London Old St/Barbican/Liverpool St
June 23, 2015 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Traveling to London. Anyone know if the area around the Old Street/Barbican/Liverpool Street tube stations are safe for walking alone at night? Thanks!
posted by sunrise8 to Travel & Transportation around London, England (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I spent about two months in London in 2012 and lived really close to the Old Street stop. I spent a lot of time walking around the city by myself at all hours of the day and probably as late as 1-2am from time to time. I never felt unsafe. I am an unthreatening-looking (I think) white lady in my late 20s. This might not be as valid info as from someone who actually lives in London, but since from your question I assume you're a tourist, this is one tourist's perspective.

I live in Chicago, and there were really only two personal safety-related things about walking around the city that were markedly different from my normal life: rampant street thefts and unavoidable rowdy drunk folks.

I witnessed a handful of crimes while I was in London, and it was all of the small street theft variety. Dudes sprinting by and grabbing a poorly guarded bag and the like. So be aware of that (like you should be anywhere) and hold onto your belongings, keep your bags zipped up, don't wear a t-shirt that says "I'M CARRYING CASH," etc. I did see a small (is petite a word just for women?) gay man get punched in the face for trying to wrestle his bag away from a thief. That was in broad daylight in the middle of a sidewalk with a lot of foot traffic and happened literally no more than 3 feet in front of me. I had tissues on me so took the guy into a cafe to help get him cleaned up, and he said it was the second time it had happened to him. So maybe if you're on the small side and look like an easy mark, don't try to fight back? I don't know. I keep my stuff pretty well contained on my person so I was never overly concerned for myself.

Another thing is that I guess you're allowed to drink outdoors if it's within a particular distance of a pub (I don't know the actual laws) and the sidewalks on a lot of streets are tiny. Which means that sometimes you will have to push your way through a small tangle of shouty drunk people if you don't want to step out into the street. I found that more annoying than anything else.

Long story short, I personally was never made to feel unsafe. London is an enormous city and there are always people out and about, and there are cameras goddamned everywhere to capture it should anything actually happen.
posted by phunniemee at 3:12 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've lived in London on-off for a decade and have never seen/heard of/had any issues around those parts, for what it's worth! I also recently had a to kill a few hours past midnight around the area of Liverpool Street waiting for a bus and didn't feel unsafe.
posted by lethologues at 3:26 PM on June 23, 2015

This area is the center of my work and social life and that of my friends and have never had or heard of problems. Especially Liverpool Street and Old Street stay buzzy and lively until late, Barbican can be a bit more deserted but have never felt unsafe. (If you're coming from the States the level of public drunkenness may be noteworthy, but it's not threatening.)
posted by oneaday at 3:31 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's totally fine. I work round there and have stumbled drunkenly post-pub to the tube or bus home many times with no problems at all. Stick to the main streets if you're worried, but like oneaday says it's a social area of an evening and there's plenty of people around.

Every now and then we get emails round work reminding us to be careful because kids on bikes will try to snatch your phone if you're not paying attention. It's never happened to me, but I know of people who it has happened to.
posted by corvine at 3:46 PM on June 23, 2015

I lived in that area from 2010 until early 2012, and I pretty much never felt unsafe (well, I was a bit nervous during the riots but it was actually fine).
posted by SoftRain at 4:19 PM on June 23, 2015

As corvine says, in the last year there has been a spate of phone thefts around there by kids on bikes and mopeds. They got mine just before xmas, the bastards. Hold on to your phone very tightly or better yet, keep it out of sight and you will be fine.
posted by goo at 4:28 PM on June 23, 2015

Yes, walking around is safe. My only advice is to be careful with your bag - don't just set it down at cafes, the cinema, theatres, etc.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:33 PM on June 23, 2015

I work and socialise around that part of town, it is absolutely fine; lots of restaurants and bars open till late so it is quite a buzzy area, and will feel particularly safe given that it is not getting dark nowadays till 10pm or so. Maybe don't flaunt your phone, but you won't need extra security measures in place - just common sense.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:58 AM on June 24, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Your input is greatly appreciated! I'm traveling from San Francisco but went to uni in England (about an hour outside of London, so it won't be my first time there) but don't remember walking through these parts of town at night. As an alternative, I'm also considering staying in the Brixton area. Anyone with any thoughts on this area, in general, vs. Old Street, etc.? Thanks again in advance!! ps. Sorry to hear of all your bag/phone theft experiences - yikes! Noted.
posted by sunrise8 at 2:54 PM on June 24, 2015

I'll just mention that I'd be a *little* more alert if moving between Liverpool Street and Barbican, since some of it's in a tunnel that's not well-populated. In the unlikely event that there actually are ne'er-do-wells in the area, if I were one of them, that's where I'd go fishing.
posted by genghis at 1:20 AM on June 30, 2015

Response by poster: Super! No luck with the apartments at Old St/Liverpool St/Barbican... but did end up signing for a short-term rental in Bethnal Green. Going to take all these tips and meet friends up here for dinner/drinks though since it's still close enough to where I'll be.

If anyone knows has any tips for Bethnal Green, I'd love to hear them!
posted by sunrise8 at 2:18 AM on July 25, 2015

If anyone knows has any tips for Bethnal Green, I'd love to hear them!

There's a wedding services shop that has a sign that says "we're surprisingly passionate about weddings!" on it, which I always found hilarious. You should take a picture of it so you can giggle about it later like I did. (It's right where Barnet meets Bethnal Green on the way to the Tesco.)
posted by phunniemee at 6:28 AM on July 25, 2015

Response by poster: "Something olde, something new, something [random]". I'm right by there - will try to keep an eye out for it.
posted by sunrise8 at 4:32 AM on August 11, 2015

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