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The Best Area To Stay In London Flying into Heathrow

Author: Bob Handford

“Best” can mean different things to different people, cheapest, best value, close to the sights, health clubs, pampering, near nightlife or theatres …
For the purpose of this discussion we’re really saying what are the most convenient hoel districts if you are staying in London.
So first lets take a look at the major hotel districts.

Hotel Districts Of London And Heathrow Transport Links

Where Not To Stay

The easiest aspect is to outline hotel areas of London that will get you off to a seriously bad start if you book accommodation in them, (unless you splash out on a taxi.)
The hotel areas that are particularly bad for Heathrow are those in the City Of London, Tower of London, London Bridge, Waterloo, Blackfriars and County Hall areas. And don’t even think of going the other side of London from Heathrow to Docklands.

Kensington – The Easiest All Round Hotel District For Heathrow

The easiest hotel district logistically for Heathrow is Kensington. Its the closest mainstream hotel district to Heathrow and the main road out to Heathrow from London passes right through it, as does the Piccadilly Line of the London Undeground.
The district goes further and further upmarket as you travel into London along the Cromwell Road, (the extention of the motorway/freeway from Heathrow).
Earls Court is the place for low cost, the Gloucester Road area is the area for chain value 4 stars like Holiday Inn, Knightsbridge is one of the most expensive and exclusive districts of London to stay in.
If you have a family or a couple with lots of luggage a private car with meet n greet at the airport should be around the same price or cheaper than taking the Heathrow Express into London.
The Piccadilly Line of the London Underground runs every 5 minutes to Heathrow from about 5 a.m. to midnight and is the cheapest way to get to and from Heathrow. Trains from Earls Court, Gloucester Road, South Kensington and Knightsbridge take 40-50 minutes with stations beneath the passenger terminals.
There are plenty of restaurants to suit all budgets in the area and excellent public transport links to the main attractions. At Gloucester Road and Earls Court are proper full size supermarkets, not the small convenience style outlets you get elsewhere in Central London.

Paddington – The Fastest Link To Heathrow By Heathrow Express

Paddington is not particularly central and its environment is OK but not outstanding. The big attraction here is speed to the airport using the Heathrow Express train. Trains run every 15 minutes and take 15-20 minutes to Heathrow depending on terminal required. There are hotels of all types and budget around the station. Its probably quicker to get to check-in at Heathrow from Paddington using the Heathrow Express train than staying at many Heathrow hotels. There is a wide range of accommodation for all budgets around the station.

Looking For Cheap Accommodation?

If low cost is the overwhelming factor that determines where you stay then look at Earls Court Kensington and St Pancras. Both are on the Piccadilly Line of the Underground the cheapest Heathrow transfer available. Earls Court has the convenience of being the closest to Heathrow, Kings Cross/St Pancras may have cheap or cheaper accommodation with better reviews.
If you prefer the Heathrow Express transfer into London then Paddington itself has plenty of cheap hotels. Bayswater, adjacent to Paddington is worth checking out too. Bayswater is orientated around the budget market and is a pleasant place to stay as well. Room rates here are cheap during the working week but at weekends can double in price or more.

You Want To Be Downtown, Close To The Theatre ….

London has no downtown area in the North American sense. Sights are spread out, as are the hotels. You will be using public transport and walking to get around.
The nearest thing to a downtown area is the West End area where most but not all of the theatres are. Most hotels are 4 or 5 star global chain type hotels or exclusive boutique hotels. If you are in London on an expense account then its fine or if money is no object – for others not quite so fortunate they tend to look for something just a little further out the second time.
Bloomsbury is an atmospheric literary district that fits this bill with a good range of accommodation. If you don’t take the Underground from Heathrow then the train to Paddington then a black cab or a shorter journey on the Underground will be part of your transfer.

Want A Solid 4 Star Hotel But Don’t Want to Break The Bank ….

