Covering an area of 1,584 sq km, London is easily Europe’s largest city. There are over 7 million people who call London home making it Europe’s most diverse city also. This reflects in its countless neighbourhoods and districts which are all very distinctive. Hostelworld.com’s Colm Hanratty looks at some of the British capital’s neighbourhoods to watch out for.
Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square
Joined at the hip by Coventry Street in the heart of London’s famous West End, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square are synonymous with the British capital. The former is always thronged, best-known for its bright lights and a real feast for the senses. The latter isn’t as impressive, and instead is home to an array of cinemas, fast food outlets and bars. It is the gateway to London’s Chinatown though, always a good place to refuel after a day’s sightseeing.
Nearest Tubes: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square
Soho is a part of London that tends to get more colourful the later the night progresses. Bordered by Oxford Street and Shaftesbury Avenue to the north and south, and by Charing Cross Road and Regent Street to the east and west, it is where you will find the highest concentration of bars and clubs in the West End. It is also where you’ll stumble upon the best selection of restaurants and is the city’s gay hub – it’s hard to think of a camper place on a Saturday night in Europe. Its main street is Old Compton Street, while Carnaby Street, made famous in the ‘Swinging Sixties’, is also one worth locating.
Nearest Tubes: Piccadilly Circus, Tottenham Court Road
If finding the latest streetwear is more of a priority for you than catching a glimpse of the Crown Jewels or sitting on top of the stone lions in Trafalgar Square, then Neal Street, Shorts Gardens Court, Earlham Street and other streets in Covent Garden should be at the top of your ‘must-see’ list. These are just some of the busiest streets in London’s trendiest area. On a Saturday afternoon its pedestrianised streets are populated with the British capital’s coolest offspring, all donning the latest fashions and darting from shop to shop.
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden
Home to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and 10 Downing Street, no other part of London will make you as snap happy as Westminster. Due to the volumes of fellow camera-wielding tourists in the area, getting to see all of these attractions in the one day may test your patience, but going to London and not visiting them is unheard of. Start off with a ‘flight’ on the BA London Eye before working your way west to the other iconic attractions.
Nearest Tube: Westminster
In the bustling metropolis that is London, Camden is like a town detracted from the city centre. This is why most Londoners refer to the area as ‘Camden Town’. It is one of the most eclectic areas of the city, something you realise soon after you step out of Camden Town tube station and begin walking up Camden High Street. It is best known for its markets which, unlike many of London’s other markets, are open every day of the week.
Nearest Tube: Camden Town
It can be confusing at times, but ‘The City’ refers to the ‘City of London’, otherwise known as the financial district, and not the West End. This is where thousands of Londoners endure their nine-to-fives five days a week, swigging galons of lattes and cappuccinos in the process. While it is the city centre’s most commercial area, it is also home to some of London’s best known attractions such as the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. (image courtesy of visitlondon.com)
Nearest Tubes: Bank, Liverpool Street, Aldgate, Tower Hill, Monument, Canon Street
Of all the neighbourhoods and districts in the British capital, none have residents as famous as St James’s - this is where you will find Buckingham Palace, sometimes home to the Windsors (better known as the Royal Family). Located at the bottom of ‘The Mall’, Buckingham Palace is surprisingly underwhelming when you first see it, but still a ‘must-see’ nonetheless. St James’s also has two of the city’s best maintained green areas – St James’s Park and Green Park. (image courtesy of visitlondon.com)
Nearest Tubes: Green Park, St James’s Park
Immortalised by the eponymous film where Julia Roberts plays herself and Hugh Grant, like he does in all his movies, plays himself too, Notting Hill is best known for its carnival in August and the Portobello Road Street Market which takes place every Saturday. This trendy district is located in West London so will be accessible to many who travel to London since so many hostels are located in the neighbouring Bayswater area. (image courtesy of visitlondon.com)
Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate
While the West End is where you should devote most of your daylight hours to in the British capital, once the sun sets and darkness creeps in take to the city’s East End, and in particular the areas around Shoreditch and Hoxton. Begin the evening on the famous, yet slightly gaudy Brick Lane which houses over 50 restaurants specialising in Bangladeshi and Indian cuisine. Finish it off hopping from bar to bar around Old Street and Hoxton Square. It may seem that Soho is London’s most vibrant district, but ask most Londoners where they spend their Friday and Saturday nights and these are the districts they’ll tell you.
Nearest Tubes: Shoreditch, Old Street
Kensington is one for the culture vultures. This is where you will encounter the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum (right). Incidentally, all are free making it a great place to visit if your funds are running low. It is quite an affluent area, as is neighbouring Chelsea. (image courtesy of Science Museum, London)
Nearest Tube: High Street Kensington