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Travel Guides / UK

A guide to London's coolest neighbourhoods

It can be hard to know where to begin in a city of 9 million. Right here is a good start...

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North, South, East, West... but where is best? Here’s my rundown of some of coolest neighbourhoods to visit while you’re in Blighty.

Yes, London can be eye-wateringly expensive, the weather can be a fashionable shade of Farrow & Ball grey, and it can often feel like you’re on a treadmill. But where else can you find this level of history, creativity and culture? From world-class museums and epic summer festivals to eclectic street markets and a whopping 3,500 pubs (Google it) – it’s one heck of a place to live and work.

Cool neighbourhoods in Central London

Arguably the starting point for anyone arriving in London Town, Central isn’t all tourist traps and fighting with the crowds. From hidden speakeasies and world-class restaurants (which won’t all break the bank) to visiting the UK’s first LGBTQ+-dedicated museum, there’s plenty to see and do here. So, without further ado…

Soho

Pretty much the beating heart of the capital, Soho has been a hub of entertainment and nightlife since the mid-19th century when the aristocracy moved out and the theatres, cinemas, and creative types moved in. London’s LGBTQ+ epicentre, this is the place where you can really be you – in whatever shape or form that looks like. The bougie shops of Covent Garden are just a stone’s throw away, and you’ve also got Chinatown and its tasty eateries right on your doorstep.

Weekend plans I If the weather’s playing ball, grab a coffee from Algerian Coffee Stores on Old Compton Street (where cappuccinos are just two quid) and make your way to the benches Soho Square – the best place for people watching in town. Then for lunch, amble your way through Chinatown and see which of the many spots here entice you in for some grub. Post-food coma, see what exhibitions are on at The Photographers’ Gallery, then if you’ve still got energy left in the tank, bar hop your way through the area. It’s the weekend after all…

King’s Cross St. Pancras

Home of the Eurostar, King’s Cross St. Pancras is for many the starting or ending point of a visit to the capital. And while it used to be a fairly grubby part of town, the complete revitalisation of nearby Coal Drops Yard has seen it firmly cement itself as one of London’s coolest neighbourhoods. Whether you’re looking for a classy cocktail and meal from atop The Standard or just fancy a bag of cans by the canal with some mates, dates, or new-found friends, then King’s Cross has got you covered.

Weekend plans I Explore Queer Britain, the UK’s first museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history, then browse the bookshelves at Word on the Water – the capital’s only floating bookshop. If the sun’s shining, then pull up a pew at the Granary Steps – which doubles as an open-air cinema during the summer months – then indulge in some of the best Malaysian food you’ll find outside of actual Malaysia at Roti King. Set right opposite Euston Station, it’s also a BYOB joint – so well worth the queue around the block whether you're on a budget or not.

Cool neighbourhoods in North London

Ah, North London. A firm favourite of film stars and other A-list celebs, this neck of the woods has everything from the Hampstead Heath ponds and panoramic views from Primrose Hill to the mighty gigs at Ally Pally and the vast array of tasty eateries in Newington Green. And that’s really only just scratching the surface…

Angel and Islington

Just up the road from King’s Cross lies the fashionable neighbourhood of Angel, which takes its name from The Angel – a historic landmark located at the confluence of Pentonville Road and Islington High Street. But there’s way more to this neck of the woods than just this one landmark. Some of the best boozers and restaurants in town can be found here, and there’s also a fantastic cinema in the shape of Screen on the Green. And that’s not even mentioning the Union Chapel – a spectacular building near Highbury which plays host to gigs and occasional orchestral concerts. Pretty spellbinding stuff.

Weekend plans I Angel is pretty much made for leisurely weekends. Kick off with a wander down Camden Passage to see if you can score any antiques, vintage clothes or second-hand books at their weekend market, then make your way to The Pistachio or Pickle Dairy to see which artisan cheese and sourdough bread takes your fancy. Then, take a leisurely wander down the scenic Regent’s Canal before heading to one of the area’s many gastropubs for a bite to eat. If it’s a Sunday, then the Pig and Butcher or The Draper’s Arms are both solid choices.

Walthamstow

E17 has really amped up the cool factor in recent years. The hometown of Lethal Bizzle and Harry Kane, it’s well worth a visit and is home to breweries, gin palaces, the highly-Instagrammable/TikTok-able God’s Own Junkyard, and even London’s largest nature reserve. Best hop on that northward-bound Victoria Line then…

Weekend plans I Walthamstow is also home to Europe’s longest outdoor market which runs on Saturdays, so it makes sense to kick off your weekend plans here. Post-shop, explore God’s Own Junkyard – a neon-lit paradise of illuminated art and salvaged film props – then take a wander around the namesake village, which is packed full of coffee shops, independent stores, eateries and even a taproom.

