From a neglected area full of empty warehouses to a sophisticated urban centre in just a few decades, Bermondsey is a prime example of how rapidly the fortunes of a London area can change.
Situated on the southern bank of the river Thames, Bermondsey is a very historic part of the city which has developed a reputation for sleek warehouse apartments, excellent restaurants and cool cultural museums in recent years. Bermondsey Street itself has become somewhat of a food-lovers paradise, packed full of independent restaurants, bakeries and delicatessens, while world-famous gourmet markets Borough Market and Maltby Street Market are a short walk away. Locals, who are predominantly young professionals working in city trades or affluent students, can normally be found frequenting the many coffee shops, quirky bars and small galleries during the weekend.
Despite the location so close to central London, Bermondsey still feels rather like a separate village with tightly packed streets leading on to the open spaces of the quayside developments. The rising prices of property in the area have led to accusations of gentrification with the sale of ex-local authority apartment buildings being a particularly controversial issue, but most changes have been welcomed, especially by those who remember the derelict buildings and poor reputation of the 1970s.
Although there’s some green space nearby in the form of Southwark Park, Bermondsey is about as close to true urban living as you can get, so if you want somewhere with all the hectic hustle and bustle of London, then this could be the perfect place for you.
On a Map
Bermonsdey is located in the borough of Southwark in South East London, and covers the postcodes SE1 and SE16. It sits just south of the River Thames, and is bordered by Canada Water, Borough, and Peckham.
History of Bermondsey London
While the origins of the name are still debated, many historians believe that Bermondsay was originally named after a major landowner named Beormund in the Anglo-Saxon period, although evidence suggests there has been a settlement here since the Roman period.
The area was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, and during this time was home to a large Abbey, which was eventually closed during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in the 1500s. During the early 18th century a natural spring was discovered in Bermondsey, and the area became a popular spa town as members of the middle classes and gentry flocked here to enjoy the Bermondsey Spa water, which was considered by doctors to have health benefits. The large houses on Grange Walk date from this period, but unfortunately it was short-lived as the spa closed in 1804.
Bermondsey then underwent another huge transformation as it developed into an industrial hub full of warehouses and factories for the manufacture of leather, cotton and wool, similar to the East End of London. By the 1960s the vast majority of these factories had closed, and Bermondsey was seen as a rough, neglected area until the 1980s and 1990s, when developers including famed furniture designed Terence Conran bought up the wharfs and turned them into chic residential housing buildings and commercial spaces, leading the the revival of the area.
Transport from Bermondsey London
Aside from the endless gastronomical and cultural distractions offered by Bermondsey, the other main draw here for young professionals is the transport links. Bermondsey Street Underground Station is on the Jubilee line, with a speedy 12 minute journey to Bond Street and less than 10 minutes to Canary Wharf.
Both London Bridge and Tower Bridge are within walking distance (or a very short bus ride), while across the river the DLR from Shadwell takes just 6 minutes to Bank. Bermondsey is also served by trains from Rotherhithe, and various buses with routes across London. Many major attractions are also within walking distance of Bermondsey, including the Shard, Southbank, and HMS Belfast.
Cost of Living in Bermondsey London
Fortunately for those hoping to move to Bermondsey, while property prices have certainly risen here in the last few years, it hasn’t quite reached the stratospheric costs of some similarly central London areas just yet.
There are a wide range of properties available here, most of which are modern apartments in riverside developments or former Victorian warehouses transformed for loft-style living, although very occasionally 18th century houses on streets such as Grange Walk come onto the market. There are also increasingly ex-authority apartment blocks available, which often offer quite low rents for the area.
As of October 2015, the average rental price for a two-bedroom property in Bermondsey is £2,030 per month, although properties can found starting from around £1,400 per month.
Restaurants in Bermondsey London
Critically-acclaimed Spanish chef Jose Pizarro has certainly made his mark on the London restaurant scene since he arrived just a few years ago. Now leading three restaurants across the city, he started out with the José tapas bar on Bermondsey Street, which serves up authentic tapas and Spanish sherry to eager locals as well as visitors who've travelled from across London for a bit of the Pizarro action. The menu changes daily, but expect dishes such as hake with aioli, croquetas and Padron peppers in a cosy, bustling environment.
