Where should I live in London?
August 24, 2015 9:17 PM   Subscribe

We are an early 30s hetero couple with pets. We are moving to London from the US soon, and will also be seeking to add a third member to our family. Where should we live? One of us will be working near Bloomsbury and would hope to be no more than a 30 minute tube ride away from that area. Other desiderata below the fold. (Adding this question to the database, as the others seem somewhat dated.)

We are most interested in living in a diverse neighborhood that is safe (working hours may include late nights/early mornings), walkability to affordable restaurants (falafel and Indian food, say--nothing too fancy), groceries, some green spaces where we can take our dogs (and hopefully our future wee one), and a private yard for our dogs.

We've seen Belsize Park and Hampstead Heath, which were lovely but a bit posh; and Camden, which was interesting but a bit too 20-something. Is there anything in between? Our joint income will be around 45k after tax, so our budget is ~1400 GBP per month, preferably for a two-bedroom unit.

Bonus points for bikeability to Bloomsbury. Any insights into renting in London, especially with dogs, are also greatly appreciated!
posted by pocksuppeteer to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have friends who live in Islington and love it. I think it fits your criteria. A mutual friend lived a bit further north, in Holloway, which was cheaper and less fancy.

No idea if that would be affordable though, when I lived in the UK we were all in house shares.
posted by kitten magic at 10:00 PM on August 24, 2015

Muswell Hill and Crouch End have lots of green space too.
posted by kitten magic at 10:02 PM on August 24, 2015

Walthamstow. You have Epping Forest and Walthamstow Marshes on your doorstep. You can't get greener than that. Your dogs will thank you :-)

It's 30 minutes by tube to Bloomsbury, cycling's about 50 minutes - 1 hour. You will get a two bed garden flat for your budget.

Lots of fun, creative people love here, doing fun creative things. But more often than not, they've moved here because they are bringing up a family. Or because it was cheap (rents not so much anymore, but your budget should be doable...oh, London)

It's a mixed community, there's an amazing market, lots of good pubs and restaurants.
posted by Helga-woo at 10:15 PM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Does that 1400 include bills and utilities? Because if it does, you are really going to struggle.
posted by Ted Maul at 10:47 PM on August 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Frankly, 1400 a month (just for rent) is going to be tough to find in the inner city (zone 1-2). And you want a yard?

Zone 3-4 present a few possibilities. Walthamstow is a good suggestion (a bit grubby but up-and-coming). Otherwise you might look along the Central Line. Acton and Ealing are possibilities.
posted by outlier at 11:24 PM on August 24, 2015

As other's have mentioned, London is going to be extremely expensive, wherever you live. If you wanted to save a little, you might look at commuter towns outside London: e.g. Welwyn Garden City. But obviously you would then need to look at whether you'd be spending all that saved money on transport.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:54 PM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Renting with dogs may be a bit tricky, especially if you are looking for a shorter-term lease. Some landlords ban all pets outright, and in other cases you may need to negotiate written consent in advance to have pets. I would definitely mention the dogs upfront to prospective landlords / estate agents.

For £1400/month, you could perhaps rent something small in zones 1-2 but if you want more space, you're better off in zones 3-4. I have friends who live in Ealing who speak very highly of it, and Ealing Broadway station is on the Central line for Holborn/Chancery Lane.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:56 PM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Camberwell, just south of Elephant & Castle, is central-ish (Zone 2) and still a better deal than many other parts of London. About a 30 min bike ride to Bloomsbury. Newly trending but not over the top. But £1400/month? Not sure anywhere in London is at this level any more. You might get a 1-bedroom. You can also try nearby Loughborough Junction. Good luck!
posted by mollymillions at 12:44 AM on August 25, 2015

Loughborough Junction and Camberwell are both over £1400 for a decent-sized two-bedroom these days especially if you want a garden (you may find a smaller or ex-council flats for £1400 but not with a garden). Those areas do meet all your other criteria - nice Victorian houses, several lovely parks, amazing restaurants in Camberwell, Brixton and East Dulwich, 30mins cycle to Bloomsbury and lots of other transport links (tube in Brixton, overground in Denmark Hill, train in LJ, lots of buses).

I'd either try to up your budget to £1500-1600, or move further out to zone 3/4. If you're looking south, Tulse Hill/Sydenham/Crystal Palace are nice areas, lots of my friends have moved out there for better affordability. In the north, I have friends in Tufnell Park, Alexandra Palace and Finchley, which are nice areas and should meet most of your criteria (not sure exactly how pricy they are).
posted by tinkletown at 1:02 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

When we were looking at possibly moving to London earlier this year, CommuteFrom was a very useful site for finding potential areas in train/tube commutable distance. (You can follow it up with rental property searches on Rightmove to search within X distance of a particular train/tube station, and get an idea of average prices in that area.) Helps narrow things down; it's a lot easier to look at more detail in areas when you have a smaller number of them.

While we didn't end up going to London, we had it narrowed down to either Walthamstow or Hither Green. Walthamstow was nicer but pricier, although there were some ground floor flats with a garden for less than £1400/month.
posted by Catseye at 2:09 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Harringey would be pretty good for you - it's near Manor House tube, which you can Picadilly line it straight to Holborn from.

If your top priorities are your dogs, try the warehouse community - lots of warehouses are pet-friendly. Some of them are scuzzy, some are really nice.

If your top priorities are your future offspring, you'd be better off somewhere off the Haringey Ladder.
posted by greenish at 2:15 AM on August 25, 2015

Sorry for a downer reply, but keeping your budget in mind, I would keep away from Belsize Park, Hampstead, Islington and frankly anywhere in Zone 1-2 of the tube map. You will get a lot more bang for your buck in areas which are not so central. Consult this tube map and check out areas in Zone 3 and further. I think even 3 is kind of pushing it but you never know. IME, the further out you're prepared to go, the more space you'll get for your money. I live in Zone 5, which means I have been able to afford a little garden.

