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The newbies guide to living in London

9 September 2014 Cat Byers Read time: 16 min
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Cat Byers

Want to know the best areas to live in London, the Big Smoke, the Swinging City, BabyLon? – London deserves every nickname and more. Everyone from The Clash to Lily Allen has sung about it, Samuel Johnson lamented anyone tired of it, and even the notoriously acerbic Oscar Wilde was a fan.

Something you should know about London: this place is enormous. We’ve got 32 boroughs (plus the City), more than eight-million inhabitants, speak 300 languages and are around 2,000 years old. Not forgetting the busiest airport in the world at Heathrow, the oldest underground system and many other feats.

Unlike the grid system in New York, London is a sprawling metropolis full of back streets and bizarrely named areas (Elephant and Castle?! Swiss Cottage?!), meaning even those with the most advanced GPS are going to get lost frequently.


Photo credit: www.standard.co.uk Photo credit: www.standard.co.uk


You’re likely to be confused by all the different areas and stereotypes too – London is like a massive network of distinct villages, and everyone has their own opinion on where is best. Ask anyone where they recommend living and you’ll end up listening to a polemic on how Peckham is the new Shoreditch, or Fulham is being replaced by Notting Hill, and before you know it you’ll have scrapped the moving plans altogether!

Help is at hand though. In the past we’ve written about the safest areas, the coolest areas, a comprehensive list of the best areas, and even the most dog-friendly areas of this fair city. Now we’re going to give you the definitive guide on what we reckon are the need-to-know areas in Central, North, South, East and West London. Check out the tube map to see what areas would work for commuting, figure out your ‘category’ (family? student? young professional?) and read on – you’ll be a Londoner before you know it!


The North/East/South/West Divide


777px-London_plan_sub_regions_(2011) wiki commons Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org


Much has been said about London’s North/East/South/West divide. North London tends to think South London is rough and uncouth, while South London thinks North London is snobby and overpriced. East London is seen by some to be pretentious, try-hard and full of hipsters, while the posh inhabitants of West London are constantly confused by the idea that anyone might want to live more than a mile from Sloane Square.

Every area of London has it’s own quirks, personality and unique charms. It’s impossible to make grand, sweeping statements about London – ‘rough’ South London is home to the very posh Dulwich, ‘snobby’ North London has Finsbury Park, and even the Queen lives north of the river despite Buckingham Palace’s SW postcode!

Don’t take any of the stereotypes too seriously, and choose an area because it offers what you’re looking for. Wherever you settle, you’ll end up fiercely defending it against everywhere else before long! Here's a few areas you should know about....



While you’re unlikely to live in these parts, these central London areas are certainly worth a mention. Avoid the tourists that flock to Covent Garden and Oxford Street (both of which are very overrated), and lose yourself in the rabbit-warren streets of Soho and the City instead for a true taste of London.



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Once a seedy red light district and gangster paradise, Soho is now considered to be one of the best areas in London for cool new bars, boutiques and restaurants. The days of lawlessness are long gone, and have been replaced by a thriving gay scene and trendy eating-and-drinking culture.

Best for: Those who want to be right in heart of the action

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £2,250 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £40,000 pcm
Average rents for a two-bed flat: £4,730 pcm
Search for Soho properties

Insider tips:

  • On a warm day, head to Golden Square in the heart of Soho for a spot of greenery and a sandwich in the sun. They also have ping pong tables, should you want a bit of exercise.
  • Once a brothel (like much of Soho!), Kingly Court is now a hidden open-air spot full of independent bars and shops just off Carnaby Street, and is a great place to get away from the crowds.
  • In need of a pick me up? Check out Soho Grind on Beak Street for some of the best coffee in London – or make it an Espresso Martini if you really need woken up!


The City


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The oldest area of London, "The City" is known as a byword for the financial district. Also referred to as the 'Square Mile’, this compact area is a contradiction unto itself; packed during the week with professionals heading to top international law, finance and insurance firms, it transforms into a ghost town on the weekends.

Meanwhile, it’s the site of iconic modern buildings such as the Gherkin, but equally home to historic London landmark St Pauls, and an array of Roman streets have recently been found here by archaeologists.

