Areas and suburbs in London
London is a vast, densely populated metropolis which has an accommodation option to suit every expat’s budget, lifestyle and situation. While London is no longer considered to be among the world's most expensive cities for expats, the cost of accommodation remains high in the UK's capital.
In addition to budgetary constraints, expats should think carefully about commuting time, proximity to supermarkets and what sort of property they would like to live in when choosing an area or suburb of London to live in.
One way of understanding the layout of the city is to use the underground Tube map: Zones 1 and 2 correspond to the city centre and accommodation here will be expensive and difficult to find. Zones 3 and 4 contain suburbs with semi-detached houses and tenement units. Zones 5 and 6 offer the cheapest accommodation but transport times into the city can easily exceed an hour during busy times. As a rule of thumb, each Tube stop will add three minutes to the commute.
Expats moving to London with a family will need to look at areas further away from the central business district if they want a more spacious property with a garden at an affordable rent. Prices typically become considerably cheaper (and properties much larger) the further one moves from the centre.
Chelsea, Knightsbridge and South Kensington
Chelsea, Knightsbridge and South Kensington are some of the most expensive and exclusive areas in London. These areas are particularly popular with French expats because of their proximity to the French Consulate and the French secondary school, Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, as well as the French Institute. There are also lots of wealthy Spanish, Italian, American and Middle Eastern expats living in Chelsea.
Chelsea and Knightsbridge are close to some of London’s top nightclubs, restaurants and bars. High Street Kensington is lined with designer shops. Kensington Gardens is just on the doorstep if residents find they are in need of some fresh air.
The area is served well by the Tube and bus networks and it is also possible to walk to central places in London.
Notting Hill and Holland Park
Notting Hill, famous for its massive summer carnival, is a very colourful part of West London. This bohemian area is full of young American and Canadian expats.
The properties tend to be small, so don’t expect wide lawns or gardens – but it’s not a great loss as Kensington Gardens and Holland Park are just around the corner. There are lots of quaint eateries and coffee shops as well as a wealth of second hand stores selling everything from vintage fashions to antique furniture. On Saturdays Notting Hill plays host to the famous Portobello Road flea market.
Holland Park is just to the west of Notting Hill and has large houses which are popular with international bankers and their families.
Fulham and Putney
With its low-rise Victorian houses and proximity to the Kings Road and Chelsea, Fulham is a desirable suburb popular with middle-class families as well as young professionals. The best area is around Parsons Green Tube station. Putney is just south of Fulham, over the river, and is popular with Australians, New Zealanders and South African expats. Accommodation is better value in this area and there are some great pubs.
Hammersmith, Brook Green and Shepherds Bush
Just to the west of Kensington, these areas are still very central and have good links to Tube stations and access to some excellent schools. Brook Green is popular with French expats who want a bit more space than is on offer in South Kensington. Shepherds Bush is a bit more edgy and although estate agents have been describing it as "up-and-coming" for many years, it is still not quite there.
Although it is quite far out from central London, the leafy suburb of Chiswick is a very affluent and popular suburb for expats, with excellent schools, good transport links and plenty of great pubs and restaurants.
Hampstead Heath is an affluent and leafy area of London. Expats will find this area great for families because of the large open spaces and its proximity to some of London’s best schools. In the summer, the kids will be able to make use of Hampstead Heath’s massive outdoor swimming ponds.
Property in Hampstead Heath is highly desirable and the rents reflect this. The area boasts a fantastic selection of top quality restaurants, independent and boutique fashion stores and gastropubs.
Hampstead Heath is served well by public transport links and is just a short commute from central London.
Despite being an area that has been associated with drug dealers and criminals in the past, Camden is now a highly sought after area for people looking to rent or buy property in London.
The streets of Camden are lined with old terraced houses that are full of character, as well as the newer council properties, many of which are now privately owned.
