London Residential Neighborhoods

Old Aug 18th, 2005, 03:56 PM
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London Residential Neighborhoods

Not your typical travel question, but I'm thinking of making the transition from London tourist to London resident. While familiar with central London, I'm not familiar with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Any comments about neighborhoods (especially in Zone 2 or 3) and cost of living would be appreciated. I'm single, 30s, professional, etc.
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Old Aug 18th, 2005, 04:46 PM
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We did a 3-week home exchange and lived in a townhouse in Finchley (Zone 4); we thought it was just charming. Nice architecture and parks, its own pleasant shopping area, etc. Since London is so expensive, your geographic choices might be determined largely by your budget.
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 01:55 AM
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Hi asalamy - this is a really tricky question to answer as anonymous is right - it's probably easier to set the budget and look at the areas that are feasible, rather than round the other way. Are you looking at renting - a room, a flat, a house? would you like outdoor space, are you happy to share?

Do you know where you will be working as if journey time is important you may be driven by tube stations or bus routes. Are you interested in night life and where do you want to be at weekends? If you want to use London as a base to travel, proximity to transport to airports or a particular mainline station might be a consideration.

The biggest outlay is probably going to be accomodation. There are many estate agents on the net now so if you know your housing budget you can check out what you would get in different areas?

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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 02:02 AM
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As you can imagine, there' s literally dozens of choices in zones 2/3 (good choice on zone by the way). I'll try and give you a quick run down on the most popular choices.

First, are you a north or south of the river girl? The choice of your first home in London will pretty much decide which camp you fall into. There is fierce debate between north and south as to which is better. I'm a north of the river girl, so I'll try not to be biased.

Basically, North is generally seen as being more urban (so in parts, more scruffy), better transport links into the centre, easier and cheaper to get a cab home at night, posh neighbourhoods live shoulder to shoulder with poorer.

South is more surburban, pretty tree lined streets of victorian houses, quite middle-class, less transport options.

Going in a clockwise direction...

North: all have multiple transport options.
Camden: very urban, young. Personally I hate it - crowds of 'alternative' youths crowd the streets at the weekend, full on nightlife every night. Punks (can you believe they still exist?). Lot of druggies. Edgy, but I think it tips into feeling unsafe.

Islington/Highbury: Great choice. More bars and restaurants on Upper Street than you've ever seen in your life. Popular with 20s/30s professionals who like to party. Good transport links into the City, so if you work in law or finance, it's very convenient.

North East
Shoreditch/Hoxton/Camberwell: very urban, very popular with web designers and artists. Scruffy cool. Loft conversions. Damien Hurst started here. Not big on local amenities, unless you like to eat out every night in uber hip places.

Hackney/Bow: Like Shoreditch, but more scruffy. Lots of development going on, but still lots of inner city youths hanging around on street corners. Wouldn't like to walk home in the dark.

South of the river:
South/South East:
Greenwich: very nice, bit touristy, bit far out, limited transport options

Clapham: vastly popular with 20/early 30 something young profs who work in PR. Great bar/restaurant scene. Reasonable transport links.

Battersea: nice parkland, slightly older than Clapham (probably mid 30s, some starting families).

South West:
Putney/Barnes: on the river, very middle class, perhaps a little old for you. One of my late 20-something colleagues lived here and felt like he'd moved into a retirement home. He's now moved to Clapham and is much happier. Perhaps a little quiet for you. More limited transport options.

Richmond: not really London (it's Surrey). On the river, very pretty and very expensive. Bit old, and remote, for you I think. I would like to move there when I'm a grown up, and have won the lottery.

Back north of the river:
West:
Earls Court/Hammersmith/Shepherds Bush: very popular with Aussies and Kiwis for some reason. I think it lacks a bit of soul/community, but that's just my opinion. Popular with TV workers, as the BBC is the biggest local employer.

Ealing/Acton: Ealing is next to, but posher than, Acton. A bit surburban. Doesn't really feel like London. I know, I used to live there.

Chelsea: young and posh (and v. expensive). Aspiring models from wealthy families. Think Paris Hilton. Nobody normal lives here.

Kensington: like Chelsea, but perhaps a little less achingly pretentious. Very nice, lots of rich diplomats and US expats. V. expensive. Sort of place Chelsea Clinton would live.

