Neighborhood for staying in London?
February 17, 2017 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Looking for your input on where to stay in London in the later summer.

We are looking for a flat with either 2 bedrooms OR 1 bedroom with a relatively spacious living room including a comfortable bed. I've been looking on airbnb. I may also consider vrbo if that seems like a good option. I'm unsure of what neighborhood or how much the location really matters. I don't want to spend a lot of time travelling ... but maybe we'll be taking the tube almost everywhere so it doesn't matter if we are a few stops farther out and paying less for more flat. Please help me to parse out the analytics of neighborhoods and travel.
* closer to the things to see is more expensive but the travel time is less
* farther out has larger/nicer flats but longer travel times and maybe higher travel costs

I've been looking mostly at places within walking of the King's Cross / St Pancras stations but wonder if there are other neighborhoods with a better value: nicer flats for less price and not that much added travel times.

Here are my considerations:
* 11 nights so the beds need to be comfortable (we could suck up a tiny flat for a few nights but not 11)
* a bit bigger than a hotel room with a little bit of living space so the four of us are not on top of each other the entire time
* kids are 14 and 11 if that matters
* flying in/out of Heathrow so travelling easily and for a reasonably price to the flat would be nice (though we could pay more to travel to a less expensive flat for 11 nights and maybe it would balance out?)
* probably will travel via the Eurostar while there so easy access would be nice (though if we paid less for the flat or had a bigger flat and travelled an extra 1/2 hour or so to the Eurostar that maybe wouldn't be a big deal?)
* plan to get around to the things to see so easy access to the most appropriate tube lines without transfers every time would be good
* seems like it might be nice to be walking distance to the British Museum so we could stop for a quick stop when we wanted (or maybe not?)
* nice grocery options within an easy walk to stock our kitchen
* casual and varying eateries in the neighborhood
* night life is of no interest to us - we'll be relaxing and sleeping after a relatively early dinner though maybe a show or two

Thank you.
posted by RoadScholar to Travel & Transportation around London, England (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have used Ivy Lettings a few times for this type of accommodation, worth checking out. Also, if you have a smartphone, then the Citymapper app makes using the bus just as easy as using the Tube, and gives you a little more leeway in neighborhoods/travel (plus you can see things on the way!)

There are lots of accommodations in the Paddington area, which would be an easy connection to other areas around town. Borough is on the other side of the river, but easy to get to the main attractions via bus/Tube/walking. I've seen a lot of apt rentals in the Canary Wharf area, but to my mind that's too far from the center of the touristy part of London to be worth it (ymmv, of course).
posted by msbubbaclees at 6:18 PM on February 17, 2017

The bus network is much less daunting to navigate than it once was, thanks to Tube-style maps and travel apps, so that possibly opens up more residential areas like Stoke Newington that aren't as hooked into the Tube network.

Somewhere like Earls Court or even Hammersmith, perhaps? Straight shot to Heathrow one way, to KX/StP and Russell Square the other. Hammersmith is one of those Zone 2 "towns in a city" with a mix of chain retail and independent places. Maida Vale, maybe? Anyway, I'd see what's available north of the river and westish, starting at the Zone 1/2 boundary but probably no further out than Zone 2. That works out to about 20 minutes (Tube) travel time into central London.
posted by holgate at 7:03 PM on February 17, 2017

Broadly speaking, I would say that location matters less than you might think. London is a generally safe city so it's not like there are certain war zones you have to stay out of.

Once you get into central London the tube network is dense and well connected (and the city is very walkable) so it's not like there's a certain Tube line you must be on to get anywhere.

Also, most London neighborhoods will have a "high street" with a small grocery store and a couple of places to eat, so wherever you stay, you're unlikely to be stuck with nothing to walk to.

You will definitely notice that prices will drop if you're willing to spend an extra 10 to 20 minutes on the tube getting into central London. Obviously it is hard for an outsider to tell you if that tradeoff is worth it for you and your family.

Something I've noticed is that prices in London are often based on the nearest tube stop -- but not necessarily the walking time to get to that tube stop. Imagine two flats, both of which are 31 minutes away from central London. Flat A is (11 minute walk + 20 minute tube ride) and flat B is (1 minute walk + 30 minute tube ride). Weirdly, Flat B will often be much cheaper, even though your overall travel time is the same.

