Don't know where to stay in London? You don’t have to be British royalty to treat yourself to a design-worthy hotel based at a fashionable address. Here, we tracked down the best affordable hotels in London under $250—so you don’t have to.
Fox & Anchor
At first glance, you’d never know the Fox & Anchor, one of our all-time favorite affordable hotels in London, was anything more than your typical pub. A neighborhood stalwart for over 100 years, the bar proper still hands out tankards of its own-label ale from the zinc-topped bar and—despite a renovation a few years ago—still retains its Victorian edge (kitschy bone china; pressed tin ceilings; well-trodden wooden floors). The food here (unfussy British staples) sings, almost as much as the six rooms upstairs, whose pillow-covered beds, velvet chaise lounges, and Tudor steel windows (from which to take in bustling Smithfield below) are every bit as charming as the neighborhood itself.
An 1884 pub, five minutes from Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane, has been transformed into a mash-up of East-Londonized hangouts—all designed after local 17th-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper (hence the name). There’s a sceney restaurant with original brick walls, lab stools, and potted plants that dangle between light fixtures. There’s a buzzy rooftop terrace featuring its own vegetable garden as well as a bar inside a makeshift greenhouse, all of which include views of the famous Gherkin. And there are five simplistic but still cozy rooms to spend the night in, done up with Sisal carpets, wooden headboards, distressed walls, and more potted plants.
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Discover the Notting Hill of Julia Roberts’ dreams at The Laslett, a 51-room gem spread over five connected Victorian townhouses, just steps from Portobello Road. It might prove impossible not to be charmed by it all, from the clusters of wall art to the stacks (upon stacks) of well-read paperback novels on each nightstand along to the full lending library for those voracious for more. The public living space transitions from a café to a bar depending on the hour, but if you just can’t tear yourself away from that next chapter, rest easy—the roaming cocktail cart is the answer to your prayers.
Generator Hostel London
It might not get more convenient than the London edition of this über-cool hostel chain, just a stone’s throw away from the British Library and St. Pancras railway station. Inside, the vibrant Generator theme gets to work. There’s a café with a graffitied piano and a tufted banquette that runs the width of the room. Floors are named, and designed, after pop culture figures like Mary Poppins and Doctor Who (expect typical dorm-style bunks along with private rooms for those who’ve graduated from dorm life—we hear they come with roomy bathrooms). Unlike other hostels, food options are plentiful—if subpar—from the breakfast spread to main dishes (burgers; fish and chips) served until 10 p.m. and a bar that stays open until the early hours. And if hostel cuisine just doesn't cut it, take a walk around up-and-coming King’s Cross, where hot-spot restaurants including Dishoom and Caravan are turning the once seedy 'hood around.
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The Hospital Club
A night’s stay at the Hospital Club might be the only way to see inside this members-only Covent Garden hangout owned by the co-founder of Microsoft—but we’re okay with that. Like the building’s creative-professional regulars, each of the 15 offices-turned-guest rooms are artsy yet refined, with hanging contemporary art, Seventies-style patterned rugs and Roberts radios, and wood-paneled accent walls that tie everything together. And while you may be tempted to spend most of your time out in the neighborhood (the Royal Opera House and incredible restaurants are just a few doors down), be sure not to check out without taking advantage of all the hotel's member perks, including four exclusive restaurants and bars, a gallery, and its own screening room.
The Hoxton, Holborn
Hoxton's concept is brilliant: introduce chic, accessible hotels to trendy parts of town at a fraction of the cost of neighboring competitors. Their Amsterdam outpost was all the rage when it debuted in 2015, but we’re just as taken with their second London location. Sure, there are no real views to speak of in Holborn, a businessy central part of London, but who needs them when you’ve got free WiFi, complimentary breakfast bags delivered to your door handle every morning (their take on “Do Not Disturb”), and design details (recessed lighting, suede couches, antique-looking radios) that seem effortless. When you’re feeling peckish, there are two dining options serving creative takes on grill and pub staples, while the onsite bar is a go-to (and affordable) resource for all things coffee-, snack-, and martini-related.
Ace Hotel Shoreditch
It’s no secret we harbor a love for all things Ace, and it’s no different with the group’s first UK outpost. The gritty-hip East End neighborhood's aesthetic sneaks its way inside the Ace Hotel Shoreditch—Sixties-style furniture and exposed piping in the lobby, tartan tapestries and bespoke bikes in the gallery, guest rooms that take a page out of apartment-style living with their patchwork quilts, denim bedspreads, Revo radios, and mini bars stocked with craft beer and local fixings. Food offerings follow suit: a café churns out quality coffee while local crowds can be found gathered around linoleum tables at restaurant Hoi Polloi, chowing down on elevated British bistro cuisine before a night out (or film screening) at the basement club, Miranda’s.
The immortal rumor that Johnny Depp and Kate Moss once had a champagne bath at the Portobello Hotel put this quirky Notting Hill sleep, occupying two Victorian townhouses, firmly on the celeb docket. Not that its individually-designed rooms don’t carry themselves: think circular beds, heavy drapery, antique wardrobes, bay windows that look onto a private garden, and, of course, that famous bathtub surrounded by mirrors in Room 16. (Alice Cooper housing his boa constrictor here? Entirely true.) The hotel is far less pretentious than it has the right to be, but with just the right amount of exclusivity (the bar is for guests only) to keep out the riffraff.
South Kensington is one of London's more affluent neighborhoods, where streets are lined with terraced Edwardian townhouses and private gardens in between some of the city’s most prized landmarks including Hyde Park, Harrods, and Royal Albert Hall. But tucked away amidst it all is the eclectic Ampersand, whose interiors—a mismatch of bright colors and clashing patterns (a constellation here, a heron motif there)—give it the kind of unique personality you can’t help but be charmed by. Consider its proximity to the Natural History Museum and the V&A, and its budget-friendly price point seems all the more impossible.
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citizenM London Bankside
Dutch-based hotel chain citizenM, which recently debuted a second London branch near Tower Hill, did right by its first outpost in Southwark, down the road from Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe. Typical to the brand, its design-centric interiors are open and modern, with large living areas sporting Vitra furniture, commissioned paintings, endless shelves of books, and well-placed Union Jack pillows. Upstairs, 192 teched-out guest rooms, while tiny, maximize space and functionality (and earn bonus points for free on-demand TV and personal tablets that control lights and room temps). It’s not the most luxurious of stays—a self-serve café stands in for any restaurant and you won’t find coffee or tea in your room—but the location makes it a cinch to get to the places and landmarks you’re actually here to see.
Qbic Hotel London City
While it may not sit in the center of it all (though you'll be crazy close to Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market), that’s about all there is to complain about the Qbic. Despite the low rates, interiors don’t skimp on design—think poppy colors, smile-inducing art, and super comfy beds. The concept is geared towards independent, cost-saving travelers, so don’t expect much in the way of telephones or, in some cases, windows. But complimentary tea and coffee machines on every floor are a smart offer for those looking to maximize their city time, and the free WiFi, the only real amenity we can’t live without, is fast and furious.
Please note: rates fluctuate depending on season and availability.