Soho has werewolves, so where should we stay in London?
March 10, 2016 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Spending two weeks in late August in London, with a couple of trips to castles and stone circles and historical re-enactments out of town. What London neighborhood should we stay in? We like places with flavor.

Mrs. and Young Miss musofire (12) and I are flying to London for two weeks starting August 27. Many of the fun things in London seem to encircle Soho, but apparently it is terribly expensive; and of course, when it rains, there are werewolves. We like neighborhoods with history and charm (old buildings) and flavor (curry), but they do not have to be schmancy; just non-sketchy. Rather than a chain hotel which could be anywhere, we'd rather end up in a reasonably priced small hotel (with thick walls) that could only be in England, from which we can take the Tube to the British Museum and such. But where should we look?

In other news, our London plans include The British Museum, the V & A, the Natural History, the Wetlands Centre, Hampton Court for the skirret, the Kew Gardens Treetop Walkway and possibly this umbella shop.

Lord willin' we will make a three day swing Northwest through Chipping Norton, the Rollright Stones (lapsed pagan here), the Cotswolds and Aquae Sulis; and another southwest through Butser Ancient Farm, Arundel Castle, Fishbourne Roman Palace, and the cliffs at Beachy Head.

Anything we're missing? (Tragically, Wistman's Wood has been deemed a bridge too far.)
posted by musofire to Travel & Transportation around London, England (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
We rented this A few years ago and it was really perfectly located to see everything. We had two adult kids with us, so this might be too big for a family of three, but I can vouch for it. Tube stop right across the street and bus stops in front of building. Within walking distance to SO many things we wanted to do.
posted by raisingsand at 6:03 PM on March 10, 2016


As a bit of reassurance, public transport is extremely good in the greater London area - you really don't have to care about being near where you want to visit within the city if you can stomach anything like an hour of trains and buses (get a visitor's Oyster card each, use Citymapper to tell you where to go, and stand on the right.

I joke that every trip inside London takes one hour, but it's kind of true. I live ten miles from Soho Square, and all of the possible routes I could take would involve roughly an hour's travel.
posted by lucidium at 7:09 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you're staying for two weeks I'd recommend renting an apartment instead of a hotel. Hotel rooms are small and expensive in London, and we'd have gone mad without at least a refrigerator.

Girlfriend and I spent two weeks last August in an apartment roughly on the edge of Maida Vale and Kilburn. We were across the street from the Kilburn Park tube stop and it was a godsend. If you're worried about sketchy, I'd suggest that you stay on the Maida Vale side; the stretch of Kilburn High Road we were near was fine and felt safe, but had enough betting shops and SIM-card vendors to score a 2-out-of-10 on the sketchy meter.

Three stops on the Bakerloo line and we were at Paddington. A bit farther got us to Piccadilly Circus for theater. If we went back, we might try to get a bit closer, or do a different neighborhood for variety, but staying in zone 2 instead of zone 1 possibly saved us $50-100 per night.

(As for the Oyster card: it can get a bit complicated, but if you're going to be using the tube more than, say, twice a day, you're better off with a 7-day Travelcard. It was cheaper for us to get a Travelcard for zones 1–2, and then for the three or four destinations in remote parts of London we'd just get a one-day ticket to zone 4 or wherever. The main caveat with the Travelcard is that they don't sell them in London; you've got to order them online and get them delivered to your home ahead of time.)
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:07 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree that an apartment is a good idea. I had a good experience with Central London Apartments. I stayed in Camden Town, conveniently around the corner from a Masala Zone. Camden Town station is on the Northern line and I found it very easy to travel from there all over London via tube.
posted by neushoorn at 1:33 AM on March 11, 2016


For a 12 year-old, Camden Town is more fun than Soho. A huge market area with loads of shopping for knick knacks, canals with water buses, masses of nice street food and also reliable chain cafes and restaurants. It's lively at night but not really 'edgy' (as a major tourist attraction, they keep it safe). You have London Zoo and Regents Park in walking distance and it is very well connected by underground, you could take an Uber to Soho in 10 minutes. The umbrella shop is a 15 minute bus ride. Welcome!
posted by colie at 1:36 AM on March 11, 2016


Soho has a lot of history for sure. I read a lot of golden age british detective novels and so many take place on the streets of Soho. But Soho today is really more of a nightlife destination. For that old-world British charm, I'd suggest looking further east: Chancery Lane, Clerkenwell, Shoreditch.

I do notice some things you may be interested in such as historic pubs (Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and many others), a general walk around the Inns of Court which feels Dickensian, and in fact if you've read Bleak House you might recognize many of the locations.

My favourite tiny museum is the Grant museum at UCL. Also at UCL, if you are interested in Egyptian artifacts don't overlook the Petrie museum! It is out of the way in a small alley. We've often been the only ones there.

How are you getting to places like the Rollright stones? You need a car for that, I think. I know the Cotswolds extremely well - since I live here - and can also point out unusual megaliths, churches, villages, pubs, etc if you're interested. The Wetlands Centre in London is nice, but if you're coming out West you might as well go to Slimbridge instead.
posted by vacapinta at 1:46 AM on March 11, 2016


One other tip: the Natural History Museum gets extremely crowded in August - but it's quiet on Sunday morning, on the dot of 10am when it opens, and the roads are empty for getting there.
posted by colie at 1:58 AM on March 11, 2016


(As for the Oyster card: it can get a bit complicated, but if you're going to be using the tube more than, say, twice a day, you're better off with a 7-day Travelcard. It was cheaper for us to get a Travelcard for zones 1–2, and then for the three or four destinations in remote parts of London we'd just get a one-day ticket to zone 4 or wherever. The main caveat with the Travelcard is that they don't sell them in London; you've got to order them online and get them delivered to your home ahead of time.)

May well be worth buying a travelcard, but I'd suggest doing this by getting an Oyster card and adding the travelcard to that. That way you're not going to end up paying over the odds for paper tickets. You could use a paper travelcard and a contactless debit card, of course, but I think that's just going to be confusing. Safest way is Oyster + travelcard, I reckon.
posted by howfar at 6:07 AM on March 11, 2016


I can recommend the Hilton London Metropole, near the Edgware station. It's a conference hotel, and we stayed in the newer, tower section. It was a good central location and the hotel itself was really comfortable.

We got it via a Monograms package that included airfare, hotel, transportation to and from the airport, daily English breakfast, a historical tour of London on a tour bus with a delightful gentleman who knew the entire history of the country and trips on the London Eye. There's a representative on-site and she arranged a Stonehenge/ Bath tour day-trip. (If you have kids you're going to want to do the Harry Potter Tour of (Oxford/Cambridge?) The very cool thing about this is that it wasn't a traditional tour. We did what we wanted when we wanted.

The neighborhood had a middle-eastern feel to it, with lots of kebab and hookah places. Also Tesco and Safeway. The Underground is across the street.

One thing I'll recommend. The flight comes in at sun-up. Pay for the room for a 7:am check in. Eat something, bathe and nap until noon. Then do the Tower of London, and stay up until 10:00 PM. That will reset your internal clock and you won't be zombies from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM check in, with travel crud on you and a sour stomach.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:18 AM on March 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


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