One of the most frequent questions I get, from either friends or from strangers that reached me via some tortuous string of connections, is “where can I stay in London“?
Living here I don’t have a great experience in hostels, with the exception of those I worked at, but I can surely give some suggestion on the best areas, both for a short stay or for looking for a flat.
I can’t help feeling sorry for those friends that end up booking a room in the “hotel area”, which runs roughly from Victoria Station to Paddington west of the city centre. There’s a high concentration of hotels, from luxury five stars to the cheapest B&Bs, but for this reason this whole area doesn’t have a character, a community. If an authentic experience is what you’re looking for you should check these areas out.
Kentish Town and Tufnell Park
Ideal for: Nights out in Camden, walks in Hampstead Heath, Highgate.
Well, I’m quite fond of this area as this is where I spent my first three years in London. Quite a residential borough but also pretty lively: recently cafes and shops opened on Fortess road, bringing a new breath of life, plus there are some pubs on Kentish Town road, a good warm up before a night in Camden.
The beautiful Hampstead Heath is at walking distance, with some fine ale pubs on the way, and it’s ideal for a climb up to Parliament Hill to enjoy a complete view of London from above.
Read more: why Kentish Town is my favourite
Harringay Green Lanes and Crouch End
Ideal for: Turkish BBQ, being way out of the beaten path
A bit further away from the city centre, close to no tourists venture all the way here. So you can enjoy a full immersion in the local life. Green Lanes is like being teleported in an exotic faraway place: noisy traffic, colourful shops exposing fruit and vegetables, the smell of BBQed lamb meat tingling your nose, ladies preparing gözleme and lahmacun at the window of Turkish restaurants.
Climb up the hill, and in 10 minutes you’ll find yourself in a quiet village: Crouch End, sleepy roads winding up and down between Victorian houses, and a lovely area busy with organic shops and pubs where to spend hours soaking the sun in the beer garden, or warming up at the fire place. My favourite one? The Queens, in a beautiful listed building on Broadway Parade. From there is a short way back to Finsbury Park, and to the pizzeria Pappagone.
Dalston and Hackney
Ideal for: Having new age fun with vintage feel
Few years ago these were no-go areas, with a bad reputation of street crime, now these are the two ambitious gems in the East London geography. Just outside the borders of the messy Shoreditch, here is the alternative avant-garde: independent cinemas and theatres, jazz clubs, Turkish restaurants, rooftop bars and arty cafes brought in few years Dalston under the limelight and made it one of the most exciting areas to visit in London.
What I love most of Hackney is the parks: London Fields, which on a sunny day becomes a sort of hipster carnival, and Victoria park, perfect for a bike ride along the canals, and a break at the Crate brewery.
Ideal for: A bohemien feel, fine cuisine and pubs.
The hipster madness invading the whole east of London reached Stoke Newington mitigated by its distance from the city centre. Here you’ll mainly find young professionals, and an increasing number of baby buggies, mainly gravitating around the pulsating heart of the area: Stoke Newington Church Street. This street, running along one side of Clissold Park (look for the controversial and anachronistic mini-zoo), is peppered with bars and restaurants where to have a brunch or an informal dinner.
On Stoke Newington High Street, not far from Church Street, you can find two of my favourite pubs: the White Hart, where I dare you to find a spot in their garden on a sunny afternoon, and the Jolly Butcher, offering a rich selection of English and international beers.