There would be nothing weird about anyone singing ‘99 bottles of beer on the wall’ in Bermondsey. This formerly unloved district has become the talk of the town by virtue of a stretch of impressive craft beer havens (known affectionately as the Bermondsey Beer Mile).
The Woolpack and The Hide Bar are definitely ones for the bucket list, and gin lovers should form an orderly queue for the dozens of brands on offer at 214 Bermondsey. At the weekend, sober up with street food at Instagram fave Maltby Street Market.
Our food editors rate Deptford as a great place to eat right now, with joints such as The Full Nelson, Winemakers Deptford and Frankie Goes to Bollywood grabbing their attention. The area has a strong south London identity, too, with community projects such as volunteer-run garden Old Tidemill flourishing. Its proximity to Goldsmiths keeps things studenty. In fact, we’ve got a former student to thank for the neighbourhood’s ultra-kitsch Little Nan’s Bar, a celebration of all things Charles ’n’ Di.
If you’re looking for a quiet afternoon somewhere quirky, Crystal Palace is the hood for you. Not only does it have that huge park with weird dinosaur sculptures and a TV transmitter locals call ‘La Tour de Crystal Palace’, the area is awash with vintage shops. Crystal Palace Triangle – made up of Church Road, Westow Hill and Westow Street – is where you’ll find them, along with shabby-chic restaurants Joanna’s and The Exhibition Rooms. Still not convinced? Just stand with the sphinxes at the top of the park – one of the highest points in London – and admire the view.
The hills are well and truly alive in Hampstead, but this achingly posh northern quarter isn’t just about greenery for yummy mummy picnics (and Justin Bieber’s party pad for a bit). It’s got great pubs – and loads of them. There are the traditional eighteenth-century sort (The Holly Bush and The Stag), gastropubs (The Spaniards Inn and The Garden Gate) or award-winning spot The Wells. Of course, you need all the Dutch courage you can get before a dip in the Ponds. An old favourite, it’s unlikely Hampstead’s going to budge from this list in years to come.
Balham might have played second fiddle to nearby Clapham back in the day, but it’s officially come into its own recently as a foodie hotspot thanks to a swell of stellar bars, pubs and restaurants. Either Brickwood or Milk will sort you out for brunch (but you’re going to have to be prepared to queue at the weekend); Lamberts is great for special occasions, and if you’re drinking you should get to The Bedford, The Exhibit or Balham Bowls Club, a pub in an old bowling joint. Look at those lucky Balhamites: spoilt for choice!
Clapton has a bit of a New York-cool thing happening. Get off the train at the Overground station and you’ll find – within metres of each other – three warehouse spaces transformed into a brewery, a retro dining hall and a hip gym with a bone-broth bar. Always-busy dumpling joint My Neighbours the Dumplings feels ripped straight from Manhattan, sourdough pizza spot Sodo is the bomb. Plus, let’s not forget Chatsworth Road’s glorious Sunday food market and its super-posh branch of Spar.
Everything about Camden feels like a slap in the face: the weird and wonderful aromas of Kerb’s new street-food outpost and The Cheese Bar; the music blaring as soon as you get out of the tube. But let’s be honest: we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s always had a cracking live music scene, and venues such as The Jazz Cafe keep the flame alive in Amy Winehouse’s old manor.
If you don’t mind bumping into the tourists, and the fully-fledged punks, weekends at its many bustling markets are second to none. (You can always escape to the quieter pubs of Belsize Park and Kentish Town afterwards.)
If you’re looking for a rooftop to hang out on and hip art students dressed like they’re on a night out in Crewe in 1999, Peckham is your paradise. Frank’s Café serves up Campari as the sun sets, while the Bussey Building is home to one of London’s best clubs and a sky-high cinema. There’s even more to do in Peckham at street level: the Peckhamplex cinema screens films for £4.99, Taco Queen does cocktails for a fiver and residential streets are dotted with great restaurants and pubs, such as The Montpelier.
Forget everything you saw in that movie. Sure, this swanky-yet-bohemian ward has the pastel-coloured houses and Portobello Road Market, which overflows with antiques and tasty food. But there’s so much more to it. It’s the home of the Notting Hill Carnival – London’s best party, no question – as well as the Electric, one of England’s first purpose-built cinemas, as well as brutalist icon the Trellick Tower. There are few things that happen around these parts that aren’t delivered with consummate style, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. But what do you expect? It’s west London, darling!
Picture Islington and you think of neat townhouses and toff-ish accents. There’s a lot of that here, but also heaps of things to do. Chapel Market and Camden Passage heave with indie traders, and just up the road there’s Get Stuffed – a taxidermy shop with a giraffe in the window. Then there’s the Little Angel Theatre and Sadler’s Wells for your culture fix. Union Chapel puts on free music every Saturday too. Want to put on your own show? You can do karaoke upstairs at The Old Queen’s Head. It’s no surprise our City Index showed that Islington is the happiest place in London.
Never mind the fact that, in Stokey, you can get everything from premium-priced tree branches to coffee in a cone: you voted this charming village in north London your favourite place to shop. Hub – the chic fashion boutique where you can deck yourself out like a hip Newington mum (Breton stripes and navy basics) – is one of our favourites. There are gourmet grocers, secondhand bookshops, trendy furniture outlets, great pubs, a pizza place serving up Naples’s finest and, yes, a shop selling those £18 twigs, but that’s a one-off, okay?
Brixton has long been south London’s bedrock for all things cultural – and it’s sure to hold that top spot for years to come. Over the years its been home to David Bowie and Linton Kwesi Johnson. It’s got something for everyone: hot tables in Brixton Village for foodies, dancefloors on Coldharbour Lane for clubbers and venues that have become institutions, such as Brixton Academy and the Ritzy Cinema. The area still has a community vibe. Even new bougie street food market Pop Brixton has a community fridge where locals can share unwanted food. For a bit of the old-school, though, you can’t go wrong breezing through the market to shop like a local.
The Kray twins might have made this rough diamond their HQ back in the day but the only thing Bethnal Green is notorious for these days is a badass selection of bars. Experimental cocktail joints including Satan’s Whiskers, Peg+Patriot and London Cocktail Club have opened recently – and there will be even more hangovers to come when the French-inspired Coupette opens next month. So cheers BG: we’ll toast you with an aperol spritz on Paradise Row.
If you’ve ever had foggy memories of a night on the town, chances are you spent it in Dalston, hanging with drag queens at VFD, or getting sweaty at Visions Video Bar. You rated this hedonistic playground for its after-hours escapades and it was our editors’ pick for eating out, but it’s more than that. Locals told us that they love Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, the chaotic Ridley Road Market and Arthur’s Café, which has been going strong for 82 years.
This ever-changing urban patch in the east doesn’t need much introduction – but if we had to sum it up, it’d be ‘simply the best’. Hackney Central ranked the best neighbourhood in London in our City Index last year. Of course it did: it’s a proper town centre sandwiched between the green expanses of Victoria Park, London Fields and Hackney Downs. It might have previously been outshone by flashy Dalston and Shoreditch, but over the past 12 months it’s sashayed into the limelight. Lady Gaga did a secret gig at Moth Club last September, there were queues around the block for vegan ‘fried chicken’ from Temple of Seitan when it opened in February, and tropical Mare Street caff Palm Vaults is probably the most Instagrammed place on the planet right now. In London in 2017, Hackney Central is the place to be.