I'd check out
Sudbury Town, Harrow, Edgware, Finchley
Walthamstow, Harringey
Leyton, Leytonstone
Tooting, Colliers Wood

These are all diverse areas. I have friends who live there and like it there. You are likely to get more space on your budget. London has lots of green space, even if you're not by the Heath or whatever you are probably within walking distance of a small local park or two. It's great that way. Your local high streets should have a Tesco or a Sainsburys. Groceries shouldn't be a problem.

As for safe, YMMV. All areas of London have their problem streets and safety concerns, unfortunately - like any other major metropolis. As for nice high streets with nice places to eat, I would say all these areas do have that, but they won't be at Hampstead-levels of niceness. But London is very commutable. It won't be hard at all for you to pop out to a nearby area for a nice meal after work.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:39 AM on August 25, 2015

If you're willing to do a 30 min commute on a regular train with a tube hop at the end, you are definitely able to travel from (as someone's said above) Welwyn Garden City, Hitchin, Letchworth Garden City, etc. Although less diverse than areas of London, your £1400 will cover the rail fare and should stretch to a 3 bed flat with outdoor space or even a 2/3 bed house with garden (if you're happy to cycle to the station rather than walk), and these are in relatively low crime areas with good local schools, etc.
posted by AFII at 2:49 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's a crappy time to want to live affordably in London, sorry.
The garden is going to be difficult, but the parks are not so much of a problem. Most places have a nearby park, London is a surprisingly green city.

Ealing area varies but can be quite nice. I live nearish there. You might find a place on the edge of the expensive areas in your budget, whilst still nice.

Also, everywhere in Britain is a short walk to an Indian restaurant, so don't worry about that.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:42 AM on August 25, 2015

Definitely Walthamstow or Leytonstone, both up-and-coming areas, with flats available in your budget. Walthamstow in particular is becoming a bit hipsterish (plenty of artisan bakeries where you can hear locals going "How much?" at the price of a hand-baked muffin) but lots of cool pubs, a thriving arts scene and the market is fabulous.
posted by essexjan at 6:57 AM on August 25, 2015

Tricky, I'm afraid. I live in the Walthamstow area (which is zone 3). We're actually in Blackhorse Lane, a more 'industrial' area away from Walthamstow centre - not as 'nice' (though I like it for being close to the greenery of the Lee Valley). Me and housemate pay, together, ~£1500/month inc bills for a pretty standard (old council house), fairly cramped (probably pretty tiny by US standards) two-bedroom terraced house with a garden. I'm pretty sure our budget wouldn't get us much, if anything nearer to the center where the 'nicer' stuff is -- and you'll be very lucky to find a place that accepts pets, at least without adding in a hefty deposit/rent increase. Also, prices are rising as nearby Tottenham is already becoming the place to go. Sigh!

Yeah, it's ridiculous. If you keep watching the property sites like a hawk you might pick up a more favourable deal, especially if you don't mind making compromises like living on a main road.
posted by Drexen at 7:02 AM on August 25, 2015

Thanks for the great suggestions so far. We're somewhat looser on the rent requirement, and can go up to £1600 if needed to accommodate our animals. Our rent budget is just that--only rent, not including council tax/utilities/transport/etc.

Just to clarify a bit: we are not looking for anything Belsize Park-like, as it was too fancy for our tastes. We are also hoping to stay away from anything too hipstery--we're very much not interested in £5 quinoa muffins!

I haven't had a chance to look up all of the suggestions above, so apologies if this is already covered, but we would welcome any suggestions south of the river, as one of us may be working near Denmark Hill.
posted by pocksuppeteer at 7:26 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Camberwell mentioned above IS Denmark Hill.
posted by tinkletown at 7:54 AM on August 25, 2015

Sorry that sounded a bit brusque, I mean to say Denmark Hill is actually a road in Camberwell. The station in Camberwell is on that road, hence the name.

If you mean working at King's, most people live Camberwell, Loughborough Junction, Peckham, Brixton, East Dulwich. All are nice areas, all about 30mins cycle from Bloomsbury and would meet your other criteria. You'll find somewhere decent with a garden for £1600. Denmark Hill station and LJ station 10mins down the road have trains going to St Pancras (taking 20mins or so), from where it is a 15min walk to UCL.
posted by tinkletown at 8:00 AM on August 25, 2015

(I wouldn't characterize Walthamstow as being especially hipstery, myself, at least in the sense of overpriced artisinal stuff, or well-heeled fashionistas -- there's a little enclave of that stuff at one end of a very long high street, the rest is regular/low-end shops and the market.)
posted by Drexen at 8:36 AM on August 25, 2015

Tufnell park and Kentish town. It's a cross between Camden and Hamsptead, but with normal people in it (ie less posh), AND close to the park. I loved living there.
posted by Sijeka at 8:58 AM on August 25, 2015

I second Tufnell Park and Kentish Town north of the river. Good for cycling to Bloomsbury. South of the river East Dulwich and Herne Hill might suit - close to Camberwell with lots of green space for dogs and friendly neighbourhoods (personally I wouldn't recommend Loughborough Junction).
posted by gravelshoes at 1:11 PM on August 25, 2015

South of the river opens up a bunch of options if you look at overland trains rather than the underground. I lived at Blackheath and it was lovely but the south east was a black hole in most people's minds because it's not on the tube map.

You'd need to play around with the train lines to check but Herne Hill & Dulwich or maybe Beckenham.
posted by kitten magic at 6:03 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

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