Figuring out where to live in London is one of the hardest parts of moving to this city. And one that even the most seasoned London veterans can be found struggling with when it comes time to move to a new flat or to buy a home. Neighbourhoods are constantly changing, good public transportation makes it easy to commute from lots of different areas and the distinct feel of each neighbourhood means it’s worth the effort to find the area of London that suits you best.
Each London neighbourhood can feel like it’s own mini-city with a high street offering clothing and food shops, cafes and restaurants. Find the right London neighbourhood for you and you may never leave (well, that might not be true but a good neighbourhood makes lazy Sunday afternoons that much easier to enjoy).
As you sit down at your computer armed with a Google map of London, here is some advice on the best places in London to live (and a few thoughts on where not to live too).
Let’s start by looking at how the different areas on the London compass compare.
Areas of London
In general north of the Thames River (and north of the city) is considered trendier and more established. This leads to some very nice areas to live in but often at high price points. Some of the nicer areas include: Marylebone, St. John’s Wood / Maida Vale, Primrose Hill, Highbury, Islington, Hampstead and Highgate. Slightly more affordable areas here include: Kentish Town and West Hampstead closer to the Kilburn side.
South of the river is more up-and-coming making it more affordable. There are nice parks here and neighbourhoods with great cafes and restaurants. Some of our favourite neighbourhoods are: Borough, Battersea, Wimbeldon, Clapham and Wandsworth. You won’t get points at the office for ‘coolest neighbourhood’ but that’s okay, your flat will be much nicer than the guy who lives in Islington.
Head to East London to find the hipsters fighting it out with the bankers. This mix of bohemia and the corporate machine make it an interesting area with lots going on. While some areas like Shoreditch are quite expensive given the proximity to Liverpool Street and its now trendy postcode, much of East London is still on the up and up. This is where you can find some of the most affordable housing in London. Some of our favourite areas include: Shoreditch, Angel / Islington, Bethnal Green and just on the north bank of the river, Wapping.
Providing the setting to many a London film, West London best represents the Hollywood version of our great city. Large, green parks like Hyde Park surrounded by white columned buildings and even a palace or two (Kennsington Palace and Buckingham Palace are here) lay the foundation for a classic (and very expensive) London experience. Some of our favourite neighbourhoods: Notting Hill, Kensington, South Kensington and Chelsea. For slightly more affordable neighbourhoods in this area, check out Earl’s Court or Fulham.
Finally, the Southwest deserves a honourable mention for great family friendly areas (if your budget will allow). With Richmond Park and Kew Gardens at your doorstep, there’s plenty of green space. You will find nice high streets with shops and restaurants here and plenty of other families to befriend. Some of our favourite neighbourhoods include: Richmond, Barnes and Chiswick. Twickenham is also nice.
Best London neighbourhoods for families
In general, most of London is family friendly and you will find prams and school children in just about any neighbourhood. That said, when moving to London with a family, big green spaces (as the backyard is likely to be small if not altogether non-existent) and proximity to good schools are key criteria when looking for the best neighbourhoods.
Some areas our friends with children recommend include: Dulwich (South), Clapham Junction near Northcote Road (Southwest), Clapham South near Abbeville Road (Southwest), Holland Park (West), Fulham (West-ish), St. John’s Wood / Maida Vale (Northwest), Richmond / Barnes / Chiswick (Southwest), Islington (Northeast), Hampstead / Highgate (North).
Best areas for young professionals
Are you are a young professional looking for the right balance between ‘young and fun’ and ‘I won’t be kept awake by the rowdy neighbours at 4am on a Tuesday’? This city was made for you and more than anything you will need to focus on which area best suits your personality. See our detailed neighbourhood descriptions to find more details on the neighbourhoods below.
Some areas we’ve lived in or would like to live in are:
Clapham / Battersea (Southwest), Earls Court (Southwest-ish), Bayswater (West), Kentish Town / Camden (North), Angel (Northeast), Borough (South), Shoreditch (East).
If you’re looking for a bit trendier, focus on the North / Northeast areas whereas if you want a neighbourhood with a bit more of a suburban feel, go south, dear friend.
Best areas for students
Typically students live within a stones throw of their university either in student housing or in flatshares. Check out some student housing options here (at the bottom of the page) or search for flatshares at Spareroom.co.uk.
Most affordable (and still nice) areas of London
Let us preface this with, ‘housing in London is expensive’ so when we say affordable this is a relative term (check out our Cost of Living in London page for more on rental prices). These areas tend to be up-and-coming with new builds and nice stores / restaurants popping up everyday. These areas of London are to be explored carefully as one street can be very nice and feel safe while two streets over can still feel pretty rough. They also vary in their access to good public transportation links.
Some relatively more affordable areas of London that we would recommend are:
Parts of Hackney / Bethnal Green / Bow / Dalston (Northeast), Brixton (South), Battersea / Wimbeldon / Putney (Southwest), Ealing / Hammersmith (West), Kilburn / West Hampstead (Northeast)
In general, East London is the most affordable area of London with some great areas to live in (but again often sitting next to some not-so-great areas), South of the river also tends to be less expensive whereas you will find the most expensive areas just west of the city and north of the river.
Areas of London with the best transportation links
London’s public transportation system is one of the best in the world with buses, tube lines and trains that can get you from one side of the city to the other in less than an hour. But if you want to ensure that you can easily jet-set around London (and the UK), here are some good neighbourhoods near large transportation links:
Our favourite London neighbourhoods…
… with a village feel: Hampstead is by far the winner here although we also like Primrose Hill, Dulwich and Richmond.
…with a modern / city feel: Borough, Shoreditch, Canary Wharf, Soho, Covent Garden. These are also some of the busiest areas of the city.
…with a bohemian / eclectic feel: Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Dalston, Brixton (recently deemed the ‘Harlem of London’) and Camden.
…with warehouse lofts: Wapping, Shad Thames and Borough. These old dockside warehouses quickly remind you that this bustling city was once a major port. Now most of these warehouses have been converted into flats and lofts for ultimate London living.
Some areas we would not recommend
Elephant and Castle, Oval, Stockwell, Parts of Brixton, Camberwell / Peckham, Rotherhithe, Ladbroke Grove, White City / East Acton, London Fields and Woolwich.
Feeling overwhelmed by it all? Have a little budget to spare? Use a search agent to help you choose the right neighbourhood and find the perfect flat in the most stress-free and efficient way.
Property search agents work with multiple estate agents to show you several properties within a short period of time (sometimes in just one day). They work for YOU not for the landlord and help you through every step of the process from finding the right neighbourhood to negotiating the lease to getting the keys.
They typically charge 1 months rent as a service fee and often have a minimum fee of around £1,500 (but it depends on the agency).
How to find a flat
Want to learn more about how renting a flat works in London (who is involved, the fees, the timing etc.)? Check out our How to Find a Flat in London brochure.
Read one of our latest blogs for more information on 'Undiscovered London Neighbourhoods' from one of our search agent partners.