Where should you stay in London?

So you've decided to come to London. Great decision. Now, where should you stay? There are so many options in this vast, fascinating metropolis that it can be confusing for the first-time visitor. Don't worry, we're here to help.

First there's the question of cost. There's no doubt that this great city can also be an expensive destination, so consider all types of places to stay. If you're on a tight budget, the cheaper hotels in the more unlikely locations - close to Kings Cross Station, for example - are worth taking a look at. Hostels offer great value and there's a wide variety in London to suit all tastes. You could also choose a London bed and breakfast. That way, you'll be staying somewhere intimate with hosts who know their way around - and you won't be paying for hotel extras that you may not want. Whatever your choice, booking as far as possible in advance is advisable - and remember always to be on the lookout for special deals.

Our second tip is to focus your search on one area. London's a big place. Where you wake up and go home to at night will make a big difference to your stay. Do you want to go out late? What sort of cafes would you like to have breakfast in? Take a look at our neighbourhood guide to decide which part of London matches the person you are:

1On-trend, out at night: East London is for you.

The hip, vibrant neighbourhoods of Shoreditch, Dalston, Brick Lane and, a little further out, Whitechapel. Once these areas were no-go zones. Then the artists and the night clubs moved in and now these are the trendiest areas of the world's greatest city. The streets that once housed London's working classes and where Jack The Ripper once roamed are now home to artisanal cocktail bars and the latest galleries frequented by the in-crowd. You'll have no shortage of cafes to choose from and you'll be able to go out as late as you need. Cost rating: once cheap, now getting more and more expensive. Worth it if hip London is essential to your stay.

2Quiet, sophisticated, fashionable: Kensington and Chelsea should be your first call.

In leafy West London, this is home to the glossy high fashion set. Some of the finest shopping in London will be on your doorstep, whether it's Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge or the latest boutiques on the King's Road. The Royal Court Theatre on Sloane Square is essential for anyone interested in the latest offerings from the newest young playwrights. Prosperous red brick mansion blocks line the streets on the roads down to the Thames, while the restaurants are among the city's finest. Cost rating: you pay for luxury, so expensive. You won't regret it.

3Casual, student-y, gigs a priority: Camden Town.

There's nothing like the north London buzz of Camden on a Saturday morning. There are great pubs here and some of the capital's finest live music venues. The Regent's Canal offers scenic walks both east and west. You certainly won't be bored! If you like life to be a little quieter but with access to Camden, go a little further north to glorious Hampstead, long home to London's literary lions and to the greenery of Hampstead Heath. Cost rating: Camden is cheap by London standards, Hampstead will cost you rather more. You'll fall in love with both.

4Being central means everything: Soho and the area around Piccadilly Circus.

For some, there's nothing like being in the West End with its glittering lights, multitude of attractions and the theatres of Shaftesbury Avenue on your doorstep. Throw in Soho with its long-cherished reputation of being the home of artistic legends and of the capital's thriving LGBT community and you're bound to have a lively time. Culturally, the great galleries are within walking distance, as is the Thames and the South Bank. Cost rating: Not cheap. Pay up only if you really want to be in the heart of tourist London.

5Nothing but the best will do: Mayfair and Marylebone.

London's wealth is sometimes hidden. Not in these areas. There's so much money here that you can see the results on every corner. Just take a look at the high-end cars wafting gently past, or the furs so casually worn as their owners greet the doorman at their mansion block. The restaurants are only for those with a lot of money to spend, but the parks are for everyone. Hyde Park is the capital's largest and it'll be on your doorstep while Green Park and St James's Park are within walking distance. Luxury hotels abound and you'll be hard-pushed to find anything suitable for a budget stay. Cost rating: Think of a figure, then double it.

6A weekend hideaway: Notting Hill and Portobello Market.

Famous for its rows of pastel-coloured houses looking out onto private garden squares, Notting Hill is both prosperous and diverse, being home to the annual Notting Hill Carnival, one of the largest in Europe. At the weekends, Portobello Market is legendary for its antiques, while those in the know head further north towards Ladbroke Grove where fashion designers hunt out bargains at a market under a highway. The restaurants are laid back and the pubs offer a flavour of real London. Cost rating: Moderate and you might just find a bargain here. Snap it up if you do.
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