London is not so much one city as it is an amalgamation of towns that have been swallowed up by centuries, if not millennia, of urban sprawl.
Notting Hill, made famous by the 1996 Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant film, is one of the most famous and distinctive of London neighborhoods – however, it is but one of many. London is divided up into Central, North, West, and East London and these areas contain a combined 32 administrative boroughs and the administratively distinct City of London (the business and financial district).
Be sure to check out All London Boroughs and get more details of London neighborhoods here. For the latest scoop on things to do and places to visit, check out spoonfed.co.uk and TimeOut London. Yelp has some amusing and interesting descriptions of London’s neighborhoods in comparison to New York City’s, so if you are familiar with New York, take a look at this London-vs-New York Neighborhoods Guide!
Bayswater: Bayswater, an area in West London in the larger borough of Westminster, receives rave reviews from almost everyone who stays there. Visitors compliment the neighborhood’s friendly atmosphere, convenient locations, decently priced accommodation, and great tourist attractions. Notting Hill, Portobello Road, and Hyde Park are just a few of the must-see London attractions that are within a walking distance of Bayswater. Bayswater also has many reasonably priced hotels and hostels for the budget-minded traveler.
Brixton: Known as “Britain’s Little Jamaica,” Brixton is a town like no other in London. Located in Lambeth, a borough in South London, Brixton is largely characterized by its lively African and Caribbean population. It is popular for its contagious liveliness, great local pubs, and one of the best and most famous ‘beer gardens’ in London – The Duke of Edinburgh. In the past Brixton was known as one of London’s most dangerous districts, a reputation popularized by the song “The Guns of Brixton,” but these days, while still remaining edgy, gentrification has taken hold in a big way.
Camden: Located in Northern London, Camden Town is known for being an eclectic mix of everything alternative. Note this does not mean hipsters, who avoid the area like the plague. Camden is the spot for the “shunned-by-the-mainstream” subcultures like punks, goths, ravers, rastafarians, skinheads, metalheads, and now, above all, tourists. Many young people tend to live in this area of London, attracted by its youthful and lively vibe and relatively low rent. You’ll find a plethora of large markets lining the streets. Two popular markets include Camden Lock Market, which sells great music and The Stables Market, which sells all kinds of vintage clothing – both are open on the weekends. It has some of the best nightlife in London, as far as value and price. With plenty of clubs, pubs, bars, and restaurants, most of which are well within a reasonable price range, you’ll never be bored in Camden.
Chelsea: This trendy, expensive neighborhood is an affluent, but sought-after location by young professionals, expats, and the rich and famous! Chelsea is known for its famous Kings Road, a street lined with designer stores, shops, boutiques, pubs, and restaurants. Its heart is Sloane Square. With some of the best nightlife around, Chelsea attracts a young and hip crowd. For more insight into what makes Chelsea tick, check out the massively popular series Made in Chelsea. Also, watch out for Sloane Rangers!
East End: The East End of London is known and loved for its rough around the edges and vibrant appeal, as made famous by the series EastEnders. Popular among tech start-ups, the East End spent two weeks in the summer of 2012 hosting the summer Olympics and has become quite a trendy area. Whitechapel Art Gallery, a museum of modern art, is located in the East End, as well as the Canary Wharf – a shopping, eating, and entertainment zone. This area is a bit far from everything else and you have to rely on the Tube to get there and back – but rental values are good.
Hammersmith: The draw of Hammersmith, a neighborhood located in the Hammersmith/Fulham borough in West London, is undoubtedly its riverside view. The Hammersmith Thames riverside, also known as the Hammersmith Riviera, not only provides a beautiful setting for the neighborhood, it also provides many leisure activities, including boat races and rides, and riverside pubs overlooking the water. Additionally, Hammersmith has great connections to public transport, including the bus and Tube into central London, a night bus service, and buses running between Hammersmith and Heathrow Airport.
Islington: With London’s Silicon Roundabout located there, and its proximity to the Inns of Temple and the City (the associations of barristers), Islington is a popular neighborhood among young professionals. While generally more expensive, Islington’s street markets, easily accessible public transportation (including the London Underground), and varied art scene make it destination of choice to live in.
Kensington: Located in West and Central London, the Borough of Kensington & Chelsea also attracts young professionals. Kensington is also a great place to get a little shopping in – it is home to Harrods and is just a walking distance from Portobello Road and Notting Hill. It is known for being a “posh” (and therefore expensive) area, with beautiful old-styled buildings and sidewalks, great international restaurants, outdoor places to hang out in the summer, and easily accessible public transportation.
Shoreditch: Shoreditch is technically in the Borough of Hackney in the East End but adjacent to the City of London, meaning it’s very central. In the 1990s Shoreditch went from a working-class area to the capital of hipsterdom in London, and along with its neighbor Hoxton, becamse highly desirable for creative types of tech people. As you would expect, rents closer to the City are more expensive, while moving towards Hackney will reward your wallet. Shoreditch and environs is also one of the liveliest nightlife districts in London and is close to Brick Lane, the famous “curry street.”