Where to stay - first time to London

Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:15 PM
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Where to stay - first time to London

We're planning our first visit to London in July. Location is the most important factor in deciding on lodging, we'd like to be able to walk as much as possible. Plan to visit the standard tourist sights. Which area would you recommend? Any specific hotel recommendations would be appreciated as well. Thanks!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:55 PM
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I can't recommend hotels because in our two trips to London so far and our trip planned for later this summer, we've stayed in flats, once each in Knightbridge/South Kensington and in Mayfair. We will be returning to a different flat in Knightsbridge. Flats may not be economical for 2 to 4 nights in London, but, for 5 nights or more, they can provide a place for a much less expensive breakfast than a hotel or restaurant near a hotel, for the occasional dinner "in" after a long day of walking among London's great tourist sites, and, perhaps, even best of all, many flats have washer/dryers which can save both the financial expense of laundry but can also free up the maximum time (doing one's laundry in the evening) for seeing London. It would be useful to find lodging near the Picadilly underground line since that is a major connector with other lines throughout the city, and we've used it twice to travel easily to Heathrow for our departures from this great city. We've chosen Knightsbridge and Mayfair much for their locations and the Picadilly line. It is possible to walk east from Mayfair to The City of London, for example, and Knightsbridge has many, many good restaurants and is easy walking ditance from the Victoria and Albert and Natural History Museums. We've used London Connection for our flat rentals and can heartily recommend the firm (they also have an 800 number).
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:55 PM
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You can't really WALK to all the touist sights in London, as it's a huge city and sights are spread out. You want to save your feet (and time) by using public transport, so that you can spend all your time walking WITHIN the attractions.

For example, the distance between Buckingham Palace and Tower of London is about 4 miles.

Anyway, more "central" areas would be around Trafalgar Sq, Bloomsbury, Mayfair, Soho. What is your budget?

P.S. Since this is your first time to London, please get a good map of London (I like Streetwise) so you have a good idea of where things are and where neighborhoods are.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:59 PM
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P.S. to my post, above: Even if you don't purchase anything (it can be a bit pricey), Harrods, one of the notable department stores of the world has a fabulous Food Court with take-out foods for close-by flat-dwellers, is a major tourist attraction, and is located in Knightbridge a few steps from the underground station on the Picadilly line.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 06:03 PM
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Lambie:
First step...I agree with yk..get a map to orient yourselves..very important. The plastic-coated "Streetwise London" map, can be slipped into your shirt pocket...and it can be found in any Borders or Barnes and Nobles.

Secondly, as yk also says, we have to know your budget's upper limits...you mention Blommsbury..on our recent trip last spring to London, we enjoyed being in Bloomsbury for the third time...sort of a village feel to the area...and we were able to shoot off anywhere from Russell Square Station (by bus or tube)

But, again, can't recommend lodgings with knowing your budget parameters. Please help us, Lambie. Thanks

stu t.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 07:53 PM
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In addition to needing your budget, how many people in your group? A family of 4 vs a young or older couple vs 3 couples, etc.

How long will you be in London? Three days vs ten days makes a difference. For three days a hotel is often best but for a week or longer a flat (apartment) is great because you have the kitchen facilities and often more space than a hotel room.

If you can tell us what airport you're flying into, we can try to offer options for how to get to your hotel. Tube, train or private car hire such as JustAirports.com or Dot2Dot.

What activites/places are you interested in seeing? The main attractions are scattered throughout central London, so one of the best ways to find lodging is to decide on a budget and then look in the area of either A) your favorite grouping of sites or B) a convenient tube or bus stop. Below is a link to a bus map that shows many of the most popular tourist sites. It's great for deciding what to do on the same day (you don't want to go back and forth across the city more than needed).

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloa...al_bus_map.pdf

The next link is the Tube map. Use it and the tourist bus map (above) for ideas of what areas you may want to stay near and how to get around while you're in London. The circle line is a (surprise) circle around central London and can be used for most, if not all, of the places you'll likely want to go.

