Although some Londoners may admit to never having actually visited the leafy streets of St John’s Wood, you’d be hard pressed to find one who hasn’t heard of it due to the multi-million pound houses and celebrity residents who often find themselves in the news.
Regularly ranked amongst London’s most expensive postcodes, a 2014 report went so far as to suggest that the residents of St John’s Wood pay the highest rent in the whole of London. But prices aside, there’s a lot more to this area than just big houses and even bigger pockets. As the home of Abbey Road Studios (and the infamous Abbey Road crossing) it has a rich musical and cultural history, while Lord’s Cricket Ground draws in sports fans and nearby Regent’s Park is the perfect escape from the hectic roads of the city. Location-wise, it’s hard to beat when it comes to convenience - despite feeling eons from Oxford Street, the glittering lights of Selfridges are less than two miles away.
Popular with celebrities, American and Jewish communities, wealthy professionals and the odd intellectual who can still afford it, St John’s Wood has always been seen as a high-end, exclusive London suburb. Unlike similar areas such as Primrose Hill, which was once home to workers cottages, railroad fumes and unsavoury activities, NW8 was purpose-built to provide private villas for the city’s growing middle and upper classes. Various Victorian aristocrats even used their properties here to house mistresses, the most famous of which was Napoleon III’s paramour Elizabeth Ann Howard.
When it comes to residents, very few students or young professionals choose to live in St John’s Wood, due equally to the prices and the lack of wild nightlife. While there’s a buzzing high street filled with boutiques and French brands, the after-hours activities here are restricted to classy bars and gastropubs, so those seeking a more substantial evening will need to travel into nearby Camden or Soho. This contributes to making the area hugely popular with families, who also come for the large detached houses, top-rated schools and friendly, tranquil atmosphere.
On a map
St John's Wood is located in North West London, in the Borough of Westminster. It is situated to the north of Marylebone and the south of Primrose Hill, and covers the postcode NW8.
History of St John's Wood London
Many years before any houses were built, St John’s Wood was part of the Great Middlesex Forest. During the medieval period the land was owned by the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, leading to the modern name of St John’s Wood. During the Reformation the land transferred to the crown, and it became Henry VIII’s hunting ground and a general agricultural area for hundreds of years until the 1800s.
At this point, much of the land was owned by the Eyre family who decided to design an ideal arcadian suburb on the fringes of London, filled with villa-style detached and semi-detached housing rather than the terraces which had been popular until then. Building began in 1809, and the suburb of St John’s Wood was born as wealthy professionals were drawn to the area for its solitude and privacy, while still enjoying an easy commute into central London. The area was damaged during the Second World War and the addition of new roads, transport links and amenities have made it much bigger than originally intended, the calm nature of St John’s Wood still remains.
Transport from St John's Wood London
St John's Wood is well located for travelling around London, with an underground station on the Jubilee line which will take you to Waterloo in just 14 minutes and connects directly to Bank and Canary Wharf for commuting purposes.
The area is also served by many buses, and due to it’s relatively central location it’s possible to walk to the shops and restaurants of Marylebone, Oxford Street and Baker Street with ease.
Cost of living in St John's Wood London
As well as the detached and semi-detached villas on quiet, leafy streets (often with high walls to keep out resourceful paparazzi), St John’s Wood also has apartments in historic mansion blocks. The area became a protected Conservation zone in the 1960s, meaning that new developments and modern buildings are rare.
Despite claims that St John’s Wood boasts the highest rental rates in London, prices here are on average lower than the properties surrounding Regent’s Park, and around the same as those in Marylebone. St John’s Wood also benefits from being in the Borough of Westminster, meaning that council tax here is the lowest rate in the whole of the UK.
As of January 2016, the average rental price for a two bedroom apartment in St John’s Wood is £2800 per month, although similar properties can be found starting at £1600 .
Restaurants in St John's Wood London
Located on the banks of the Little Venice Canal and popular with American ex-pats, The Summerhouse is a light and airy restaurant inspired by the beachfront houses of Long Island. The menu is largely filled with a combination of seafood and French classics including seared scallops, rock oysters and New England clam chowder, while the terrace is the ideal spot to spend a slow summer evening with a glass of wine.
