A successful UK relocation hinges on knowing the best neighborhoods to live in—“best,” however, is subjective and really means what is best for you in particular.
WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR LONDON NEIGHBORHOODS
The challenge of finding a place to live is the fact that there’s no MLS whereby local estate agencies share their individual listings on a comprehensive database. Flat-searching on your own means walking into multiple lettings agencies to fully exhaust a given area, so determining where to even begin makes knowing neighborhoods an imperative.
You can download London Relocation’s (“LR”) area guide for a more detailed overview of neighborhoods, but to follow is a short preview of the city’s broader regions.
A SNAPSHOT OF LONDON NEIGHBORHOODS
If you’ve visited here before, you are likely most acquainted with the major sites to behold in its historic center like Big Ben and Trafalgar Square. London’s city center houses predominantly governmental and corporate buildings, museums, and other tourist sites, but it does have a selection of personal residences. And if you’re looking for an edgier, more diverse, artsy, and somewhat less tourist-trodden locale, the east side of this area is a good find with an active day and night life.
The postcodes for central neighborhoods begin with either WC of EC for West-Central and East-Central, respectively. And though the modern-day city stretches rather far and wide, residents will refer to this central district specifically as “The City,” just as Americans would say “downtown.”
Neighborhoods in this area that LR services include: Bloomsbury, Kings Cross, Covent Garden, Russell Square, Chancery Lane, Barbican, Clerkenwell, Farringdon, Old Street, and Liverpool Street.
The north postcodes are a popular choice for expats—they can also be more expensive than other neighborhoods yet central to many tube lines as well as trains and buses. Having plenty of open, green and leafy spaces, many of the northwest areas have a distinctly village feel to them and are great for families. Some spots of north/northeastern London, however, are more urban and commercial yet artsy and good for trendy nightlife and shopping.
The postcodes for northern neighborhoods begin with either N or NW for North and Northwest, respectively. Some that LR services specifically are: Angel, Islington, Shoreditch, Finsbury Park, Highbury, Highgate, Holloway Road, Camden Town, Marylebone, Primrose Hill, Chalk Farm, Belsize Park, Hampstead, Queen’s Park, West Hampstead, and St. John’s Wood.
West London is the popular favorite among North American, Australian, and continental European expats. Filled with regal garden squares and posh shopping districts, it’s overall an economically upscale area, and its neighborhoods are close to Heathrow Airport, gentrified, and relatively family-friendly. They also have great nightlife, schools, and parks and are just minutes from the City. And going into the southwest, you enter into more residential, even family-friendlier neighborhoods that offer pretty walks along the River Thames and an abundance of green space.
Postcodes for west London neighborhoods begin with W and SW for West and Southwest, respectively. At the risk of confusing you, however, there’s a bit of a divide between the SW postcodes—some are more commonly associated with west London versus south, either because they geographically border the west postcodes north of the river, are along westbound transport lines, or otherwise simply offer a similar environment and lifestyle.
West London neighborhoods that LR covers include but are not limited to: Marylebone, Park Lane, Mayfair, Belgravia, Pimlico, Knightsbridge, Sloane Square, St. James, Soho, Tottenham Court Road, Bayswater, Chiswick, Ealing, Hammersmith, Kensington, Maida Vale, Holland Park, Notting Hill, Shepherd’s Bush, Earl’s Court, South Kensington, Fulham, Putney, and Wimbledon.
South London is more urban than the leafy north and west where many of those moving from outside the UK do tend to congregate, yet growing familiarity with the city over time usually opens their minds to moving south or eastward where you get more bang for your buck. While not as conveniently linked with public transport and a little gritty in spots, south London is a lively area near the city center that has undergone great change in the past few years, offering some charming and dynamic areas with an interesting nightlife and growing appeal for young families.
Postcodes in this region start with either SW or SE depending on whether they’re Southwest or Southeast. I already listed some SW areas above that tend to get lumped with west London, but to follow are some additional southwest neighborhoods that fall south of the Thames, along with their eastern counterparts popular with LR clients: Clapham, Dulwich, Balham, Wandsworth, Greenwich, London Bridge, and Canada Water.
Once considered the dodgy end of London, the East End has turned its bad reputation into a selling point. Now a thriving business and residential area, it still retains its colorful character as one of the most culturally diverse areas. East London is likewise a good value with lower property prices than in the north or west. Urban renewal along the river and massive money into the area has also meant that its demographics have changed as more and more locals and expats move there—as I just blogged about last week, hosting the 2012 Olympic Games has brought even more money and development to it. Mind, though, that there are certainly still pockets of low income that feel rough around the edges and unsafe, so it’s a matter of knowing which city blocks to sidestep.
East-end neighborhoods begin with E, and the ones LR commonly covers include: Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Spitalfields Market, Bethnal Green, Dalston, Hackney, Canary Wharf, and Stratford.
The overwhelming task of narrowing down best neighborhoods is why LR exists! Rest assured, your LR agent will step in as your own personal MLS, catering to your criteria and doing the major legwork for you. Together, you can brainstorm which of the many lovely neighborhoods are best suited to you and readily make one of them your home!