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloa...d-tube-map.pdf

One of your next questions will be about transport while in London, so you'll want to search this forum for threads about the Oyster card, travelcards and 2 for 1 deals. It can get confusing. Once you give specific details about your group, people here can give you suggestions on what transport option may be best suited to your group.
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Old Jun 4th, 2009, 06:58 AM
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What are "standard tourist sights"? The list could include all of these:

The Tower
Buckingham Palace
The Eye
Westminster Abbey
British Museum
Victoria & Albert Museum
Tate Modern
Madame Tussaud's (standard tourists like wasting money)
Harrod's
Trafalgar Square (and National Gallery)
St. Paul's Cathedral
Cabinet War Rooms
British Library

Start mapping them and they're all over London. And the list above is FAR from exhaustive.

We stayed in South Bank, which is well-located. So is the Covent Garden/Leicester Square area. But there is NO way you'll be able to easily walk everywhere you want to go.

London is a big city. It has 7.8 million people and its square mileage is larger than New York or Tokyo. It has more than twice the population of the next largest city in Europe west of Russia. It is not a small Eastern European capital. So you need to know what you're getting into.

You also need to do some research. The British Library has a great exhibit on Henry VIII until September. Other museums and castles have Henry VIII exhibitions this year too because it's the 500th anniversary of his ascension to the throne. Londontown.com has a lot of good information, including suggested walking itineraries and special exhibitions. Look there and see what will be going on in London while you're there.
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Old Jun 4th, 2009, 11:03 AM
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We were just there 2x and stayed at "The Sumner Hotel" which I liked (king size bed). 116 pounds a night.

We also stayed at the Paddington Hilton for 109 pounds a night; which we got thru LondonTown.com. I like the Hilton because they are connected to Paddington Station and you can just walk over and catch the train to Heathrow, also we had a real nice room. I would recommend eating elsewhere though, too expensive even in the bar.
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Old Jun 5th, 2009, 02:26 PM
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Hi Lambie123 -

I just recently stayed at the Radisson Edwardian Leicester Square in London. It's in a fab and safe area that is perfect for sightseeing. You can walk to several of the theatres and the tube stop is very close. An open-top bus tour leaves from just up the street from the hotel, and you can even walk to Covent Garden. I saw Jersey Boys, Wicked, We Will Rock You, and Blood Brothers, which were all brilliant shows. Loved the London Eye and the Charles Dickens Museum. The Brits are really friendly, so I think you'll have a great time.
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Old Jun 5th, 2009, 05:12 PM
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Up until this past spring, I would have said definitely Bloomsbury. But then we stayed in South Kensington, which we found much more convenient than we realized. So, as previous posters have said, it really depends on what you want to be near and what your budget is. Londontown.com, recommended by BigRuss, has good deals as well as a wonderful interactive map that lets you see the exact locations of the hotels--and the average nightly room cost.
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Old Jun 6th, 2009, 05:00 AM
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Thank you all. Apologies for not providing more information. We are two adults, my husband & I will be celebrating an anniversary. I've been saving up, our budget is $5,000 - 6,000, but that needs to include airfare. Days, 6 - 8. I do realize London is huge, we'd just like to walk as much as possible & be in a safe place to do that. We love to walk when we visit new places. A kitchen would be terrific, at least for breakfast, but that's not a deal breaker.

Narrowing down the list of places we'd like to see will be tough. We plan at least a couple of West End shows (thanks for those recommendations), and in a perfect world the only item on BigRuss' list I could easily cross off is Madame Tussauds. We'll do what we can. Now I'm off to B & N to buy a Streetwise map & will check out all the links above. Thanks to all!
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Old Jun 6th, 2009, 03:25 PM
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A friend loves the Russell Hotel near the British Museum. Near the Tube, & b/c it's near part of the University of London, there are lots of pubs, secondhand bookstores, and cafes. Nice squares for sitting in, too.

