Where to stay in London?
January 11, 2015 3:06 PM   Subscribe

I'll be in London for work at the end of the month but will also have some time for fun/sightseeing. I'm trying to figure out where to stay to maximize both.

Work is in Islington, near the Essex Road train station. I'd like to be able to get there within a half hour of walking or public transit.

However, I'd like to also be in a good place for sightseeing and general fun. I don't need to be right in the central area, as long as I'm on some sort of easy public transit, and would prefer an interesting neighborhood with good places to eat and drink, and maybe a cool weekend market, to proximity to big tourist sites.

Coworkers have suggested Hackney/Shoreditch because it's an interesting area and it's near the office. But I'm having trouble getting a read on the place and transit seems not-so-great (I could be totally wrong about that). Alternatively, there are some hotels in my range (around $150/night) in the area between the King's Cross and Angel stations, but I can't figure out what that area is like.

So I guess my questions are:

- What's Hackney like? What about that area between Angel and King's Cross?
- The Overground seems like sort of an inconvenient line to be on for sightseeing, but am I wrong and just letting my experience with (subpar) American public transit color my view?
- Are there other areas I should consider, and/or particular hotels/guesthouses/B&Bs I've overlooked?
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation around London, England (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Overground is slightly atypical in that it doesn't cross the centre of the town east-west; instead it skirts right around it. But honestly, it connects with all the major tube lines and if you're in Zone 1-2 with any kind of train/tube/Overground station close by you are rarely more than 45 minutes away from anything in central London, door to door.
posted by srednivashtar at 4:34 PM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Public transport in London is fantastic, especially compared to most American setups.

Shoreditch is a decent enough bet. Lots going on round there. Transport is fine - Overground, plenty of buses and you're not far from Tube connections. The bit between King's Cross and Angel is kind of dead if I remember correctly. Islington is pretty fancy, Upper Street is full of bars and shops and cafes, Exmouth Market is nearby. The Overground's probably not great for sightseeing in itself but you've got an easy connection to the Victoria line at Highbury & Islington which takes you right into the middle of town and connects with pretty much all the other lines, and an easy link to Stratford if you want to go see the Olympic Park or subject yourself to Westfield.

Brixton is a textbook interesting neighbourhood with good food/drink places and a cool market, but you won't get to Essex Road from there in half an hour. 45-60 mins at peak.
posted by corvine at 4:46 PM on January 11, 2015

I just went to London for the first time in August and the place that sent me put me up at the Thistle Barbican which is a little above your price range but was perfect for me. Walking distance to Essex Road and the subway and also a slightly longer walk to the big downtown areas and nearby a few nice neighborhoods for poking around. I'd never been anywhere around there before and it was a pretty well-located and completely nice place to stay and I was happy to have a place where I could get breakfast before heading out. I'm sure there are other fine places nearby, I was just pleased that this one was reasonably located and reasonably priced.
posted by jessamyn at 5:22 PM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Overground is actually fantastic, because it makes coherent routes out a lot of (mostly) surface lines that used to be fairly incoherent and only understood hyper-locally. Being able to get from bits of residential London (especially south of the river) to places like Shoreditch is great; Citymapper makes all of this easy.

The bit between Kings Cross and Angel is indeed a bit dead. Kings Cross is a lot less seedy than it once was. Upper Street is a kind of upscale urban village. There's been a lot of shortish-term student accommodation going up in the 'Silicon Roundabout' area of Shoreditch, and it is very hipster. Hackney and environs is generally more dependent upon buses than trains, but the buses are frequent and reliable, and taking the bus will make you feel more like a resident.

Camden Town, perhaps? Camden Market is more of a tourist spectacle these days, but it's an interesting self-contained neighbourhood. Or perhaps the Stoke Newington - Dalston borderlands, where you'll get a sense of the city changing under your feet.

