The housing budget represents the biggest expense for an expatriate family in London, and properties located in zone 1 & 2 are often inaccessible due to the market price of rental properties.
Here are some good alternatives to zone 1 and 2, with our favourite top three family areas in Zone 3, a little more remote than the heart of Central London, but well connected to central London, and with a “village” atmosphere.
The top family areas in London Zone 3
When expatriate families consider which areas of London to live in, key factors come into play. Some factors to consider are location, ease/mode of travel and housing prices. Another important factor is which areas are considered to be the safest places to live in London.
For transport purposes, London is divided into Zones 1- 6. Zone 1 covers the central areas of London and Zone 2,3,4,5,6 form concentric rings around it. Zone 6 is on the outskirts of London. Transport for London (TfL) manages the transport fare zone system. Rail service fares in Greater London and the surrounding areas are calculated in line with the London fare zone system. Consider how many zones you plan to travel through, as this will affect the cost and type of ticket needed. The time of day you travel will also affect the price. TfLcharge higher prices during busier times of travel.
Peak hours – Monday – Friday 06.30am – 9.30am and between 16.00 – 19.00 (not public holidays). These apply on all rail services listed here. Tube, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway, TfL Rail and National Rail Services.
London buses are zone-less – you can travel anywhere in London areas Zones 1 – 6 on any travelcard.
If you plan to drive into London, be aware of the Congestion Charge – you can find all the details here https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/congestion-charge/congestion-charge-zone. There are also various cycle routes into central London.
The housing budget in London areas represents the biggest expense for an expatriate family. Properties located in Zones 1 and 2 might prove unattainable. This is due to the market price of rental properties.However, there are some good alternatives to Zones 1 and 2. These London areas are still within easy reach of the heart of London.
We have identified some London areas as our favourite family locations in Zone 3. They are well connected to central London. These are considered some of the safest places to live in London. They all have different attractive attributes. They might have great open spaces or are close to the River Thames. Some have a wonderful “village” atmosphere. Either way, the London areas listed here have a lot to offer. These areas of London are in the north and south west. Some areas in west London and east London might be a possibility too. Many of these are listed in other articles in our Knowledge Base.
1) Wimbledon: the best area for families in London
Located South-West of London, Wimbledon is world famous for its International Tennis tournament. It also has large green spaces like Wimbledon Common and Wimbledon Park. Putney Common and the River Thames are a short distance away.
Wimbledon has two main hubs. Wimbledon Village and Wimbledon town centre. Wimbledon has bus, train, tube and tram transport.
Wimbledon Village was built on the remains of a medieval village. It borders Wimbledon Common. It has a host of independent shops, golf courses and a hotel. There are diverse food shops, bakeries and butchers. There are boutique clothes, jewellery shops and bespoke tailoring and alterations. A wide range of restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars line the area. There are shops offering interior décor and design. If horse-riding appeals to you, there are riding stables there.
There is a Farmers’ Market on Sunday mornings. There are also art galleries. You will also find a windmill on the common and a Windmill Museum. Not far from the common, there is stunning Buddhist Temple. There are many churches in the Wimbledon area.
During the year there are festivals held on Wimbledon Common – including a ‘Bookfest’ and a Classical music festival.
If you walk to Marryat Road near the common, you can see amazing views of the whole of London.
Wimbledon Town Centre has a more conventional feel. There is a large department store and many well-known high street retailers. There are hotels, cinemas, gyms, a library and a theatre. There’s a wide variety of pubs, bars and diverse restaurants. You’ll also find a wonderful internationally renowned theatre that caters for young audiences. It also has a café, garden, toyzone and a playground.
As there are two hubs, Wimbledon offers a wide choice of property types. Large family houses from the 1950s, newly built single-family houses with spacious gardens, small cottages with two bedrooms. To sum up, there is something for everyone.
Wimbledon boasts a wide mixture of schools, from nursery and primary onwards. There’s a wealth of highly desirable primary schools like St Matthew’s C of E and Wimbledon Chase schools. You’ll find a variety of state secondary and sixth form colleges. There are also several independent schools with excellent reputations like King’s College and Wimbledon High School
Wimbledon train station in the town centre is very well connected to Central London. Trains to Waterloo take about 17 minutes. In addition, a less frequent service connects the area to Blackfriars, Farringdon and St Pancras.
The District line on the tube, offers easy access to central London and to areas in west London including Heathrow Airport. There is a tramline running from Wimbledon Station via Croydon through to Beckenham in Kent. Several local bus routes are available too.
All in all, this is one of the areas of London that has so much to offer. It continues to be a real paradise of families!
Average rental price per week for a two bedroom property: £520 in Wimbledon and £570 in Wimbledon Village. Prices as of April 2022.
2) Wandsworth: the best Zone 3 area for families in South-West London
Located on the right bank of the Thames, Wandsworth Town and Wandsworth Common are interesting areas for families. The areas are about four miles from the centre of London. Wandsworth is close to Battersea and Clapham in the east. It’s near Tooting and Balham in the south. Putney lies to the west of it. It’s close to central London, but has milder property prices.
This is one of the areas of London that people are attracted to for a number of reasons. There are excellent transport links and within zone 2 and 3 depending on which part of the area one lives in. Wandsworth is close to the Thames and has large green spaces. There’s a selection of good schools and it has some of the lowest council tax rates in the country. Wandsworth’s crime rate is one of the lowest in the country. This helps make it one of the safest places to live in London.
The old industrial Wandsworth stretched along the Thames from Battersea Bridge to Wandsworth Park. The industrial aspect has been replaced in recent years by new developments. The new Ram District has been built on the former site of the old Ram brewery. This is the modern part of Wandsworth. The old brewery site has been converted into over 300 luxury loft-style apartments. Brewing still continues on a smaller scale on the site.
