There’s something about where you live that everyone seems to recognise — you don’t appreciate what’s on your own doorstep. So, when I read other people’s content about London and how useful it is….how creative and inspiring it is, I scold myself a little because, well, I could do that too. I have the means: I live here. I have the time: I’m freelance. And I have a cute dog who is super portable and loves exploring. So there’s no excuse, right?
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One of the things I always get asked by friends visiting London is this: Where should I stay? And that’s often the most overwhelming thing about planning any trip.
Find the right location, and your trip elevates from good to awesome. Pick the wrong one, and you may never go back. Not always, of course, but often. So I thought I’d pour some of my, ahem, expertise into a post I can refer anyone asking that question to. Including you, dear reader!
Picking your perfect London spot
For those who live here, each neighbourhood has a personality and distinct characteristics but you’ll mostly hear locals identifying where they live by the geographical direction. You might be a South London type, or perhaps you live East. Maybe you think West is best, or are staunchly North. Either way, start with that before you dig deeper.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are you planning on doing with your time? Are you wanting to live like a local, eschewing the ‘sights’ and tourists traps?
- Do you want to take any day trips from London?
- Are you the sort of person who likes walking everywhere, or do you like public transport options?
These questions will help you decipher which neighbourhood is best. Most of London is well connected, but there are some variations…..East can be well connected, but if you want to stay in hipsterville you probably won’y have a tube (aka a subway/metro). If you want to take a day trip to the seaside, then it may be worth staying somewhere with direct access to a mainline station like Victoria, Paddington or Euston — all of which have trains travelling across the country.
Where to Stay in London
Nestled in cosy South London, Balham is an underrated little spot filled with cute cafes, and fantastic pubs. On the Northern line which, full disclosure, is my least favourite tube line, you can get into central London in less than 20 minutes or so.
Best Restaurant/Café: Lavish Habit café
It’s super close to Brixton, which is one of my favourite spots in London to eat out — it’s like being in proper London, and what East London wishes it could be. But it’s getting riddled with hipster types, so be warned….it’s not as authentic as it used to be. But who cares! Brixton is also home to the BEST tube line — the Victoria line, where you can cross London in a record breaking 30 mins. Boom.
Best Restaurant/Café: I’m a sucker for fried chicken, so it has to be ChickenLiquor
Clapham is bigger than you might initially realise, with LOADS of transport options. Clapham North, South and Common are all served by the Northern line but if you stay near Clapham north you can walk to Stockwell which has the Victoria line (the one I love!) You also have the luxury of mainline Clapham Junction, where you can catch aa train all over the country….well, not all over. But definitely to Brighton & Gatwick Airport 🙂
It’s buzzy and filled with a mix of ‘I’ve just moved to London and daddy still pays my rent’ posho types, yummy mummies and young professionals who can’t save a deposit for their first flat because there’s far too many awesome places to steal their money in Clapham.
Best Restaurant/Café: Carmen de Tapas, opposite Clapham Common tube
Tube: Northern & mainline services from Clapham Junction
I used to live here, so I have a soft spot for little old Peckham. It used to be a lot more rough and ready (one of the only places I’ve lived before hipsters got to it) but it still retains stacks of charm. Loads of cool bars abound, and the Peckham Plex remains one of my favourite Indie cinemas. It’s also walkable to East Dulwich, home to more yummy mummies than you can shake a stick at.
Best Restaurant/Café: I LOVE Persepolis, an Iranian food shop with an awesome little cafe attached
Tube: None. But you can get to London Bridge in about 10 minutes from Peckham Rye station.
My ends, y’all! I lived around these parts for YEARS and I LOVE it here. But in truth, it’s not the best place if you want nightlife. There’s a bit, but it’s mostly filled with drunk Antipodeans and post Shepherds Bush Empire goers.
Westfield shopping centre dominates where, of course, there are stacks of eating and drinking options there but I never think the mall is best place for an authentic London experience you know?
But, nearby Askew Road offers loads of cool bars and restaurants if you’re up for a little walk and Hammersmith is home to an abundance of epic pubs. Proper boozers you know? And the jewel in Shepherds Bush crown is the transport links. You can get to Oxford Street in about 10 minutes, and way over to East London in about 30. And you can walk to Hyde Park in about 40 minutes…..or, obvs, just catch a bus!
Best Restaurant/Café: Adams Cafe, Askew Road for delicious Moroccan food.
Tube: Central line, yo. And Hammersmith & City/Circle line.
Notting Hill is such a disgustingly Instagrammable place to stay, and truly — if you want to see how the other half live, head here. It’s so pretty, and filled with quaint one off shops and cool, quirky cafes that you won’t want to step on the tube to anywhere else. But if you do want to, it’s well connected — on the Central, Hammersmith & City and Circle lines.
And obviously, there’s the famous Portobello Road to wander down.
Best Restaurant/Cafe: Snaps & Rye, Golborne Rd
Tube: Central line, yo. And Hammersmith & City/Circle line.
Upper Street is one of the best, and easiest places to pub crawl. Get off the Tube at Angel and eat, drink and shop your way to the other end. If you want leafy, cosy London with a heavy dose of cosmopolis then Islington is for you. Expect cool, young things with dogs and gin fetishes.
You can walk to Kings Cross St Pancras easily (giving you easy access to……errwhere) and it’s easy to get into Central and East London too.
Best Restaurant/Café: Le Mercury, Upper Street
Tube: Northern, Victoria, Overground
You will have heard of Shoreditch, the beating heart of the ‘Dickhead’ and an awesome place to explore a totally different side to London. Urban chic, I guess, is what you could give it as a moniker. There’s plenty of art, shopping, eating, drinking and the transport is spot on. If you want leafy London and pretty architecture, this is not the place for you. But if not, and you want to eat bagels at 3am after partying in Hoxton all night then Shoreditch is the place for you. The hipsters have long departed to Haggerston, Dalston….or somewhere else I never visit, so if you want to be at the forefront of cool you’re about five years too late.
Best Restaurant/Café: Pizza East is inside the super cool Tea building
Tube: Central Line,and mainline Liverpool Street
What are your favourite places to stay in London? What have I missed?