London is one of the world's most exciting cities – but is it possible to find reasonably priced accommodation there? Once you start delving you soon find that there are all sorts of good-value options, including bed and breakfasts, budget hotels, apartments, hostels and university residences, often with a lot more character than their more expensive hotel counterparts.
What could be more elegant than the house, in fashionable Knights-bridge, where writer Virginia Woolf was born in 1882 and spent her childhood? Situated in a quiet close, once also home to statesman Sir Winston Churchill, a stay costs £75 in a room for two, including a full breakfast served in the sitting room. It is one of dozens of bed and breakfast properties in London, several such agencies offer an en-suite room for two or more guests in private homes for less than £95 per night with breakfast. Depending on location and type of accommodation, the agencies' prices start as low as £19 per person.
B&B is a particularly British way of enjoying good, comfortable accommodation with a home-from-home feeling. Many visitors are surprised to discover such a wide range on offer in a bustling city like London. Agencies have portfolios of accommodation in small guest-houses or with families, some centrally-located, some in accessible suburbs, all offering a warm welcome to visitors. With B&B GB, under – 7s go free.
Self-catering apartments are ideal for those on a budget and West London's Clarendon House Apartments, about 30 minutes by Underground from Piccadilly Circus, has fully-equipped flats available from round £250 per week. Westminster University Halls of Residence offer self-catering summer stays in central locations such as Victoria, Waterloo and the City – at prices from £21.
As in any big city, accommodation is less expensive if you are prepared to travel to reach the centre. Hotels are springing up in Docklands, near Canary Wharf, with its waterside restaurants, concert-hall and shopping, at amazingly good-value prices. Here and in other easy to reach locations such as Greenwich and Kew (some are in central London, too) are hotel chains such as Formule 1, Etap, Ibis, Travel Inn, Travelodge and Holiday Inn Express – with en-suite rooms sleeping up to four at between £27.50 and £83 per night. Breakfast may not be served in the traditional way: it could be in the cafe next door or from the bar, but for the budget-conscious these hotels offer a superb deal.
Younger – and young-in-heart – travellers may find one of London's newest hotels is ideal for them. The Piccadilly Hotel, beside Piccadilly Circus, is a backpackers' dream, with dormitory beds available at £12 per night, including breakfast and linen. There are twin and family rooms, too; a lounge with 100-channel TV and an internet suite. Fresh, smart and sunny, this hostel opened in early 2003 and already promises to be as popular as the longer established St.Christopher's Inns group with its flagship hostel on the South Bank, or The Generator. Bookable online with beds from £10 (£23 for a twin room) and cooking facilities available as well as a cafe providing hot meals, The Generator is near the British Museum and is definitely a fun place to stay – its bar offering nightly entertainment.
The smaller hotel groups, such as Fullers Hotels (rooms available at weekends for £85) with their excellent pub-restaurants attached, bring a flavour of old London to their guests. They include the Chamberlain near Tower Bridge and the Sanctuary House near Westminster Abbey, with its ale-and-pie house on the ground floor.
London has many small hotels, generally clustering around main rail termini such as Victoria or King's Cross. Some are family-run, most fully accredited to the London Tourist Board (do check before booking) and so of good standard.
Last but not least, those seeking value-for-money can live like a lord. One of B&B agency Uptown Reservations' hosts opens his elegant home to guests at £95 per room – and is indeed a Lord!