Each trip I spend in London reveals more districts of a city where one can spend a lifetime studying neighborhoods, history and change. My recent trip placed me in two Choice Hotels around King’s Cross and St. Pancras rail stations. Street signs on buildings around my hotels showed London Borough of Camden, however locals tend to use more localized names for the neighborhoods when you are visiting a pub or hotel. The two Choice Hotels fall within the northeast area of roads generally defined as Bloomsbury, south of Euston Road and west of Grey’s Inn Road, but referred to more as King’s Cross/St. Pancras due to proximity to these rail stations.
Greater London is comprised of 32 boroughs and the City of London, the historic center where St. Paul’s Cathedral is located, along with the central business district banking center of the city. There are around 9 million residents of Greater London spread over 600 square miles. Inner London consists of 12 boroughs with a population of about 3.5 million spread across 123 square miles. City of London, aka ‘the square mile’ is only 1.12 sq. mi with around 10,000 residents.
What I think of as ‘Tourist London’ with the palaces, Big Ben, St. Paul’s and Tower of London, main national museums, West End theatre district and Royal Parks is the core of historic Inner London comprising about 25 square miles of space. Many tourists visiting places like Buckingham Palace, Palace of Westminster/Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, the West End Theatre District, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral might stay in and only travel around a few of the Inner London boroughs:
Westminster (8.29 sq, mi/255,000 residents) – Buckingham Palace, Palace of Westminster (Parliament), Big Ben, Hyde Park, Soho, Theatre District, Paddington;
Camden (8.4 sq, mil.)/263,000) – The British Museum, King’s Cross/St. Pancras rail stations, Camden Town;
Kensington and Chelsea (4.68 sq mi/160,000 residents) – Harrod’s, Knightsbridge, Victoria & Albert Museum, Kensington Gardens, Notting Hill;
Tower Hamlets 7.63 sq. mi/320,000) – Tower of London.
These four boroughs are north of the River Thames. South of the River Thames are some attractions along the river bank in the northernmost parts of Lambeth (10.36 sq. mi./326,000) – London Eye and Southwark (11.14 sq mi/320,000) – London Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
On my latest trip with a week in London we never ventured outside of Westminster and Camden. There was more than enough to occupy my time for seven days with many more places I wanted to visit for the first time on my agenda than I managed to accomplish. Travel with my wife is rarely a day of packed itinerary travel. I get around to far more places when traveling on my own.
London Lodging around King’s Cross/St. Pancras
Our February vacation in London placed us in an area I thought I had not stayed in previously. I had never been to King’s Cross/St. Pancras Underground Station or the two rail stations. Turns out I have stayed in several hotels around Bloomsbury a few years ago with Holiday Inn Bloomsbury only ten minutes walk from Comfort Inn & Suites Kings Cross-St. Pancras where I stayed this trip.
Over the past six years I have stayed in about 20 different London hotels, mostly in Westminster, Camden and Kensigton and Chelsea. A few times I stayed in Lambeth and Tower Hamlets. Only once have I stayed outside of Inner London boroughs when we traveled to Stratford in the London Borough of Newham for an IHG hotel promotion deal. I am not counting stays at Heathrow and Gatwick Airport hotels.
Last week’s trip took me to King’s Cross/St. Pancras area of London, which is in the London Borough of Camden, although the hotel neighborhood areas where we went pubbing and shopping are more specifically referred to as Bloomsbury, Camden Town, Holborn and Fitzrovia. This is one of my favorite areas in London for a hotel stay.
Hotel accommodations are likely to be one of the major expenses for a visitor to London. Hotel loyalty points have provided me with some fantastic redemption value stays over the past six years in London.
On this trip I used 76,000 Choice Privileges points for 7 nights. This worked out to about $387 for what I paid to buy Choice Privileges points on May 15, 2019 during the U.S. Travel Association Daily Getaways sales and Kids First Auction. My hotel stays in central London worked out to $55.40 per night for one night at Comfort Inn King’s Cross, five nights at Comfort Inn & Suites King’s Cross/St. Pancras and one night at Clarion Harte & Garter Hotel in Windsor, six miles west of London Heathrow.
Comfort Inn King’s Cross London = 8,000 points weekend reward night = $41.
Comfort Inn & Suites King’s Cross/St. Pancras London = 12,000 points weekday reward nights = $306.
Clarion Harte & Garter Hotel, Windsor = 8,000 points weekend reward night = $41.
United Airlines San Francisco – London LHR round trip = $383.
Daily Expenses = $100 per day average.
- midscale restaurant or pub meal for two = 30 GBP/$39, usually one meal a day.
- imperial pint of beer 568ml = 5 GBP/$6.50 (16 oz = 473 ml, so 20% more than U.S. pint). Range paid 4.60-6.30 GBP. Most pubs 5.10-5.40 GBP.
- museums = free admission
- grocery store meals = 15 GBP/$20 day for central London with prices comparable for meat and veggies than USA markets in California or even less for staples like milk, bread, cheese, chocolate, and beer.
- Underground = 20 GBP/$26 for 10 GBP added to each of our Oyster Cards on arrival at London Heathrow. Besides initial trip from LHR to King’s Cross-St. Pancras station, we only used Underground three times for Zone 1 trips. Mostly walked all week.
- Train = 22.40 GBP/$28.90 for two rail tickets from Paddington Station to Windsor & Eton.
- UberX = 20.63 GBP/$26.61 from Windsor to London Heathrow Terminal 5 on day of departure for San Francisco.
- Shopping = $200. Kelley found a great sale at 80 GBP for Blundstone boots, an Australian brand. She loves shopping in Camden at the stores and stalls, where she bought scarves 10 GBP and a purse 20 GBP. I only purchased a small 5 GBP glass block etching of the London Skyline and a piece of stained galss at the British Museum for 30 GBP.
- Total trip cost about $1,800, excluding shopping.
King’s Cross and St. Pancras rail stations in London is an area loaded with both chain and independent hotels at all price ranges. Another feature of this area are abundant grocery stores.
Marriott members have the choice of two upscale and historic hotels with St. Pancras Renaissance and Great Northern Hotel, Tribute Portfolio.
While the prices of these two hotels in terms of room rates and reward night points rates are no bargain, these places have the advantage of convenience to quick transportation with the rail stations and London Underground. St. Pancras Renaissance and Great Northern Hotel are both Marriott Bonvoy category 6 hotels at 40,000 to 60,000 points per night with room rates typically starting in the 225 to 250 GBP range or around $300 per night or more.
Within a few minutes walk of the train stations are many dozens more hotels. I was surprised to see room rates under $100 per night for several of the independent hotels around these rail stations.
The neighborhood of residential streets across from St. Pancras and King’s Cross rail stations are where two Comfort Inn hotels we stayed are located along with 30 or so more primarily small independent 1, 2, and 3 star hotels. These streets were fairly quiet with the exception of day time construction work on a building that happened to be located directly outside our hotel room window on three of six days we stayed. That was simply bad luck and not a sign of the hotel quality. I have stayed in a couple of London luxury hotels at times with the same issue of noisy building work at an adjacent property. London is a city always in the process of remodeling.
Over the coming days I will post hotel reviews, transportation reviews and some neighborhood and museum reviews from our London trip.