Are you in love with London but starting to get bored with Shoreditch and Covent Garden? There are so many more neighborhoods to visit in South London – you just need to discover them!
While I’m nowhere near considering myself a Londoner, I definitely have strong opinions on the city I’ve called home for almost four years now – the strongest of which has to do with a very aggressive geographic rivalry between North and South. As you’ll quickly see, I am all about South London – and I think after exploring these neighborhoods to visit in South London, you will be too!
I’ll say it again: South London beats North hands down.
I should note that I absolutely love an (innocuous) geographic rivalry. Previous important rivalries in my life have included: Northern California vs. Southern California (Northern. Obviously.) and New York vs. Boston (New York. I’m not an idiot.)…
Lucky for me there was a rivalry waiting for me here in London – North vs. South. I want it to be known that I spent a good and full year considering this question. I even lived in North London for over a year!! That’s just how strong the pull of these neighborhoods to visit in South London was, though, because I can definitively say now that South London reigns supreme.
There is sadly a strong North London bias in most guides like this, as well as among many Londoners… sad for them! There are definitely things worth doing in many parts of North London (here’s looking at you Columbia Road Flower Market), but as a whole… meh. So if you’re hoping to find another blog extolling the virtues of Camden and Covent Garden, I’m sorry to disappoint. (But I’ve hyperlinked you to some cute blogs that do – because I love you!!).
In my opinion, the best neighborhoods to visit in London are not the ones you’ll find on every other list. Also, they’re primarily south of the Thames. If you’re still into that then let’s dive in!
Your Ticket to Exploring South London
If you’re planning a London trip in your near future, you’re probably starting to think about various logistics like what you’re going to do to avoid foreign transaction fees on your credit card and how your phone will work.
On the subject of money, let me tell you that the days of ordering cash in a foreign currency before you leave are, needing to apply for a travel credit card, or even paying huge extra fees from multiple banks every time you want to take out local cash are GONE.
The best way to eat and shop your way right through my favorite neighborhoods to visit in South London is with the Wise multi-currency account debit card!
Wise offers a free “multi-currency account”, which is basically an account where you can securely load your own currency, but then you can pay in local currency (with Transferwise’s extremely low exchange fees) as if you had a “local” card. It automatically converts your home currency to the local one at the current exchange rate as you’re making a transaction!
There are three main reasons I think this card is your #1 must have for traveling:
- You are gonna save so much money. At the end of the day, it’s never going to be completely free to change currencies. But after living abroad for four years now, I can speak from experience that no other service has ever exchanged my money for cheaper than Wise has. There is literally no better way to spend in a foreign currency.
- This card is no thoughts, just vibes. Gone are the days of stressing about whether your bank will lock your card, limit your withdrawals, or otherwise add stress to your trip. This card is made for travel.
- It’s extremely secure. Your money is held with big-name financial institutions and everything is two-factor authenticated. Wise boasts that their customers move over $8 billion every month, so they know what they’re doing.
If you’re planning to visit London any time soon, you (and your bank account) will thank yourself for getting a Wise debit card. And now, let’s check out the neighborhoods to visit in South London where you’re gonna spend those £££!
Learn more about how Wise can save you money:
Neighborhoods to Visit in South London
Now, I may be biased because I’ve lived in this area, but I think Balham has a lot to offer. Located just below Clapham on the Balham stop of the Northern line, Balham is definitely a shift in energy from its northern neighbor. This is one of the best neighborhoods to visit in South London if you’re looking get a local feel and find places that feel more authentic to daily life here. That being said, it’s pretty small, and I would absolutely recommend you take Balham in conjunction with Tooting or Clapham if you’re just coming down for the day.
You’ll love Balham if you love cute houses, smaller but still lively neighborhoods, and amazing food – brunch at Milk or dinner at Gurkha’s are both worth the trip on their own. You can also spend hours on end in either Wandsworth Common or Tooting Bec Common, the two beautiful parks that Balham sits between.
(Pro tip: Tooting Bec Common is home to the UK’s largest open air lido – which is a public swimming pool for all you North Americans!)
Even just coming up through the Balham tube station can be classified as a tourist attraction, as it was the site of a tremendous bombing during the blitz in WWII. You can find a memorial placed in the station today!
Oh Brixton, how I love you. Brixton was the first neighborhood that made me like London. There’s just an electricity in the air in Brixton that makes you want to stay and soak it all in. If you’re looking for neighborhoods to visit in South London, this one should be top of your list.
I was fairly set on moving to Brixton for some time, but honestly, it felt wrong. Located just east of Clapham and accessible via the Victoria line, Brixton has been steadily gentrifying for several years. This has pushed out many of the Black and Minority owned businesses & residents that once defined the area.
That’s why whenever I talk about Brixton (or go there myself) I make sure to urge everyone to actively support Black owned businesses while in the area, and take care to learn more about the history of the neighborhood. In fact, if you visit the area on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday you can visit the Black Cultural Archives and do just that.