Address: 194 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3TQ
Phone: 020 7378 9455
If you're after a restaurant for a very special occasion, look no further than elegant dining spot Le Pont de la Tour near Tower Bridge. Situated in a converted former tea warehouse by the river, it was the dining spot of choice for Tony Blair and the Clintons back in the 1990s, and still draws a very well-heeled crowd for excellent French seafood.
Address: 36D Shad Thames, London SE1 2YE
Phone: 020 7403 8403
The proud owner of a Michelin Star and led by renowned chef Tom Sellers (who earned his stripes at Noma in Copenhagen) the Scandinavian- style Restaurant Story is a true feast for the senses offering just two options: a six course tasting menu, or a ten course tasting menu. Set aside a few hours for the 'Full Story' menu and you'll find yourself with innovative dishes such as squid and stem tartare, fallow dear and foie gras. A truly magical experience for any hardcore foodies.
Address: 199 Tooley St, London SE1 2JX
Phone: 020 7183 2117
Combining a Modern European brasserie and a lively cocktail bar under one exposed-brick roof, Village East is the ideal one-stop shop for a night of dinner and drinks in Bermondsey. The menu is full of classic dishes such as steamed mussels and steaks, the atmosphere is buzzing, and the cocktail menu is packed with old favourites and new concoctions. What's more, their brilliant weekend brunch which will cure your cocktail head in no time.
Address: 171-173 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3UW
Phone: 020 7357 6082
Shops in Bermondsey London
Forget the bland high-street shops surrounding nearby London Bridge and give this impressive local designer a try instead when looking for a new outfit. Established by actress Amanda Thomson, everything sold is made to measure from perfectly fitted dresses to chic blouses. It's not cheap, but considering the quality and service it's practically a bargain.
Address:90 Bermondsey St, Southwark, London SE1 3UB
Phone: 020 7407 3024
London has undergone somewhat of a craft beer revolution in the last few years, and the independent Bottle Shop in Bermondsey is bravely fighting the cause against mass-produced bottles with their extensive selection of craft beers from the UK and abroad. Head upstairs to the Tap Room for a tasting if you're keen to learn more.
Address: 128, Druid Street, London SE1 2HH
Phone: 020 3490 9252
Pick up an unusual present or even something for yourself at this unique atelier, gallery and shop on Bermondsey Street. There's a beautiful selection of blown glass items on display, many of which are available to buy, and visitors are encouraged to pull up a seat and watch the glassblowers in action in the studio section.
Address: 62-66 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3UD
Phone: 020 7403 2800
Embrace Bermondsey like a true food-loving local with a visit to the popular B Street Deli, which serves an eclectic range of fine foods from crisp French pastries to exclusive oils. During the day they serve a small selection of sandwiches and breakfast dishes too, while after dark the shop transforms into a Parisian-esque cave à manger with charcuterie platters and prime wines.
Address: Bermondsey St, London SE1 3UB
Phone: 07843 376357
Things to Do in Bermondsey London
Give the crowds of Borough Market at miss and try Maltby Street Market instead, which was set up by former Borough traders in search of a bit more space a few years ago. It's packed full of brilliant fresh produce and ready-to-eat food, including some unmissable salt beef sandwiches and chocolate brownies.
Address: 40 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA
Phone: 020 7237 9247
Situated on Shad Thames, the iconic London Design Museum specialises in showcasing international contemporary design, from products and graphics to fashion. As well as some very well-established permanent collections they often show renowned temporary exhibitions, such as Women Fashion Power which was on display earlier in the year. There's also a good gift shop, cafe, and a view over the river to enjoy.
Address: 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD
Phone: 020 7403 6933
With it's restaurants, shops and farmers market Bermondsey Square is always a great place to visit, but come on a Friday if you can for the famous Antiques Market which sees dealers from all over London descend on the Square to sell their wares. From high-end antique furniture to bargain jewellery almost everything can be found, and it's become a weekly ritual for many local South East Londoners.
Address: Bermondsey Square, Southwark, Greater London SE13
Main image credit: Jaguar MENA