It’s that time of year again. Granted, these balmy spring months bring about the much-needed, hopeful glimpses of sunshine and the not-so-needed, dozens of highly-Instagrammable blossom posts – but we’re not talking about that.
We’re talking about the blissful season when a group of expert judges from The Sunday Times gather to crown one unsuspecting leafy suburb with the coveted title of ‘The Best Place to Live in London’. After last year’s rather provocative winner – Teddington – our expectations weren’t that high, tbh, especially as the Sunday Times called us out for our response in 2021, slightingly referring to our readers as ‘the manbun massive’, while extolling the opening of another estate agent on Teddington High Street. How things change…
This year’s winner left the other nominees, such as the up-and-coming Hanwell and the ever-happening hood of Victoria Park, in the shade. The paper praised this ‘lofty southern suburb’ for its parks, period mansions, cool cafés, indie shops, strong schools and panoramic city views.
Any guesses? If historic Greenwich or Victorian Nunhead spring to mind, you’re mistaken. The Sunday Times’s 2022 winner is Crystal Palace, for its ‘bohemian vibe’ and ‘welcome urban edge’, despite being on the suburban rim of the capital.
While not on the forefront of most Londoner’s minds, Crystal Palace promises a thriving local community, along with a mosaic of independent businesses and outstanding schools. Its ‘village-like location’ sits on a privileged topographical position – one of the highest points in the city, at 367 feet. The views, consequently, are amazing and the streets steep (also, those scared of London flooding can sleep easily here). The hub of the community is the central triangle formed by Church Road, Westow Hill and Westow Street, all lined with pubs, restaurants and thriving shops.
According to the experts, areas are judged on a range of factors, from schools and transport to broadband and culture, green spaces and the health of the high street. This time around, The Sunday Times panel reckoned that Crystal Palace checks all the boxes, promising the perfect mix of “‘family fun’ and ‘underground culture’. Even with its vast parks and refreshing sense of rurality, trains to London Bridge only take 20 minutes, with London Victoria a 28-minute ride away. And that's not even to mention London’s answer to the Eiffel Tower, some impressive sphinxes and a collection of Victorian dinosaurs that constitute a reason to move nearby just by themselves.
There’s no doubt that Crystal Palace has much to recommend it – its vintage boutiques, designer coffee shops, quaint antiques dealers, knockout restaurants and regular oh-so-fabulous Continental food markets easily surpass last year’s unlikely winner. But perhaps it’s the suburb’s leafy, eccentric, unpretentiously-bohemian atmosphere that seals the deal. Either way, London – we’ll be heading south for this refreshing culture fix on our weekends.