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London Hotel and other questions

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Will be spending 4 nights in London and am looking for a hotel which is "centrally located." By that I mean close to the tourist destinations such as Tower, Westminster, Buckingham Palace.
What area of the city should I be looking for when searching hotels?

This part of our trip we are going to splurge, so a 4 or 5 star hotel but, hopefully nothing too stuffy and formal. Suggestions?

Also we will later be traveling to Edinburgh. I have been told that London City Airport is closer to the city and easier to navigate than Heathrow or Gatewick. Thoughts on flying from City Airport to Edinburgh?

Buckingham Place is open to vistors during our stay. I noticed when looking at tickets on line that you buy them for a specific time of day. They are sold at 15 minute intervals. Are you only allowed entrance during that time? If I were to purchase tickets for the first time slot would I beat the crowds?

Thanks!

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