This post is part of our ultimate guide to moving to London as a graduate. Finally nab the London job of your dreams? Now you’ve got to figure out where to live in London as a graduate.
No matter what all the TV shows tell you, London isn’t just made up of the Big Ben and the London Eye. The city is divided into five major areas: North, South, East, West and Central London. Beyond that, there are 33 different districts (called boroughs) in London, each with its own unique character.
When you start your search, you’ll likely get loads of conflicting advice as to which is the best area to live in. It’s important to bear in mind that Londoners are usually very protective of their area/borough. A South Londoner will inevitably say living there is better than living up North, for example.
No matter how much you’ve been dying to live in Camden or Peckham, we’d suggest you try finding something fairly easy to get to from your place of work. Extrapolating from your office will give you a better idea as to what your commute will be like from day to day. The best kinds of commute involve the least amount of changes possible. (You’ll thank us later.)
Variables to consider
How close your chosen property will be to an Underground station/Rail station or bus stop
Take it from me – I lived in a house that was only accessible by a 20 minute walk from the nearest bus or Tube station and it was hell during rainy days. Ideally, you should have multiple public transport options surrounding your chosen property, whether it be bus, tram, Tube, Overground or Santander cycles. After all part of moving to London is feeling like you’re connected to the city, but if you can’t get to Central London in less than 40 minutes, do you really live in London?
Proximity to nearby facilities such as supermarkets, gyms, restaurants and pubs
As a graduate, you’ll likely be living a pretty active social and work life. The more convenience in your area, the better. Look out for off-licences, 24-hour supermarkets, public parks and other landmarks to understand what your life in the area might be like. You’d be surprised at how much your surrounding area affects your ability to treat your new house like a home. I mean, what’s a new place to live without figuring where your nearest local pub is for a post-work pint?
Safety and reputation of the area
This is slightly more difficult to gauge through a Google search. This is probably something you should ask any fellow friends who’ve moved to London before. However, there are plenty of areas previously considered to be unsafe that are currently up and coming. It’s best to keep a good balance between being vigilant and having an open mind.
To make things even more complicated, London is divvied up into areas called Zones. Diving into the economic divisions between Zones will keep us here in this section forever, so briefly: Zone 1 is the most central zone but will generally have the highest rent prices, and as you go further down the list you’ll have lower rent prices but you’ll likely have a longer commute.
There’s one catch though. The further out you live (let’s say Zones 4 onwards), not only will your commute be longer, but it’ll likely be more expensive. We’ll tackle this further in the Budgeting section below.
(Top tip: the travel price differences only apply to Tube/Rail services. Zones have been abolished on London buses since 2004! This, plus the introduction of the new Hopper ticket which allows you two bus rides for £1.50 might save you a ton on your commute.)
Phew, we made it! Now that we’ve covered the bigger picture, let’s dive into some great areas you could consider that are up-and-coming and affordable. Don’t say we don’t take care of you now, y’hear.
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East London is usually known for being the ‘hipster’ end of London. Expect plenty of rooftop bars, cyclists, and men with immaculately groomed beards. However, areas of East London are less bohemian (code for affordable) than you think – the more central bits of East London have significantly shot up in price due to their proximity to tech companies like Google.
Our suggested areas below still have them East London ~vibes~ you’re looking for, but are a darn sight more affordable.
What you’ll usually think when you think ‘East London’: Shoreditch or Bethnal Green
Why not try: Haggerston, Dalston or Stoke Newington
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[📸: @lazytravelers] Sometimes people ask for the exact street names of where beautiful pics like Ashley of @lazytravelers’s were taken. I’ll give you the area but honestly, if you go straight to the photo spot, you’re doing yourself an injustice! Give yourself time to wander and explore while you try to find it, because some of your most memorable parts of your trip will happen during those times. And use #loveandlondon on your photo when you do eventually find the spot so I can see your shot.
West London isn’t just for the poshest of the posh. There are still some fantastic, scenic places to live accessible through the Central or District line, after all. West London is a little bit quieter, so if you’re looking for a little more tranquility and green space, this area will probably suit you best.
What you’ll usually think when you think ‘West London’: Notting Hill, Kensington and Chelsea
Why not try: Shepherd’s Bush, Richmond or Ealing
You’d probably still be able to get that tattoo your mother always warned you not to, but North London isn’t as hippity-hoppity as it used to be. The once notorious Camden has been gentrified to its limit, to the chagrin of rockers and punks alike. However, North London still boasts incredible music venue the Roundhouse, some truly stunning parks, and arguably, the best flat white coffees in the city.
What you’ll usually think when you think ‘North London’: Camden, Hampstead, and Belsize Park
Why not try: Kentish Town, Willesden Green or Finsbury Park
Folks, we have an important public service announcement to make.
Dear young professional. Not all roads lead to Clapham. Once the hub of young professionals, Clapham, Balham and to a certain extent, nearby Tooting are now more geared towards young families. Yup, that means houses are way more expensive.
South west London is becoming more and more pricey as time goes by. However, underrated areas lie in the east. Greenwich, the Isle of Dogs and Peckham have affordable housing and are likely to be more bang for your buck.
What you’ll usually think when you think ‘South London’: Clapham, Balham or Brixton
Why not try: Greenwich, New Cross or Peckham
What you’ll usually think when you think ‘Central London’: That it’s crazy expensive and you probably won’t be able to afford living there. Unfortunately, this is probably the case! Finding a double bedroom under £700 a month before bills is nigh on impossible. Zone 1 is probably a no-go zone if you’re a fresh face to London. Don’t despair though: it’s normal for young professionals to start off in Zones 2-4 and move closer into the center as their career progresses.
We hope that your house search is smooth, safe, and drama-less.