Best for: Professionals working in the banking sector

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £2,000 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £6,500 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £5,440 pcm
Search for properties in the City

Insider tips:

  • Head to Skylounge Bar, on top of the Double Tree Hilton by Tower Hill for a brilliant view over the city (and a refreshing drink, of course!)
  • Take one of the many walking tours that explain the history of the area during the day, or a ghost tour at night if you’re feeling brave.
  • Although there are lots of flashy bars and restaurants here, check opening hours before you visit – many of them close on the weekends.





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Camden is the ultimate mix. It’s home to beautiful, expensive houses, affluent professionals (and the occasional celeb) and boasts a literary history that includes Charles Dickens. At the same time, Camden is known for punks, counter-culture, a loud-and-proud gay scene and markets full of alternative shoppers. Check out our Guide to Camden for all the info you could need on this cool area.

Best for: Students and young professionals

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,500 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £10,000 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £2,250 pcm
Search Camden properties


Insider tips:

  • A short walk up the road and you can embrace the urban countryside (and cute animals) at Kentish Town City Farm.
  • Take a trip to the seaside at Camden Beach, located on roof of gig venue Roundhouse during July and August. They even have deckchairs and fish n’ chips!
  • Local celebrities such as Noel Fielding from The Mighty Boosh are known to frequent the Hawley arms, so pop in for a drink and try to act nonchalant.





Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org


Hampstead is one of the most beautiful and affluent areas in North London, with upmarket restaurants and cafes, lovely period houses, and a great sense of community. Hampstead Heath is on your doorstep for some peace and quite in a natural setting, while the excellent transport connections mean you can get to the centre of London in less than ten minutes on the tube. It's also swarming with celebrities, which contributes to the high rental prices of this exclusive area.

If Hampstead sounds appealing, make sure you check out our guides to similar North London areas such as Primrose Hill, Belsize Park and St John's Wood.

Best for: For those searching for village vibes. 

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,700 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £8,500 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £3,100 pcm
Search for Hampstead rental properties.


Insider tips:

  • Hampstead Heath is not only perfect for an afternoon stroll - it's also home to Parliament Hill Lido, an outdoor swimming pool open all year round, and the beautiful Hampstead swimming ponds. Might be a bit chilly in the winter though!
  • Enjoy an al-fresco picnic in the beautiful gardens of Kenwood House – this stunning estate has featured in many films, including Four Weddings and a Funeral.
  • Fans on Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, will love the Freud Museum in nearby Belsize Park. It was his family home for many years, and even features his famous couch.




ddfsdf Photo credit: www.winkworth.co.uk


Situated on a hill in North London, Highgate feels a world away from the rest of the city despite being just over 15 minutes on the tube from Central London. Originally an entirely separate village, Highgate is known for having beautiful Victorian architecture, cosy pubs and restaurants, and a huge amount of history.

Karl Marx lived here (and is buried in the incredible Highgate Cemetery), as did Samuel Coleridge and Charles Dickens. Young graduates and students might find it a bit quiet, but its the perfect place for families to settle and has been known to attract publicity-shy celebrities too.

Best for: Families and professionals

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,400 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £9,500 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £2,000 pcm
Find Highgate rental properties


Insider tips:

  • Watch out for the Highgate Vampire - rumour has it that he haunted the cemetery in the 1970s, and the area became known for occult and supernatural activities. Spooky!
  • Treat yourself to a delicious Sunday roast at the Red Lion and Sun gastropub. Not only does it have a lovely shady garden and cosy interior, it was Charles Dickens favourite pub when he lived in Highgate.
  • Enjoy a walk in the historic, 26-acre Waterlow Park followed by tea and cake at Lauderdale House.




Photo credit: blog.onefinestay.com Photo credit: blog.onefinestay.com


Although it was named after a 17th century inn rather than a winged messenger, Angel is a pretty angelic place. Located in Islington on the northern edge of central London, its home to plenty of creative media types who love the amazing restaurants of Upper Street, pretty back streets, canal walks and an easy commute to the centre.

Best for: Young professionals

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,600 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £7,400 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £2,630 pcm
Discover Angel rental properties

Insider tips:

  • Shop for vintage and antique treasures at the stalls of Camden Passage on a Wednesday or Saturday.
  • Wander along the canal path towards Haggerston and pop into Proud Archivist, a cool restaurant, gallery and bar.
  • Build up an appetite and do a food crawl of the restaurants on Upper Street (nicknamed ‘Supper Street’ for obvious reasons). Check out our Guide to Angel for recommendations!





