Mid twenties, moving to London. Where should I live and what should I know?
February 23, 2007 3:21 AM   Subscribe

Mid twenties, reasonable income, moving to London. Where should I live and what should I know?

[I have read this and this thread, but my situation is quite specific.]

Shortly, I will be permanently relocating to London (from Leeds). My job will be in central London, probably either in Regent Street or around Tower Bridge.

* I have a number of different friends and family members scattered all around London. I will be spending time with them, but I also want to get involved in music (both playing and attending gigs), the queer scene and radical activism. I am involved with these things in Leeds, but know very few people in those scenes in London.

* I want to live in a fun, exciting area of Greater London that is within cycling distance of central London. Neighbourhood features I like: record shops, little coffee shops, greenery, a lack of yuppies, a community or family feel.

* My income will be between £25,000 and £30,000 per year.

* I would be OK with living alone, but would rather get a spare room with some nice random people (non of my current friends have any rooms in their current abodes).

* I am OK with living in a slightly dodgy area as long as it's not outright suicidal.

So, where should I live and why?

Bonus points: general advice for a person who has never lived in a city as big as London before. Good places to hang out, activist hubs, practical advice on travel and eating and living, location of any arty communities, good London advice books or websites, anything else you think is relevant.
posted by pollystark to Travel & Transportation around London, England (20 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Gumtree is good place to find shared housing. I'd recommend having a browse to get a feel for pricing rather than going for a specific area. Most areas of London are pretty diverse and will cater to your needs so you just need to find a nice bunch of people in a house that is financially viable.

That said, I'll but in a plug for my area - Hackney - which meets all your criteria and is good for Tower Bridge.
posted by ninebelow at 3:39 AM on February 23, 2007

I live in Whitechapel, E1, a very interesting and central location. Lots of live music, clubs, Hoxton is walking distance, heavy student / immigrant population, overall very, very cheap considering it's Zone 2.

A lot of folks seem to overlook Council Tax. Mine is £59/month, for a Band B property single occupant.
posted by Mutant at 3:42 AM on February 23, 2007

Oh yeah, as Mutant says, you will probably want to live in Zone 2 (more info on Transport for London.) Roughly speaking, the further you go from the centre of London the cheaper housing gets but there is a trade off in travel time.

I am OK with living in a slightly dodgy area as long as it's not outright suicidal.

Following on from my last email, pretty much everywhere in London is slightly dodgy and equally nowehre is really outright suicidal. There is a lot of cheek by jowl richnesses and poorness that balances things out. Even places with bad reputations generaly aren't that bad and have their faults exagerated by the media.

Hackney, for example, is apparently the worst place to live in the country.. It really isn't.
posted by ninebelow at 3:51 AM on February 23, 2007

I don't think any part of London has a genuine "community" that you can join just by living there. The communities you do eventually become a part of have more to do with your interests, occupation, and friends, than where you live. Many areas have a "villagey" feel, although that tends to be pricey. I vote for living as centrally as you can possibly afford. Camden would be an easy cycle commute to Regent St, and ticks all boxes with regard to record stores, coffee, gigs and greenery. Yuppies are everywhere.
posted by roofus at 4:09 AM on February 23, 2007

you will probably want to live in Zone 2 (more info on Transport for London)

The TFL site failed miserably at giving me a zone map of London. I'm just curious to see what it looks like.

After about 5-10 minutes of digging I did find the congestion charging map at
http://www.cclondon.com/download/DetailMapECCZ.pdf , but of course that doesn't apply to pedestrians and bicyclists.
posted by intermod at 4:50 AM on February 23, 2007

I live in Hackney too, and it seems to fit your bill.

Here's a tube map with the zones on it. There's isn't really a street map version, Londoners don't really think about their geography in that way (as evidenced by the number of people who had to buy an A to Z to walk home on 7th July 2005). You tend to associate with the nearest tube station, even if you don't use the tube. But saying that, Hackney doesn't really have a tube station (yet), so it doesn't always help.

To find places to live, I've had a lot of luck with moveflat.com
posted by Helga-woo at 5:00 AM on February 23, 2007

I would vote for Hackney too! Loads of my friends live there - because it is pretty central and cheap for London. I can't understand why it has got such a bad name.

From personal experience advoid Harringay, and seven sister road.
posted by informity at 5:10 AM on February 23, 2007

Stoke Newington - lots of green spaces, young families and lesbians. Feels quite village-y. Camden is better for music but worse for yuppies.

As you're into activism and cycling get involved with the monthly Critical Mass bike ride. Also visit Housmans bookshop for radical newsletters and books.
posted by boudicca at 5:16 AM on February 23, 2007

MoveFlat is a great website for finding places. As for the wider world of London, well, gosh, there's a heck of a lot of resources out there. I'd get yourself a copy of both of the London By London books (you can get them on Amazon), and you could also sign up for the website, which is a great Q&A website much like AskMefi, though lots smaller.

Flavorpill London, Kultureflash and Londonist, are all great, and there's a very active London meetup group on Flickr.

Area wise, broadly speaking, South of the river is quite laid back and the transport links aren't quite as plentiful, but there's some really nice places. I've lived in Brixton, Tulse Hill and Herne Hill in the last three years, and loved all of them in their own ways. Herne Hill is my current place and is brilliant as a place to live. Email's in my profile if you want to know more.

My brother lives in Dalston/Hackney and quite enjoys it. The best idea is to come down for a weekend and stay with someone, then take an A-Z and wander around various areas you think you might be interested in, to get a feel for them.

