Where to stay in London (family of five)?
January 21, 2022 11:17 AM   Subscribe

We are three adults (late 40s) and two kids (12 & 9). Can you suggest a place to us to stay in London? We live in Chicago (Rogers Park) and know that cities are The Neighborhoods and that's where we'd like to stay. We're looking for something that has access to parks for the kids, local shops for local people, and not terribly touristy.

One of my partners has the opportunity to go there for work and we're right now planning on joining her afterwards. I'd read a few older questions like ( this and this ) and it seems that South London is possibly aging hipster.

"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"

which sadly might be what we need. I know I was considering Brixton prior to reading that. Ha. East London got a lot of recommendations too.

We'll be going in June and (since the kids have never been) will be doing a fair amount of tourist things but other than visiting the Puppet Barge in Little Venice we don't have any set plans.

posted by Wink Ricketts to Travel & Transportation around London, England (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What's your budget?
posted by essexjan at 11:22 AM on January 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Judging purely on your age and the age of your children I think South London might be a good fit. Have a look at East Dulwich, Dulwich Village and Herne Hill. Lots of parents, parks, museums, good delis, boutiques etc. Easy trains into the city including Overground. Very little tourism. Pricey, though.
posted by mani at 11:49 AM on January 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

I lived near Hampstead Heath when I visited and loved it. It almost didn't feel like a City when I wandered around the Heath.
posted by indianbadger1 at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2022

Well, if you have not been to London yet, I'd still recommend staying more in the City. Waterloo area is fairly central, though I usually tend to like Minories / Fenchurch (though I worked near Algate and Bishopsgate (near Liverpool station) so got familiar with that area most).

That being said, the other side of London - Paddington, Chelsea, etc are closer to Hyde Park, The Regents, and the like.

When I bring people to London who have never been, I usually start around Minories, go to the Tower, walk along the Charles, cross over the Millennium, see the Tate, the Eye, then over London Bridge for Parliament, Big Ben, over to the Palace, then through the parks, and swing back up Soho, maybe Kings Cross, Finsbury, or Shoreditch and Brick Lane.

There is so much just in the City itself without it being touristy. Just saying.

I'll note that I've brought my wife there, and then we brought our 3 kids when they were around the same age as yours and they had a great time.
posted by rich at 12:48 PM on January 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

How long are you staying? I assume you're looking for an AirBnB recommendation rather than buying or renting a flat?

In terms of looking for somewhere with parks and local shops, that's most of London, honestly, unless you're literally camping out in Leicester Square. "Local shops for local people" aren't what you think they are. London doesn't have big neighbourhoods like US cities do -- in London, you can be walking down one street and turn a corner and it will be a different vibe completely.

If you want supermarkets and things, they're everywhere. I'm assuming you're picturing some little bistros and farmer's markets, sidewalk cafes and bougie boutique shops, in which case I would recommend Greenwich and surrounds. Herne Hill is also a good shout, or anywhere near Brockwell Park (which is huge). The closer you go to Brixton, the busier it will get, but if you want "authentic" "local" London, then it's a good time. Check out the Ritzy. It will be expensive, though.

Basically, for London, pick two: cheap / quiet and kid friendly / well connected.
posted by fight or flight at 1:50 PM on January 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've been lucky enough to stay with a friend most times I've been back in London. However a few years ago I stayed in a serviced apartment in Limehouse with my hubby. It was great value with a kitchen which came in handy for us. At the time it was much cheaper than anything more central. It's on a busy road, but you can get onto a canal path across the road and head to a nearby park (we did so using bike share). It's also super close to the DLR, with a short trip to the tower.

Google maps shows it's closed, but looks like they might just be under new management.

posted by My Kryptonite is Worry at 1:56 PM on January 21, 2022

I loved Greenwich and also recommend it for kids - huge park, lots of museums and things to do, cute town centre, nice riverside. It’s also an easy and quick train or DLR trip to other places. I’m from overseas and it a great place for visiting friends and family too.
posted by ozgirlabroad at 8:37 PM on January 21, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far. To answer a few questions...
- We will be there between 7-10 days.
- We are looking at Air B&B
- Our budget is probably $200–275 a day
- The adults have been to London 2-3 times
posted by Wink Ricketts at 6:01 AM on January 22, 2022

I just moved, but the last neighbourhood we lived in London was Deptford. It could be a good fit for you if you want an urban vibe, but also want to be well connected to Central London.

It has a good high street (that’s the UK term for the big Main Street where most shops are), some lovely restaurants, a few playgrounds for the kids, and a good street market twice a week. It is close to two art schools, so there are lots of young-ish people and street art around to keep things lively. It is within walking distance of Greenwich with its beautiful Royal Park and museums, but it’s much cheaper. FYI Deptford is a neighbourhood for families, immigrants and students, and it looks a bit grittier than say, Kensington. Oh, and you can take the train from Deptford station and be at London Bridge in 10 minutes or Cannon Street (the City of London) in 15.

So you know, south London doesn’t have as many tube stations as North of the river, so you want to pick a place that has a good train station to connect you into that network. (Ie, you take suburban rail to connect to the underground). Trying to get from anywhere in south London to anywhere else in south London is pretty much always going to take an hour and two busses. But that’s why families with kids live there - less tube access has made the eye-wateringly expensive real estate a tiny bit cheaper.

Dulwich, or maybe Islington in North London if you can you can find a cheap enough place, are also good ideas.

(NB I would not recommend anyone who is looking for a “local neighbourhood” vibe stay in the City of London. Sorry to generalise, there are definitely some gems, but I think it’s not for what you’re looking for in this instance.)
posted by Concordia at 6:21 AM on January 22, 2022

South London: Clapham, Balham, East Dulwich, Greenwich, Blackheath (in order of decreasing ease of access to central London)
East London: Hackney
North London: Islington, Highbury, Hampstead

My more general suggestion is that you want an Air BnB in TfL zone 2 or 3, near to a large park, a Gail's Bakery, and a tube or train station with regular and fast trips to zone 1. Any place that has all of those things, will have a version of the neighbourhood experience you are looking for plus you'll be able to do whatever tourist-y things you want to do. There are other places that will also work well that are missing one or more of those features, but since you only need one...

Finally, I will put in a plug for my favourite museum, The Museum of London by the Barbican. Really very interesting place about the history of London.
posted by plonkee at 9:36 AM on January 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: An update. We are staying in Hackney on Wilton street. It is just north of London Fields (per plonked's suggestion). I think it is going to be lovely. We are definitely going to visit some of the other neighborhoods mentioned.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 8:29 AM on May 31, 2022

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