If you have one eye on the wallet, want a comfortable base in London but are not willing to pay the crazy prices of many luxury hotels then from Heathrow the benchmark is again going to be Kensington. Value for money 4 star hotels are centred around Gloucester Road Underground Station. The Holiday inn Kensington Forum and Copthorne Tara are perhaps likely suspects to start your search. Prices are very volatile, almost from day to day what is great value can soon become eye watering in price. If you do not need the frills of a 4 star like concierge services, room service etc try looking at a decent 3 star. Premier Inn are probably the benchmark here with high standards in the budget sector.
If you prefer the Paddington route, then the same applies around Paddington Station, rooms are very volatile. Try the Hilton Metropole or Novotel Paddington.
Bloomsbury is another prime location to check out. At weekends just north of Bloomsbury the 4 stars around St Pancras and Euston Stations can offer very good deals.

London Victoria….

Victoria hasn’t the easy connections that Paddington, Earls Court and Gloucester Road have, but is very close.
In addition Victoria has another option that other districts do not, the National Express Coach Service to Victoria Coach Station, a few hundred yards from rail and Underground Stations but still within the vast Victoria hotel district. The National Express coaches are not dedicated airport buses but do offer very comfortable and cheap transfers.
The London Underground offers a pretty good option too with a seemless switch of trains at Hammersmith at the same platform.
Victoria is central, Buckingham Palace is only 5 minutes walk from the train station and has hotels in every category.
Room rates are very volatile according to season but do peak at weekends.

The Best Way From Heathrow To London – Discussion of all Heathrow – London options
Kensington Hotels – Earls Court, Gloucester Road, South Kensington
Paddington Hotels – Accommodation around Paddington Station
Victoria Hotels – Accommodation around Victoria Station
Kings Cross St Pancras Hotels – Value for money accommodation, a great transport hub
West End Hotels – Hotels in the geographical centre of London

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  • Christina

    Hi, my family of 4 (husband, toddler and baby) is flying into Gatwick on Thurs arriving around 6:30 pm and leaving Sat from Heathrow at around 4 pm. We really will only sightsee on Fri. Would you still recommend Kensington? Any recommendations for ways to get from Gatwick or to Heathrow with budget in mind? We have a car seat and stroller so I don’t think we’ll easily be able to take the tube. Thanks for sharing great info.

    • Bob

      If low cost is a major driver and you have very young kids a family room at a Travelodge hotel on the south side of London using railways for the airport transfers rather than the Underground would be my benchmark.

      Go the Travelodge UK web site and look at Clapham Junction, Vauxhall and Waterloo hotels.

      From Gatwick there are trains from Gatwick Junction to Clapham Junction, where if needed you can switch trains that run about every 2 minutes to Waterloo, with many also stopping at Vauxhall.

      From Waterloo, Vauxhall or Clapham Junction there are frequent trains to Feltham where a London bus runs to Heathrow.
      Bus 285 goes to Heathrow Central for Terminals 2 and 3, bus 490 goes to Terminal 4 before terminating at Terminal 5

      For transport I have called train kids under 4 travel free, for all other transport including underground, buses kids under 11 travel free without a budget

      For the train Gatwick to Hotel via Clpaham Junction buy train tickets for that journey
      For the people that need to pay for transport in London get Oyster cards, which will also cover the train to Feltham and bus to Heathrow
      If you have kids between 11 and 15 you’ll need to get a Young Persons Discount loaded on their own Oyster for half price fares

      The alternative option using the same transport model as above but staying around east Croydon Station
      East Croydon is half way between Gatwick and London on the train and there is the X26 bus from Esat Croydon Station to Heathrow.. There are frequent trains between East Croydon and London you can use Oyster on.
      The fares for your day in London will be more expensive, but value of hotels may be better

      The X26 is a limited stop bus but otherwise is a normal London bus you can use Oysters on.

      Hotels around east Croydon Station include:Travelodge, Jurys Inn and Hampton by Hilton

  • phebe

    Hello Bob. This is our first time in London and we will arrive from Gatwick airport and stay for couple of days and head to Paris for a couple of days and back again in London for a couple of days then to Gatwick . Any suggestions on where is the best area to stay that are close to underground station on those travels?

