A love of David Bowie will get you far in Bromley.
The pop legend played some of his first shows in a pub on Beckenham high street called The Three Tuns. The pub has since transformed into a Zizzi restaurant, which is decked out with Bowie paraphernalia and fondly named ‘the David Bowie Zizzi’. There’s also a Bowie mural in Bromley’s main shopping centre, as well as an annual tribute festival on Croydon Road Recreation Ground (‘Croydon Rec’ or ‘Bec Rec’).
But the glue that really holds Bromley residents together is a shared aversion to Southeastern trains 😬
As is the case across much of the transport-neglected south of London, Bromley residents have no access to the Tube or the Overground and the buses and trains that do run are far less frequent and reliable than elsewhere in London. Some even stop altogether on weekends. A glimmer of hope lay in plans to extend the Bakerloo line to the Bromley area, but these seem to have been canned.
The jewel in the entire borough’s transport crown is Bromley South station. It boasts regular trains to London Victoria and, if you get on a fast one, they only take 20 minutes. Slower trains from Bromley South, which stop in Beckenham, Sydenham, Dulwich and Brixton, will get you to Victoria in about 30 minutes.
This speed isn’t replicated across other lines. The Hayes service will get you to Cannon Street in 40 minutes (45 after its obligatory delay outside Lewisham). But this is the price you pay to live in one of London’s cheapest, greenest and quietest boroughs.
On a Map
Bromley is in south east London and borders Croydon, Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley.
Bromley South station is in Zone 5 and runs trains up to Victoria, Blackfriars and Peckham and down to Orpington, Sevenoaks and Canterbury. Ashford International, where you can pick up the Eurostar to Paris or Brussels, is also only one train journey away from Bromley South.
Bromley North is smaller and in Zone 4, and runs extremely short (and therefore quite cute) trains back and forth to Grove Park. Other stations in Bromley include Shortlands (Zone 4), Beckenham Junction (Zone 4) and West Wickham (Zone 5).
What Bromley lacks in tubes it, sort of, makes up for in buses. From Bromley South alone, you can reach Croydon, Chislehurst, Orpington, Farnborough and Sydenham in one journey. The N3 runs the whole way to Oxford Circus, passing the likes of Trafalgar Square (though be warned many N3s don’t reach Bromley as they terminate in Crystal Palace).
Image Credit: Bromley Borough Local History Society
Bromley has long been a focal point of the county of Kent and to this day some dismiss the town as ‘not really part of London’. It can certainly feel that way when ambling through Bromley’s many green spaces and tree-lined suburban streets, but from a transport and electoral perspective, Bromley is very much in the capital.
Bromley is historically a market town, and though the high street remains lined with stall sellers today, it is beginning to feel more urban. Hundreds of new flats and restaurants minutes from Bromley South are currently in the works, while new apartments have just popped up by Eden Park station. Where Bromley’s country charm is firmly retained is in villages such as Downe and Keston, which are just a short drive away from the town centre and also accessible by bus.
According to our latest rental report, Bromley is one of the only places in London where you can rent a decent one-bedroom flat for £1,000 a month. However, do factor in commuting costs: a monthly travel card for Zones 1-5 is just over £220, and if you’re in the Orpington area (Zone 6) you’re looking at £240.
Things to do
Bromley is not a tourist hub. People may travel in to catch a show at Churchill Theatre or to see the Bethlem Gallery, but there’s certainly no Madame Tussaud’s of Bromley. What there is, though, is plenty of independent coffee houses, parks, gyms, pools, shops and restaurants to keep Bromley goers busy.
Bromley is home to The Glades, a huge shopping centre and adjoining high street with staple shops including: Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Topshop, Primark, Wilko, Apple and MAC. If you’re hungry, a food centre overlooking the park has not long opened and boasts restaurants like Giraffe, Wagamama and Ed’s Diner.
If cheap and cheerful is what you’re after, try Miso Noodle Bar. It is a staple in the south east, with restaurants in Beckenham, Bromley, Croydon and Orpington — number 6 on the menu is not to be missed! Havet, a Turkish-Cypriot joint off Bromley high street, and Chai Naasto, serving Indian street food in a Shoreditch-esque setting, are both excellent.
Image Credit: TripAdvisor
Now you’ve lined your stomach, you can head out to one of Bromley’s many pubs. If the weather is nice, The Shortlands Tavern, The New Inn and The Elm Tree all have beer gardens. Bromley is hardly revered for its bar and clubbing scene, though there are options in O’Neill’s, Burgers & Bubbles, Ora, Vuvu and Greater than Gatsby. If you’re after some new Instagram content as well as a drink, head to Bocca Social Bar.
Image Credit: Bocca Social bar
As for activities, Christmas Tree Farm in Downe — despite its bizarre website — is a fun and cheap way to spend a morning. A short bus ride from Bromley town centre, visitors can mingle with ponies, pigs and peacocks before grabbing a bite in the on-site cafe. Also worth a look is The Mansion in Beckenham Place Park. The Georgian property has recently been taken over by the folks behind Bussey Building in Peckham, and now offers a weekly food market, as well as community events and exercise classes.
Beckenham Place Park isn’t the only place you can go to get your sweat on. Bromley has a range of gyms including David Lloyd and PureGym. Many residents opt for a Mytime Active pass, which gets you into a number of local gyms including Bromley’s The Pavilion. This fitness centre was renovated a few years ago but is still best known for its swimming pool, which comes complete with a water fountain, a wave machine and two water slides.