London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit and yet tourists flock to England’s capital in ever-increasing numbers year after year. Most travelers look for places to stay in the center, around Hyde Park or even as close as possible to Buckingham Palace. However, if you’re willing to look away from the crowds you might just find yourself rewarded with a more pleasant experience and a little more cash in your pocket for that souvenir china featuring the faces of Will and Kate. And while you're at it, find some places to eat for less than $25.
When I stayed at the Church Street Hotel I was pleasantly surprised to find I loved the neighborhood of Camberwell. It’s only Zone 2 but it feels more removed than most neighborhoods and that distance is enough to make it seem like a hidden gem. Excellent bus service and superior dining options at restaurants such as Angels & Gypsies make this area one that I don’t think will stay “alternative” for long!
With so many green spaces in London, there’s no need to only visit Hyde Park. Victoria may be smaller but it has wonderful meadows and a delightful shopping and dining area along Lauriston Road that feels like a more luxurious version of an American Main Street. Restaurants such as Spit Jack’s and cafes like Loafing are as wonderful as anything you’ll find in Soho or Mayfair.
Mostly residential with the addition of the Earl’s Court Exhibition Center, this neighborhood features many budget hotels and smaller inns, as well as apartments for rent. It is well connected to other areas of the city via the Tube and it also has an Easy Jet express bus to and from Gatwick Airport. It’s a solid choice when your primary goal is saving money.
I’ve stayed in this neighborhood well north of downtown many times and I always love it because I really feel like a local when I do. Easy transportation on both the Victoria and Piccadilly Tube lines make it more realistic than other neighborhoods just as far out and a good variety of ethnic cuisine enables you to get a break from eating only Fish n’ Chips. Be sure to visit the blue takeaway storefront that sells garlic-buttered Naan fresh from the oven for only £2!
This neighborhood is also on the north side of the city. Featuring two large transit hubs, St. Pancras International and King’s Cross, it is a place most people visit only briefly on the way to somewhere else. However, there is an enormous variety of lodging at all budget levels to choose from in the area. My favorites are the Tune Hotel, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and the Clink 78 and 261 Hostels. With so many Tube, train and bus options it’s very convenient to other areas of London as well.
When you do visit London, keep your eyes open and wherever you choose to stay, enjoy your holiday!