As a guide to neighborhoods for those of you who are moving here, yesterday I started out with explaining the postcode system. Today, I’ll begin to break down those cryptic letters and numbers to their respective neighborhoods, area-by-area of the city.
If you’ve visited before, you are likely most acquainted with the major sites to behold in its historic center. Even though the homes and offices in many films and TV shows depict windows overlooking Big Ben, that’s really not what your reality will be when you actually live and work here :). London’s city center houses predominantly governmental and corporate buildings, as well as museums and other tourist sites, rather than personal residences. 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.”
Postcodes denote “C” for “Central,” and are divided between WC and EC for West-Central and East-Central, respectively:
WC1 – Bloomsbury, Holborn, Kings Cross/St. Pancras
WC2 – Charing Cross, Chinatown, Covent Garden, Holborn, Strand
EC1 – Barbican, Clerkenwell, Finsbury, St. Lukes
EC2 – Barbican, Bishops Gate, Clerkenwell, Liverpool Street, Moorgate
EC3 – Aldgate, Broadgate, Fenchurch St., Monument, Tower Hill
EC4 – Blackfriars, Fleet Street, St. Paul’s, Temple
In WC, Bloomsbury is known in the literary circuit as where author Virginia Woolf once lived (and was a member of the “Bloomsbury Group”), and it is home to the British Museum as well as a lot of college students. WC2 is active day and night as the popular theatre district. Piccadilly Circus glimmers like Manhattan’s Times Square, and Leicester Square sparkles with celebrity as the site of many film premiers. Restaurants abound to service the pre/post-theatre crowd, and the Strand offers a long row of shopping. The famous Trafalgar Square—meeting point for celebrations and protests alike—National Gallery, and Charing Cross (where you can access trains for Southeast London and out to Kent) are also in this postcode.
In EC, you delve more into London’s financial district, though EC1 has become trendier in recent years as an area for restaurants and bars, as in the streets around Farringdon and Smithfields Market. If you’re looking for something nice and quieter on the weekends, you might consider the Hatton Garden and Exmouth Market areas of EC1 near Farringdon tube station; conversely, you may want to avoid Old Street. The Barbican itself in EC2 is Europe’s largest venue for the multi-arts, and, in addition to the Museum of London, many City offices are headquartered in this postcode. You can also find Liverpool Station here, which services Underground Lines as well as overground trains to and from Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk (and providing routes to Norwich via Ipswich and King’s Lynn via Cambridge), plus the Stansted Express service to Stansted Airport. EC3 and EC4 encompass such notable architectural features of central London as the centuries-old Tower of London, Monument to the Great Fire, and St. Paul’s Cathedral as well as the ultra-contemporary Lloyds of London and “Gherkin” buildings that have transformed the modern London skyline.
Join me next time as we move onto more of the city’s postcodes and get you oriented for your move!