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Moving to London: Where to Live as an Expat

Home to expats from all around the world, London is a popular city for people from all walks of life to move to. In fact, I lived there myself for almost six years, so I know the allure this beautiful, vibrant city has and where the best places are to hang out. But when you’re moving to London it can be tricky to figure out where to live. 

Moving to London: Where to Live

First things first, moving to London and finding a place to live is very different from visiting.

A lot of the boroughs that you’d go and check out on a trip, you either won’t be able to afford to live in thanks to London’s astronomical rents or will be too touristy for you to want to live in. 

The boroughs on this list are local haunts that each have their own vibe, atmosphere, and things to do that set them apart from the rest.

London is a huge city and there are a lot of choices, so if you’re thinking of moving there, it can be overwhelming to pick an area. 

That’s why I’m here to be your guide to all things London. So, let’s dive in!

1. Brixton

My first pick of London boroughs to live in is, of course, my old neighborhood.

I’m a little bit biased, but I loved living in Brixton for almost six years. ​​Known for its rich immigrant history and lively Caribbean culture, Brixton is located south of the river Thames. 

One thing you do need to know about London boroughs is that they’ll automatically be described as either North or South of the river.

There’s a bit of a rivalry between the two sides and be warned, some taxi drivers north of the river won’t take you to the south and vice versa because of the sheer size of the city and the time it takes to drive anywhere.

It’s also located in Zone 2 which makes it cheaper to get into central London for work or transport links, but this is being reflected in the rising rent and house prices. 

Brixton is great because there’s a cool mix of new restaurants, cafes, and independent shops which means you don’t have to travel into central London or go to another borough to hang out.

With a lively Caribbean culture, you can expect to find a delicious blend of cuisines and flavors that will keep your mouth watering all day, every day.

Despite the culture and history of the area, there’s quite a young population in Brixton and there are a lot of people trying to start-up businesses around the borough.

This is best shown at Pop Brixton. If you love street food, this is going to become your second home in London.

Pop Brixton is a site that’s made up of a load of converted shipping containers, each with its own food stall selling specialty dishes.

There are also a few containers with bars in them, so you can really make a night of it. Sample dishes from a couple of different stalls or go with your friends and dive in family style.

All in all, it’s hard not to have a good time in Brixton.

Brixton has been going through a resurgence over the last decade with more young professionals flooding into the area bringing shops, bars, and cultural events with them.

A couple of decades ago, Brixton did have a pretty crime-heavy reputation, but this is fast becoming less of an issue.

It’s also a pretty lively and noisy area, so if you’re looking for peace and quiet in London, this probably isn’t the area for you.

Looking for a fun and social time with tons of amenities? Brixton might be your kind of borough.

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2. Camden

Next up we have the hipster hub that’s been subverting trends and attracting the coolest among us since the 1960s, Camden.

Chances are you’ve probably visited Camden Market and Camden Locks on your day trips or holidays to London to check out the cool vintage markets.

It’s a great spot to grab a bargain and let your unique personality run wild. 

Camden has long been the place to be for anyone considered “alternative”, from punks to hippies, to goths, and more.

This means there’s a really unique scene in Camden that’s always changing. If you’re into creative club nights, spoken word jams, up-and-coming bands, and acts, you’re bound to find them here.

Of course, where hipsters go, great food often follows and Camden is no different.

There’s a definite emphasis on quick, cheap eats that have a little bit of Camden twist, so if you’re looking for a fancy sit-down restaurant, you’re going to want to go elsewhere.

With so many unique amenities and institutions around Camden, it’s not exactly cheap to live in, but the majority of locals are young people looking to make their mark on the world.

It’s definitely a place where you’d house or flatshare with a group of like-minded creatives and spend a lot of your social time in one of the many pubs. 

Much like Brixton, this is a bustling, busy, and often noisy borough of London, so if you’re wanting a relaxing place to chill out, Camden is not for you.

3. Shoreditch

If you love foodie culture, vintage shops, and want a borough that even has a weekly flower market, then Shoreditch might be the borough for you.

Although it’s another borough where hipsters have well and truly taken hold, it’s a little bit more chilled out and refined than both Brixton and Camden.

So if you’re looking for a laid-back vibe with still plenty of things going on, keep reading.

At the heart of Shoreditch, you’ll find the legendary Brick Lane. It’s a hub of vintage and independent shops as well as quirky and interesting cafes and bars, including the famous Cereal Killer Cafe.

If you love Asian cuisine and Vietnamese food in particular, you’re going to adore the “Pho Mile”, which is a paradise for foodies and attracts visitors from around the world.

There are so many cool places to eat and drink around Shoreditch that there’s always somewhere new to try.

You better be quick though, there are loads of pop-ups in this area so you have to keep your eyes peeled for the newest foodie trend.

With a calmer vibe than Brixton and Camden and more gentrification going on in Shoreditch, flats and houses are in high demand.

It’s definitely not the cheapest borough to live in, but you do have everything you need on your doorstep without the noisy nature of similar areas.

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4. Lewisham

Being a nature lover and living in one of the most densely populated cities in the world might seem like a conflict of interest, but London is full of amazing parks and green spaces.

Although most of these are in the more fancy areas of the cities, if you head to the South East of the city, you’ll find the borough of Lewisham and your newly found green haven.

Lewisham has long been considered an older borough and until fairly recently it’s had a pretty bad wrap.

Nowadays, a lot of investment has been put into making this borough a success with a beautiful combination of the old and new.

As you walk down the high street you’ll see newer pop-up and concept restaurants nestled next to market stalls that have been there for decades.

To top it all off, you’ll be within spitting distance of Manor House Gardens, a tranquil 3.5-acre large area with water fountains, wildflowers, and a cafe.

It dates back to the 1900s and offers a calming respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. So much so that you’ll completely forget you’re in a super convenient Zone 2 location. 

5. Islington

If you’re looking for a cheaper option north of the river with convenient transport links to London’s universities, then you’re going to want to check out the borough of Islington.

Due to its location on the Victoria line (it’s the fastest tube line in the city), and the proximity to the different schools, Islington is super popular with students of all ages. 

It’s because of the thriving student community that there is some really cool nightlife in Islington as well as a wide range of pubs, bars, and restaurants.

Although listed as one of the more expensive boroughs to buy a house in, due to its fast links to central London, there are tons of affordable house shares in this particular borough.

If you’re looking for great transport links, a good amount of bars and restaurants, and want to be close to the universities, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a better borough. 

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Top Tips for Living in London

Moving to London can be a big life decision and there are definitely some key bits of information that you’re going to want to remember for when you arrive.

Tube Etiquette is a Real Thing

Brits take their public transport very seriously and Londoners take this to the next level. Nothing separates the locals from the tourists quicker than trying to go through the barriers at a tube station. 

Locals will have their contactless card, Apple pay, or Oyster card at the ready to speed through the barriers without inconveniencing anyone around them.

Tourists won’t have their ticket or card ready and will instead be fumbling about at the barrier causing a queue of disgruntled locals behind them.

Another thing to remember is that on tube escalators, you always stand to the right and walk on the left.

London is full of busy people who have places to be, so if you and your friends stand across the escalator, you’ll annoy a lot of locals.

London Isn’t the Whole of the UK

London is great, but the UK is a beautiful set of nations with each city and region having its own distinct vibe and personality.

As the capital, there are great rail, road, train, and flight links between other cities and towns in the UK, so make sure you get out and visit all that this amazing country has to offer. 

From the beautiful beaches of Cornwall to the awesome mountain regions of North Wales to the stunning lakes of Scotland, once you move to London, you’ll have a great base for some unforgettable adventures. 

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