Where to live in London?
April 22, 2010 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Moving to London. A few specific questions.

My partner got a great job in London. Their office will be in Canary Wharf.

If you have opinions or experience about the following locations, which other people have recommended to us, I'd love to hear them. We've been told to check out Chelsea, Greenwich, Hampstead, Islington, Brockley and Deptford.

We are looking for recommendations for neighborhoods within easy commuting distance to the job; we currently live in Brooklyn, and would like to find an area of London that's similar to Williamsburg.

Things we'd like to be close: farmers' markets, decent restaurants, green space, and transit hubs. Lots of bars or nightlife is not as much of a priority, though a bonus.

I've been checking out apartment on Globrix, which, despite sounding like a Bond villain's corporation, is amazingly useful. There are apartments in our price range in all those locations, but it's hard to tell what the neighborhoods are like just from looking at the map...

Bonus: if you have personally used a shipping company to move your stuff overseas and would recommend them, let me know!
posted by dubold to Travel & Transportation around London, England (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Stoke Newington!

It sounds like a country village, but it's a buzzing, exciting little neighbourhood, packed with great local restaurants, independent shops, parks, and the only weekly organic farmers' market in London.

I live walking distance from Stokey, and love it to bits.
posted by greenish at 8:27 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well cross

Sounds like you want something in East London. I used to live in Shoreditch/Hoxton and always described it as the analog of Williamsburg but there are lots of areas that fit. Islington is nice - sort of Park Slope'ish in my mind. All are on the Northern Line where you transfer to the Jubilee. Of the places you named Deptford and Greenwich have the best commute to Canary Wharf. but are a big isolated otherwise.

Stoke Newington is nice but transport to Canary Wharf is a pia.

London is a much greener city then most of NY I think. Your biggest culture shock will be surrounding restaurant culture of the things you listed that are important to you.
posted by JPD at 8:36 AM on April 22, 2010

Is your partner going to be commuting by public transport? If so I recommend checking out the London Underground map and deciding what would be an acceptable commute for you.

Canary Wharf is on the Jubilee Line, which is annoyingly closed most weekends. West Hampstead (which is NOT the same as Hampstead, though a short drive away) is on the Jubilee Line so you wouldn't have to change at all. It's a fun, diverse neighbourhood with lots of green space and restaurants and well-served by bus/tube/overground transport. In my opinion it's nicer than Hampstead which is beautiful but pricey and posh.
posted by Ziggy500 at 8:38 AM on April 22, 2010

Your're going to have to define what you mean by "easy commute". I don't believe that Hampstead, Chelsea, Islington or Stokey offer an easy commute to Canary Wharf. The others are "south of the river" and not talked about in polite circles.
posted by oh pollo! at 8:40 AM on April 22, 2010

First up, you probably want to be within easy reach of the Jubilee Line (the grey one)

For me, that would count out Hampstead - a lovely place, but you're having to trek across London on the Northern Line just to get to the Jubilee Line. If by Islington you mean somewhere like Angel then it's a nice area and the commute won't be too punitive - just a change at London Bridge (although that does get a bit hectic). Hampstead is, however, good for the City (i.e. the financial district). Just not great for Canary Wharf.

Brockley is suburbs. I don't mean to do it down, but it's not central London and not on the tube, which (unless I'm wrong) means you're going to be getting trains into town.. If you plan on going out in central London some evenings I'd pick elsewhere. Deptford is up and coming but it can be a little raw. YMMV but I looked at buying a house there and eventually decided not to because I just didn't feel like trading "niceness" for the prospect of waiting for it to gentrify enough. It and Brockley are by far the cheapest of the options you've mentioned. Hampstead and Chelsea are the most expensive.

Greenwich is decent, although I find it quite touristy. It's arguably more family oriented than many places in London. A villagey feel in parts. There are nice bits and some not as nice bits and the centre of Greenwich is a bit Starbuckised for my money. People that live there may disagree and I'll admit I'm not an expert. It does have a great open space, some good pubs and is a very simple commute. This does make it a popular option for getting to Canary Wharf. Bear in mind that this will be one of the sites for the Olympics in 2012. You can decide if that's a plus or not.