Last September we stayed for a week at the Sheraton Park Lane, which confusingly enough is not actually on Park Lane but on Piccadilly, just across the street from Green Park and about a five minute walk from the Green Park tube stop. The neighborhood behind the hotel is Mayfair, and full of good walking and small neighborhoods. And you can walk straight down Piccadilly and browse away.
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Old Jun 6th, 2009, 04:33 PM
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We stayed ata great place a couple years ago. Vancouver studios. Got a kitchenette, which was handy. It was cheap by London standards. Located in Bayswater. Can walk to Hyde park. Also could walk to Paddington station(handy if you take the Heathrow Express into london)
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 04:41 AM
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Recent trip to London we stayed in 3 different hotels (for semi-complicated reasons), liked them all a lot.

For your budget you can probably get 5* Mayfair Hotel on Priceline or Hotwire. A few days ago we were at the Grosvenor House on Park Lane, a place that redefines the meaning of the word "bed" for me. It's been recently renovated, and is excellent. (Cheapskates at heart, we avoided the 20 GBP/day internet rate and the 21 GBP room service continental breakfast, went out for those things.) Many buses run up and down Park Lane, with tube stops at the top and bottom. As I've learned in my Fodor's years, London is a great Priceline town. If you didn't get the Grosvenor with your bid, you could make do with another 5* Mayfair hotel.

Alternately, we also stayed at the Fraser Place Queen's Gate on Cromwell Rd. near Gloucester Rd. tube stop, got a lovely studio with kitchenette and a loft in a picturesque townhouse. Just down the street from the Victoria and Albert, Science, and Natural History museums. Spend a day easily at the V&A.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 04:52 AM
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We lucked out on our 3rd hotel, too: Holiday Inn Regent's Park. Got a view of Fitzroy Sq treetops and the BT Tower, the neighborhood has a theater-subjects-only bookstore, tons of nice pubs, and felt more as if we were among Our People. But it's a basic, non-celebratory HI, and I think there's a risk with Priceline or Hotwire that you'll end up in undesirable King's Cross area if you bid for Bloomsbury/Marble Arch area.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 05:19 AM
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Thank you all for the hotel recommendations, should we go with a hotel I now feel confident I can make a choice we'd be happy with. Too chicken to use Hotwire for a first visit, though.

I've been leaning toward a flat rather than hotel. Found 2 that look OK, now trying to decide between 1-21 Smith St. or 15 St. Martin's Lane. The location at St. Martin's Lane looks good - but google maps shows what may be construction in the street. Anyone know if that's still happening? I also have some feedback that the Smith St. location is good. Plan to book before the day is out - help appreciated! Thanks to all.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 05:44 AM
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Street view shows repaving in front of the St.Martin's flat. I didn't notice any of that last week. That's a very busy area, with streams of humanity flowing by the door until wee hours, which would be more of a factor for me than the construction. What floor? I'd want to be well above the street action. On the plus side, there are many theaters and restaurants within stone's throw, and you can stroll down to Trafalgar Sq with your morning muffins and watch the world go by.

Of the two locations I'd choose Smith St. (in S. Kensington, right?) because a far quieter residential area, not far from some very nice window shopping en route to your tube stop at Sloane Sq.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 05:55 AM
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3rd floor.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 06:02 AM
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Hmm. That could be fun if you like to be in the very thick of things. Londoners?
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 06:05 AM
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As spread out as London's sights are, there isn't any hotel location that will allow you to walk to very many of them. But that's moot, because there are so many bus and Tube options that you can be almost anywhere in town in 5 or 10 minutes.

We shop for value (not price per se in lodging, seeking to maximize what we get for what we spend, regardless of location. In 2007, I got a $400 room at the 5-star Meliã White House in Regent's Park for a little more than $100, and was happy to take the Tube everywhere I wanted to go (Great Portland Street station is a 3-minute walk).

I realize that some noobs have an aversion to Priceline, but I think it would be well worth your time to find a friend or colleague who has used it to get you past your trepidation and go for it.

p.s. You don't have to buy a street map - there's a great one on line that you can also get for free at any Tube station: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/centlond.pdf
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