With cosy cottages, Grade II-listed pubs and even a duckpond at the heart of the village, you'd be forgiven for mistaking South-East London's Dulwich for a Cotswold village on first sight. Despite being in the capital, the area has maintained a true rural ambience due to the conservation status bestowed upon it since the 1960s, and is still surrounded by green spaces such as Dulwich Park, Peckham Rye, Dawsons Hill and Dulwich Common.
Having developed a reputation for being genteel and upmarket, Dulwich has drawn in families for years - particularly those looking for a close-knit community and excellent schools. Since nearby Peckham became known as one of London’s coolest, creative spots, young professionals have also started to settle in Dulwich to make the most of the nightlife of Peckham on one side, and the relaxed restaurants and cafes of Dulwich on the other.
These restaurants and cafes are also beginning to make a new name for the area as the foodie scene develops, along with lots of independent food shops and an array of high-end boutiques for discerning shoppers. Much of the area is still owned by the Dulwich Estate, who protect it from excessive development and help keep the village atmosphere.
Despite world-class attractions such as the Horseman Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery, the area is also surprisingly low in tourists, possibly because there's no Underground Station to be found here. This makes it even easier for locals to enjoy all the nearby cultural offerings, and has perhaps contributed to the number of famous faces living here... some well-known residents include Carl Barat, Jo Brand and Huw Edwards.
On a map
Dulwich is located in South East London in the borough of Southwark. It is situated to the south of Peckham and north of Norwood, and covers the postcodes SE21, SE22 and SE23.
History of Dulwich London
Dulwich was first mentioned in historical records in 967AD, when the area was given to Earl Aelheah by King Edgar. The name was said to have come from the old English words for dill and damp meadow, meaning that Dulwich was originally ‘the meadow where the dill grows’. Dulwich passed into various different hands over the years, including King William I and King Henry VIII, although it remained a hamlet for hundreds of years. In 1619 the original version of the Dulwich Estate was established, and a school, chapel and almshouse were built in the area.
The population pf Dulwich gradually grew, although it was still reasonably rural - there was farmland in the area as late as the 1920s, and it was part of Surrey until 1889. During the Second World War Dulwich was badly bombed, and if you know where to look you can still find some signs of bomb damage throughout the area today.
Transport from Dulwich London
One of the few downsides of Dulwich is the lack of tube station, the nearest being located around 2 miles away in Brixton. However, this doesn’t mean that it lacks good transport connections - there are three train stations across Dulwich, located in East Dulwich, North Dulwich and West Dulwich, the former two offering direct services to London Bridge in just 12 minutes, and the latter a 12 minute trip to Victoria Station.
The area is also served by plenty of buses, to areas including Piccadilly Circus and Brixton.
Cost of living in Dulwich London
Due to it’s protected status, there is very little modern housing available in Dulwich, unless it’s of the architecturally award winning kind. Most of the properties here are Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian, with a mix of terraced and detached. A number of properties have been converted into flats, although large houses can also be found.
Dulwich has strong staying power, with many residents moving in for a long time which can impact the amount of housing available on the market. House hunters will need to be determined and prepare for a potentially long search! On the upside, rental prices here are surprisingly low, largely due to the lack of tube connection. As of April 2016, the average rental price for a two-bedroom apartment in Dulwich is around £1600 per month, although similar properties can be found starting at around £1200 per month.
Restaurants in Dulwich London
With a popular branch of Franco Manca and a Pizza Express Dulwich isn’t short of our favourite doughy Italian disks, but Rocca Di Pappa just pips the others to the post when it comes to perfect pizza. Grab a table on their outdoor terrace on a sunny day and dig into bruschetta, antipasti and wood fired pizzas with top-quality toppings washed down with a prosecco bellini.
Address: 75 - 79 Dulwich Village, London SE21 7BJ
Phone:020 8299 6333
A local favourite since 1999, Franklins is dedicated to serving up UK-sourced (and local where possible) dishes with a focus on beautiful produce and flavours over trends. The menu changes daily, featuring the likes of potato and wild garlic soup, sea bream with lentils and chorizo and ox cheek with mash, while the wine list is packed with well-curated bottles.
Address: 157 Lordship Ln, London SE22 8HX
Phone:020 8299 9598
Ideally located just next to West Dulwich Station, Chandni serves up a mouthwatering array of traditional Indian dishes such as biryani, tandoori and tikka in a low-key, contemporary dining room. Make sure you come with a big appetite though - with so much to choose form and curries starting from just £5.50, you might just find yourself ordering most of the menu!
Address: 134A Thurlow Park Rd, London SE21 8HN
Phone:020 8761 9738
Shops in Dulwich London
Kit out your new Dulwich pad with some pieces from the fun, eccentric Mrs Robinson design shop on Lordship Lane. The homeware selection is wide and varied, including lighting, art and soft furnishings, while the range of gifts (think everything from a robot nutcracker to stylish Robert’s digital radio) are perfect for even the most hard-to-buy-for friends.
Address: 153 Lordship Ln, London SE22 8HD
Phone:020 8693 0693
Run by interior designer Jane Hole, the Jane Newbury boutique in Dulwich Village is filled with gorgeous homewares and gifts from a range of designers, many of whom are British. From Beatrix Potter ornaments to fun bird print cushions and a gallery in the basement, it’s nearly impossible to leave this pretty shop without buying something.
Address: 33 Dulwich Village, London SE21 7BN
Phone:020 8693 2634
Looking for some high-end designer threads with a cool twist? Head directly to Question Air, where all the most respected brands for men and women are on sale, including Vivienne Westwood, Marc Jacobs, J Brand and Rag and Bone in a clean, contemporary boutique. The also offer a personal shopping service if you’re in need of some style direction.
Address: 143-145 Northcote Rd, London SW11 6PX
Phone:020 7924 6948
Things to Do in Dulwich London
It may be the oldest public art gallery in England, having opened in 1817 (seven years before the National Gallery), but fortunately for art-loving locals Dulwich Picture Gallery has somehow managed to avoid huge crowds of tourists. That’s not to say it doesn’t have crowd appeal though, with a fine collection of Old Masters from the likes of Rembrant, Rubens and Constable and a regular series of interesting exhibitions.
Address: Gallery Rd, Southwark SE21 7AD
One of Dulwich’s crowning jewels, Dulwich Park offers 76 acres of green space, a boating lake, a cafe, plenty of sports facilities and even bikes for hire if you want to properly explore all the nooks and crannies. Pick up some picnic foods from one of Dulwich Village’s many food stores and spend a weekend afternoon dining al-fresco.
Address: College Rd, London SE21 7BQ
Phone: 020 7525 2000
This old-fashioned anthropological museum in the heart of Dulwich is a real trip back in time - rather than high-tech displays and flashy interactive lessons, the glass cases and vast collection of taxidermy give the impression that you’ve somehow wandered into a Victorian uncle’s eccentric collection. Add a nature trail, family workshops and 16 acres of gardens, and you’ve got the ultimate family-friendly day out.
Address: 100 London Rd, London SE23 3PQ
Phone: 020 8699 1872
Main image credit: Herry Lawford