Harringay Green Lanes

Newcomers to London may not have heard of this gem of a neighbourhood, but if you haven’t, then you really should educate yourself. One of London’s coolest neighbourhoods, Harringay Green Lanes is nicknamed ‘Little Istanbul’ and is home to the best Turkish food in the whole capital (fight me), and you’ve also got Finsbury Park right on your doorstep. One of the capital’s most beloved green spaces, it’s a great spot for a walk on your tod or with a mate – plus they’ve got some legendary music festivals come the summer.

Weekend plans I It would be rude not to visit Finsbury Park for a weekend walk while you’re here, so I’d kick off with that and then get your caffeine fix and a slice of cake at nearby Abraço. Then, it’s all about the food. You really can’t go wrong here to be honest, but I’ve tried Selale, Gokyuzu and Diyarbakir and all three were phenomenal. Once your belly is sufficiently full, walk north to Jam in a Jar for a nightcap and live music.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Hopkins

JENZA community contributor | London

Meet Sam. A Brit who has worked as a writer and editor for various travel companies. And who loves to escape Blighty with a backpack whenever he gets the chance... and has enough cash.

"As a Londoner for nigh on 11 years now, I like to think I know my city pretty well. I’d argue that it’s one of the best places to live and work”.

Cool neighbourhoods in East London

The uber-cool region of London Town has become the go-to area for hipsters and their fixie bikes (AKA Real Housewives of Clapton) to reside. You can see why – Broadway Market is the place to go for artisan breads and coffees, nearby Columbia Road for flowers and all manner of plants, and London Fields for summer barbecues and wine-fuelled dates.

Shoreditch

Sure, it may be filled with bankers and city boys on Wednesday and Thursday nights, but Shoreditch still has plenty of charm. Graffiti-lined streets and underground speakeasies go hand-in-hand with vinyl record stores and vintage shops which are full to the rafters with wavey garms. Don’t miss out on visiting nearby Brick Lane either – which has excellent Indian and Bengali restaurants, the Truman Brewery and even 24/7 bagels!

Weekend plans I All weekends are best kicked off with a cup of joe, and while there are plenty of options here, I’d argue that Origin Coffee on Charlotte Street is top of the pack. From there, take a stroll down Brick Lane for bagels, vintage clothes and Rough Trade – a record store which often has gigs on at the weekends too. Continue with a pint or two at the Owl and Pussycat on Redchurch Street before tucking into some salivate-inducing Thai food at the Smoking Goat. You can thank me later.

Hackney Wick

All of Hackney is cool, but in recent years I’d argue that Hackney Wick has really become the coolest kid on the block. It’s street art-lined streets are packed with craft breweries, bars, nightclubs and artists’ studios, and the area was even voted the ‘coolest neighbourhood in London’ back in 2023 – not too shabby.

Weekend plans I In terms of things to do in Hackney Wick, you’re probably best coming here on the weekend anyway. It has some of the best places to throw some shapes in the whole of the capital, and there’s also plenty of places in which to line the old stomach too. Walk along the Lea River + pit-stop for a pint and a pizza at Crate + dancing until the wee hours at Colour Factory = dream Saturday.

Stoke Newington

‘Yummy Mummy-ville’ to many Londoners, ‘Stokey’ as it’s affectionately known is hella bougie – and that’s part and parcel of its whole schtick. You’ve got everything here from gelato shops and vegan eateries to Irish pubs and leafy parks. Heck, they’ve even got a reservoir here – great for open-water swimming and even sailing! Well, I told you it was bougie…

Weekend plans I There’s no other choice here other than slowly wandering your way around Clissold Park with a takeaway coffee – after all, where else can you see deer, goats, and every kind of dog under the sun before 10am? From there, head to The Good Egg or The Spence Bakery for some sustenance, before heading for a creamy pint of Guiness at The Auld Shillelagh. If you’re wanting to continue the celebrations, then Dalston is within walking distance where you’ll find some of London's hippest hotspots like Dalston Superstore, Brilliant Corners and EartH.

Cool neighbourhoods in South London

South London gives East London when it comes to cool neighbourhoods – and it doesn’t quite have the hefty price tag – yet. You’ve got an incredible array of parks down here, amazing pubs, historic cinemas, art galleries galore and edgy students – I could go on and on.

Peckham

If Hackney Wick is numero uno in the cool stakes north of the river, then Peckham is arguably numero uno south of it. This cherished pocket of South-East London is certainly popular – and for good reason. You’ll find it hard to ever be bored here – and we’re not just talking about the sensory overload that is Rye Lane. Rooftop bars with panoramic views of the city, world-class eateries and one of London’s cheapest cinemas where tickets are just £5.99. They’re all here and more.

