This Is the Best Way to Explore London If You’re Visiting for the First Time

Onefinestay gives you the thoughtful touches of a luxury hotel with the experience of living like a local.

Waterloo Bridge, London at night from a drone perspective

James Shakespeare/Getty Images

Over the past 10 years, I’ve traveled to London more times than I can count — the first time, as an iPhone-free 20-year-old, navigating via printed maps and iPad screenshots, and most recently as a seasoned travel writer, armed with first-hand experience and a good handle on the nuances of the city and England as a whole.

On this trip — which also happened to coincide with the hottest day in the history of the United Kingdom — I stayed for a few nights in a onefinestay rental between Covent Garden and St. James’s Place. Onefinestay’s mission is to “deliver a level of personal service and professional hospitality unmatched in the private rental industry.” That means when you book, you’re directly connected with a onefinestay advisor in case you have any questions or concerns ahead of (or during) your stay.

This came in handy when I realized I’d be landing at Heathrow several hours before the flat’s 4 p.m. check-in time. While I was fully prepared to do a bit of jet-lagged sightseeing, I needed somewhere to store my luggage; hauling a 50-pound suitcase around London in the middle of the day wasn’t my ideal scenario. I reached out to the onefinestay team, who immediately set up a reservation with a nearby storage facility where I could leave my bag until the flat was ready.

Bedroom in vacation rental home in London

Courtesy of onefinestay

Another perk of booking with onefinestay is the check-in process. The onefinestay team ensures your temporary home is clean and set up with all of the necessary toiletries and linens, and a team member welcomes you upon arrival. There’s no stressing when you can’t find the key or you’re searching for a lockbox code in your email (and realizing you don’t have any service). When I arrived, I was shown where to find the Wi-Fi, how to control the fans, and how to lock the doors when I left the building. And because the onefinestay team is available 24/7, guests always have someone to connect with if the need should arise. In my case, that was inquiring about an extra fan as the temperatures began to rise. 

Anyone exploring London for the first time usually has the same observation: It feels like a huge city. I’m a frequent visitor, and yet I’ve still only seen and experienced a tiny fraction of the neighborhoods and tourist attractions.

That said, while staying in central London can be pricey, it's your best bet if you want to hit all of the highlights — including Big Ben, Westminster, Buckingham Palace, and the London Eye. The onefinestay I booked was down the street from Trafalgar Square and just minutes from some of London’s most beautiful green spaces. If I were to book with onefinestay again, I’d also consider listings in Mayfair or Marylebone

Interior living room of a vacation rental home in London

Courtesy of onefinestay

While I didn’t take advantage of onefinestay’s additional services — like grocery delivery, private airport transfer, childcare, or experience curation — they are available to guests for the duration of their stay. If you aren’t exactly sure what to do with your time in London, the concierge can help curate your perfect first trip across the pond, complete with afternoon tea reservations, tickets to a show in the West End, or a private helicopter tour over the River Thames.

Explore all of onefinestay’s luxury rentals here.

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