Brixton is a totally great area with a lot of things to do, places to go out, and amazing food and drinks, and that’s in large part due to the Black and Brown residents that are now feeling the brunt of its popularity. Thus, as a proponent of slow travel, I think it’s our responsibility as travelers to know about the places we visit, and act accordingly.
The main event is obviously Brixton Village Market, where you’ll find endless stalls to eat, drink and shop at. Although, you can also get a delicious brunch at Bla_k, just down the road on Acre Lane. It’s a vegan restaurant that I didn’t know was vegan until after my meal – so take that as you will!
From there, explore Pop Brixton, poke around secondhand bookshop BookMongers, or even wander down towards Streatham (another of my favorite neighborhoods to visit in South London – but that’s for another post)!
If Clapham is a freshman welcome week in neighborhood form, and Balham is a hot young mom with a perfect family, then Tooting is the overly cool middle sibling that doesn’t have time for any of our shit. Located just south of Balham and accessible via the Northern Line, Tooting is most well known for Tooting Market and Broadway Market, and its vibrant South Asian community.
Tooting has undergone similar gentrification to Brixton – although to my knowledge not as severely – due to the raging success and popularity of many South Asian restaurants in the area, especially the “curry mile” it’s famous for. Still, as I said, it’s important to mention it.
My top food picks for the area would be Meza, Lahore Karahi, Tiaan’s Pan-Asian Street Food, and Bordelaise.
Tooting also has a selection of exceptionally well-priced and well-stocked charity shops; check out Octavia Foundation, British Heart Foundation, Age UK, Paws, and Wandsworth Oasis!
You’ll think Tooting is one of BEST neighborhoods to visit in South London if you’re looking to really see London the way the locals do, and if you love food. Which hopefully is most of you!
Best know for the Royal Observatory, which houses the clock that keeps official Greenwich Mean Time, Greenwich is off the beaten path for most tourists – but it’s still one of my favorite neighborhoods to visit in South London for a relaxing, slowly paced day out.
Located south of the river and quite east as well, Greenwich feels like an escape from the city – despite being just south of Canary Wharf. Depending on where you’re staying, the best way to get to Greenwich will vary, but if you take the DLR you might get lucky and be able to sit at the front of the driverless front carriage.
You’ll love Greenwich if you want to get away from the madness of the city, and see a totally different side of London. In addition to the Observatory, Greenwich Park has some beautiful views, and you can even stand on the Prime Meridian! There is a lot to do to fill your day while you’re there, including shopping at Greenwich Market, visiting Cutty Sark, and indulging in my favorite cream tea in London at Royal Teas.
Camberwell is a very overlooked neighborhood by both tourists and Londoners alike. This is mostly due to its placement – it’s not near any tube stations. This has never bothered me, as I tend to prefer taking the bus in London anyway. You’ll get to know the best neighborhoods to visit in South London so much better on the bus!
One of the absolute most important places to visit in Camberwell is Silk Road. Silk Road is a Sichuan restaurant that you would likely overlook if it weren’t for the occasional line out the door. The food is dirt cheap by London’s standards, and it’s incredible. I would recommend making a reservation, and bringing cash. Another important spot to visit in Nandine, which is a Kurdish restaurant that serves amazing food. I’m drooling thinking about the bread they serve it with as well.
Camberwell is also home to a thriving arts scene, including the Blue Elephant Theatre and the South London Gallery. Camberwell is one of those neighborhoods that, while small and overlooked, offers more than some of the most well known areas of the city.
I have to be honest, this area might be one of my favorite neighborhoods to visit in South London. This is probably the most “commercial” part of London that I actually genuinely love. There’s just something about the water, the historic streets, the bridges, the culture. I don’t know! We all get to be a bit basic sometimes okay??
If you’re in Southbank let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, the Shard is here. If you feel strongly about going up I would recommend bypassing the ticket system by going to one of the bars at the top. You get the same views but with a much less aggressive experience. Plus, the drinks cost less than the ticket!
There’s obviously also Borough Market which is definitely worth exploring. I would then highly suggest eating at Padella, if you haven’t already stuffed yourself at the market.
The Tate Modern is, without a doubt, my favorite museum in any city. The main reason for this is that a large portion of the museum is completely free! They offer exhibitions that are paid, but the free bits are absolutely worth your time and can take even a whole day if you’re really invested. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is down here as well, if theatre is your thing!
The whole Southbank area just feels a bit like a museum. You can explore all the streets and almost feel like you’re in a London of another time. Do you see now why I think this is one of the best neighborhoods to visit in South London?
Are you ready to explore London?
London is a massive city, so unless you’re here for a long time, odds are you’ll only scratch the surface… but I hope this guide to the best neighborhoods to visit in South London helps narrow down some potential spots for you to explore!
Let’s be honest. No matter where you go, you’re sure to find amazing spots and have a wonderful time – there’s a reason people love this city.
Let me know if you’ve been to any of these places – did your favorite neighborhood make the cut? Or do you have beef with me now? Let me know in the comments and maybe you’ll sway me on some North London oasis I’m unaware of.
And if you check out any of my favorite neighborhoods to visit in South London, be sure to tag me in your instagram posts!