Whether you’re visiting London for the first time or the hundredth time, deciding which area you want to stay in can be tricky. You want somewhere to call a home away from home, even if its only for one night, so what better reason to get out of the touristic city centre and choose a loved by locals area so you can experience life like a Londoner? The beauty of London lies in the diversity of its characteristic neighbourhoods, so whatever your vibe we promise the perfect spot for you is out there! Check out some of our favourite areas, which just so happen to be some of the most unique, and be inspired to branch out and see the city like a local on your next London city break.
A strong sense of community is at the heart of this multi-cultural neighbourhood whose global influences make themselves known (loudly and proudly) through the food, music and arts scenes that Brixton is home to. The area has become a well-known haunt for foodies, and it’s no surprise when there’s such an exciting variety of authentic global cuisine to be enjoyed, all of it at more than reasonable prices. A microcosm of what Brixton is all about, Brixton Village and Market Row is a bustling indoor market in the old arcade that champions community vibes and supporting local businesses. Amongst the many independent shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and fresh produce stalls, you’ll find pretty much any and every cuisine or the ingredients to make your own version!
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There’s also community initiative Pop Brixton, a unique project that took a dis-used plot of land and turned it into a thriving space for local businesses to set up shop in the form of street food traders, restaurants, bars, social enterprises and even a barbers shop. And Brixton’s not a bad spot to be in if you’re looking for a party either; from Brixton Academy to local pubs that have become institutions like Dogstar, and tiny bars selling local craft beer from Brixton Brewery to club nights at Brixton Jamm, we promise you’re never far from a good time!
Forget what you might have heard (even if the gentrification and hipsters part might be true), Shoreditch is still one of the best spots to make camp in if you want to explore the east end of the city. Industrial warehouses and disused factories have been repurposed into gallery spaces, street food markets, and pop up stores, while every rooftop is brimming with potential - could there be an open air cinema, or a bar complete with wigwams up there?! (The answer to both is yes, by the way). Shoreditch isn’t shy when it comes to exhibiting the gritty creativity that the area has come to be known and loved for - every exposed brick wall, old railway carriage and back alley is emblazoned with inspiring street art from world renowned artists as well as home grown talent.
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Rummaging around in the best vintage stores in the city to find hidden gems is an art form in itself, but this aside the area is brimming with well established galleries like the Institute of International Visual Arts and smaller spaces showcasing the best in cutting edge contemporary art. And as well as some of our favourite street food markets, the area is full of authentic and innovative eateries along with bars to enjoy craft beers or quirky cocktails, all of which will set you up for some of the best nightlife in London.
This north London neighbourhood has somehow (and we’re really not sure how) managed to cultivate a vibe that’s nonchalantly fashionable at the same time as being aware of its own chic credentials. It’s one of the best areas the choose as your basecamp if you want to explore central and east London, as the great transport links mean you can easily flit between cosying up in the Islington bubble and checking out the main attractions in central London, or exploring other neighbourhods to the east like Hackney. The locals here are a social bunch; coffee shop culture reigns in the mornings whilst chic restaurants and gastropubs are on the cards each evening, and you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to the diverse varieties of eateries and proper London pubs to choose from!
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Although the area is loved by celebs, professionals and a socialite or two, Islington has held on to its intimate, village-like charm and is more down to earth than you might expect. Round here, it’s more shabby-chic than sophisticated, and although there’s an air of classic elegance you wont feel unwelcome! For lazy Sunday vibes every day of the week, head to Camden Passage and stroll through this charming pedestrianised street, pausing to sip a latte and watch the world go by or to peruse the market that pops up here on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Or to get an authentic feel for Islington’s historic roots, head to Chapel Market where you’ll be amongst east end traders and locals doing their fruit and veg shopping, except on Sundays when the farmers market brings a few gourmet burgers and French cheeses to the party.