On preview: the Barbican is a really fun and funky base. Singular Modernist vision, residential living in the heart of the City, though it's very easy to get very lost.
posted by holgate at 5:25 PM on January 11, 2015

I liked staying at the B&Bs in King's Cross area. The good ones are well-rated on Trip Advisor and you're close to transit and walking distance to nice areas. I found them to be an affordable option.
posted by egeanin at 5:28 PM on January 11, 2015

Seconding what corvine said about public transportation. I stayed in Paddington, and had no trouble at all getting all over town. If you can find a place to stay near a tube station, you're pretty much golden.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:52 PM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Came to recommend Camden or Paddington, but others already have, so I'll throw my mute, low-rent nod of agreement in instead.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:01 PM on January 11, 2015

I've visited London three times in the last year and done the tourist thing a little bit each time. I've stayed a five-minute walk from Kings Cross in one direction and the Camden Markets in the other; a cheap nasty little hostel close to Goodge St on the edge of Soho; and an AirBnB loft in Shoreditch near Old Street (one stop in from Essex Road). Every single one of those places was ridiculously accessible to most of the sights of central London, on foot as well as via public transport. I enjoy walking, but I was still surprised at how compact central London actually is -- if you catch the tube to somewhere like Charing Cross it's amazing how much you'll see just by walking.

In my experience, as long as you're anywhere in Zone 1 (PDF) on the London Underground maps, you're golden. Pick a hotel that looks nice for the price and is a short hop from a station and you're set.
posted by tracicle at 11:41 PM on January 11, 2015

I absolutely loved the Hoxton, the last time I was in London. They're just a short walk from Old Street station, which will easily get you all over.
posted by arishaun at 12:40 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you stayed near Angel I think you'd do just fine. It's a buzzing area with a lot of history, lots of bars and pubs and such, lots of pretty shops, but not one of the more famous areas and thus not overrun with tourists or out-of-towners in my memory, which you can't say for Camden or Shoreditch, and for that reason I think it might make a better home base. Chapel Market is there, so is Camden Passage, and the canal you can walk along, all the way to Camden if you wanted in under an hour. It looks like there is a budget hotel, the Premier Inn Islington, smack in the middle of the neighborhood, from which you could easily walk to work and oh man is it ever a luxury to walk to work in London. I really think it could work for you.

Also if you need to get across town, take a bus instead of the tube. Buses are great in London, and you can ride up top and see the city move around you. From Angel I am sure you could hop a bus that would go straight to all the tourist zones in not too long. Have fun.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:51 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here is a rather nice map showing where you can get in 30 minutes from Essex Road.

Just for fun here is everywhere you can get to in a hour from Charing Cross (The centre of London, kinda)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:37 AM on January 12, 2015

Since someone seconded Paddington, I thought I'd go ahead on and link to the place I stayed. The absolute only complaints I had were that the curtains were a bit grubby, and the room was three flights up. I could have asked for fresh curtains and to be moved downstairs, but I honestly didn't care because I was a lot stronger and healthier then, and loved climbing up what surely must have been the servant's staircase back when it was a Georgian townhouse.

Paddington station was ridiculously close, as were newsagents, a chip shop, and a Safeway for cheap grub on the way home from a day of exploring.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:25 PM on January 12, 2015

Hackney/Shoreditch is excellent. We were in London last year and we stayed just off Brick Lane, near the Biegel shop. We loved it. It's lively, lots to do/see, lots of street art and lanes to wander, and lots of casual, fun places to eat, drink and hang out, which would be good if it's near work. You can socialise easily after hours. It's a bit hipster (vinyl, craft beer&coffee, second hand clothes, sit on a crate and eat chicken wings) in case you strongly dislike that kind of thing, but the other end of Brick Lane is still full of curry places and grocers etc.

Use google streetview and have a look around. Go up and down Brick Lane then try some of the big roads like up & down Commercial St.

The transport everywhere in London is excellent and easy. Don't let that determine where you stay because you will have no trouble getting around no matter where you are. Get yourself one of the public transport apps for your phone. We loved the buses, we liked seeing London while we were going somewhere.
posted by stellathon at 3:04 PM on January 12, 2015

Huge thanks to everyone and all the very helpful answers. I wound up booking a hotel near the Old Street station, which seemed like a good mix of near the Tube and other transit, near the East London places I wanted to see, and easy transit to the office.
posted by lunasol at 2:42 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

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