London neighborhoods - The most important districts of London | Erasmus blog London, United Kingdom

London neighborhoods - The most important districts of London

  1. Before Arriving in London
  2. How to get to London - Getting to London by plane, train, bus or car
  3. Public Transport in London - Getting around London
  4. Cost of Living in London
  5. Save Money in London - Tips for Living in London on a Student Budget
  6. London neighborhoods - The most important districts of London
  7. London Nightlife - A guide to nightclubs and going out in London
  8. Where to eat in London - British Cuisine and British Gastronomy Restaurants
  9. Top London Attractions - The best things to do in London (1st part)
  10. Top London Attractions - The best things to do in London (2nd part)
  11. Top London Attractions - The best things to do in London (3rd part)
  12. Top London Attractions - The best things to do in London (4th part)
  13. Day Trips from London - Places to visit and excursions around London
  14. Festivals in London - Festivities and celebrations calendar
  15. London in 3 days - What to see in London in 3 days

London is split into 33 boroughs (which are like big areas) including Greater London and which also include 4 separate UNESCO heritage sites! There are some boroughs which are more important than others so to help you figure out which boroughs are the most interesting, I’m going to make a list (yes, another one) of what the worthwhile things some of the more famous boroughs have to offer.

N. B. : As well as the UNESCO sites, there are also “blue plaques” which signify a link between a place and a notable famous person who once stayed/lived there.

Westminster

If you thrive in a bustling environment then Westminster is the place for you. The governmental buildings in the area make it stand out as one of the most important areas of London and thanks to Buckingham Palace and a collection of royal parks in the area, there’s also an air of royalty and regalness which goes hand in hand with the name ‘Westminster’.

It’s not exactly synonymous with adventure or uniqueness as it’s home to the majority of government buildings in London, but it is however an area that is drenched in history and each building has its own story. Places like Buckingham Palace bring a touch of regalness to the area, whilst there are parks in the area which break up the thick cluster of governmental and important buildings, such as the Houses of Parliament.

Centre of the UK government and home to the University of Westminster and London King’s College Strand Campus as well as the London School of Economics (LSE), Westminster is a very important district and has one of the highest concentrations of visitor attractions and historic landmarks, as well as the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) which is one of the 4 UNESCO world heritage sites. Buckingham Palace is a short stroll away from Trafalgar Square, the Tate Museum and Nelson’s Column also in the area.

As fascinating as the architecture is, mother nature also plays a big part in this district with St James’ Park (arguably one of the loveliest), the expansive Green Park and the tree-lined pathways which boast the talents of London’s gardeners.

Just outside of the attractions, there are quiet residential areas, gorgeous outside spaces and old pubs which give a more subdued feel to this globally powerful London district.

Camden

For lovers of all things arty, alternative and cultural, Camden is the place for you. It’s full of life during the day in Camden Market which is buzzing with shoppers seeking something different and fragrant smelling world-cuisine food stalls which really grab your attention, yet there is still a welcome touch of tranquillity brought to the area by the canal which meanders past the market minding its own business. A similar feeling of liveliness and festivity comes alive at night in the alternative bars and pubs as well as in live music venues.

Home to the University of London and University College London (UCL)and gaining fame from its sprawling network of markets and cafés, Camden offers a unique experience to visitors of all ages. It’s not only loved in the present-day by tourists and locals alike, but it was also a place to call home for 165 notable people throughout history including Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Sigmund Freud.

Possibly the most notable feature of Camden is its market which is open every day of the week! Camden market is honestly like a bazaar located in the heart of London selling all sorts from jewellery to arts & crafts and all kinds of cuisines from all over the world. Try your hand at bartering and having a bit of banter with the stall owners to try and get some money off of whatever you want to buy!

Camden provides bargain shopping as well as an abundance of bars and pubs which celebrities such as Amy Winehouse once drank at.

If the hustle and bustle of this market place become too much, then there are always fantastic outdoor areas such as Primrose Hill, Little Venice and Regent’s Park nearby as well as the Waterbus which runs up and down the canal.

