The British capital has a reputation for pricing everything as if you're a visiting aristocrat with money to burn. But after years of hunting down the city's best-value sleepovers – mostly for desperate fellow travellers alarmed by standard hotel rates skyward of $400 – I've developed a hot list of alternatives.
Your first option is to head back to school. Universities throughout London hawk vacant student accommodation to holidaymakers from June to September. But while cell-like study rooms (typically with free WiFi) are plentiful, some also offer elevated digs for more moolah.
Aside from its breakfast-included basic rooms – singles from £45 ($82), doubles and twins from £75 – the centrally located London School of Economics (lsevacations.co.uk) also has some sought-after sleepover gems, including a kitchenette apartment for two near Covent Garden. Peruse its online listings to see what's available, then cross-reference with rooms at Imperial College London (imperial.ac.uk/summeraccommodation) and the University of Westminster (westminster.ac.uk/business). Then book early.
Also, don't dismiss hostels. It may be years since you bunked in a jam-packed room scented with decaying socks but hotel-esque private quarters in backpacker joints are popular here. Aside from great rates – usually from £50 – extras usually include kitchens, laundry facilities and free or cheap city tours.
Most hostels have few private units so book far ahead – and make sure you snag an en suite if that's a deal-breaker. If you're travelling with your sprogs, many hostels typically offer good-value family rooms as well. Consider the Walrus Hostel (walrussocial.com), Travel Joy Hostel (traveljoyhostels.com) and the Generator (generatorhostels.com). Then cross-reference with the two stylish Clink hostel locations (clinkhostels.com).
Hostels can save you a bundle, of course, but they're not for everyone. Luckily, a new breed of good-value contemporary hotels has also popped up in London. I enjoyed my stay in Glasgow's cleverly designed Citizen M a couple of years back; another has been opened near London's Tate Modern (citizenm.com/london-bankside) – summer rates from £125.
Even more popular is the hip Hoxton Hotel (hoxtonhotels.com). Located in East London's skinny-jeans-central – also known as Shoreditch – summer rooms start at £69. Less savvy with their marketing but just as boutique-cool are Hotel 55 (hotel55-london.com), Church Street Hotel (churchstreethotel.com) and the snazzy Style Hotel (stylotel.com). Find summer doubles from £99 at Bayswater's London House Hotel (londonhousehotels.com).
Craving unique? The 30-room Pavilion Hotel (pavilionhoteluk.com) is London's artsiest, well-priced haven – snag their Indian Summer room if you can.
Not surprisingly, fancy-free British value chains, such as Travelodge (travelodge.co.uk) and Premier Inn (premierinn.com) also line London's streets. But I find some of their generic properties better-located than others – I recommend Premier's County Hall or Southwark Borough Market spots. But if price is the main factor, branches of Tune Hotels (tunehotels.com) are typically cheaper.
You say you're tired of the cookie-cutter contemporary look? Try Bloomsbury's family-run Jesmond Hotel (jesmondhotel.org.uk); it's a charming, antique-lined winner. Ensuite singles (from £65) are especially well-priced.
Naturally, self-catering is a good idea in a city where a dinner can cost an arm and a leg. Airbnb and upstart One Fine Stay can help you nail a cozy kitchen-equipped flat in the heart of the action. But among the few London hotels I've stayed in with kitchenettes, Kensington's Nadler (thenadler.com) is a well-priced recommendation.
Alternatively, stay at a B&B. However, London has more than its fair share of lame, overpriced options where limp toast lurks with rubbery fried eggs, so tread carefully. Consider the amazing-value Arlington Avenue (arlingtonavenue.co.uk) or peruse the expertly reviewed listings at sawdays.co.uk.
Or how about At Home in London (athomeinlondon.co.uk)? It's like a home-stay B&B where guests reside with local families or individuals – guests have their own room, bathroom facilities and receive a cooked breakfast. Rates start at £50, which means you might even save enough to buy a cocktail at a swanky London hotel bar.
OUR READERS WRITE
- Other than begging to crash with family? @smallandhungry
- I’ve heard the Tune chain of hotels are good no-frills options. @Tours_By_Locals
- Just spent a night at CitzenM in London – excellent value. Affordable room and entire downstairs meant to be each guest’s living room with magazines, books and lots of spots to sit or lounge. @LostNCheeseland
- I am a regular visitor to London but never stay at a hotel. We stay with an outfit called onefinestay.com. They have lots of rentals. Last September we stayed at one of their places in Nottinghill – the price was half what you pay at an hotel. Furthermore, just go to Marks and Spencer and buy your food and wines because the units are entirely complete with all cooking facilities. Joseph Gardiner
- Park Plaza Westminster works for rates, location and spacious rooms for London – it’s also good for family travel or when three or more share a room. @nextleg
- Big fan of easyHotel. Book online way in advance, great rates, clean, incredibly small rooms. Pay a bit more for a window. @chibeba
- Try the Arran House on Gower Street. A few years back it was £30 a night for a single room, including breakfast. My friend has also had good experiences with serviced apartments on Cartwright Gardens – they overlook a pretty crescent @danni4info
- Camping in Epping Forest; Airbnb, of course; and university digs in summer. @catherinemack
- Park Plaza County Hall: <QL>great value, spacious rooms, South Bank location. And it’s near tube stations, the London Eye and Big Ben. <QL> @bgbedford
- I would stay at The Cranley in Kensington. Great location, amenities and rooms. @PitchWitchPR
- I stayed at the Staybridge Suites London in Stratford City. Decent value, breakfast included, transport hub and clean. @HolidayBakerMan
- A few luxury/boutique hostels spring to mind: Safestay, Generator and Palmers Lodge. @TravelingEditor
- I had good luck on Airbnb. Might be worth exploring that option. @InTheLoopTravel
- Stay somewhere else. Seriously though, Hoxton Hotel is pretty good value – but you need to book very early. @olivertomberry
- Highly recommend the London School of Economics residences, specifically Bankside House, which is right across from the Tate Modern. Easy walking distance to the Globe Theatre, London Eye, Millennium Bridge, St. Paul’s, and Southwark Station. Variety of room options, with generous breakfast included – not fancy, but clean, friendly and secure. Hugh&Denise
- Stayed at the Thanet Hotel six summers ago and have booked again this fall. Reasonable, breakfast included and great location near Russell Square tube station. Southampton Row is nearby with many reasonably priced good restaurants. thanethotel.co.uk, 8 Bedford Place. Donna Ketchen
- The London School of Economics (lsevacations.co.uk) has eight student residences available at various times of the year. Friendly staff, very clean bare bones room with no TV, shared a bathroom with one other room (the bathroom was in between the two rooms and the hallway behind another locking door, perfect for families). En suites available. Pub in basement, full English breakfast included (value £6-10, and now costs as much as £27 at five-star hotels). Frankie in Calgary
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