Lots of boxes need to be ticked to find the best area to live in London. But it doesn’t have to be like finding a needle in a haystack. You just need to get pragmatic and research the stuff that matters.
Our guide to identifying the best neighbourhood to live in London will set you on the right path.
How to Find the Best Area to Live in London
Figuring out where to live in London can create a paradox of choice. If deciding whether to hang your hat in the bustling north, leafy south, edgy east or salubrious west wasn’t hard enough, there are the different boroughs to consider – a tapestry of 33 mini-cities within a city: each with its own collection of neighbourhoods and sense of identity.
This head-scratching – yet exciting – process doesn’t need to become an anxiety-inducing chore. Park your sense of adventure temporarily and get pragmatic.
Take the time to research these six key considerations – and your perfect corner of London will become apparent.
1 Rental prices
London is famous for many iconic things: red buses, black taxis, royal palaces, bridges. But if you are moving to London there’s something else you’ll find it’s well known for that you won’t be quite as keen to experience: high rental prices – the capital’s average monthly rental price is nearly double that of England’s average.
You can only live somewhere you can afford. Therefore, the first step on your journey to deciding where to live in London should be establishing a realistic budget by reviewing your finances and sticking to it – don’t forget to factor in the deposit. Prices vary greatly from area to area, so make a shortlist of potential neighbourhoods by researching the local rental prices using reputable sites like Foxtons.
2 School catchment areas
There’s a very middle-class battle happening on the streets of London – and if you move to London with children you could find yourself on the front line. The school catchment area system has triggered a fight for properties within these sought-after boundaries. And the prize? A place for your child at an Ofsted rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ state school – if you’re lucky!
To be clear, your child won’t be guaranteed a place at a particular school because you live within its catchment area. Plus, the area a school admits children from often changes from year to year, getting smaller or bigger based on who applies. What living within a catchment area does is vastly improve your child’s chances of gaining a place. When a school decides who to admit, they will typically select siblings of existing pupils first, before filling the remaining places based on who lives within the catchment area.
The whole process can feel like the wild west sometimes, with some families attempting to bend the rules by renting an empty property in the local area or even changing religion to gain access to a faith school.
Zoom meetings from the comfort of your sofa might be the new normal, but the commute will still be a major consideration when choosing where to live in London. Londoners have the longest average commute (74 minutes) in the country, according to a new study – that’s a lot of time standing or sitting on public transport each day.
So, research how frequent (and crowded) buses or trains are on potential routes from your shortlist of neighbourhoods, and how much fares cost – especially if you’re planning on travelling into London from the commuter belt each day. In that case, you may have to take several different forms of transport, and pay for an annual train ticket alongside your Oyster travel card.
The good news for commuters is that the new Queen Elizabeth Line opened in 2022. Stretching between the suburbs in the west and east it shuttles people at high speed into and across the city.
4 Green Space
Look at a map of London and it’s covered with vast green patches. The best known parks include the Royal Parks in the centre; Hampstead Heath and Clapham Common to the north and south; and Richmond Park to the west. So if you are looking for the best area to live in London and you like your walks, sports and picnics then look no further than the green patches on the map!
5 LGBTQ-friendly London
We’ve thought long and hard about whether this section is necessary, but on balance we’ve decided to include it so that if you are moving to London you will know where to find the most fun and friendly people!
London is a hugely multicultural, diverse and inclusive city and www.NomadicBoys.com recently voted it the 10th most gay-friendly city in the world. Brighton, on the south coast an hour’s train journey from London came 5th.
London is peppered throughout with queer history and landmarks in its bars and clubs, but if you are trying to decide where to live in London and you want to be in or near an area with LGBTQ+ notoriety then as with all cities there are some particularly fun neighbourhoods. Be sure to check out the buzzing bars and restaurants of Soho, the city’s gay heartland; Vauxhall’s infamous party scene; the East End’s hip hangouts; and the men’s and ladies’ swimming ponds on Hampstead Heath.
Prepare yourself for a huge generalisation. People living in east London are younger than those living in the rest of London. East London has been transformed over the past 15 years from the less well off, sketchier end of town to a hipster’s paradise. It’s changed from old warehouses and unsafe streets to cool bars, cafes, street art and start-ups …. and as a result the people who live there are predominantly young. Of course there are millions of young people spread across the whole of London, but if you are trying to find the best area to live in London and you do / don’t want to be surrounded by young people 24/7 then it’s definitely something to bear in mind.
7 Get help from the experts (optional)
Simply London’s relocation team will work with you to define and understand your likes and dislikes and specific search criteria – from budget and schools to the commute and LGBTQ-friendliness – before selecting suitable areas for you to choose from.
This will focus your search – giving you the greatest chance of laying your hat in the best part of London to fulfil your hopes and desires!