and King’s Cross Theatre.
  • Budget ($): The Rokxy Townhouse – Kings Cross, 3-star Victorian townhouse with the views of the Argyle Square. Short walk from Bloomsbury shopping street, St Pancras International and Kings Cross Rail Station, for trains to London city center.

8. South Bank

The South Bank of the River Thames is a cultural and entertainment district in London, known for its stunning riverfront views and numerous attractions. It’s a popular area for travelers interested in art, culture, and beautiful river views. 

The South Bank offers some of the best views of the River Thames, with picturesque panoramas of iconic landmarks like the Tower Bridge, the Shard, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The South Bank is home to several world-class cultural institutions, including the Tate Modern, the British Film Institute (BFI), the National Theatre, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. These venues offer a diverse range of arts and entertainment.

The giant observation wheel, the London Eye, is located on the South Bank. It offers stunning views of the city and is a popular tourist attraction.

You’ll find an array of dining options, from riverside cafes to fine dining restaurants. The South Bank also hosts food markets and pop-up eateries.

The South Bank is ideal for walking and cycling. The Thames Path provides a scenic route for exploring the riverbank, and there are bike rental stations available.

While the South Bank itself is relatively urban, you can easily access nearby green spaces like Jubilee Gardens and Lambeth Palace Gardens for a peaceful escape.

The South Bank is well-connected by public transportation, with multiple tube stations and bus routes nearby.

Best places to stay in London South Bank for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Sea Containers London, popular 5-star hotel located on the banks of the River Thame, in Southwark, within walking distance/metro ride from major sights such as the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London Eye, Borough Market, and London Dungeon.
  • Mid-range ($$): Park Plaza County Hall London, 4-star family-friendly hotel located in  South Bank,  is just a few minutes’ walk from the River Thames and London Eye. Close to Westminster and Waterloo stations for further exploration.
  • Budget ($): Hampton by Hilton London Waterloo, popular 3-star hotel, located on Waterloo Road, 5 minutes’ walk from Waterloo train station. Short distance from London Eye, London Dungeon and SEA LIFE London Aquarium.

In conclusion, Covent Garden, Westminster, Mayfair, Soho, Kensington/Chelsea, City of London, King’s Cross, and South Bank are the best places to stay in London for first-timers and tourists. These are generally safe and well-connected areas that offer a wide range of hotels and amenities.

If you don’t plan to drive in London, you can check this article: Best areas to stay in London without a car. If you travel with kids, check this article: Best places to stay in London with family.

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to London. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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