Notting Hill: If Camden was ever cleaned up it would be like this. Used to be really rough, now very posh in parts, but still has an urban/cool edge. Not cheap. Would suit your age range.

North West:

Queens Park/Kilburn: my neck of the woods. Queens Park on the up, competing with West Hampstead (see below), lots of delis (always a good sign). Popular with workers from the BBC, as it's not far away. Kilburn feels quite urban, getting more popular as West Hamsptead gets more expensive, but still has a rough edge. Leafy avenues, but avoid Kilburn High Road at all costs.

West Hampstead/Maida Vale: The Clapham of North London. Great cafe lifestyle, popular with 20/30 something professionals doing well. Maida Vale v. expensive. Large jewish population. I go out here a lot, as the nicest place near where I live.

Hampstead/Highgate: blindingly expensive. Feels like a village (it was once). Vast US expat community (middle-aged and families). Would suit you if you were a 50 something novelist.

Finsbury Park/Belsize Park: The heartland of film stars and pop idols. Live here if you want to bump into Jude Law in the pub, or see Gwyneth Paltrow taking her baby for a walk. Live here if you can afford it! Very very nice place. White washed stucco houses on treelined streets. Next door to Camden, but MUCH nicer.

St John's Wood: very wealthy and middle aged. Popular with diplomats. Not for you, I think.


Everyone else can now chime in with all the places I missed. I shall pre-empt mkingdom's suggestion by saying don't even consider Mayfair - it's just hotels and embassies, and only lived in by rich old ladies carrying small poodles.

I also think you should go onto amazon.co.uk, where you'll find a number of books about living in London. These will also give you good area guides.

What's your profession? Might be able to give you an idea of what you should expect to earn/spend.

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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 02:02 AM
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This link may help:

http://www.livinginlondon.net/
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 02:23 AM
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"We did a 3-week home exchange and lived in a townhouse in Finchley (Zone 4); we thought it was just charming. Nice architecture and parks, its own pleasant shopping area, etc."

It's the most depressing place in the world, I go there occasionally for an excellent Indian (very basic, but good food), but I couldn't even contemplate living there.

Saying no one normal lives in Chelsea is utter rubbish. Also, Hampstead has lots of council housing courtesy of the last Labour governement, so not every property is expensive.

If you don't have children, then I don't get why you'd want a house with a garden in a suburb, it's a waste of time. You'd be far better off getting a small place in the centre, you'll save a fortune on transport costs, and be able to stay out late, and not have to think about how to get home.
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 02:30 AM
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Finsbury Park & Belsize Park are worlds apart. I think there's been a typo here!! The comments that Kate has made are relevant for Belsize Park but definitely not Finsbury Park!
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 03:37 AM
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My sister is moving to London in September. She decided she wanted to stay in zone 1 for transport cost and being able to get home at night. But mind you: living in London is SO expensive. She found a flat share, just north of Warren Street tube and 5 minutes walk to her uni, it'll cost her around £100 per week for a relatively small bedroom.

Any Londoners have any comments on the zone where she'll be staying? We think it's quite ok, but aren't 100% sure.
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 03:52 AM
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"Finsbury Park & Belsize Park are worlds apart. I think there's been a typo here!! The comments that Kate has made are relevant for Belsize Park but definitely not Finsbury Park!"

Ooops Charley, you're right, I was having a brainwash. I meant Primrose Hill. Sound similar, right? Okay okay...

Stardust, Warren Street is fine. Very central. Lots of students around there. She'll like it. That price is pretty typical for a room in a shared house in London. She could probably have got a bigger place if she'd ventured out of Zone 1, but I'm sure she'll enjoy the location.
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:08 AM
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"North of Warren St" is a bit vague and possibly she's in for a suprise.

Warren St itself is in the area sometimes called Fitzrovia (or more cringeworthy still) NoHo.

It has a very large student population (UCL is there) and is handy for bars restaurants etc and yhe very centre of town is 10-15 minutes walk away.

However I'm a bit worried about the "north" bit. The other side of Euston Rd is none to clever, as it becomes on one side of the Hampstead Rd the Regents Park Estate - a large council estate with the associated problems of such estates, and on the other side Drummond St which is a largely asian area with serious drug and gang problems.