Address: Blomfield Rd, London W9 2PA
Phone: 020 7286 6752
It’s almost impossible to come to St John’s Wood without visiting Harry Morgan, which has been an infamous local institution since 1948. Serving New York deli favourites in a modern dinner setting, it’s one of the best places in London to find meaty salt beef bagels or a warming chicken soup. Save some room for the unbeatable Oreo cheesecake too.
Address: Blomfield Rd, London W9 2PA
Phone: 020 7722 1869
As unlikely as it seems, this small, unassuming cafe in St John’s Wood tube station is the top choice for Beatles fans searching for good coffee along with some band memorabilia before making the pilgrimage to Abbey Road. The food is lunchtime-casual with plenty of sandwiches, and the outdoor terrace makes it a great people-watching spot too.
Address: St John's Wood Underground Station Finchley Road, London, NW8 6EB
Phone: 020 7586 5404
Famous for their patisserie since the turn of the century, French restaurant and pastry shop Richoux serves afternoon tea and a surprisingly all-English menu in a simple, elegant setting. All the usual favourites including fish and chips and shepherd’s pie are served here, and don’t be surprised if you spot a celebrity tucked away in a corner table enjoying the Eggs Benedict.
Address: 3 Circus Rd, London NW8 6NX
Phone:020 7483 4001
Shops in St Johns Wood London
Blend in with the high-end St John’s Wood residents (particularly any former rock stars) by picking up a few fashionable pieces at this uber-cool French boutique. Known for their leather ankle boots, iconic bags, soft cashmere and skull motif, the prices aren’t cheap but the craftsmanship is excellent and the style timeless. Well, if it’s good enough for the pages of Vogue Paris…
Address: 94 St John Wood's High street, London NW8 5SH
Phone:020 7586 8633
If you’re looking for an interesting housewarming present but have exhausted most local options, give the unique Cecilia Coleman Gallery on St John’s Wood High Street a try. Run by the eponymous Cecilia, the shop specialises in unusual ceramics, glassware and decorative items made from wood and metal, as well as a range of mirrors.
Address: 67 St John's Wood High St, London NW8 7NL
Phone:020 7722 0686
It may not look that impressive, but don’t be fooled by the subtle exterior - Pazners is known throughout North London as one of the best places to find specialist and unusual ingredients. Frequented by chefs and food industry professionals as well as devoted locals, this luxury supermarket and delicatessen has everything from deli meats and cheeses to rare Russian ingredients. It’s also the place to go if you’re craving some all-American food - their selection includes cult cereals and more from the USA.
Address: 13 - 19 Circus Rd, St. John's Wood, London NW8 6PB
Phone:020 7722 8596
Things to do in St John’s Wood London
Described by many as the home of cricket, Lord's is a must-see for any fans of this classic game. As well as pitches and some striking new modern boxes, the site also includes the world's oldest sporting museum, so you can brush up on your cricket trivia and relive some epic victories.
Address: St John's Wood Rd, London NW8 8QN
Phone: 020 7616 8500
Admit it, everyone loves a trip to the zoo on a sunny day - and with the world-renowned London Zoo on the doorstep of St John’s Wood, it’s easy for locals to visit as often as they wish. Located in the beautiful Regent’s Park, London Zoo is actually the oldest scientific zoo in the world having opened in 1828. It houses over 700 species of animal from crowd favourites such as tigers and zebras, to unusual breeds of reptiles and spiders. During the summer the zoo also runs a ‘Sunset Safari’ series (previously known as Zoo Lates) where visitors can enjoy the exhibits after-hours while feasting on street food. Just don’t feed the animals!
Address: Regent's Park, Outer Circle, London NW1 4RY
Phone: 020 7449 6200
One of London’s finest Everyman cinemas, an innovative chain of boutique film screens across the UK, the Everyman Maida Vale is the place to come when you want a more personal cinema-going experience than the usual popcorn-encrusted seat at the Odeon. With comfy sofas, a bar serving drinks and hot food, and a schedule packed full of old classics, indie hits and new blockbusters, you’ll never be able to visit a normal cinema again.
Address: 215 Sutherland Ave, Maida Vale, London W9 1RU
Phone: 0871 906 9060
Main image credit: Shane Global