A simple strategy for London neighborhoods: go local. Downtown, or the West End (in its various areas), houses nearly all of London's famous grand hotels and most of its fanciest restaurants, but by no means all its culture, shops, parks, and galleries.
Westminster/Central LondonPomp and circumstance reign supreme in the central region along the River Thames that's home to Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.
Soho/West EndTake in a theater performance, choose from myriad ethnic restaurants, or shop up a storm in the city's entertainment center, also home to a sizable gay crowd.
Southwark/South BankStroll along the south side of the River Thames for city views, street performers, multiple museums (including the Tate Modern), and a family-friendly vibe.
Kensington/KnightsbridgeShop at Harrod's, meander through regal gardens, and attend a concert at Royal Albert Hall while taking in one of the city's most posh areas.
City of LondonHistory brushes against modern finance in the city center, home to remains of an ancient Roman-built wall, London Bridge, and the stomping grounds of Jack the Ripper.
Spitalfields/Shoreditch/HoxtonGrab Indian food on Brick Lane and explore the funky boutiques, galleries, and bars of the East End, the grungy, artsy soul of the city.
BelgraviaThis exclusive, residential area of London comprises uncrowded streets, charming cafés, and 300 boutique businesses with stylish wear for the fashionistas, delicious gourmet treats for the foodies, as well as luxurious accessory stores for those just looking to splurge. Belgravia exudes a small-town feel and is more off the beaten path compared to other high-end shopping districts like Sloane Street.
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Always ask for a room upgrade when you arrive at your hotel. They may laugh, but it never hurts to try!
Alex Schechter Assistant Editor
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