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Peckham has had plenty of funding and regeneration over the last decade and now this South-East area into one of the coolest spots in London - but luckily one that has still hung onto it's unique and diverse soul. It' s one London area that has managed a mix of hipsters, students, bankers and local families without going too far over into gentrification by pricing the locals out.

Hugely popular with young creatives and media types as they are priced out of many other areas of London, people flock here for the brilliant bars and clubs such as Peckham Springs, Bar Story and Bussey Building, cutting-edge shops and unique events. It's also still possible to find a bargain rental property here, and the commute to Central London is fast and simple.

Check out our Guide to Peckham for everything you need to know!

Best for: Young professionals and students

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,295 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £4,300 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £1,845 pcm
Search Peckham rental properties


Insider tips:

  • Don’t be put off by the dodgy-looking entrance through a multi-storey car park - Frank’s Cafe and Campari bar has some of the best views over London.
  • Check out the Bussey Building for cool club nights and DJs, and the rooftop film club is definitely worth a visit.
  • Wander the afternoon away at Peckham Rye Park, a lovely Victorian park complete with ornamental garden.

Like the sound of super-hip Peckham? Check out our Guide to the coolest areas in London!




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Clapham is loved by everyone from young graduates who gravitate to the bars and clubs of the High Street, to families who love the delis and village feel of Abbeville Road. Divided into Clapham North, South, Old Town and Junction, there's a place for everyone here. The huge, leafy Clapham Common adds much-needed green space, while Clapham Junction station is the busiest in Britain and provides connections to all over the UK.

Best for: Everyone (especially Aussies) unless you don't like Aussies (we like everyone though so that's ok)!

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,250 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £5,300 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £1,880 pcm
Check out Clapham rental properties


Insider tips:

  • Clapham has recently enjoyed the addition of some great new restaurants - we particularly love WC (located in an former public toilet!) and food critic favourite The Dairy.
  • During the summer months, nearby Battersea Power Station host a cool outdoor cinema showing classic films and new releases. They often get great food stalls involved too, so you'll be well provided with cinema snacks!
  • During the rest of the year, head to Clapham Picture House to watch a cool arthouse or independent film with a glass of wine from the cinema bar.

For more info on Clapham, check out our guide to the different areas in Clapham and best things to do in Clapham Junction.




Photo credit: www.thedrinksbusiness.com Photo credit: www.thedrinksbusiness.com


A short stroll to the east of Clapham and you'll find yourself in Brixton - Clapham's cooler, edgier cousin. The location is perfect for commuting into central London, due to the Victoria line, and there are plenty of bars, restaurants, clubs and music venues to keep you entertained on the weekend.

Best for: Students and young professionals

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,250 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £3,000 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £1,800 pcm
Search Brixton rental properties


Insider tips:

  • Brixton Village Market has quickly become the place to visit for cheap eats in South London. With stalls selling food from all over the world, you're certain to discover an amazing new dish.
  • Nearby Brockwell Lido is one of the best outdoor swimming pools in London, with art-deco buildings, an award-winning cafe and of course, a 50m pool.
  • Watch a gig at the world-renowned Brixton Academy - previous artists have included Blink 182, New Order and Bob Dylan




Photo credit: www.cntraveller.com Photo credit: www.cntraveller.com


The borough of Southwark is located on the southern banks of the Thames, and includes areas like Bermondsey and Borough. Recent regeneration projects have made this one of the best areas to invest in London, due to the central location, fascinating history and brilliant foodie scene that has developed in the last few years.

Best for: Professionals

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,500 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £5,850 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £8,500 pcm
Discover Southwark rental properties


Insider tips

  • If Borough Market is too packed, check out nearby Maltby Street Market, which has plenty of mouth-watering products from some of the UK’s best artisanal traders.
  • Visit the statue of Alfred the Great in Trinity Church Square, which is the oldest free-standing statue in London!
  • If you've still got space after visiting the great food markets, stroll down Bermondsey street and try one of the great restaurants, such as Jose or Pizarro.





Photo credit: www.shoreditch-officespaces.co.uk Photo credit: www.shoreditch-officespaces.co.uk


Often when people talk about East London, they really mean Shoreditch. This area is a hub of creativity, with leading companies in fashion, photography, online media and plenty more all calling it home. It's also full of quirky bars, great restaurants and loads of cool vintage shops. Once a cheap area for property, the increasing popularity means prices are rising rapidly and a lot of people have been priced out of the area. If you can afford it though... it's a great place to be.