Chelsea's got good shopping, some good bars and restaurants and if you pop over the river, Battersea Park. It is very gentrified, quite old skool, quite Europeanised and a longer commute than, say, Greenwich - you'd be changing at Westminster. Commuting time would be about 35 or 40 minutes all told. It's not everyone's cup of tea and certainly has nothing really boho about it at all. It's the traditional hunting ground of the Sloane Ranger.

You might want to consider Shoreditch - you're a stone's throw from the excellent Columbia Rd market (Sundays only); the new tube station opens again this year and from then it's a simple ride down to Canada Water on the East London line before you change for Canary Wharf. For my money, it's arguably the most Williamsburg-ish area in many respects. Not so hot for green spaces although Victoria Park isn't far away. Fab for bars and nightspots. Very up and coming a few years back, in the sense that a lot of gentrification has taken place already place, but rough edges still.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:43 AM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you want something williamsburg-y you do not want Chelsea. Think UES west of Park.
posted by JPD at 8:46 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's nothing wrong with south of the river.

Look into Borough (or the Elephant, if you're 'brave') if you want a nice commute to Canary Wharf and close proxmity to Borough Market, the river, and awesome travel links.

If you want hipsters a la Wburg, then forget south and go east. Look into Dalston, Hoxton or Shoreditch. Or anywhere in Crackney, really.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:47 AM on April 22, 2010

MuffinMan's Shoreditch link is wrong. Try this one.
posted by JPD at 8:47 AM on April 22, 2010

MuffinMan's Shoreditch link is wrong

Christ, was it ever. Yes, don't move to Taunton. The commute may chafe somewhat.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:49 AM on April 22, 2010

Stoke Newington/Dalston/Shoreditch is the closest to Williamsburg (I place I spent time in last year and would move to in a heart beat!)

Commuting from the area won't be so bad soon with the opening of the East London Line, and it's a quick train trip overground anyway to Liverpool Street.
posted by ozgirlabroad at 8:52 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just made almost the exact same move you're doing (Manhattan to London) almost exactly a year ago!

Let me nth East London in general and Shoreditch in particular. Hip area, lots of restaurants, good transit links.

In addition to Glowbrix (which is great) also try Gumtree. A lot of Londoners look down their nose at using the Web to connect straight with a rental owner, but it's what I did to find my first London flat and I was pretty happy with it.

You might want to hook up with a realtor (or an estate agent in local parlance) to help you find a place, you'll find a bunch through Glowbrix. Watch out for estate agents that want to charge you a finders' fee - I ran into a few of those when I first got here.
posted by CRM114 at 8:52 AM on April 22, 2010

Yeah, I would also add Borough around Bermondsey street to the recommendations above.
posted by vacapinta at 8:54 AM on April 22, 2010

What you want is Greenwich. The only thing it isn't, is a transit hub. But you are across the Thames from Canary Wharf, you can take a 20 minute bus to London Bridge (very central). It has an awesome park with stunning views of the city. Farmer's market with great food stalls (rivals Borough Market IMO). It's quaint as all get out and I hear that there are enough good restaurants, although no personal knowledge other than a crackin' pub for sunday roast. Has a fantastic old timey pub on the Thames called the Cutty Sark. Has the Cutty Sark.

Seriously, if one of you works in Canary Wharf, you should either live in Greenwich or somewhere on the Jubilee line, and that means Canada Water (boring), Bermondsey (no restaurants, not much green space, not central), London Bridge, Waterloo (both central, but less fun to live in my opinion), then you are getting too far out for an easy commute – but doable. I suggest if you want a cool urban area with great restaurants and pretty central, you want Islington. But you will hate the commute, I assure you.

You should not choose a place this soon anyway. Find temp accommodations and actually visit these areas. But, seriously, sounds like Greenwich would be a great place for you. It's where I'd live if I worked in Canary Wharf.
posted by qwip at 8:57 AM on April 22, 2010

qwip is right - Greenwich is very nice and suits your requirements. You're not at a transit hub per se, but there's the DLR, there are direct trains and short bus rides to central london, and there's the river bus too (more expensive, but cooler).
posted by handee at 9:37 AM on April 22, 2010

A point if I may - what Londoners consider a long commute and what New Yorkers consider a long commute may be two different things. For example TfL Journey Planner will tell you station to station Angel (Islington) - Canary Wharf is ~20-25 minutes.
posted by JPD at 9:40 AM on April 22, 2010

Look at either Greenwich or Borough/Shad Thames, either of which would get you to Canary Wharf in 20 minutes (unless the Jubilee is down.. but that's weekends, so not a concern for work, mostly).

