Where to stay in London — 2018 "Hipster-ish" Edition
October 17, 2018 6:45 AM   Subscribe

Can you suggest a place to us to stay in London? Essentially we'd like the Bushwick of London: good food, good Tube access, not terribly touristy, not so hip that I want to murder everyone (so not Williamsburg-esque!)

We live in Bushwick, in Brooklyn, so we are comfortable with urban-ness / not particularly worried about safety or if it looks pretty enough.

We'll be flying into Gatwick and doing museums and wandering mostly, but as long the Tube is reasonably convenient*, we don't need to be in the center. In fact, a tourist center that is bereft of actual people is what we'd like to avoid, but so is some place that is sooooo hipster it's kinda terrible. Being somewhere normal humans live is a huge plus.

For example, in Berlin, we love northern Mitte, near the Wedding border, and dislike Kreuzberg. In Paris, the northern edge of the 4e arrondissement was a big hit, but we would have been happy in the 20e, too. In Stockholm, we liked Sodermalm.

London, though, is so big and interesting it is hard to get a toehold. A friend lives in Finsbury Park and I like the idea of going swimming at the London Fields Lido, but I've also heard not-great things about say, Shoreditch and Dalston.

Please help us get our bearing Metafilter! And thanks.


* I know some people think if a neighborhood has buses that's good enough. It is not. I dislike buses intensely and they make me sick. I love subways and trains.
posted by dame to Travel & Transportation around London, England (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
South London in general. Croydon is right on the border of what you want, there's some incipient hipster stuff but it's not outrageous yet like Shoreditch. That or you might like Tooting. Speaking as someone who used to walk past the ominous Egyptian cult building in Bushwick.
posted by johngoren at 6:54 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Shoreditch is pretty "hip" which means it's quite touristy now and at just by the City it's also pretty central. Dalston itself as well as also popular nearby Stoke Newington are both in a bit of a tube blackspot (the Overground goes this way but it only really goes around central London rather than into). I don't think you're likely to have trouble in that area though unless you go looking for it. Chalk Farm/Kentish Town area is probably more the vibe you're after - I'm sure people will also say Clapham but I can't really speak to South London!
posted by london explorer girl at 6:55 AM on October 17, 2018

You might want to look into places in South London which are down the Overground line from Shoreditch and Dalston- I'd recommend Crystal Palace, New Cross Gate, Brockley, Forest Hill. I think they tread the line you're looking for- some trendiness and up-and-coming-ness, but still have real people and families living in them and haven't ascended to the heights of hipster nonsense like Shoreditch. The ones I named also happen to be nice, leafy, fairly interesting places in their own right- plenty to do without even needing to go into Central.

The Overground is not the Tube by any stretch, but it is pretty convenient nonetheless and links you up to places which are on tube lines, and to both the grottier environs of the South (West Croydon)(if that's your thing) as well as the uber-trendy East London bits like Dalston if you do fancy a foray into that world.
posted by mymbleth at 7:13 AM on October 17, 2018

Tooting is getting increasingly expensive/trendy, but it still is nowhere near Clapham/Balham for trendiness, and it certainly isn't the tourist hotspot that central or central/north London is. Tooting also has two tube stations.
posted by Ziggy500 at 7:13 AM on October 17, 2018

- Along Upper Street, Angel
- Near Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell
- Along Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey

I love Shoreditch, London Fields and Dalston, but you have to like people and be okay with some level of noise and activity. In particular, I can recommend:
- Near Broadway Market, London Fields
- Near Columbia Market
- Dalston
- Near Hoxton St, Shoreditch

All these places will have Tube access within a 10 minute walk, or failing that, most definitely buses along route. (I know you say no buses, but unlike Manhattan, London buses are covered by travel passes, and most regular people take them). Non-tourist people live in all these places, including myself, and sometimes tourists too (so it can get busy). There is a mind-boggling selection of pubs, bars, hip restaurants, cafes, coffee places within these areas.

These options probably lean more "central" than some of the previous responses. I used to live in Soho London, and I'm a lot more tolerant of "central" than most other people, so YMMV.
posted by moiraine at 7:37 AM on October 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

Shoreditch is full on Williamsburg. I lived there 15 years ago and it feels like a hellscape to me know. I think your intel not to stay there is pretty spot on. I think of Stoke Newington/Finsbury Park as more Family friendly than Bushwick and closer to but not quite Park Slope but in their way. Stoke also has not great transport as a tourist. For the most part there just isnt a Bushwick analogue for a bunch of historic reasons.