The banks of the ancient River Wandle that runs through the site have been opened up to the public for the first time in centuries. In a more vintage style, Wandsworth Town boasts typical streets lined with a mix of predominantly 19th and 20th century houses.
Despite being close to central London, the area boasts a range of green, outdoor spaces. Wandsworth Park, Tooting Bec Common, Battersea Park and Wandsworth Common. The common has about 170 acres of parkland, sports courts, playgrounds and an environmental centre for local school children. Putney and Wimbledon Commons are close by too. Both Wandsworth and Battersea Parks are by the River Thames and ideal for long walks.
Southside Shopping Centre has a good range of high street retailers including Waitrose, Boots, H and M, and Primark. There’s Street Cube, a sustainable organic market outside the centre. This was launched by famous chef, Raymond Blanc in 2020 There’s a cinema, gyms, and lots of places serving food in the centre like Wagamama and Rossopomodoro. There’s plenty of cafes, like Cake Boy,Brew and Doo Wop Café. There’s a good selection of restaurants on Bellevue Road by Wandsworth Common. There are quite a few well-known pubs in Wandsworth due to its brewing history. There’s The Alma, the Ship, The Waterfront and The Cat’s Back.. There is also Backyard Cinema in Wandsworth that is described as ‘the ultimate in summer holiday cinema’. The Ram Quarter https://ramquarter.com has a Farmers’ Market, events, shops, restaurants and Strike, a premium bowling alley for ages. There’s the annual Wandsworth Heritage Festival and The Wandsworth Common Beer Festival. As with the other areas, there are several churches in the area.
There’s a wide range of private and state primary and secondary schools available. There’s St Michael’s C of E primary school, Brandlehow, Sheringdale and Belleville. Private primary schools include The Roche and Wandsworth Preparatory. Secondary schools include St Cecilia’s C of E, Southfields Academy and Bolingbroke are highly rated. There’s also independent secondary schools like Emmanuel and Putney High School for Girls.
As mentioned, Wandsworth is in both Zone 2 and 3 depending where people live in the area. With South estern Rail, there’s fast connections (around 14 minutes) from Wandsworth Town Station (Zone 2) to Waterloo and out towards Wimbledon, Richmond and Kingston. Wandsworth Common (Zone 3) Southern trains to Victoria (12 minutes ) and London Bridge. London Overground services run from Wandsworth Road on the Clapham Junction to Highbury and Islington Line. There’s a wide range of bus network available into London. You can vary your route and go to shops and restaurants in Fulham, Chelsea and Clapham which are on your doorstep.
There are designated cycle routes too.
Or you can commute in style from the Wandsworth Riverside Quarter Pier via the RB6 water taxi which operates between Putney and Blackfriars or the Thames Clipper which offers regular services into central London between Putney and Canary Wharf.
Average rental price per week for a two bedroom property: £521. Prices as of April 2022.
Looking to find good state schools for your children? Check out what the best London neighbourhoods for state schools are here.
3) Highgate: the best area for families in North London
Highgate is a leafy residential area in North London. It sits on the north-eastern corner of the spacious Hampstead Heath. At its centre is Highgate Village, with an attractive high street. Pond Square lies in the middle of the village. The area has long been a destination for creative, artistic and famous. The neighbourhood also has a strong appeal for families. There’s a great community atmosphere. There’s a festival every June. There are regular free local events.
The village is comprised of elegant Georgian architecture, cobbled areas, independent shops, bars, restaurants and residential streets. There’s bookshops, bakeries, design furniture shops, tea-shops and more. The High Street acts as a social hub for everyone, whatever age. There’s a library in a distinctive building, a golf club, theatres, a concert hall, gyms, a leisure centre not far away at Archway and a range of outdoor swimming pools. Traditional pubs like The Flask, The Wrestlers and The Red Lion and Sun are all great meeting places. There’s a selection of churches in the surrounding areas. Highgate is also home to the famous Highgate Cemetery with its striking Gothic architecture. It’s the final resting place for many well-known people from philosopher, Karl Marx to singer/song-writer, George Michael.
Walking through the area is like stepping back in time whilst still having a strong link to the city. You get the impression of being immersed in an 18th century village but with modern amenities! It offers a country lifestyle which is only 20 minutes from central London by tube. This makes it an appealing proposition for families
Situated on one of London’s highest points, Highgate boasts great views over central London areas and the wide green area of Hampstead Heath. Highgate has broad bands of its own woodland. A short walk from the village, Highgate Wood has 70 acres of ancient woodland for scenic walks. It is also in walking distance of some of London’s wonderful surroundings. Apart from the spacious Hampstead Heath, there’s Waterlow Park and Queen’s Wood. All these areas offer family-friendly spaces and a paradise for dog walkers!
There’s a good range of schools available in the area. Amongst them is Highgate School, one of the UK’s leading co-educational schools for ages 4 -18, founded over 450 years ago. There’s also Highgate Primary School, which is often viewed as one of the most ‘nurturing’ schools in North London.
Despite the area’s exclusive reputation, there are a variety of property styles. They cater to a diverse market. Whether you are looking for a family home for your children to grow up in or a one bedroom flat, this is one of areas of London that is a prime hotspot. Average rental price for a two bedroom property is around £550 per week. Prices as of April 2022.
Transport links: Tube – Highgate is on the Northern Line – the travel time to Euston Station is just 24 minutes. Euston offers transport access to many different areas of London and England. Buses – Several local bus routes are available too. Road – Highgate is on the major A1 road, which connects with Islington in the south and the M1 motorway in the North.
A country lifestyle within 25 minutes of the City Centre: what more could expat families want?
This article has been refreshed and updated in April 2022 for accuracy purposes.