    • Bob

      Assuming you are using the Eurostar train to Paris from St Pancras, logistically the best place for a hotel would be around Kings Cross / St Pancras or Euston Stations

      There are direct trains between Gatwick Airport and St Pancras Station

      Kings Cross / St Pancras itself has a good range of hotels in all budget classes and is a major underground hub but away from the station is not an area of any interest to the visitor

      Euston Station about 600 yards west from St Pancras is a bit more upscale with lots of medical schools and London University and room rates can be attractive at the weekends and also has a choice of Underground lines

      About a mile from St Pancras is the Bloosmbury area, personally I think its one of the most attractive places to stay in London, but there is a step change in hotel rates too

      In between Bloomsbury and St Pancras is a place called Cartwright Gardens which has a few mid-range independent hotels like the Judd, Euro Hotel, Studios2Let etc which are a good compromise

      More details at


  • Cristina Martell

    Hi Bob its our first time to travel to london any suggestions where should we stay that is almost close to everything, i know its kinda weird to ask but we only have 3 days in london thank you

    • Bob

      London is a spread out city and there will be an Underground station close to any hotel in one of the central hotel districts, so location per say isn’t that important once you are in London.

      Main factors that should influence your decision is
      – which airport/train station are you arriving at and how much luggage – there are big variations in cost and stress between different airport transfe requirements
      – “Best” hotel means different things to different people, for some it the cheapest, other have must have’s like free wifi, air-conditioning, a restaurant etc
      – Broadly speaking hotel districts that have a lot of business custom are better value at the weekends, while districts that are popular with leisure travellers tend to be more expensive at the weekend

  • Liliana

    Hi bob! My hat off with all you said and the helpful information, I happended to find 2 great hotels with 10 dls of difference.. just wanted to know about maybe a better area to go for a nice walk and see what is the real london at night.. I’m debating between kensington and bloomsbury area… What will be your pick for best experience? Thanks

    • Bob

      Kensington covers most of West London inner city, where excatly in Kensington are you looking

      • Liliana

        Thank for your answer Bob! The Kensington hotel is 5 min walking from earls station and the bloomsbury hotel is one block far away from the British museum. Thanks again!

        • Bob

          Afraid you are not going to see the “real london’ in terms of what expecting to see how the locals live in either of these districts.

          Both districts are dominated by overseas visitors and migrants and what you will experience is a mult-cultural mix of different languages, cuisines, attitudes etc – you won’t see or hear much that gives a glimpse of how English people live

          Personally I’d opt for Bloomsbury every time if all else is equal. It’s near the university and the literary district It’s a great place just to get lost in the back streets and make your own discoveries – perhaps initially setting off in a Southerly direct towards Covent Garden and Leicester Square

          Denmarlk Street is nearby and still has echo’s of it’s great days in the 60’s/70’s when people like Elton John, Paul Simon, Rolling Stones etc were around – now mostly contemporray music shops, recording studio’s and notice bands for bands seeking members
          Denmark Street is off Charing Cross Road home to the book district but and China Town is here too and there is always something going on at Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square
          Worth checking out the London University web site too as all the colleges put on free lectures and talks at lunchtime and in the evening which the public can attend

  • hks

    Hi based on good reviews, I had made reservations for 4 nights in first
    week of August at Crown Moran but I just noticed that they are now
    called Clayton Crown and under new mgmt and the latest reviews have gone
    south. Thinking of changing my reservations, any suggestions , also my
    kids want to closer to attractions/sight seeing. Thanks

    • Bob

      Any Premier Inn is a safe bet

  • Laura

    Hi can anyone give some advice on a reasonably priced hotel to stay for 2 nights, we fly into Gatwick and out from Heathrow and have a show booked at Bush Hall, would like somewhere that is easy accessible by public transport to all. Thanks in advance.

    • Bob

      What time does the show end and what time is your flight the next day?

      • Laura

        The show will end approx 10.30pm and the flight the next day is 11am. I should have said we want to see some of the sights on Friday evening and Sat before the show.

        • Bob

          An economical district would be Earls Court Kensington
          See: http://www.londontoolkit.com/accommodation/kensington.htm

          Most people would get the train from Gtawick to Victoria then the Underground to Earls Court. The Underground carries onto Heathrow from Earls Court.

          There is also a budget van service called easyBus that goes to West Brompton from Gatwick and terminates outside the Ibis Earls Court (not Ibis Styles) , but check the luggage allowances on this service

          • Laura

            Thank you very much for the information.

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