Soho

The area’s bohemian charm will grab your attention by day and by night, the area really comes into itself. Soho has a constantly humming and uplifting spirit which really makes one feel comfortable and the addition of Chinatown supplements a cultural charm to the charismatic Soho. It’s the self-proclaimed gay area of London, so the area is a place of pride no matter what your background, race, ethnicity or orientation may be.

Located in the borough of Westminster, Soho was once London’s glitzy party district with unique clubs and sex-shops scattered about the place, however, it has definitely undergone some changes in more recent years. Whilst Soho is losing its party district title to the new and upcoming east end, it still has an undeniable charm.

The leafy northern quarter of Soho is crowned by Soho Square, a small square which was laid out in 1681 and features a mock Tudor house which is tiny and used to be a gardener’s shed. The space below was used as an underground bomb shelter during the Second World War. Also featured in the southern part of Soho Square is Dean Street, which although today is lined with bars and restaurants, actually used to be home to Karl Marx from 1851 to 1856 (his house was number 28 if you’re wondering).

Soho still stays true to its reputation of being a proud gay neighbourhood. A lot of the gay bars and pubs are found on Old Compton Street which is the epicentre of the gay village. It really is loved by all, whether gay or not, it has a certain charm thanks to its fantastic bars, risqué shops and an overall great vibe.

Of course, we can’t forget that London’s Chinatown is also in Soho. Although Chinatown in London isn’t huge (it consists of 2 streets), it really brings a completely different atmosphere to the streets which are lined with oriental-style gates, red lanterns, Chinese street signs and great Asian restaurants, shops and supermarkets. The ultimate time to visit Chinatown is definitely during the Chinese year which usually falls at around the end of January/beginning of February. The streets are packed with good vibes and high spirits, and a lot of the amazing restaurants have deals. Seeing the beautifully traditional Chinese culture mingle with the glitzy streets of London’s west end is truly something worthwhile.

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

Kensington & Chelsea is a place that is synonymous with luxury and oozes affluence and opulence whether it be the luscious green spaces or the high street shops selling their reputable brands. Nevertheless, there are areas within the borough in which you can soothe yourself if you feel like taking a break from the general elegance and prestigiousness and double-check that you’re not dreaming.

The name is a giveaway, but the borough of Kensington and Chelsea is a fairly affluent area, nevertheless, there are plenty of things to do that won’t take too much money out of your wallet. Home to imperial College London, Kensington and Chelsea have a lot of attractions for students and tourists alike.

Some of the most famous museums such as the V&A, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are all located in Kensington and Chelsea as well as one of the most famous and extravagant department stores - Harrods.

There is also a lot to offer in the way of outdoor activities. The borough hosts Portobello & Golborne Road Market which is the world’s biggest antique market with thousands of dealers selling all types of things. However, if antiques aren’t your sort of thing, there are also fruit and vegetable stands and fashion stalls, so there’s something for everyone.

When you’re done with the hustle and bustle of the London market, why not stroll over to Holland Park which is home to the Kyoto Gardens. Surrounded by luxury shops and restaurants, this park is a true oasis situated in the middle of Kensington and Chelsea.

Notting Hill

If you’re a culture lover then Notting Hill is a must for you. Not only is Notting Hill an affluent and fashionable area, but it’s also got a more profound side - it’s one of the most multicultural areas which shows off its vibrancy and love for life every August bank holiday weekend during carnival. Multiculturalism is an aspect that is maintained throughout the year as well thanks to the distinctive markets selling anything you could think of!

Notting Hill really is a treasure trove of great ways to spend your time in London. Portobello Road Market is located in this district of the Kensington and Chelsea borough. Every weekend throughout the year, people come to wander the two-mile stretch of colourful markets on Portobello Road; antique stalls, buskers, pubs and fashion stalls (which are busiest on Saturdays) are scattered around as well as old fashioned produce markets. Street food of all kinds is also found here, from paellas and bratwurst to crepes and churros.

Other interesting shops are found off of Portobello Road. The alternative music shop Rough Trade on Talbot Road is a must-see for any music lovers and Books for Cooks has endless amounts of food-related books and a café outback which is used for cooking demonstrations, light lunches and tea.

