Finding My Perfect London Neighborhood

So, here’s an itty-bitty confession- I kind of want to move to London after my time in Paris is up. In nearly every way, it’s the perfect city for me at this point in my life: large, vibrant and nightlife-filled, located in Western Europe, and oh, yeah- I could get a real job due to the common language thing. Plus… boys with posh English accents live there. Love.

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So during my time exploring the city for two days I ventured into several residential neighborhoods in order to scope out a place where I might want to live. You know, just in case.

Camden

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Camden is funky. Camden is colorful. Camden is probably the only neighborhood I could somewhat afford in Central London.

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The one-time home of Amy Winehouse, Camden is a trendy, canal-centered neighborhood where plenty of hipster thrift shops, markets and boozy nightlife can be found.

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After exploring the main streets, I headed to the eclectic Camden Lock Market for some market shopping and street food. Okay, and some Starbucks.

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While the market was wonderful, most of the stalls were closed and it was a bit dead- we would’ve been better off coming on the weekend or in the summer.

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London6But still, hipster tee-shirts, Chinese dumplings and vintage cameras abounded… what’s not to like?

Well, a few things actually. While Camden was definitely worth the visit, it was a little too grungy, industrial and tree-less for me. I didn’t like it enough to set up a permanent residence there but I would certainly visit again.

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The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

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Okay, okay. I didn’t say I was only looking for realistic neighborhoods, did I? Because let’s be honest- Kensington is way out of my league.

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Kensington and Chelsea is a posh London neighborhood that outstrips “well-to-do”- it’s effing loaded.

As we walked past tasteful luxury cars and perfectly trimmed boxwoods, I imagined my life there- a cup of imported Mariage Freres tea for breakfast, a stroll with my Airedale terrier, a fireside Jane Austen fix in my private library. Delusions of grandeur quickly filled my head as I constructed my life in a modern-day Downton Abbey.

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Have I mentioned recently I feel I would make an excellent ambassador’s wife?IMG_3165

But suddenly I snapped back to reality- although I may secretly wish otherwise, I definitely cannot afford a Kensington address.

Verdict? A beautiful neighborhood but not a place where my 22-year old backpacker self would fit in quite yet.

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Notting Hill

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Out of all of the neighborhoods I visited, Notting Hill was my favorite. It stole my heart even before I delved into its numerous antique shops and bookstores, and snapped photos of its whimsical, pastel-colored buildings. From the moment I exited the subway, I could sense a happy, wholesome energy there.

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I loved everything about it: the cherry trees, the antiques sold on the street, the warmly colored London stock bricks, the friendly shop-keepers.

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There was even a charming coffee shop on Portobello Road where I tasted some passable espresso, which made me want to tap on the nearest colorful door and move right in.

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My new local? Yes, please.

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By the end of the hour we spent in Notting Hill I was already smitten.

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So, it’s not hard to guess- Notting Hill was the clear winner for my dream London neighborhood. But there’s so much more of London to explore, and so many neighborhoods I haven’t even seen yet. So please, enlighten me, what’s your favorite neighborhood in London?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

16 thoughts on “Finding My Perfect London Neighborhood”

  1. I did my last semester of college living in Bloomsbury and it was pretty great as a place to live. The building where I lived used to be where Charles Dickens lived, so you know, not too shabby. I was about a block from the intersection of the north-south and east-west line on the Tube. As great as it was to be there for a semester, it’s crazy expensive around there and not very realistic. I think you’re looking at a lot of the best neighborhoods. Camden and Notting Hill are definitely good spots. Shepherd’s Bush was a neighborhood I liked a lot too. I’d take a look over there. Lots of good live music. Best of luck on your search. London’s an amazing city! I’ll be back in 2 1/2 months and I can’t wait.

  2. I really liked Camden, but the lack of nature bothered me. Islington was a nice area too. I was only there for 4 days about 3 years ago, so maybe if I went there today I’d have a different perception. There were other areas I loved, but were obviously way too pricey!

  3. I can relate to this so much! London has an amazing energy and so many options — it’s just overwhelming! London definitely a city where I could see myself too, if it wasn’t so crazy expensive. But we can still both marry rich, be neighbors in Kensington, and wear fancy hats when we meet for afternoon tea :)

  4. What a brilliant post, and one I can very easily reply to. But before I do that, I was wondering if you might like my copy of ‘Time Out London’s London for Londoners’? It reviews almost all of the 33 London Boroughs and talks about crime/schools/council tax/etc. Might be useful and I’d be happy to mail it to you, particularly as I’m now moving out of London.

