Looking for the coolest London Neighborhoods to visit? In this quick guide you can find the best Districts in London and what the vibe is like in each one. This post was written by Dreams in Heels Guest Writer, Allie, who is originally from England.
During a first trip to London, there are certain sights which everyone makes an effort to see, such as Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. But there is much more to London than the major tourist attractions. Anyone that knows London will tell you that the city is more of a collection of villages, each with their own individual character, rather than a single entity; you could easily spend a year here and only scratch the surface of what London has to offer.
If you are planning on taking a trip to London and you have already seen the main sights, or if you just fancy experiencing a different side to the Big Smoke, take a look at this guide to the best London districts to visit.
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Best Neighborhoods in London
For all you bohemians out there, a visit to Camden should be on your London itinerary. It is an area which traditionally has been popular with musicians; Amy Winehouse was one of Camden’s most famous residents. It is still one of the best places to see a live gig, with the iconic Roundhouse, the World’s End, Electric Ballroom, and Dingwalls all located here. No matter what kind of music you are into, whether you prefer small, intimate gigs or huge stadium-like concerts, you will definitely find something for you here; live concerts take place every night of the week.
Aside from live music, the biggest draw for visitors to Camden is its incredible market. It is estimated that the market here receives over 10 million visitors every year, making it the fourth most visited tourist attraction in London. You can buy pretty much everything here, from vintage clothing and jewellery to antique furniture and home furnishings, and it is a great place to snag a bargain. But it is not just the market that is great for shopping. Camden is filled with a mix of eccentric independent stores and high-street favourites, so if you need some retail therapy, it really is the district to come to.
Finally, a visit to Camden would not be complete without heading to Camden Lock. It is here that you will find the fantastic street food market, KERB Camden Market, which has around 35 different stalls serving up cuisine from all around the world. If you prefer to sit down to eat, there are also plenty of well-established restaurants and pubs dotted around the area.
Having long been known as an entertainment district – going as far back as the 16th century, in fact – Shoreditch and its neighbouring district of Hoxton are still fantastic places to hang out in the evening, but there is so much more to discover here. In recent years, many artistic types have moved into the area, making it one of the more fashionable areas to visit, with its hipster coffee shops, funky dining scene with everything from chain favourites to quirky independent restaurants, and lots of vintage and second-hand shops.
While in Shoreditch, you can make your way down to Brick Lane, which runs from Whitechapel to Bethnal Green, crossing Shoreditch at Bethnal Green Road. Known primarily for its plethora of curry houses, it has also become an important place for art and design. Many of the art and fashion courses exhibit their work near Brick Lane, plus there is also a regular display of street art – even the world-famous Banksy has had work featured here.
For me, the biggest reason to head to Shoreditch is Old Spitalfields Market. Situated between Brick Lane and Bishopsgate, the market building itself dates back to 1876 and is considered to be one of the finest examples of Victorian market hall architecture in the entire city. However, a market has been held on the site since the 1600s, so it is an area steeped in history. Nowadays, Old Spitalfields Market is arranged into various themed markets, with food and drink, boutique fashion, and home and lifestyle products all on offer here, as well as a number of cool bars, restaurants and coffee houses.
One of my favourite areas of London, Greenwich is one of those rare places which manages to combine being a leafy suburb with having plenty to keep you occupied for at least a few days. Here you will find lots of interesting tourist attractions, a wonderful market, and lots of cute cafes and bars.
When it comes to tourist attractions, Greenwich is on a par with central London. One of the top attractions here is the Royal Observatory, where you can stand astride the Prime Meridian – the line which divides the west from the east – at the home of Greenwich Mean Time. The observatory itself is incredibly fascinating; it houses a full museum detailing the observatory’s major role in astronomy and navigation. A notable exhibit here is the collection of clocks made by and belonging to John Harrison, a self-educated clockmaker and carpenter who invented the marine chronometer, a device which solved the problem of calculating longitude at sea.
As well as the observatory, Greenwich also has three other Royal Museums: the Cutty Sark, the National Maritime Museum, and the Queen’s House. The Cutty Sark was one of the last tea clippers to be built in the Victorian Age and also one of the fastest, famous for bringing tea from China to England at record speed; now moored in a dry dock in Greenwich, you can climb aboard and find out what life on the ship was like nearly 200 years ago. To learn more about Britain’s history among the waves, you should then head to the National Maritime Museum. Here there are lots of displays of vessels throughout the ages, plus you can see Admiral Lord Nelson’s uniform which he wore at the Battle of Trafalgar. The Queen’s House, once a former Royal residence, forms part of the National Maritime Museum and houses a spectacular collection of maritime-themed paintings and portraits.
Other attractions and historical buildings worthy of a visit in Greenwich include: the Emirates Air Line, a cable car which takes you over the Thames, giving you superb views of the London skyline; Greenwich Park, once a royal park of Henry VIII’s and now known worldwide as the starting point of the London Marathon; the Royal Naval College, whose Painted Hall is often compared to the Sistine Chapel; and the Fan Museum, the world’s first museum completely dedicated to the preservation and display of fans.