Last but not least, one of the events that brought fame to Notting Hill is the ever-popular Notting Hill carnival which is a celebration of the Caribbean culture in Notting Hill. The streets are full of party-goers, steel pan bands, floats with huge sound systems attached to the back and food stalls selling typical West Indian cuisines such as jerk chicken, rice and peas and curries. It takes place every bank holiday weekend at the end of August. The carnival is completely free, but remember to bring money for food and drink!

Lambeth and Southwark

This urban area is perfect for active people who want to make the most out of their time in London. With the London Eye, many theatres, the river Thames and more on your doorstep, you couldn’t ask for a more central location. Spend your summer days exploring London’s South Bank along the Thames, eating at the pop-up restaurants. In winter, why not make the most of your time by looking around the magnificent architecture and numerous museums to keep yourself warm.

Lambeth was one of the most affected and destroyed areas of London during World War 2, with over 1000 bombs dropping on the borough in less than a year, its extensive destruction is no surprise.

Today, Lambeth and Southwark are not only home to the London South Bank University, but also to the Imperial War Museum. This is probably one of the most interesting museums in London as it doesn’t only focus on WWII in England, but globally. There are displays from loads of countries (featuring army uniforms, weapons etc. ), there are also displays showing what life was like for Londoners during all the destruction and chaos which is synonymous with war. The war is also one of few places in Britain which features a Jewish Holocaust exhibition, which is obviously very touching but also very interesting to see.

More recently, the war museum has opened up exhibitions about the war in Syria and medical wars, such as the war on Ebola. The best thing is, there is no entrance fee!

The London Dungeon is also in Lambeth and is one of London’s “must-see” attractions. It’s been entertaining (and scaring) audiences for 40 years and doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon. The tour lasts for nearly 2 hours and is a walk through 1000 years of London’s murky past. The experience is really made by the actors, scenery and special effects which all play an important role in entertaining visitors; everything that goes on inside the dungeon is from real-life London stories and legends - you’ll be getting up close and personal (literally) with historical figures such as ‘Jack the Ripper’.

The unique Fashion and Textiles museum is also located in this Bermondsey Village which is in the area; the fabulous architecture of the building was designed by famous Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta. The museum not only aims to collect pieces related to fashion, jewellery and textile design, but also to give some inspiration for all the art and fashion lovers who walk through its doors.

Shoreditch

Shoreditch is London’s youth-orientated and hipster area which is trendy when it comes to anything “street” whether that be food, fashion or art. Shoreditch has also become a fierce competitor when it comes to nightlife, boasting a huge amount of unique and edgy bars and clubs rivalling those of Camden and Soho.

The gastronomy scene is really something to marvel at. Brick Lane plays host to the Boiler House Food Hall which boasts an impressive 30 food stalls all selling a different kind of cuisine. If street food is what you want then Brick Lane is somewhere you really have to go!

From the abundance of second-hand and vintage shops (of which, the biggest vintage shop in Europe is located) to rooftop cinemas and edgy bars and pubs, Shoreditch really is somewhere worth visiting.

Richmond upon Thames

Fancy a break from living the cosmopolitan life? Then Richmond is for you! With lush green parks and its own town centre coupled with a slower pace of life, it really is a great place for both relaxing in summer and winter. Also situated by the river, it’s a great place to contemplate life with a cocktail.

Richmond upon Thames isn’t necessarily as “famous” as the aforementioned boroughs, however, it is home to another one of the UNESCO world heritage sites in London - Kew Gardens. It’s the perfect place to go if you need a quick break from the fast-paced life of central London, on the other hand, it would be a great place to go for students attending universities such as Kingston University or Roehampton University due to its close proximity and location in Greater London.

There is (annoyingly) an entry fee for Kew Gardens which will set you back £15, however, with more than 20 attractions in the park, it really is a worthwhile visit. The Japanese Landscape really stands out thanks to its perfectly manicured features which contrast against the rugged features of the rest of the park. There is also a Mediterranean Garden and a Treetop Walkway which is an amazing 18 metres above the ground, allowing a rare insight to the workings of a forest canopy.

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