Greenwich has the beautiful gigantic park if green is your priority, and lots of nice pubs. It's a bit quieter and more family-oriented than central London. The downside is getting downtown for shows or whatever, that might take a while, you have to take the DLR and then change. Using the ferries down the river is gorgeous but slow and with limited hours. I used to live at the south end of the Isle of Dogs, right across the river from Greenwich, and it was more of a suburban existence.

I'm now living in Bermondsey (hey, we have restaurants! sort of..), very close to both hipsterish Borough (the area centers around Bermondsey Street) and Shad (a posh warehouse-conversion area around the Design Museum). There's small pleasant parks there, and the river. Lots of good restaurants, the Borough Farmer's market, and you can get to central London super-fast via London Bridge station, or even walk along the pleasant and restauranty south bank. I'd recommend Borough over Shoreditch if nightlife isn't your thing-- it's greener, quieter, and an easier commute despite being south of the river.

You could also try Wapping/Limehouse-- another warehouse conversion area, facing Shad Thames on the north side of the river. There's some nice pubs, but less street life than Borough.

Estate agents will take you around a few places according to your specifications, you can just drop by one of the many large agencies and they'll be all over you.

RE the Olympics-- all of London is going to be one giant headache, Greenwich maybe more than most but I'm planning on getting the heck out of dodge for those two weeks, yikes.
posted by Erasmouse at 10:08 AM on April 22, 2010

Others have done the legwork, though possibly give Rotherhithe a look too: comparatively cheap without being overly dodgy, hosts lots of Wharfers, and less anodyne than the Isle of Dogs. The transitional state of the East London Line makes it less attractive for commuting, though -- the old connection to Shoreditch really helped in that regard.
posted by holgate at 10:33 AM on April 22, 2010

From the hipness perspective I think it's still Stoke Newington / Dalston / Shoreditch / Hoxton in no particular order.

Going in the opposite direction I used Seven Seas Worldwide (see previous AskMe threads) and found them to my liking.
posted by galaksit at 11:12 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Canary Wharf is on the Jubilee Line, which is annoyingly closed most weekends.

that is an amazingly good bit of info, and a little startling to someone used to nyc transit.
posted by dubold at 12:17 PM on April 22, 2010

It is not closed as a matter of course. It's closed for engineering works. It normally runs on the weekends.

Here are the planned closures for the next several months
posted by JPD at 12:21 PM on April 22, 2010

startling to someone used to nyc transit

lord knows I was no apologist for the tube but the MTA is constantly closing lines for works over the weekends. It's really no different. In fact daytime closures are less in the UK because they don't run the trains 24/7
posted by JPD at 12:23 PM on April 22, 2010

Canary Wharf is on the Jubilee Line, which is annoyingly closed most weekends.

You're not totally stranded- you just have to get on the DLR, which you could do by walking across Tower Bridge if you lived in Borough. *waves South Bank banner*

By the way, welcome to London! It's a wonderful city.
posted by Erasmouse at 12:35 PM on April 22, 2010

Response by poster: It normally runs on the weekends.


Yeah, closed/different schedule for repair is totally normal for MTA. The wording made it seem that the train just did not run on weekends.
posted by dubold at 1:43 PM on April 22, 2010

My family and I spent the summer in Canary Wharf last year and on our first trip to Greenwich I wished we had chosen there instead (we wanted central London...got Canary Wharf...don't ask). It's really only about 15-20 minutes on the DLR from Greenwich to the Canary Wharf station and Greenwich itself was lovely.

I wish I had known about the Jubilee line before we signed our flat contract, though. That was a very frustrating and annoying part of living in Canary Wharf. But when the line was running, it really didn't take too terribly long to get from the CW station to, say, the Kensington Station - maybe about a half hour? So you could be in central London from Greenwich in less than an hour on public transportation if you timed it right. Not bad at all.
posted by cooker girl at 2:24 PM on April 22, 2010

The wording made it seem that the train just did not run on weekends.