I did a week with my Family there in the Spring and stayed in Islington. It was pretty good for us

One thing to caution about London as a tourist is the the city is way more spread out compared to New York, so while there are some great nabes for living out in zones 2-3 as a tourist you might not want a 45 minute commute to do tourist things every day. Also you probably don't want to be at the extreme east or west of town as there are things on both ends worth seeing. I don't think being super south or north is as problematic because it's unlikely you'd want to go to the other side.

I don't know what you standard is for super touristy but outside of the west end London isnt that bad.
posted by JPD at 7:44 AM on October 17, 2018

I love Shoreditch, London Fields and Dalston, but you have to like people and be okay with some level of noise and activity.

Just to be clear, in case it helps: It's not people that are a problem, but rather, self-absorbed douchey people who don't know how to operate in a city that are a problem. It is possible that part of Williamsburg has not transferred over tho.

& thanks again
posted by dame at 8:05 AM on October 17, 2018

We live in Clapham, which could tick your boxes but I'm not sure. Here is why I think it could work for you:

- Outside of Friday/Saturday nights, it's pretty "neighborhoody". The high street becomes a boozefest strip on the weekend nights. I avoid the high street during these times.
- It has plenty of chains but it also has many hipster-lite cafes, brunch spots, and restaurants. There's a pretty good Trinidadian take away place called Roti Joupa. You can get an Aussie style brunch at Brickwood. Terrific coffee at The Black Lab. Delicious upscale restaurant called Trinity in Clapham Old Town. Old Town also has one of my favorite antique shops for browsing and a delicious gelato place next door.
- On Saturdays there's a little farmer's market on Venn Sreet where you must get a chicken sandwich (if you like it spicy, get the Towering Inferno). There's a couple of nice wine bars, one of which is a gay friendly place. I haven't yet been but The Two Brewers usually holds some excellent drag shows. There are plenty of pubs for everything from watching sports, eating a nice roast dinner (I personally recommend The Rookery) or just casual drinks and people watching (or dog watching if you're at The Windmill).
- Clapham Common park is huge and lovely with a skate park and a small man made lake. Lots of activity there on the weekends.
- Clapham itself has three tube stations all running the Northern Line, which goes to central in about 5-6 stops. On weekdays it is super crowded during rush hour (avoid before 9:30am).
- Clapham is close to Brixton and Brixton Village or Pop Brixton are fun places to visit for food. It's also just a couple of stops north of Balham/Tooting, which I haven't explored much but yeah, people have been saying it's been up and coming for years.
- I would not consider it hipster like Shoreditch, where I worked for 4 years. I don't go to Shoreditch though if I don't have to. Too many mustaches and overpriced avocados, but it could just be my old age talking.

On preview: Not quite sure what you mean by people who don't know how to operate in a city. Clapham is pretty darn diverse, but you won't see tourists. I can't promise no douchebags because see first point about it becoming a boozy place on weekend nights.
posted by like_neon at 8:16 AM on October 17, 2018

Try Peckham. Lively night life, lots of excellent places to eat and drink, along with studios, galleries and venues, but despite the recent influx of hip young things it hasn't lost its traditional South London character. The local paper provides a great insight into the people and places here. Train connections are excellent.
posted by srednivashtar at 8:16 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hi! I just moved from the US to London and we landed in Clapham. I regularly describe it as "the Brooklyn of London" to my friends back home. It is on the other side of the river, it's easy to get to the city by public transport, it's very diverse and full of young families and interesting restaurants and clubs. If you really want to see Londoners Londoning, I can't recommend it enough. You won't see many tourists here and people will definitely strike up a conversation with you when you speak with your American accent. It's close to Brixton and also to the city. I'd advise trying to find a place to say between the commons, close to the clapham common station, if you intend to stay here.

Another bonus is that it's 25 minutes by train to Clapham Junction from Gatwick. It's about 8-12 stops on the Northern Line to almost anything great in London. There are two branches of the Northern Line, one goes through Bank St. Station (gets you to St. Paul's and the Tate Modern very easily) - and that branch will also take you to Shoreditch, Brick Lane, Spitalfields Market, etc. The other branch goes through Charing Cross and will take you through to Trafalgar Square, SoHo, The West End, and Camden. And there are lots of easy connectors to other tube lines to see great things in London.

