Low-Priced Hotel Rooms All Over London
It's a low-cost bed boom under Big Ben as four top-quality hoteliers open bold new facilities (as cheap as 40!) across London Town
5. Travel Inn Tower Bridge, 159 Tower Bridge Rd., 0870/238-3303, 196 rooms with shower and bath, £70 weekends, £75 weekdays. Take a seven-minute/half-mile walk down a pleasant, tree-lined avenue from the southern flank of London's most famous bridge and you're home. This hotel's proximity to that iconic crossing means tourists tend to book it early. There's a small supermarket across the street, but the on-site restaurant, Slice, makes meals for £5.95 (stuffed peppers) to £10.95 (minted lamb).
6. Travel Inn Kensington, 11 Knaresborough Pl., 0870/238-3304, 184 rooms with shower and bath, £70 weekends, £75 weekdays. Near a phalanx of megahotels (a prideful Marriott gloats nearby), the TIK is beastly outside (five stories of mud-brown tedium) but a beautiful bargain inside. Rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, while the dining area is viewless but convivial. The hotel is actually two buildings joined by a walkway; there's no discernible difference in rooms. Environs are Victorian chic-high-hat houses with wrought-iron gates, like something out of Mary Poppins-but hardly lively. Still, it's just one stop from Harrod's, so you could do worse.
East London and Dockland
7. Ibis Stratford, 1A Romford Rd., 0208/536-3700, 108 A/C rooms with shower and bath, £60 weekends, £65 weekdays. Stratford? No, not Shakespeare's crib, but up-and-coming northeast London-the four-year-old Jubilee line extension ends here, and engineers are burrowing a tunnel so Eurostar trains to Paris can board here by 2007. This Ibis anchors Stratford's main square, from which guests can experience a typical London neighborhood thriving with the boisterous malls and markets of London's multicultural hurly-burly (South Asians, West Africans, skateboarders, and pensioners fill out the mix). From the curb, catch Bus 69 to City Airport. Best of all, it's well served by the Tube: four stops from St. Paul's, three from the Dome.
8. Ibis Docklands, 1 Baffin Way, 0207/517-1100, 87 A/C rooms with shower, £65 weekends, £72 weekdays. Free parking. Built three years ago for Canary Wharf businesspeople, it's pleasant if not exactly gripping-although a few low-slung brick pubs nearby testify to the area's bygone sailoring days. Steps away, the DLR provides a straight shot (five stops) to Tower Hill. It's also an Ibis, which means prim, Gallic quality. Docklands' airiness makes you feel a bit marooned, but trust me, it's near the action.
8. Travelodge Docklands, Coriander Ave., 0870/191-1691, 232 rooms with shower, some with bath, £50. This business-travelers' hive has dronelike employees to match, but £50 is a steal for such proximity to town, and it's suited to drivers (parking is 6). An inert slab built among Utopian corporate canal-side developments, it has all the appeal of a highway hotel, but then again, the only times you'll be in it, you'll be asleep.
9. Travel Inn Beckton, 1 Woolwich Manor Way, 0870/1977-029, 90 rooms with shower and bath, £55 weekdays, £50 weekends. After a 27-minute scenic coast through the London that Captain Cook knew best, the DLR ends in Beckton, a modern bedroom community of superstores and multiplexes. Alight here, for beside the platform (trains every ten minutes) is this find. No in-room phones, but wide-open spaces and quiet. There are few restaurants handy, but a gargantuan ASDA (owned by Wal-Mart-baked beans for 12p a can!) awaits across the street. Parking is easy here, too.
10. Ibis Wembley, South Way, 0208/453-5100, 210 A/C rooms with shower, £40 weekends, £50 weekdays. Parking: 4. A bleak ten-minute walk past the Premier Lodge and the Wembley events complex rewards you with the cheapest of my picks, this purpose-built, 15-story tower opened last October. It's also seven minutes from Wembley Central (12 stops to Baker Street), and feet from Wembley Stadium station on National Rail (nine minutes from Marylebone, twice hourly). The lobby's American kitsch is creepy-Blues Brothers mannequins, Elvis cutouts-but the staff, removed from the hubbub of central London, is sweet. Ask for a "stadium view" room so you can glimpse the City in the distance and, on Sundays, the stadium's thronged market. Rooms have showers, not baths-but since this Ibis is half the price of its sisters, you won't mind the gap.