Sorry! Yes, it's closed for engineering works on the weekends for the time being.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:23 PM on April 22, 2010

Not as fashionable as Shoreditch, Stoke Newington etc, but the Bow area would be worth considering. It's a 10 minute ride by bus or DLR to Canary Wharf, and Mile End tube serves 3 lines into central London (eg 20 mins to Holborn). Plenty of green space, including the wonderful Victoria Park, Regent's Canal, Mile End Park and Green Bridge. Good choice of restaurants, bars and boutique shops around Viccy Park Village. There's a farmers' market not far away at Broadway Market on a Saturday. And very close to the Olympic Park site, which as mentioned above may be a good or bad thing.
posted by amestoy at 12:56 AM on April 23, 2010

Re: the recommendations to move to Greenwich, I'd think twice if you are looking for somewhere like Williamsburg. It is incredibly twee, suburban, etc. As others have said, for something like Williamsburg you need east London. Bethnal Green, Stepney Green, Shoreditch, Hoxton, Dalston, etc.
posted by Lleyam at 6:51 AM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

For example TfL Journey Planner will tell you station to station Angel (Islington) - Canary Wharf is ~20-25 minutes.

I would not be inclined to trust TFL Journey Planner though - it is quite optimistic about journey times - especially during rush hour.

I work in Canary Wharf. I would recommend getting somewhere reasonably close - Jubilee or DLR, as others have said. Not so much because of journey time, but because any tube you will get on will be crowded and unpleasant [wherever you are going, so are a crowd of other people].

From your requirements: I'd echo most people that the hipsters are in Shoreditch etc. A lot of bars though, and I'd imagine quite noisy at night. Islington is good in terms of restaurants, and easy enough to get to from Canary Wharf. Greenwich is very green, maybe a bit dull but if you're not looking for bars then that could be OK. It's a bit isolated from central London though.

I'd like to echo those who suggested Southwark/Borough. Upside: you are 4 stops from Canary Wharf - it took me 25 minutes to get to work, and 15 of that was walking to Borough from Elephant and Castle. If you actually live in Southwark, you could be door to door in 15-20. You could walk into central London in half an hour. You've got Waterloo and the South Bank even closer - which means theatres (including Kevin Spacey's Old Vic), the British Film Institute (all the old and new classic films you could want), bars, restaurants, the riverside, etc etc. Not quite so much green space nearby, but you can bus (or even walk) across the river to the main London parks. Plus the Borough Market (probably the most well-known/hyped, though not necessarily the best).

If you're willing to live further out, you could try the Brixton/Clapham area - plenty of green space, some decent places to buy food, good bars. Downside is that it's quite hard and unpleasant getting to Canary Wharf.

TL; DR: I would choose somewhere in Southwark/Borough.
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:06 AM on April 23, 2010

Dalston, Stokey, are all cool but don't have good transport. Brockley as actually not in the suburbs; it's only zone 2 and is becoming cool; but is also a bit crap in terms transport. Some people will tell you an overland (non-tube) line is perfectly adequate; don't listen to them - most are rubbish, especially anything that goes through London Bridge (I have had many days and evenings ruined trying to get overland trains from there). Buses are relatively good these days in London, but it sounds like your partner will be earning enough to live somewhere cool *and* near a tube station. Jubilee line is good, it sounds like there is a bit of weekend track work at the moment but it's generally one of the better lines in terms of reliability, late finishing at night. Northern and Piccadilly are my other top picks. If you are near a good tube line with an easy route to Canary Wharf *and* have an alternative (decent overland line, DLR, etc) nearby, it'll be fine. When it comes time to decide, check out any changes required on the commute - some are much easier than others.

So yeah, Borough/Southwark/Bermondsey might be worth checking out because in addition to all the Southbank stuff, Jubilee line options, it's also close to Borough Market which is quite awesome. There's a heap of great bars etc on weeknights - I would find it a little quieter on a Saturday night, but it's so central you can always get to Shoreditch or wherever pretty easily. The Shoreditch scene is pretty intense and young, so if that's not your cup of tea and you Borough etc too bleak, then look at Islington; it's pleasant, has decent nightlife etc and a couple of tube options, but check the commute.

I differ from the previous poster on TfL's Journeyplanner; I found it excellent and reliable; though I'd often have to speed up the assumed walking pace. However I had no difficult line changes on my commute.

Oh and take your time. Renting in London is not quite the shitfight it can be in some big cities. But watch out for sharkey real estate agents who will waste your time showing you inappropriate flats, and also stay away from Foxtons or anyone who charges a fee to let you a flat.
posted by 8k at 2:40 AM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

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