Best for: Students, graduates and professionals

Cheapest rent for a two bed flat: £1,400 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two bed flat: £7,500 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £2,580 pcm
Search for Shoreditch rental properties


Insider tips:

  • Browse the historic Spitalfields Market and shop for antiques, trinkets and clothes from the stalls.
  • Fans of vintage clothing will adore the enormous Beyond Retro warehouse on Cheshire Street - its the perfect place to pick up something unique, or even fancy dress!
  • For a stunning view with your drink, visit the roof of the Queen of Hoxton. Check the listings before you go too, as they often hold special events up here too.




Photo credit: www.yourlocalweb.co.uk Photo credit: www.yourlocalweb.co.uk


Right next to some of the most fashionable places in East London between Shoreditch and Dalston, there is no actual centre in Haggerston (since the others are in easy walking distance) but there IS crucially, a train station. A brilliant place if you want more space for your money and still want to be in the centre of all things "happening" without paying Made In Chelsea prices... which much of the rest of East London is now getting accustomed to!


Best for:

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,500 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £3,000 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £2,050 pcm
Search for Haggerston properties


Insider tips:

  • Broadway Market - farmers market produce, artisan foods, clothes, pottery, vintage items and antiques are all on offer.
  • It's easy to spend days on end at the nearby London Fields - it boasts a cricket pitch, a heated outdoor swimming pool, a BMX track, tennis courts and child play areas.
  • Take a stroll along the canal to Proud Archivist, a great restaurant-gallery-bar space that's perfect for afternoon drinks.




Photo credit: www.blog.cruise-critic.co.uk Photo credit: www.blog.cruise-critic.co.uk


Check out our Guide to Greenwich, where you'll find a great guide to this leafy Royal Borough. As you can see, Greenwich has one of the most impressive parks in London, with acres of green stretching out and around the impressive historical buildings - as well as the famous view from the hill of the Royal Observatory.

Greenwich is full of great little pubs and fantastic local restaurants now competing with the likes of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen... coupled with the local produce and foods available at Greenwich Market, this make Greenwich a food lovers heaven.

Check out the Cutty Sark, the world's only remaning tea clipper (there is one other being restored), the O2 and Eltham Palace too.

Best for: Families

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,200 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £3,000 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £1,700 pcm
Search for Greenwich rental properties


Insider tips:

  • Feeling a bit tense? Try one of the weekly yoga in sessions in Greenwich Park and you'll be all stretched out in no time.
  • Pop into Oliver's Music Venue for some great live jazz.
  • See London from the sky on the Emirates airline, a cable car connecting Greenwich to Canary Wharf. It's only used regularly by around 16 commuters, so chances are it won't be too busy!




Photo credit: www.opendalston.blogspot.com Photo credit: www.opendalston.blogspot.com


Local band Razorlight once sang ‘Don’t go back to Dalston’, but we definitely don’t agree! It was declared the 'coolest place in Britain' in 2009, and hasn't lost any of its vibrancy since then.

For more info on this cool London area, check out our official guide to Dalston.

Best for:

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,400 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat:£3,200 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £1,900 pcm
Search for Dalston rental homes


Insider tips:

  • Get back to the Good Life at Farm:Shop, a shop selling only lovely, fresh farm produce in Dalston. They even have a chicken coop on the roof!
  • Music lovers should head to the Shacklewell arms, one of Dalston's many gig venues, to catch a performance by an up-and-coming new band.
  • For a slice of serenity, visit the beautiful Eastern Curve Garden, a hidden oasis that's open every day until 6pm.


West London

Notting Hill


Photo credit: www.agirlastyle.com Photo credit: www.agirlastyle.com


Made famous in the classic rom-com starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, Notting Hill barely needs an introduction. It's artistic and fashionable, with beautiful spacious houses, quality restaurants, vintage shops and boutiques, and loads of quirky little places.

The Caribbean-themed Notting Hill Carnival is the largest in Europe, and a must-do in most Londoner's calendars. However, despite the bohemian air Notting Hill has become too expensive for most, so make sure you check out our guide to the best budget-friendly areas in West London too, if you want the glamour without the price!

Best for: Everyone!

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,700 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £13,000 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat £3,000 pcm
Check out Notting Hill rental properties


Insider tips:

  • Avoid the local Odeon and watch a film at the cool Electric Cinema on Portobello Road instead - they even have squishy armchairs and lamps to make you feel at home.
  • For a taste of the exotic, visit the peacocks pottering around in Holland Park!
  • Give the famous museums a rest for the day and visit the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, which showcases thousands of historic products.