And to take up something that MKingdom said. Yes Hampsted has a fair bit of Council Housing (although most of it has gone under Right To Buy), but you won't be able to get hold of it. It is next to impossible to get a council flat anywhere in London unless you are homeless with children or have something serious wrong with you medically or socially.

It is also a SERIOUSLY bad idea to sublet a council flat as you have absolutely no rights.

David - ex Camden Council Housing Dept (and quondam officer for Hampstead among other things)
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:10 AM
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Good point about Warren Street David. Stardust - do you have the street name she'll be leaving on? We can check it out for you.
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:11 AM
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Kate, thanks for the confirmation. Well, we figured that if she can walk to uni, she doesn't need a tube pass and that will save a lot of money!
Plus, most of the intercollegiate halls where quite some of her fellow postgrad students will be staying, are located between Warren Street and Russell Square, so she can walk there as well!

Just one question: is it normal for landlords to be so suspicious about tenants and payments and all? We have to provide a UK bank guarantee and a reference from her previous landlady and a school enrollment and everything! Never had to do this kind of stuff in Belgium, but then again, I can imagine that when the whole world is arriving in London and looking for a room, they have no guarantees whatsoever that they can trust this innocent Belgian postgrad student
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:13 AM
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Ok, you wrote this down while I was writing my reply.

It's William Road 12. There are 2 UCL med students in the flat, the flat is owned/rented by the father of one of them.

Thanks!
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:21 AM
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It's just by the Regent's Park Estate. It's a scruffy part of town, but she should be safe enough if she stays off the estate after dark. There really is nothing to take her onto the estate in any case.

It's a schizophrenic part of town too, as on the one hand you have these horrible tower blocks and on the other there are parts of the Crown Estate there (ie VERY nice houses (hises?) owned by the Queen herself.

But she's young and she'll love it I'm sure. Also Camden Town (see above for spot on description) is a short walk away and young people LOVE camden town. I think it's one of the more unpleasant circles of hell.

And yes landlords are like that - especially with students. Have you never seen the Young Ones?

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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:24 AM
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I'm sure that address is fine. She's surrounded by students there.

And you're right about the suspicious landlord. With so many people renting in London from wherever, and with students being notorious for spending what little money they have on beer, it's quite standard to ask for references, deposits and bank standing orders to pay the rent. Can't blame them really.
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:33 AM
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Thanks for all the replies thus far - very helpful. I would be working in financial services, probably in Canary Wharf. Therefore, Jubilee Line would be the connection I'm looking for.

Based on the descriptions, I think I'm a 'North of the River" gal!
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:40 AM
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Jubille Line connects with Waterloo. Waterloo connects with SW London (where I live). Bob's your uncle. Sorted. Innit.

North of the river is alright. I've been known to go there much as one would go on safari - it's intesting to observe but one wouldn't want to live there. They do unspeakable things involving wicker men.
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:42 AM
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Aah well in that case, places so far mentioned along the Jubilee line would be West Hampstead/Kilburn (opposite end of town from Canary Wharf - would take about 45 mins), or you could consider a flat in the Wapping area. This is an area that's been massively regenerated into loft style apartments - it used to be a rundown old docks area. Look out for any area that has 'wharf' or 'docks' on the end of its name.

Remember, it's quite normal to have to change tube lines somewhere along the journey, so don't discount other areas. You'd probably love Islington.

Greenwich is easy from Canary Wharf - you can even get the Thames shuttle boat from here, and miss the tube entirely! Although it is, 'gasp', south of the river!
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:45 AM
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Thanks - I'm coming from NYC, so used to changing trains. 45 minutes would be an easy commute.

Is it possible to find unfurnished flats in some of the areas you mentioned (Islington, Maida Vail, etc.), or is the rental market mostly furnished?
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 04:47 AM
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The north/south divide does get taken to extremes. I work with a genuine Londoner (there aren't many about) who was complaining about someone the other day, dismissing them as a 'Southerner', a phrase normally reserved for people living in the south of England. I said ' but surely, you're a southerner!', "nah", she said, "I mean South of the river!".

I equate it to New Yorkers. Someone living south of the river would be a 'bridge and tunnel' person in New York. Whereas the folks who live south look upon all us north of the river folks as crack heads
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