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5 Main Vibes of London Neighborhoods for Tourists

Updated: May 30


Okay, this is going to be overly simplified but for the first timer, it will make sense to most. If you are a regular visitor, you might be shaking your head and tutting me as you read. It's okay - this is for the first timers and on some level, I believe it's correct.


It's important to note that there are 5 main vibes of London neighborhoods when it comes to figuring out where to stay. I think in every traveler's head, they have their idea of London. Finding the correct visual to go along with what's in your head is important to making your visit the one you've dreamed of.


Sometimes I think a visual is better than a description of something. When my sons were adolescents, they were both diagnosed with ADD. The doctor introduced the type of their ADD using Winnie the Pooh characters. Once he did that, it made PERFECT sense to me. One son was Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh - meaning he was kind of pessimistic, distracted, stubborn and argumentative (sounds way worse than it really was). The other son was pure Tigger - which is classic ADHD. He never stopped moving and, at 24, still walks in circles when he's on the phone. The light bulb came on when I saw those descriptions. This is why I'm going to use that method here so you hopefully will understand what I mean when I describe the vibes.


So, my take on the GENERAL London vibes (at least where tourists would want to stay) are:

  1. Mary Poppins (or My Fair Lady or Paddington or Notting Hill - pick your movie)

  2. The Big City

  3. Call the Midwife or Street Art/Gritty/Funky

  4. People Everywhere and Lots of Nightlife

  5. Royals and Icons

Certain areas can be a combination, too. They might be on the border of two areas and the lines might be a little blurred, but there will be a general vibe. I am 100% a Mary Poppins vibe kind of visitor. I was just really reminded of that on my last visit where I ended up over by the Tower of London and struggled to enjoy it. I was bordering Manhattan being nearly in the City of London and also bordering the East Enders-type areas. We went over to walk along the Chelsea Embankment one evening and I almost cried at the beauty of the West End. I was pining for it and realized I really wanted to be over there. But, my husband works for a company headquartered in the Square Mile so we stayed over there. Never again.


Ironically, by heritage, I am an East Ender. My GG grandmother was born in Stepney. Clearly, I switched sides at some point. She did, too. She went west - WAAAAY west to Utah in 1860-something.


Let's break down what I think the character of each area is. This is what I do for my clients when looking at hotels. I match their vision of what London is to the area that is most like it.


Mary Poppins - Pretty White Houses and Charming Neighborhoods


These are the prettiest areas of London, in my opinion. The Georgian row houses are often painted beautiful colors, or they have lovely columns. There is a casual neighborhood vibe to the area. You can easily find a cafe' for lunch or a place to get a coffee. The area is around some parks so you can take a lovely stroll and sit on a bench and watch people. Just don't climb over any iron gates into the private parks or at least don't say "Oopsie Daisy" if you do (If you know, you know)


You'll get the loveliness of strolling Portobello Road Market or wonderful High Streets with almost more locals than tourists. It's a quieter, calmer area with better access to grocery stores and other services. It's like you LIVE in London and it's SOOOO pretty. You're also close to "Albertropolis" or the area around Exhibition Road and the great museums on it with Royal Albert Hall nearby. It's very much central London still so you can get to wherever you want to go rather quickly.



The Big City

London skyscrapers

The long and the short of it is that you are buried in a sea of skyscrapers with only the occasional bit of charm. See my walk around below. It just wasn't that pretty or at least you could have dropped me into that area blindfolded and then taken it off and asked me where I was and I probably couldn't say I was in London. There are quite a few hotels in that area (aimed at business travelers) and I always feel sorry for people who don't realize what they're booking into. If you're deep into "The City", you'll find that things close up kind of early. It's not uncommon for a casual eating place to close down by 6 pm at night whereas another branch outside The City will be open until 8 or 9. I call it the "Blue Suits" area. They are rushing around and not always very friendly.



Canary Wharf fits into this vibe, also. But, it stays open later due to having lots of shopping. But, it's an interesting but not charming area largely because it's fairly new.



Call the Midwife - Bricks, Street Art and Gritty

Okay, laundry isn't hanging across the streets, but the "vibe" of these areas is that not much has changed since the 1960s. There's a bit of dirt and a bit of grit. Shoreditch, Brick Lane, Bermondsey, Borough Market, etc all fit in this vibe. Some areas are better than others. Some are becoming more gentrified and changing rapidly and some, like Brick Lane, have a very specific look not appreciated by all (call me of those - not a fan of spray paint). Some of them are charming in that they may remind us of shows like Call the Midwife. I am a Stepney/Poplar girl by heritage so it's fun to see those areas for that. But, there are also a lot of "estates" or large apartment buildings built in the last 50 years that aren't very interesting to look at. Some of the areas have also become the enclaves of groups of immigrants and have taken on the flavor of those cultures. It works great for Brick Lane as you will find some excellent Indian food there. But it also may be a reason to avoid other areas. No place in London is particularly dangerous, but there are areas I prefer to stay away from, and we'll just leave it there.


Camden also falls into this category - there's a certain look and feel to it.

Brick Lane London

Super Busy Peopley Areas with Nightlife

Times Square
TImes Square-esque

Recently, a woman on a Facebook group asked the group where they could go that was QUIET and get out of the noise and crowds. They had had enough and just needed to get out of the throngs of tourists. She said they thought they were making a good choice staying in the middle of Picadilly but didn't realize there wouldn't be any peace there. I get it. After about a week in London, I'm done with people. I'm tired of dodging people who won't move over to let you pass on the pavement and tired of being crammed into crowded trains. I get tired of having to pre-think every dinner we might want to have in a restaurant or risk not getting a table. It just becomes too much if you're not used to it.


This is why I qualify my clients. They THINK they want to be there but don't realize the vibe of that place. I explain it to them before offering them hotel options around there. This area is Leicester Square, Soho, Oxford/Regent Streets, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus and Covent Garden. Those are all the place names tourists hear when they think about London. But, they are some of the busiest and most crowded areas of London. I think they are utterly exhausting areas after a few hours. It really IS the most central part of London, but it's also an area easily accessible via public transportation from every other area of London. I say that no matter where you stay, you are either 3 minutes or 30 minutes away from what you came to see. London is spread out.


Royals and Icons


I added this one recently because while it's a more spread-out vibe, some people really just think of Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and Big Ben, etc. when they think of London. There are good hotels near these royal and/or iconic buildings in London. I'm going to add this as the 5th vibe.


So, that is my simplistic breakdown of London neighborhoods. It really IS something you want to match to your view of London. If you don't love where you stay and walk out the door every morning and think, "I'm in London!" then you are missing out on the best London experience you can have.


And, hey, if you need help selecting a perfect place to stay, reach out to me! I'm a professional travel planner/travel agent and one of my services is booking hotel rooms for clients. I don't book just any hotel, I figure out what your "vibe" is and then find a hotel in that neighborhood for you. See my services HERE.




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Tina Dino
Tina Dino
Nov 09, 2023

I love this neighborhood breakdown but I still don't know where they are??? Can you explain.

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