    Which brings me back to your question: the neighbourhoods. Here’s what I’ve learned…

    1 – don’t move somewhere until you know where you’ll be working. As fun as a commute with three changes sounds at the onset, it will wear away at your sanity within three months, max. If you can live somewhere within 20 minutes of work, you’ll be golden.
    2 – Zone 2 or 3 is where you’ll want to be. Less expensive but still within 15 minutes of central London.
    3 – IF you can get a place near a tube station your transport options will be much better than somewhere on a National Rail line or even DLR. If you’re a night owl, check the Night Bus routes also.
    4 – London is divided into a few chunks: North, West, Central, East, South West and South East. I live in Bermondsey, in the South East. It’s an up-and-coming neighbourhood with lots of neat artsy stuff and foodie stuff (check out Maltby Street Market). However it’s not very green, and in fact most of the South East and East are not very green. With that said, I always recommend Greenwich, Maze Hill, Westcombe Park, Blackheath and Hither Green is in my good books too. Ladywell is supposed to be nice. Dulwich VERY nice. South West has far more green and more of the buildings lived through the blitz. I’ve heard that North London is similar but never been. West London is popular with Aussies (as is Clapham) who like to par-tay. I haven’t found the affordable areas (and I say that with a scoff as West London in general is quite expensive) to be very nice, though. I’m not a fan of Shepherd’s Bush. If I were to recommend something to you, it’d be SW – maybe Clapham area, Barnes, Putney, Wandsworth, Earlsfield, or those that I mentioned above. Oh and Wanstead, which is way out in East London on the Central Line but caught a bit of my heart. Awwww.

  5. I’ve been living 1,5 years in London, and have been a neighbor in The NW (Notting Hill), the NE (Old street – close to Shoreditch and City) and SW (Clapham).

    I’ve come to realization tat I like placs that have buzz and are young and lively, but also give a real neighborhood feel, where you know your neighbors and go to your park when its nice. That’s why from these 3, Clapham has been by far my favourite. If when moving you see prices are too expensive (because, les face it, Notting Hill isnt a barain either), I honestly recommend Clapham. And Parsons Green. And Fulham.

    Other neighborhoods I’d love to live in would be Chelsea, South Kensington, Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath!

  6. I’m heading to London at the end of April for a weekend. We were supposed to move there instead of Paris (we both applied for graduate school) but when the boyfriend got the job of his dreams we sort of put a few things on hold (plus, who can say no to Paris?). I’m excited to check London out for a couple days. Based on your photos, I will love it! Oh and I know what you mean by being a shy-whimerping-version of yourself…my level of French causes me to smile and nod alot..as if I were a small child. I’m working on it because I can’t stand not being able to give my full opinion on an issue.

  7. I LOVE England, like love love. But sadly I haven’t gotten to go to London yet. Southampton was the closest I got. Thanks for the amazing pictures, it only confirms my desire to head there asap!

  8. I actually lived in Kensington (still weird saying that when people know where it is/what it’s like) and you would probably end up being bored anyway :) It’s – obviously – very nice and pretty…but…not much else.

    After being in the city for about 5 months I enjoyed Notting HIll the best, but also thought that I could live in the Fulham area. I visited a friend for a night who lived there and it was the first time where I felt like I was in a neighborhood.

  9. For me it’s Notting Hill too. I moved there for a few months at 20 and was lucky to find an affordable bedsit near Portobello Road that I shared with another Swedish girl. Loved that it’s so close to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. If you return I can highly recommend Ottolenghi on Ledbury Road for the most delicious cakes and pastries.

  10. I am currently staying not too far from Notting Hill, and you are right, it is a pretty sweet area. If I was to move there permanently, I would probably try and find something in the Hammersmith area.

  11. Angel/Islington. That’s where I stayed for my five weeks during the Olympics and it was perfect…PS, my bosses are moving to Kensington this summer. Surprise, right?

    • I will definitely check that area out on my next visit. And no, not surprising at all- all of the mega-rich French people my friends work for are moving to England for what is basically tax evasion.

  12. I lived in London when I was 20 and LOVED it there! Would love to go back but now I have settled and married in the US. When I was there I lived in Bayswater – very close to Notting Hill a little closer to the city though. I loved the location! We were so close to the Underground as well as right across the street from Hyde Park which made for fun weekends.

    The night-life in London too was amazing – so different than the US or anything I have experienced so far. Enjoy your time in Europe I can’t wait to go back :-).

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