And if you want to kickstart things and find a few people to show you around, there's a load of London Mefites who meet up pretty regularly. Yet to make it to a meetup, but I shall soon!
posted by Happy Dave at 5:31 AM on February 23, 2007

From personal experience advoid Harringay, and seven sister road.

I second this!

Stoke Newington is lovely but you might find the yuppie quotient too high. Admittedly they are hippy yuppies but still.
posted by ninebelow at 5:33 AM on February 23, 2007

When checking out locations, go for somewhere which is close to a tube station and a night bus stop. A railway line is no substitute for either of these.

Because of the lack of tube station, I have to disagree on the Stoke Newington recommendation.

I recommend the "Time Out" London for Londoners book which will tell you all you need to know about each area. Perfect when you're deciding where to live.
posted by mr_silver at 6:13 AM on February 23, 2007

The thing to remember about London is that it is really a series of interconnected towns. So each area of the city tends to be self contained.
For the huge night clubs and major tourist attractions, you probably need to go to central London; but you really can generally get most of the benefits wherever you are.

Also, people tend to love their neighborhood and look down at everywhere else; so take area recommendations with a teeny grain of salt.

Once you select a prospective area, I would just check out its high-street on a Saturday Afternoon. You should get a pretty good feeling for the area and its people.

Also, I will second what ninebelow says. Lots of parts of London have a rough edge; but I never once felt unsafe walking my mile home in the middle of the night.
posted by heh3d at 6:56 AM on February 23, 2007

OK, here goes! I have lived in N, S, E, W and central London, mainly in Zone 1, and only recently have I earned more than 30k, so don't assume that you can't afford to live centrally.

My favourite flat was in Noho (north of Oxford St - specifically New Cavendish St) and that was great. You could walk to Reg St in 10mins from there.

Agree with Happy Dave - check out www.moveflat.com, which is a non-profit site for finding flats and flat-mates in London. Essential.

A lot of people here have suggested East London (Hackney, Stoke Newington) but IMHO East London was my least fave home. Nice bars and clubs but not so nice to live.
posted by Blip at 7:16 AM on February 23, 2007

Greenwich is quite artsy but also quite pricey. Strike that, very pricey. And it may be too upper-class for your tastes, as it were.

The East End is quite creative right now, especially Whitechapel / Stepney Green.

If you want the more urban creative end of things, you could try Brixton. It's cheap, but for a reason presumably!

In Sarf London, Tooting is quite multi-cultural, and handy for the Northern line.

When I was looking for somewhere to live though, I was mainly thinking about closeness to tube lines and work. London, by its very nature kinda means that no matter where you end up, you'll still have to travel to hook up with people in various parts of the capital. Which is no bad thing because it gives you plenty of me time on the tubes afterwards to listen to music, read, be creative etc. - and the tubes still get you home after midnight!

I looked at loot.com for places I was living in.

I envy thee!
posted by badlydubbedboy at 7:22 AM on February 23, 2007

Stoke Newington and Hackney seconded!

Loot.com is fantastic, but you have to jump on it at midnight the night it comes out. Great places go fast.
posted by k8t at 8:23 AM on February 23, 2007

oh, on the whole queer scene thing (rather than gay scene) there are things around, but you might have to dig. There are a lot of events in Brighton which is only an hour away which is always good!
posted by informity at 8:48 AM on February 23, 2007

Stoke Newington or else Brockley/New Cross.
New Cross (some people will consider it too edgy/shady etc) is a great mix of students, diverse working people etc. Lots of opportunities for less mainstream art and music stuff.
Connections to central London via East London Line (tube), DLR, overground train and good buses (including night buses). Also check Deptford (next to New Cross and Brockley).
posted by cushie at 9:23 AM on February 23, 2007

If you are asthmatic or suffer from chest problems you might want to consider pollution levels in deciding where to live. The London Air Quality Network has reports from monitoring sites. (I lived in Westminister for six months and had problems with the pollution levels.)
posted by paduasoy at 9:27 AM on February 23, 2007

I enjoyed living in Kennington. It was cheap, Kennington Park is pretty and green, the Walworth Road is nearby for coffee shops and it's just in Zone 2 so easy to cycle into the centre. It's definitely lacking in yuppies, but I don't think it's so bad as to be suicidal, unless you try and cycle round the Elephant and Castle roundabout. Most areas seem to have good and bad neighbourhoods often very close together, if you can manage to take a look round before you move it would be a great help. Further south, I second the Brixton/Herne Hill suggestion.

North of the river, the Holloway/Finsbury Park/Manor House area is also within cycling distance.
posted by penguinliz at 10:21 AM on February 23, 2007

I live in, and love, Brixton. It's got a more than vibrant community, it's own clubs, and many a music pub and, of course, the Brixton Academy.

It has a slight feeling of dodginess about it, but it's actually pretty safe. And the Victoria line can get you into most of the main bits of London within about 20mins, and you're not far if you want to cycle too.

It has a feeling of community like no other area in London that I've lived in, and I've lived in a few. A few little gems in the general area include Cafe Cairo, the rather useful Brixton Rec and Library.

Urban 75 will give you a good introduction.

I make the same amount of money as you will, and I can afford to buy a pretty nice 3 bed place with my partner here, so it's pretty affordable (in the right places) too.

Sorry if I'm a little late in answering!
posted by minifig at 7:49 AM on February 27, 2007

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