London is a vibrant city with lots of different neighborhoods. Full of different cultures, architecture, cuisines and things to do, it can be difficult to work out where you’d like to spend your time, especially if you don’t have very much of it.
There’s no “top” neighborhood in London, as they all have their own unique characteristics. From the food, stores, and architecture, to the people who live in each of the neighborhoods and the vibes they give. There’s one thing for sure, the locals all love their neighborhood, and they want you to love it too. So, here’s my guide to the neighborhoods of London, and how to experience them like a local.
Neighborhoods of London: Greenwich
Despite the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf sitting in the distance, Greenwich is a world away from anything you’d imagine a city to be like. It’s full of history and wonderful architecture, these beautiful buildings have appeared in many films, from Thor to Les Miserables, and is home to the Meridian line.
The Meridian line indicated 0 degrees latitude, and when you stand with one foot on either side of it, you are standing in two hemispheres.
What to do:
- Begin with brunch at the trendy restaurant Grind, you can find everything from thick pancakes with blueberries, to avocado on toast with beetroot salmon. There are lots to do in this London neighborhood, you’re going to need your strength.
- Head to Greenwich park, and climb up the hill to the Observatory. Here you can find the Meridian line, and the breathtaking views of the London skyline. At the Observatory, you can learn about outer space, take their free audio tour and take in the view with a cup of coffee.
- Walk back down towards the town and visit the impressive buildings of the Old Naval College, Most of these buildings are now used by the University of Greenwich, however the Painted Hall and the chapel and both open to the public.
- Time for a walk along the river. The Thames Path runs all the way along the river, you can walk from the Painted Hall, all the way along with the river to the O2 Arena, where there are plenty of restaurants, a shopping outlet and a cinema.
- After a long day, you can catch a movie and dinner, before finding some great deals in the shopping outlet, or even attending an event in the arena.
Neighborhoods of London: Shoreditch
This quirky London neighborhood offers the best of every other neighborhood on this list. It has the food, the vintage shops, the indie vibes, and beautiful street art. This area is most famous for Brick Lane and the Indian restaurants that line the pavements.
Squeezed into Brick Lane, alongside the Indian restaurants are the artisan market stalls and alternative shops. Here you will find the Cereal Killer Cafe, which offers every kind of cereal and milk you can imagine, and Lady Diner’s Emporium, London’s only cat cafe.
What to do:
- If you have a healthy appetite you will want to come to this neighborhood. Begin at the Cereal Killer Cafe, with a bowl of your favorite cereal and your favorite flavored milk.
- Then, if shopping and art are your passions, you can wander around the many stalls, shops, and galleries supporting local businesses by buying handmade goods.
- If history is your thing, beyond Brick Lane is the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and the river Thames. Visit the Crown Jewels, learn about London’s history, and watch the boats go by. If you’re lucky, you will see Tower Bridge open to let the taller ships go by.
- Finally, you can’t visit Shoreditch without eating at one of the many Indian restaurants. Bengal Village was awarded Brick Lane Indian restaurant of 2019 by the London Evening Standard.
Neighborhoods of London: Notting Hill
Made famous by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant with the film named after the London neighborhood, this quaint little area is also the home of Paddington Bear, you will recognize many places from both films including Hugh Grant’s book store and Paddington’s favorite antique store.
Lined with pastel-colored townhouses that look like they come straight from a storybook, you can smell the coffee from the many tiny cafes down the street. Here you will find everything vintage, with record stores, charity shops, and market stalls.
What to do:
- Begin your day with a coffee and sandwich from Gail’s Bakery. This may not be the only thing you buy here, as Gail’s sells many mouth-watering, home-baked goods here. From every kind of bread you can imagine to sweet tarts and brownies, Gail bakes them all.
- Next, have a wander down Portobello Road, it will take a while. Whether you’re looking for something in particular or anything that catches your eye, you could spend hours rooting around the many baskets full of vintage clothes, photographs, tins, and china.
- If you’d like a mid-afternoon snack, the Hummingbird Bakery is famous for its variety of cupcakes. Drop-in there for a cupcake filled with cookies and cream, they even sell vegan and gluten-free cupcakes.
- Notting Hill also has several picture-perfect mews streets. These streets were originally stables and carriage houses with living quarters above them, now they are beautifully kept hidden streets.
- These streets, and those around them, are beautiful rain or shine, as they are all painted in bright pastel colors.
- Finally, head to dinner at The Mall Tavern. When in London, especially on a Sunday you have to visit a gastro pub for a traditional roast. The Mall Tavern is one of the best in this London neighborhood and has a small outdoor area so you can enjoy the sunshine when the weather is good.
Neighborhoods of London: West End
The West End is the place to be for the full city experience. On your doorstep, you will have streets of shops, bars, restaurants, tube stations, and the best of London’s theatres. Especially well known for London’s version of Broadway, this neighborhood has so much more to offer. Home of Oxford Street and Bond Street, this area is the shopping destination of the City. China Town is also located in the West End, housing several theatres, including Her Majesty’s Theatre, which shows Les Miserables.
What to do:
- Begin with brunch at one of the many excellent restaurants in the neighborhood, Balthazar is particularly good, with seasonal decor and a large brunch menu to suit all tastes.
- Then wander the streets of Covent Garden, Regent’s Street, Oxford, and Bond Street. There are shops to suit all budgets, Oxford Street suits a lower budget, while Bond Street and Convent Garden offer designer brands and luxury shopping.
- Be sure to stop and appreciate the street artists, who put on wonderful performances for a living.
- For some peace and quiet during a busy day on your feet, take a wander through Hyde Park to find Speakers Corner, the Serpentine, and the gardens. Before you head back, head to one of the theatre ticket booths to purchase last-minute tickets to a show.
- Once you have all shopped out, it’s time to have an early dinner. Many restaurants in the area have pre-theatre set menus, served with enough time for you to enjoy your meal before the show.
Finally, head to the theatre. Many shows that appear on Broadway also make their way to the West End. The likes of Waitress, Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen are all performed here.
Neighborhoods of London: Camden Town
Camden is famous for its alternative scene, set against a backdrop of lazy canals and green spaces, which offer a lovely refuge from the busy streets. Well known as the home of the late Amy Winehouse, and the tattoo and piercing shops that line the streets, this London neighborhood has a softer side. You can also find lots of tasty food in Camden Market, and a peaceful walking route towards Primrose Hill via Regent’s Canal.
What to do:
- This neighborhood has something for everyone. To experience everything Camden has to offer, begin wandering around the shops and market stalls for vintage trinkets, clothing, and homeware. Grab a bite to eat from one of Camden Market’s many food stalls. Here you can find everything from Pakistani, Mexica, Greek, and even Halloumi cheese fries.
- When you’ve chosen, step out onto the canal and head west, where you will find pretty canal boats, street art, and greenery. You even pass through London Zoo, keep an eye out for the wild dogs and the bird Avery.
- Finally end up on Primrose Hill, just outside of the Camden neighborhood, it’s worth the climb for a beautiful view of London’s skyline as the sun sets on your day.
I hope that this guide to London neighborhoods has helped you understand more about the amazing things this city has to offer, and I hope that you are now clearer on where you would like to spend your time there.