Photo credit: /www.redcowpub.com Photo credit: www.redcowpub.com


Located on the banks of the Thames, this suburban spot was a royal retreat in the 1500s. While Richmond Palace no longer exists, the area is still as lovely as ever, with beautiful historic houses on the Green, a fantastic park, riverside restaurants and a wide selection of posh boutiques.

There's a strong community atmosphere too, leading to lots of local events, and you might even end up with an ageing rocker as your neighbour! If Richmond sounds like your sort of area, make sure you read up on nearby Chiswick and Kingston-upon-Thames too.

Best for: Families

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,250 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £5,300 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £2,000 pcm
Discover Richmond rental properties


Insider tips:

  • Walk through beautiful Richmond Park to King Henry’s Mound, where a protected vista gives you a view all the way to St Pauls Cathedral.
  • If the riverbank is too packed on a sunny afternoon, cycle along the river until you reach Orleans House and Gardens, a secluded, romantic spot with an elaborate marble fountain.
  • Enjoy some of the best gelato in London from Gelateria Danieli, located down a sweet little alley just off Richmond Green.




Photo credit: www.airbnb.co.uk Photo credit: www.airbnb.co.uk


Fulham is the slightly more affordable neighbour of Chelsea, home to the posh shops and restaurants of the King's Road, smart terraced housing, plenty of green space and a lovely local feel. The low crime and good schools make it hugely popular with families, while professionals and the students who can afford to live there love the buzzing bars and clubs. Avoid Fulham Broadway Station when there's a Chelsea match on though, or you'll get stuck in crowd of football fans for ages! Also watch out for small dogs - they are everywhere and easy to tread on/get tangled up in their jeweled leads!

Best for: Everyone!

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,400 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £7,500 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £3,000 pcm
Search for Fulham rental properties


Insider tips:

  • Put your glad-rags on and spend the evening at the clubs and bars of the King's Road if you want to spot a few minor celebrities (and perhaps the cast of reality show Made in Chelsea). Embargo 59, Mare Moto and Raffles are particularly popular.
  • Unbeknown to most Londoners, there is actually a small portion of the Berlin Wall on display just outside the National Army Museum, minutes from the King's Road! It even has original graffiti.
  • Enjoy a picnic in nearby Parsons Green, followed by a pint at the White Horse or a glass of champagne at Amuse Bouche


South Kensington


Photo credit: www.marlerandmarler.co.uk Photo credit: www.marlerandmarler.co.uk


Beautiful South Kensington (or ‘South Ken’ if you’re a local) is like a little slice of Paris in the heart of South West London. Home to the French Embassy and Lycee Charles du Gaulle, Parisians and Francophiles been flocking to this area for years. There are also fantastic boutiques, great restaurants, and some of the best museums in London such as the National History Museum, the Science Museum, and the V&A. It's classy, cultured, and central - but beware that it comes at a cost!

Best for: Everyone!

Cheapest rent for a two-bed flat: £1,900 pcm

Most expensive rent for a two-bed flat: £23, 660 pcm
Average rent for a two-bed flat: £4,300 pcm
Search for South Kensington rental properties


Insider tips:

  • If you’re looking for a real taste of France, check out the shops and cafes along Bute Street (known to locals as ‘Frog Alley’), where you’re more likely to hear French spoken than English!
  • Didn't manage to spot the Highgate Vampire? Don't worry, we've got the next best thing -  Bram Stoker, author of vampire classic 'Dracula', once lived on St Leonard Terrace, and there is a blue plaque outside no. 18 to commemorate this!

 Free help and tips

We get loads and loads of you guys e-mailing and posting on the blog daily asking advice on where to live in London. We've all done the move before so we know exactly how confused or worried you might be feeling!

To try and give you as much help as possible, we're developing an app that works to match you up with your ideal property and location based not just on your day-today requirements but your individual personality too.

The ideas is that if you like the property we show you, you can go ahead and book viewings - we'll do all the organising at the back end for you, to cut out some of the hassle.

If you want to try this out for free and even give us some feedback (we're making this to help you guys so any feedback is always welcome!) then here's the link to try out the free property finder now.

Hope you enjoy all of our blogs on London and if you have an questions then please post them in the comments below. We do our best reply to every comment quickly :)


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