So you might think about the absolute maximum time you're willing to spend each day getting to the city center... and then find the tube stop that is that time away from the center... and then look for AirBNB flats that are right next to that tube stop.
posted by yankeefog at 1:41 AM on February 18, 2017

Central London is really quite walkable. I would not consider your travel to Heathrow in your accommodations, as you'll only make that trip twice. It is far from the center of the city but unless you're farther west, it's still going to be a far-ish trip.

I might look at Camden, just north of the center (also a fun neighborhood for your kids?) and an easy commute to KCX. You could also try south of the river, in Southwark (Elephant and Castle, Bermondsey, etc.) Prices tend to be cheaper and you're very close to the British Museum, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, etc. (a couple of tube stops, a scenic bus ride, or a bit longer walk over the river, depending on where you're staying).

p.s.: Re transport and groceries: the shopping system in London is quite different from the US. It's hard not to bump into a small grocery store anywhere in the central zones, so you should be covered on that front. As for tube commutes, if you're planning to stay mostly in the center, I'd put a plug in for taking the bus. People love riding the double-deckers, you get to see lots of scenic stuff (the Eye, St Paul's, etc.), it's dirt cheap (£1.50 one way, free transfer within one hour), and generally less crowded than the tube on off-peak hours. (Downside: doesn't go as frequently as the tube, but generally a bus will come every six or so minutes).
posted by stillmoving at 2:24 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Paddington direction was my thought too. I would echo the bus suggestion, but bear in mind they don't take cash anymore, so you need an oyster card, contactless debit/credit card or apple /android pay via your phone.

Also, take note now of the insane prices for the Heathrow express (unless booked like 3 months in advance) compared to the piccadilly line.
posted by knapah at 2:54 AM on February 18, 2017

I had family stay in this flat recently and they really liked it:

Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, which is nice with a family. Full kitchen and big living room. It's close to Farringdon Station, so easy to get from Heathrow (Heathrow Express to Paddington and then tube around to Farringdon) and only one stop to King's Cross where you're right across the street from Eurostar.

Lots of restaurants, walkable to much of what people think of as central London, and good transport links if you don't want to walk.
posted by lettezilla at 3:08 AM on February 18, 2017

This may seem a little out of the blue but I would suggest Canada Water. Jubilee line is one of the fastest lines and interchanges at key places. Direct line to Houses of Parliament, Baker Street, Hyde park, Bond Street for shopping, waterloo for south bank. If you are arriving at Paddington, you can take the Bakerloo line, and change at Baker Street for the Jubilee line . This change is INCREDIBLY FAST, it is literally, literally, across the platform. Like a 15 meter walk or 10 seconds to change between Bakerloo and Jubilee line.

There is also the Overground line which is fast too, though not particularly useful if you are looking at traditional tourist activities. (Great for night life though, for anyone else reading this!).

My primary reason for suggesting this is because Canada Water has a lot of new housing built in the past ten years, so the apartments will be fairly new and modern and well-equipped and LARGE. It's not on the tourist route either, so prices will be affordable. As an area, it's pretty sanitized (I.e. not the most happening place in the world), but it is clean, walkable, friendly.

UK grocery stores / supermarkets are some of the best in the world, in terms of affordability, variety and distribution, and there will be one close by should you need groceries. I echo one of the commentators above; there will be a grocery store within a 5 minute walk in Central London.
posted by moiraine at 6:55 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

We stayed in this apartment and it is perfect for what you want. We were there for about two weeks and meets ALL your criteria. We were a married older couple and our two adult kids. Bus stop right outside. Tube stop across the corner. British Museum two blocks away, grocery store also two blocks away. Great, centrally located neighborhood. If you use the citymapper app combined with a wifi-finding app you can get pretty much anywhere. We used the Sky wifi finder and it worked great for us.
posted by raisingsand at 8:23 AM on February 18, 2017

We stayed in this flat over Christmas and it was great. Two full bedrooms plus a sofabed, it fit my family of five (two adults, three nine year olds) fantastically. Only a few minutes walk from the Highbury & Islington tube stop and a bus stop literally outside the door of the building.
posted by pyjammy at 9:14 AM on February 18, 2017

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