Like calling oneself a New Yorker, openly identifying as a Londoner is likely to earn you a slew of questions effectively daring you to prove it.
And while we’re not about to delve into the semantics of what boxes someone has to tick to qualify as a true blue, we are about to share the neighborhoods in which Londoners eat, drink, date and generally hang out.
A decade ago no conversation on Clapton could pass without mention of its unfortunate—not to mention fearsome—moniker “Murder Mile.” But in 2015, the east end neighborhood is a dramatically different place, with the crime having been swapped out for craft beer shops, hip veterinary surgeries (yes, really) and coffee shops. Even Macaulay Culkin and his band Pizza Underground played Upper Clapton Road’s Yard Sale Pizza, which will either hammer home the area’s cool credentials or have you screaming “Peak Ironic Hipsterism” depending on your viewpoint. One thing’s for sure, Clapton is a dynamic area and any tourist will get a slice of east end London life on a visit. For a good base from which to explore London’s east end, Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel offers a mixture of history and chic.
Must Visit: Yard Sale Pizza
North: Kings Cross
Another rags-to-riches story is Kings Cross. Once a north London wasteland with a super seedy side, the neighborhood is now a prime destination thanks to redevelopment. Always a hit with Londoners with a taste for clubs and late nights, it now has an ever-burgeoning art and foodie flavor to it. Try Granary Square (where a free phone app will allow you to control the colors and flow of the luminous fountains that decorate it) and head for Dishoom, a stylish restaurant that pays homage to Bombay cafe culture. Alternatively, swim in the pool-cum-art installation Pond Club that offers a tranquil, but wild, swimming experience in the center of urban Kings Cross. And for those Londoners who don’t see its charms, there’s always Kings Cross St. Pancras Station, where you can be on a Eurostar train out of London and into Paris within two hours. On the other hand, if you like the area so much you can’t tear yourself away, book a stay at the grand, Victorian-era St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
Must Visit: Dishoom
West: Ladbroke Grove
First things first, Ladbroke Grove is nothing like its mawkish portrayal in the Richard Curtis film “Notting Hill.” You might stumble on the odd Hugh Grant-esque bumbling Brit or even spot the occasional Julia Roberts-type movie star wandering through the market but that’s where the comparison ends. In truth, Ladbroke Grove is much, much livelier than its celluloid companion. It is host to one of the world’s biggest street parties (the annual Notting Hill Carnival), where you’ll find the best West Indian food in London, and of course, home to Portobello Market. It may attract huge numbers of tourists but it’s also a neighborhood where you can sample the music, food, and fashion of a Londoner’s London.
Must Visit: Honest Jon’s Records
Step off the train and onto Rye Lane in the height of summer and you’ll need to take a second to acclimatize to the buzz of this frantic south London locale. Barbershops, Caribbean takeaways, and mini-marts share the street with vintage gaming bars (Four Quarters), clubs (The Bussey Building), and rooftop car park bars (Frank’s). Since artists began making the neighborhood home, Peckham has opened up to become one of London’s most diverse, dynamic areas. In fact, it’s so famous for its rampaging culture you almost dare forget to mention its most famous sons, Only Fools and Horses’ Del Boy and Rodney of Trotters Independent Trading Co. whose van reads, “New York—Paris—Peckham.” Not such a joke anymore …
Must Visit: Four Quarters Bar
It may be slap-bang in the middle of the West End but Soho is undoubtedly a neighborhood in which you’ll discover the Londoner’s London. Once the city’s red light district, the area still retains an element of edginess to keep locals happy. Perhaps not the sleazy, all-night den of debauchery from the days when it was the playground of artist Francis Bacon et al, but there is still something unmistakably seductive about it: from the basement arts clubs to the poetic old pubs with their links to bohemian French radicals, from the super-luxurious hotels (we recommend the boutique Sanctum Soho Hotel) to the sex shops stood beside them, sheltering trendy restaurants out of sight. Everybody has a Soho story, which is one thing every Londoner can probably agree on—that and the extortionate price of the travel.
Must Visit: The French House
This article was originally published by Oyster.com under the headline 5 Neighborhoods Where You’ll Find the Londoner’s London. It is reprinted here with permission.