As you can see, there is lots to do in Greenwich and all that sightseeing is bound to work up an appetite. When I am in Greenwich, I love wandering down to Greenwich Food Market and grabbing myself something like a Thai curry or burger, and then walking back down to the Cutty Sark to sit and watch the world go by as I eat my food. You can also choose to dine in one of the many restaurants, cafes and pubs which can be found all over the area. Greenwich is also well-known for its amazing shopping opportunities. Greenwich Market is great for those looking for quirky souvenirs, antiques and gifts, but there has also been a big influx of independent boutiques opening all around Central Greenwich.
If you happen to be visiting Greenwich in September, the district plays host to the Greenwich Comedy Festival, which attracts some of the biggest names in British comedy. It is a really cool festival to go to; as well as the comedians, you have lots of great food trucks to enjoy.
Another London district known for its connections to music, if you head to Brixton on any given evening, you will generally see plenty of people milling about waiting for gigs to start, particularly near the famous O2 Academy. The Electric is also a famous venue and has been hosting top musicians and comedians for many years. Brixton is not just about live music, though. There are loads of places where you can enjoy DJs playing the latest in all kinds of music genres: the White Horse, Jamm, and Experience Acoustic Bar and Club are all popular options.
When it comes to food, Brixton is known throughout the city as being one of the top culinary hotspots. As a fan of street food, I absolutely love Pop Brixton, a cool complex made up of shipping containers with a variety of street food options. Wherever you go in Brixton, there will be something great to eat; the area is particularly famous for its Afro-Caribbean cuisine, but you can find pretty much every country represented here in some form. If you fancy going somewhere a little bit different, there is a Spanish tapas bar called Gremio de Brixton which is located in the crypt under St. Matthew’s Church.
For film lovers, Brixton is home to one of the largest independent cinemas in the UK, the Ritzy Picture House. Over 100 years old, the cinema shows an excellent selection of independent movies, blockbusters and classic films. There is also a really nice cafe and restaurant here which does really delicious pizzas.
It was not so long ago that Peckham did not really feature on any traveller’s London itinerary, but nowadays it has become one of the hippest places to be. Recently named the 11th coolest neighbourhood in the world by Time Out, now really is the time to get yourself over to Peckham to see what the fuss is about.
Peckham is a pretty arty district, with a number of art galleries in or close by the area. The Bussey Building, once a factory that manufactured cricket bats, is seen as the neighbourhood’s cultural hub and regularly hosts art installations, workshops, and even theatre productions. It is also one of London’s best nightlife venues, with a variety of themed music nights taking place throughout the month. Its rooftop bar opens during the summer, offering amazing views of London to go with your drink, and if you venture down into the basement of the Bussey, you will find a vinyl store and cafe.
The Bussey is not the only place where you can grab a skyline drink; Peckham actually has a few trendy rooftop bars. The two newest ones are Forza Wine and CLF Art Lounge, but I personally love the Hennessey Roof Garden, which is open six days a week all year round.
Next to Peckhamplex Cinema – a Peckham institution all of its own, and, at £5 per ticket all day every day, one of the cheapest places to catch a film in the entire city – is Peckham Levels, another multi-storey arts space. Opened in 2017, the space was once a car park, but was transformed by the local residents to make use of the empty space. Now it houses art studios, co-working spaces, offices, and food and retail spaces, as well as hosting a wide variety of events.
You cannot go far wrong with a visit to Putney. In fact, I would suggest the district makes a fantastic place to stay if you are spending an extended holiday in London; it has excellent transport links to many areas of the city, including direct access to the West End and Central London, and yet also has plenty of green space all around. I often find that whenever I stay in Putney, I feel like I am in a small market town rather than part of a large city. Historically, Putney was a place where Londoners came to enjoy their leisure time, and even today continues to be a popular spot for runners, joggers, and cyclists. Within close reach of Putney town centre are Putney Heath, Wandsworth Park, and London Wetland Centre, and going just a little bit further out are Kew Gardens and Richmond Park, so there is plenty of opportunity to get out into green space.
There is a strong artistic culture in Putney. Putney Arts Theatre, housed in a former church, is home to two amateur theatre companies and shows approximately eight productions every year. The sculptor Alan Thornhill was based in Putney for a number of years and is responsible for the Putney Sculpture Trail, a series of nine almost life-sized figures located a different points along the River Thames.
For dining and drinking, Putney, like the vast majority of neighbourhoods in London, has a myriad of places to choose from. One of my favourites ones here is Blabar, a Swedish cafe and concept store. The cafe serves traditional Swedish lunch dishes, such as freshly made open sandwiches with meatballs and beetroot, and Nordic mustard and dill new potato salad, plus they also have a great selection of sweet treats ideal for a morning fika. Elsewhere in the town, there are plenty of historic pubs which serve excellent quality food, plus there are also the usual cheap, chain restaurants if you want something quick and reliable.
London is one of those few places that really does have something for everyone. Whether you are an indoors or outdoors kind of person, whether you love hipster or more classic places to eat, drink and hang out, or if you love spending time in contemporary artistic spaces or prefer more traditional tourist attractions, you will definitely find a corner of London just for you.