Camden is a bohemian part of London and has long been popular with students and arty types, as well as young expats. The area is overflowing with entertainment options, bars, restaurants and clubs. Camden is famous for its vibrant music scene and it's common to see long queues outside music venues, even on a week night. When it comes to shopping, there are lots of bargains to be had at Camden Market and the area is full of vintage fashion boutiques.
The area is served well by buses and the Tube with Chalk Farm, Mornington Crescent and Kentish Town Tube stations all within easy walking distance. There are also very good cycle paths that run by the canal.
Further away from the centre of London one will find areas like Wembley, where rentals are more reasonable. It is an ethnically diverse suburb of London.
Living in Wembley expats will be close to supermarkets, shops and restaurants. Wembley is on a number of public transport routes, including the Metropolitan, Jubilee and Bakerloo Tube lines, as well as some Overground services.
Shoreditch and Hoxton
Over the last decade of so Shoreditch and Hoxton have become some of the trendiest parts of London. They are popular with young professional expats due to the area’s cosmopolitan feel and the entertainment facilities on offer.
While lots of new coffee shops, restaurants and bars have popped up in the area, local authorities have been careful to maintain much of the historic charm of East London.
Formerly, this part of the city was popular with immigrants from Vietnam and Bangladesh, which is still seen today in the shops and restaurants dominating the streets. These are popular areas with the arty crowd and many of London’s new media companies have their offices based here.
Leyton and Stratford
As Leyton and Stratford are located in Zone 3 on the London Underground Map, expats will find more reasonable property prices here. However, one should expect to pay slightly more to travel into central London.
These suburbs are popular with expats from South Africa, Australia and Eastern Europe. Leyton and Stratford have seen a lot of investment and a major revamp as a result of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The area has seen a growth in the amount of accommodation on offer as well.
There are lots of supermarkets, restaurants and bars in the area and it’s now home to Westfield Stratford City, which is the biggest shopping mall in Europe. These towns are well served by London’s bus, Tube and Overground train networks.
When it comes to housing expats can find some form of accommodation to suit everyone’s needs and budget somewhere in Wimbledon. Wimbledon has everything from custom-built mansions and penthouses in Wimbledon Village to council tower blocks in South Wimbledon. Small apartments and house shares in the area are affordable.
Wimbledon is a fairly multi-cultural area, but it is particularly popular with expats from South Africa and Australia. South Wimbledon has expat populations from North Africa and Poland.
The area has some great nightlife during the weekend and lots of nice restaurants, bars and cafés. Other attractions include a multiplex cinema, two theatres, boutique shops and a couple of reasonably priced fitness centres. There are a lot of parks and green space – which become a hive of activity over the summer.
Wimbledon is served by rail services to Clapham Junction and Waterloo as well as the Northern and District lines. There are also regular bus services and two regular night buses which connect Wimbledon to central London.
Clapham is a vibrant area of South London. The residents of Clapham are quite eclectic and the suburb is well suited for young couples or single young people looking for a house share. There are also plenty of grand old houses, particularly in North Clapham, near the park.
There are entertainment centres around Clapham High Street and Clapham Junction, where most of the clubs, bars and restaurants can be found. During the summer, residents make use of the green spaces at Clapham Common, Wandsworth Common, Battersea Park and Tooting Bec Lido.
Clapham Junction is just eight minutes away from Waterloo, and with it being Britain’s busiest railway station, there are 35 trains an hour to central London. Living close to this station also gives expats the opportunity to easily visit almost anywhere in the south of England. The area also has Tube stations of the Northern and Victoria lines.
Battersea used to be a working class area, but it is now highly desirable due to its wonderful park and proximity to Chelsea, which is just over the river. There is no Tube stop, so most commuters take a bus to Sloane Square station.
Wandsworth and Tootlng
Being that bit further from the city centre and with bigger houses, Wandsworth is very popular with families and has some good schools. Tooting it better value and is also popular with Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders.