Thinking of relocating to London? Looking to get the most out of your visit? Or perhaps you already live here and want to search out the coolest places to hang out in?
Our first piece of advice? Forget almost everything you’ve ever heard about where to go in London!
Whatever brings you to London, there’s no changing the fact that in a city this big, this old and this dynamic, the latest, hippest neighbourhoods are always changing. It can be hard to keep up with “the scene”, but get your ear to the ground, listen out for what’s going down locally…or just read this insiders’ guide to where’s hot and where’s not in London right now.
If you’d told people only 20 years ago that the “royal” borough of Hackney would soon be fought after by many a Property Developer and fashion-conscious Hipster, they would have laughed in your face. Yet, within the last decade Hoxton, Shoreditch, Dalston, London Fields and many other once-dodgy neighbourhoods have become trendy, gentrified and “the place to be and be seen” in London. Hackney is now considered central to the London arts scene.
The same re-generation is taking (or set to take) our five up and coming London districts by storm. So, our second piece of advice? Get in there quick!
1. Bermondsey & Wapping
Wapping is just down the road from Hackney and also in E1 (due to London’s size, locals often navigate by postcode as much as by area name) while Bermondsey lies just across the river (the Thames, in case you didn’t know) in SE16. Both are part of the Tower Hamlets borough and, though still relatively unheard of outside of London, what were once dilapidated warehouses, bombed out in the war and left to rot after the fall of the river trade, are now two of London’s fastest up and coming neighbourhoods.
Wapping is known for its historic pubs and long steep steps leading up from the Thames, and is also within easy reach of the popular Canary Wharf. Likewise, Bermondsey is in the sought-after South Bank, recently joined by the EU’s tallest building, “The Shard”.
2. Brixton & Battersea
Once upon a time, it was Chelsea that was thought of as a bohemian neighbourhood for artists and musicians. Today those days are forgotten and its name is recognised instantly all over the world as the home of Chelsea FC – one of, if not the most popular football side in the UK – and as a haunt for the rich and famous; including celebrities such as Kylie Minogue and of course the stars of Made in Chelsea.
Nowadays, it’s the turn of neighbouring Brixton (SW2; SW9) and Battersea (SW11; SW8) to take up the role of up and coming area.
3. Hampstead & Kentish Town
Camden Town and Camden Market are fairly well known around the world and find themselves on many a “to visit” list. Known for their many pubs, quirky bars, clubs and live music venues, they have given Camden borough its alternative ethos and its reputation as an entertainment district, but for those who’ve been keeping a close eye on the Camden scene, it is new kids on the block, Hampstead and Kentish Town, which have been stealing the show in recent years.
Hampstead is known for its legacy of music, art, literature and liberal thought…and for the lovely Hampstead Heath. Kentish Town is known as the home of “Pub Rock” and is full of live music venues. Try the “Bull & Gate”, the “Tally Ho” or one of any number of excellent real ale pubs; for example the controversially named “Tapping the Admiral”.
4. Southall, Ealing
In West London, Notting Hill is known for its large Caribbean population and the resulting art and culture, for the world famous annual Notting Hill Carnival, and for the movie of the same name…which features none of these things. All of this combined has made Notting Hill a very popular neighbourhood.
Further west, in the borough of Ealing, you will find Southall; a great place to experience the ethnic diversity and multicultural heritage that London is famous for and sample some of the best Indian and South Asian food in the capital, without the high costs of nearby Notting Hill.
Shopping in Notting Hill
Southall straddles UB1 and UB2, far enough from the city centre to find low rent and real, down to earth people, but close enough to get excellent transport links.
Ealing is also the home of one of London’s oldest, most respected language schools: Edward’s, as well as being within easy reach of London’s infamous West End, Westminster, Little Venice (the confluence of Regent’s Canal and the Grand Union Canal, named by either Robert Browning or Lord Byron – depending on who you speak to – and home to many a narrow or houseboat, theatre and Edwardian mansion), Maida Vale (home of the BBC’s Radio 6 Maida Vale studios) and Soho, which, though no secret on the London scene, is a constantly adapting entity, always one step ahead of the times. Not to be confused with its New York or Hong Kong namesakes.
5. Archway, Highgate
Often referred to as “the new Dalston” Archway (N6; N19) is one of the few remaining areas of North London to be snapped up and gentrified. Young and hip Londonites are already beginning to discover the great pub food, edgy but stylish bars, refurbished attic flats, and the general “poor but sexy” vibe hanging over the place. Archway Market is also popular for organic produce and the latest in alternative fashion.
N6 is also home to Highgate Village, which though expensive for great is great to visit and retains its village disposition. Highgate is known for its many green areas and woodland, and the hill from where you can watch the city sprawl far below. There are also many well-preserved historic buildings, such as the Gatehouse – an Inn that dates back to 1670 – and the atmospheric, if not haunting cemetery which is home to the grave of Karl Marx.
Other Up and Coming London Districts
Keep an eye on:
• Peckham Rye (SE22)
• Enfield (EN)
• Clapton (E5)
• Acton (W3 & W4)
• Stratford (E15 & E20)
Watch this space!
This post was brought to you by Roy Duffield, who writes for adventure travel agent, Holiday-n-Adventure.co.uk.