Clapham Junction is the rail station (which gets you to/from Gatwick in a snap) and is I believe one of the most busy train stations in Europe in terms of daily traffic. You'll see all kinds of daily commuter life, which I find really thrilling and fun, and will also give you easy access to take a day trip outside of London if you're so inclined via the train.

When I moved here, I thought I'd want to live in Camden or Shoreditch, but Camden actually seems mostly full of people who don't live there, and Shoreditch is just a little too hip for me - I'd say it's more like the Lower East Side circa 2007 than Brooklyn.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:38 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

As a Brit who has lived in Clapham, Balham and Brooklyn, I can say with confidence: the big South London neighborhoods being mentioned in this thread (Tooting, Clapham) are its Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, not its Bushwicks. They're great, but based on your question they are not what you are looking for.

If you want warehouse/industrial living, then that doesn't exist to the same extent in London, but I'll +1 moraine's Clerkenwell suggestion. Otherwise Dalston is the nearest analog right now.

Shoreditch is Williamsburg with roundabouts (i.e. Urban Outfitters Disneyland tech/finance money, etc. and not actually cool in 2018). If you live in London it's kind of a punchline, like Williamsburg.
posted by caek at 8:57 AM on October 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

I stayed at a friends' place in Haggerston, which is (I believe) northeast of Shoreditch, in 2014 and it reminded me so much of hip, post-industrial Brooklyn that I barely felt like I was on vacation at times. It didn't have lots of tourists though; it actually felt to me like Bushwick to Shoreditch's Williamsburg.

These things do change pretty fast, though, so I don't know if that area has crossed the line into hipster Disneyland since then.

For the Londoners in this thread, I will say that while Bushwick is many things it is decidedly not leafy; as caek pointed out, that's Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope. While I am by no means a London expert, I think OP is probably looking for somewhere in East London that is not Shoreditch.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Clapton, Bethnal Green or Hackney Wick in the North East. Deptford, Brockley or Peckham in the South East.

Despite living here for 11 years the western reaches remain terra incognita to me..
posted by freya_lamb at 11:16 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

No, you do not want to go to South London. You want Clerkenwell. Dalston is very hipster, and to be honest, I've never seen the appeal. Stoke Newington in Hackney is my favorite bit of London (stay at the Rose and Crown if you go there), but transport is not great if constantly in and out of central London. Same for Clapton and Hackney Wick and Victoria Park. Haggerston is industrial chic, but also not amazingly well-connected (though not awful) and you could stay around the canal. Still, Clerkenwell is cool but not pretentious, and well-located.
posted by heavenknows at 2:26 PM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

London Fields is also pretty great, though also a bit awkward transport-wise.
posted by heavenknows at 2:27 PM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you want to see Londoners londoning and also cool fun creative stuff, then Walthamstow. More suburban than Hackney, less leafy than all those south London places mentioned. It's being hipsterfied, but it's not overpowering like parts of Hackney. And even though it's further out, the transport is better, 20 mins by train to the City, 25 to Oxford Street. It's a bit of a trek to the South Kensington museums though, if that's where you're museuming.

But there's good stuff to do here, not least:
* God's Own Junkyard/Wildcard Brewery
* William Morris Gallery
* Walthamstow Wetlands

And then afterwards you can go for a wonder down the market and buy a bowl of onions for £1, a set of dishcloths and a couple of yards of dress fabric.

If you're coming in 2019, we're going to be the borough of culture.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:41 PM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree with the previous posters. Definitely not South London, i.e. not Peckham or Clapham or Tooting. Lovely places but not what you are looking for. South London are where hipsters go retire when they have small people running around in their house, and they need suburb-lite and a garden. Plus the Northern (and Victoria) line, while handy for most parts of London, makes most things a trek if they are not directly on either of these lines (i.e South Ken museums). Source: used to live in Clapham Common.

You definitely want north or east London in the neighbourhoods I mentioned previously, and it'll depend on your level of tolerance for % of visitors and out-of-neighbourhooders in the area.

(Exception for Bermondsey which is in South London though, because Bermondsey is cool)
posted by moiraine at 1:53 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

For being actually cool/living where 'creatives' live I'd say Hackney - specifically Dalston, Stoke Newington, Hackney or London Fields (which is not strictly Hackney but close to it and also has the bonus points of being near a tube).
Broadway Market in London Fields is hipster heaven but not overly busy and it's still freaky and interesting. Also it's a short walk from Columbia Road Flower Market, loads of bars in Bethnal Green.
posted by stevedawg at 3:49 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

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