Though it’s only four miles from Charing Cross with direct trains from Blackfriars, Farringdon, St Pancras and Victoria, Herne Hill is a pocket of south London with a real village-like vibe. Stroll out of the station and you’ll find Railton Road, a cluster of shops and cafés that’s well kept and full of character. And right behind it lies Dulwich Road, a busy but lovely thoroughfare that runs alongside Brockwell Park and up to scuzzier, buzzier Brixton.
To be honest, Brockwell Park on its own is reason enough to visit the area. Each summer its 84 acres play host to some cool music festivals and the enormous (and awesome) Lambeth Country Show, but all year round you can explore its walled garden, multiple duck ponds, community greenhouses, bowling green, sports courts and friendly café. It even has its own miniature railway and one of the city’s best lidos, which just celebrated 80 years serving south London swimmers.
But step out of the park and you’ll find that Dulwich Road itself is well worth a nose around – especially the Herne Hill end, with its parade of varied shops. Where else could you find a double bass repairers’ just a few doors down from a Caribbean seafood restaurant? Like the best south London streets, it’s diverse, surprising and very welcoming.
Fried fish and bammy (a cassava flatbread) at Little Ochi, an authentic Jamaican restaurant that fills up quickly.
A fresh-baked pastry or cake at Blackbird Bakery, the Herne Hill branch of a popular south London chain. Sit outside on Railton Road.
A slap-up lunch at Llewelyn’s, a light and airy bistro on Railton Road serving seasonal British food.
A crisp and refreshing pint at The Florence, a noble old pub with its own beer brewed on site. The garden at the back has its own bar.
A G&T at The Prince Regent, another grand old boozer which’ll make anyone feel welcome.
A French martini or hibiscus fizz cocktail at Milkwood Kitchen & Bar on Railton Road. Get both for the price of one during happy hour.
Take a ride on the Brockwell Park Miniature Railway, which runs through the park most Sundays between March and October.
Catch an up-and-coming band or DJ at Off the Cuff, a characterful bar and party space nestled in a railway arch on Railton Road.
Take a dip in the (unheated) Brockwell Lido – and if you’re feeling hungry afterwards, grab some eggs and avocado at The Lido Café overlooking the pool.
Something random for your flat at Society for the Protection of Unwanted Objects, a treasure trove of reclaimed furniture, kitsch bric-à-brac and vintage advertising paraphernalia. It’s only open from Wednesday to Sunday, so plan your trawl in advance.
A rack of lamb or some short ribs at Jones, the Butcher, a brilliant local shop that’s been here for 55 years.
A new frock or top at Lowie, a friendly women’s clothes boutique specialising in ethical fashions. Fearne Cotton and Lily Cole have worn designs from this place.
Something new to read from Herne Hill Books, a superb independent bookshop on Railton Road.
If you only do one thing…
Explore Brockwell Park and find the bust of Thomas Bristowe. As local MP he campaigned to make the park public but never got to enjoy it: he died of a heart attack at the grand opening in 1892.