If your thing happens to be eating and drinking at gastropubs and Michelin starred restaurants, you like your coffee served up by a stylish barista who quite possibly has a fabulous beard or your art and design on the cutting edge side of things, Clerkenwell is the neighbourhood for you. This area is incredibly stylish and ahead of trend, but effortlessly so. How infuriating for all the other neighbourhoods to try and keep up. From being known as Little Italy in the 60s, nowadays the area is synonymous with sleek architecture in historic buildings (there’s a lot of exposed brickwork going on) and gastronomy unlike any other area of London.
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The area is a creative hub for designers, architects and intrepid foodies, all of whom seem to be succeeding in putting a cutting edge stamp on the area, so from design studios to boutiques to restaurants, you’re guaranteed to be getting the most up to date and best version possible. Don’t miss Exmouth Market, which takes you from day to night; during the day feast on artisanal treats from one of the pop-up food stalls or vans, and at night take your pick from the many pubs, cocktail bars and restaurants which are permanent features of the market. You’ll find a local crowd, but Londoners from all areas flock here to check out the latest restaurant openings, so if you’re visiting London why not stay one step ahead and make base camp in here!
Hugging the south bank of the river to the east of Southwark sits historic Bermondsey, an up and coming area that’s fast gaining a reputation for being a foodies paradise with some cutting edge contemporary art galleries thrown into the mix for good measure. Despite being located between the tourist hotspots of Tower Bridge and Borough Market, the area has managed to lovingly cultivate a community atmosphere and feels like a small village that’s grown out of the old riverside warehouses, perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of The City if you’re in London for business.
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It’s real locals’ enclave, so if you’re staying over the weekend avoid Borough and head to the much smaller Maltby Street Market or Druid Street Market. Both are loved (and mainly frequented) by locals who spend their weekends here feasting on dishes offered up by a carefully curated selection of start up traders who have set up shop in and around the railway arches. But the real star of the show is Bermondsey Street; a smorgasbord of independent bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and a proper pub or two, aka a food-lovers paradise.
There’s a lot more to Notting Hill than certain actors (who will remain un-named) sipping cappuccinos and strolling pensively through Portobello Road Market; although if you want to do either of those things, the option is definitely there. This being said, Portobello Road is the world’s largest antiques market and not to be missed out on if you’re in the area on Fridays or Saturdays! Notting Hill has come a long way from its cheap and cheerful roots, but if you look hard enough you can definitely still find the cheerful, whether its by joining in with the serious celebrating at Notting Hill Carnival or simply wandering the streets and appreciating the colourful houses that the area has come to be loved for. From pastel tones to the brightest hues, any colour goes as long as your home is painted!
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Nowadays, the area is an upmarket, with property prices reflecting this, so what better excuse to stay here on your trip and experience life amongst the historic cobbled streets and impeccable architecture for a few days! For a taste of Notting Hill’s old spirit, head to Golborne Road where the flea market is smaller and has a more authentic feel to it and the boutiques are all independent, but head back to Portobello Road to grab some delicious street food to get a taste of the global influences that have helped to shape this neighbourhood from its humble beginnings into the fashionable enclave it’s become today!
Hampstead Village, to give it its proper name, is a little piece of urban paradise (if the Northern Line went to paradise). The village has one of the most unique atmospheres in London, and we promise it’ll take just one pint in The Hollybush, a single al fresco coffee on picturesque Flask Walk or a stroll around Hampstead Heath before you feel like a local. It’s impossible to decide if the most enchanting feature of this gorgeous neighbourhood is the Heath itself, a vast parkland that’s been a hilltop hideaway for weary Londoners for centuries, or the classic and quintessentially British vibes that are woven into the area.
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The order of the day is supporting local businesses, so whether you’re stocking up in delis and bakeries for an impromptu picnic on the Heath, shopping in a stylish independent boutiques or treating yourself to an evening of fine dining, you’ll feel like part of the exclusive community. And the best part? The panoramic view of the whole city from the top of Parliament Hill at sunset; we promise it can’t be beaten. With a view like that, we can see why this is one of London’s most expensive neighbourhoods.
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