I have lived in London for 6 years, and in that time I have moved even more times. Once again, I am looking for a place to live, and am being super picky on the area this time. This is because one of the good things about my previous vagabond-like existence is that I now know, in some depth, the pros and cons of a number of parts of London. So I thought I’d share my experiences of each of the 7(!!!) areas I’ve lived in. Below is my rundown of each place, in chronological order…
I studied in London and, fairly ridiculously, the first place I lived was slap-bang in the centre – Bloomsbury. My halls were right across the road from the Brunswick Centre (a small shopping area). Bloomsbury is great if you’re new to London, just because you can basically be a tourist (and Bloomsbury is full of them). In half an hour, you can reach Covent Garden and Waterloo Bridge, and usefully for me (being from Manchester) it was a 20 minute walk to Euston station too. There are cons too however, firstly, due to its central location, it is expensive. Really expensive. (I mean we’re not talking Chelsea here, but still…). Also, despite the ample supply of chains in the area, there aren’t as many cute little bars and restaurants as there may be in other places, although places like Lamb’s Conduit Street offer some alternatives.
I lived in Angel for my second and third years of uni, with three of my closest friends. We moved to Angel by chance, having chosen it simply because it was vaguely close to Bloomsbury. We only discovered later, by accident, that a few streets away was one of the most vibrant and buzzing areas of London. Angel has the perfect mix of centrality (especially if you live South of it, as we did) while still feeling like it’s its own little village. It has a great mix of chains and more independent restaurants, a range of shops and some great bars. Upper Street is a brilliant place to be in the evenings, and houses one of my favourite restaurants in London – Cafe La Divina, a very cute Italian place, which is ridiculously cheap (especially if you have a Tastecard). We also lived near Exmouth Market, which was always kind of awesome, but seems to have become an even bigger deal since we moved out. This is a lovely little street which is almost European with its fairy lights and on-street seating. Despite being able to yammer on for days about my love of Angel, there is a fairly significant negative: unfortunately, a place this awesome doesn’t come cheap, and it seems to have gone up in price exponentially over the last few years. All this means that while I could live there as a student, I can no longer afford to do so now that I have a proper grown up job. Balls!
Oh, also, the Northern line in the morning is a bitch.
3. Queen’s Park
The prettiest flat that I’ve lived in was in Queen’s Park. I lived here for about 9 months when I started my first job out of uni. I chose it because I was working in West London and decided this was my perfect opportunity to live near Notting Hill, which had been a dream of mine since I was about 17 and got obsessed with the vintage binoculars you can buy at Portobello Road market. This place wins the prize for the best commute – it was fairly glorious, I was working in Hammersmith so I could just jump on one of the new Hammersmith and City or Circle line trains (complete with air conditioning and actual space) from Westbourne Park. Also, the journey was all over-ground, with its sun and outdoors. South of Queen’s Park station is great for accessing Notting Hill – I lived about 15 minutes walk away. It has good transport links too: Queen’s Park itself has the Bakerloo and Overground services, as well as the previously mentioned lines at Westbourne Park. On the other hand, I felt a little cut off from central London (mainly because for me ‘central’ equals Covent Garden), but it was only half an hour or so’s walk to Paddington station. I also felt that Queen’s Park itself was perhaps a little old for me, at the age of 22. There were lots of yummy mummies, and the places that cater for them. I perhaps didn’t make the most of the area, never going to Kensal Green, which is close by and apparently has a number of bars.
4. Canada Water
I only lived in Canada Water for a month (I did a short let when I started my second job), but decided that still counts enough to be mentioned here. I have to be honest, I wasn’t a massive fan of the area. It’s fairly central, although I never really walked anywhere properly central from there. I chose it due to its proximity to Canary Wharf (where I work), but I just felt there wasn’t really anything there. Which is perhaps the reason that I felt a picture of the station best represents my time in Canada Water. True to its name, it’s an area full of water – there are lots of really pretty quays – however, I completely failed to find a decent pub or restaurant in the area. On one occasion, a friend and I decided to go for a drink there; we walked around for a while then gave up and decided to shoot zombies and eat chips at an arcade instead, in the end. Maybe it’s unfair to include Canada Water on this list, as I lived there such a short time and maybe this was the reason I wasn’t able to find much to do close by. However, there’s a reason I didn’t want to stay after my month was up.
5. Old Kent Road
It’s a fairly notorious place, and to be honest, before I moved here I only really knew it as being the cheapest street on the monopoly board – but I’ve always had a fairly high tolerance for supposedly ‘rough’ places. I can say, however, that in my time here (which involved a number of 2am walks across the Elephant and Castle roundabout) I had no trouble at all. The pros of this area include the price and proximity to central London. I am actually concerned about the impending gentrification of the area (which I know I am a part of), because once it starts to lose its bad reputation, prices will go up enormously. Where else in London can you live a 30 minute walk from Waterloo cheaply? The cons were the standard lack of restaurants, etc., however Bermondsey Street isn’t far and has a number of lovely places. In fact, this is the only place on this list that I would consider moving back to.
Peckham will always have a special place in my heart, as it’s one of the only places that remains authentically what it once was, but with some hipster infiltration. It’s actually fairly ridiculous. Peckham is full of cash for gold and pound shops (I love a good pound shop), but then if you go down a side street or an alley, you’ll probably find some sort of organic coffee shop and an art gallery (this is based on actual experience). Peckham is really hipster, which in a way I’m a bit ashamed of. On the other hand, what hipster often means is that it is something that will appeal to a middle class 20-odd year-old, so I’ll take it. Peckham is the only place I know of that will host a version of Titus Andronicus in a car park. There are a couple of good roof bars (obviously, Frank’s), good cocktail bars and really nice independent restaurants. It also has the cheapness of an area that hasn’t become overly gentrified – the Peckhamplex is great and shows new films for £5. Cons of Peckham mainly revolve around its location. I know that it’s still Zone 2, but I’ve been spoilt in my time in London and I like to be able to walk places. Also, it’s nice to have a rail service running more frequently than every 15 minutes. Okay, yes, I’m really spoilt…
7. Canary Wharf
I have spent the past month living in Canary Wharf. When I had nowhere to go following the end of my lease in Peckham, my boyfriend very kindly took me in. That doesn’t, however, stop me from complaining about where he lives. For a start, no one should live this close to the office, unless the office is in a really awesome location. Canary Wharf, in my opinion, is not. Canary Wharf has everything a young professional could possibly need, and that’s kind of the problem. It’s so purpose built that it lacks soul. It pretty much contains only chains, and small versions at that. Someone described the shops to me the other day, as smaller versions of major shops that only take in the worst stock. I won’t be too negative, it’s super convenient and Canary Wharf is impressive – the view from my boyfriend’s window is pretty awesome. But I feel like work and personal life should be a little more separate, especially when work is located basically on an island.
So that completes my very long, and completely unfactually based review of places in London. On with the flat-hunt!