Weekend plans I As a past resident of Peckham myself, I’d suggest that the best walk takes in both the Rye and Rye Lane, so why not kick off your day with that? From there, you could catch a flick at Peckhamplex or visit Copeland Gallery if it’s p*ssing it down – or soak up the views from either Frank’s or Forza Wine if the sun’s out. From there, make your way to Hanar – a BYOB joint tucked down an alleyway which whips up some effin’ fantastic Kurdish food.

Deptford

Now if Peckham is the cool kid of down south, then Deptford is starting to give it a run for its money. Firmly on the up, the high street was voted as one of the ‘coolest streets in the world’ by Time Out back in 2022, where there’s all manner of bars, breweries, plant shops, restaurants, pubs and even a jazz club. Plus, it’s right on the Thames and you’re close to Blackheath, Greenwich and Goldsmiths – arguably the edgiest uni in town.

Weekend plans I As a former resident of Deptford, I’d suggest perusing the high street on a Saturday when its market – dubbed the ‘Oxford Street of South London’ – is in full swing. From there, I’d try and find a cheese plant/fern/insert here at the plant shop called, um, PLANT, before soaking up the views of Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers from the Thames Path. Then, back to the Dog and Bell for a pint and some grub accompanied by some live music.

Brixton

You’d most likely have to have been living under a rock if you’ve never heard of Brixton. This South London institution is full to the brim with culture and is one of the capital’s most lively areas, buzzing with bars, eateries, cafes, breweries and much more besides. It’s also home to one of the capital’s most famous gig venues and has a lovely park with an outdoor lido on its doorstep too. Phew!

Weekend plans I Brixton is one of those places that can offer both wholesome and not-so-wholesome in equal measure. If you’re going for the wholesome option, then lengths of the lido, a leisurely walk around Brockwell Park and a flick at the Ritzy (open since before WW1) are all a given. Not-so-wholesome? Multiple beers in the Duke of Edinburgh’s massive beer garden, a night out at Phonox or Electric then a Maccies, kebab or some fried chicken. The choice is yours!

Cool neighbourhoods in West London

West London has some of the most fashionable neighbourhoods in the whole of London, and it’s easy to see why. Notting Hill and Kensington & Cheslea are known the world over for their fantastic restaurants and high-end stores, while Chiswick, Acton and Kew feel like they’re not even in London given their villagey-esque vibes. Plus, let’s not forget Shepherd’s Bush (also known as Shey-Boo) which has some top pubs.

Notting Hill

Another one of the most fashionable neighbourhoods in London here, Notting Hill is synonymous with Portobello Road Market, postcard-worthy mews houses, and a certain floppy-haired Englishman named Hugh Grant. It’s also got some lovely little cafes, bookshops and a flower-adorned boozer called The Churchill Arms. Add in a cinema with actual beds in it and you can see why it’s one of London’s coolest neighbourhoods.

Weekend plans I Notting Hill is classy AF. Portobello Road Market is a treasure trove of antiques and other bits and bobs, so see if you can score any one-of-a-kind items for that flat off Spare Room you’re shelling out over a grand for? All that shopping will no doubt work up and appetite, so make sure you reward yourself with a trip to Acklam Village Market which has cuisines from all over the globe. Then, settle in with a film and a glass of vino – on an actual bed – at the Electric Cinema.

Chiswick

Speaking of Classy, Chiswick raises Notting Hill and then some. Tucked away in the far western reaches of the city, W4 is all about leafy streets, high-end restaurants and wine bars and a village-like atmosphere. The 18th century Chiswick House is absolutely magnificent and is surrounded by 65 acres of landscaped gardens, plus you’ve got the UNESCO-listed Kew Gardens, the WWT Wetland Centre and the Thames within walking distance.

Weekend plans I Given that Chiswick right by the Thames, it makes sense that you make the most of the location. Kick off your Sunday morning with a brunch at either Angie’s or Urban Pantry, then make your way to Chiswick House and its accompanying gardens. Continue by heading to the river and take a wander or a jog to The Bell & Crown – a roomy and dog-friendly 18th century gastropub with one of the best roasts in the big smoke. Go on – you deserve it!

And finally...

In a city of 9 million people and countless cool neighbourhoods, I'm sure there are a few loyal Londoners raging that their manor didn't get a mention. Notable absences are Camden, Kentish Town, Clapham, Tooting, Kennington, Borough... the list could go on. Why not find out for yourself on a UK working holiday visa or UK internship.

Polaroid photo of male blogger in the UK countryside

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Hopkins

JENZA community contributor | London

Meet Sam. A Brit who has worked as a writer and editor for various travel companies. And who loves to escape Blighty with a backpack whenever he gets the chance... and has enough cash.

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