If you’re planning a trip to London, you’ve likely heard of South Kensington—home to the world-famous Natural History Museum—and theater-central Covent Garden. These areas of Europe’s most-visited city are often the center of the tourist action, but that also means they’re crowded and overpriced.
The sprawling English capital has a plethora of neighborhoods, though, each with its own distinct character and local scene, offering an alternative experience for your stay in London. If you want to escape the masses, try an Airbnb in one of these lesser-known but much-loved London neighborhoods.
For beer lovers
Just over the river from Tower Bridge and lying east of Borough Market, Bermondsey is part industrial, part residential. But don’t let the plain warehouses fool you: There’s plenty here for the hungry and thirsty traveler, and it’s an excellent base for exploring London, with Tube links to Waterloo, London Bridge, and Westminster.
Maltby Street Market is probably the most famous highlight in Bermondsey, where stalls sell everything from freshly baked pastries to vegan Thai food on weekends.
For something to drink, head to the Bermondsey Beer Mile, where a smattering of small-scale breweries tucked underneath the railway arches opens their doors to serve some of London’s best beers on weekend afternoons. Stop in at Brew by Numbers for a sour quince saison, sample Ubrew’s IPA, and try honey beer at Hiver Beers’ tap room.
For maritime history and markets
South of the oxbow bend in the River Thames in London’s East End, Greenwich is a popular day out for visitors to London, but few choose to stay overnight here. Opt to Airbnb in Greenwich and you’ll find some of this neighborhood’s best bits to yourself once the day-trippers have gone home.
Britain’s maritime history has its home here in the form of the regal Old Royal Naval College, the Maritime Museum, and Cutty Sark clipper—all worth an afternoon exploring if you’re a keen historian. Nearby, go in search of deer in the Royal Park, and spot the Prime Meridian line at the Greenwich Observatory, where there are also regular planetarium shows.
Food and drink here are equally exciting, with the Greenwich Market offering up 44 food stalls among handmade arts and crafts, jewelry, and clothes. For a classic British dinner, don’t miss the pie, mash, and jellied eels at Goddards pie shop—open since 1890.
One of the joys of Greenwich is the varying public transport at your disposal: If you’re heading into town, take the Thames Clipper boats, which travel under Tower Bridge all the way to Westminster, or get seats upfront and watch the city whiz by you on the Docklands Light Railway.
For a grassroots creative scene
London hipsters have branched out from over-hyped Shoreditch now: Peckham is real creative scene. This largely residential neighborhood has no world-famous, star attractions, but plenty of community spirit and buckets of culture. Throw in some fantastic places to eat and holing up in a terraced townhouse here offers a delicious slice of London life.
The Bussey Building—a multi-level warehouse space—is the cultural hub of Peckham, with its artist studios and galleries, regular live music nights (don’t miss the South London Soul Train if you’re in town on the right night), and yoga on the rooftop. Along Rye Lane you’ll find independent bars and coffee shops next door to African grocers and a somewhat divey but well-loved pool club.
Don’t miss sundowners in the summertime at Frank’s—a bar on the roof of a parking lot—and when you get hungry, opt for exceptional Thai tapas at The Begging Bowl.
For a stylish sleep
Not far from the grandeur of Westminster and Buckingham Palace lies the peaceful, elegant neighborhood of Pimlico. Here, a two-bed apartment will sell for upwards of $2 million and entire mansions make it into eight figures. But that doesn’t mean it’s unaffordable for visitors—an Airbnb here can cost as little as $40 a night.
Pimlico is a superb base for exploring London’s most famous sights, including the royal family’s city residence and the Parliament building, which are just a 15-minute walk away. But the area has its own charms, too, with a Saturday farmers’ market set in the pretty Orange Square, and the lush, manicured gardens of Ecclestone Square Park.
Next door in Victoria you’ll find the fabulous Ottoman-style, red-and-white-brick Westminster Cathedral—not to be confused with the Abbey—which is just as stunning inside as it is out.
With Victoria railway and bus stations nearby, you’re in prime position for day trips out of the city.
For an East End retreat
If you’re keen to explore London’s East End and the trendy streets of Shoreditch, but you’d rather not be in the thick of it, London Fields is a leafy haven just northeast of the main attractions.
This largely residential area has its own station on the suburban rail network (called the Overground) offering connections to Liverpool Street Station in just seven minutes, but the draw here is that you’re within walking distance of some of the East End’s highlights.
An ideal start to your day in London Fields is a swim in the lido, a public pool set inside a large green park, followed by a stroll into town. Be sure to pick up pastries and coffee on the way at the E5 Bakehouse under the railway arches. Detour to Hackney City Farm, where you’ll find goats, pigs, and sheep all living in the city, and stop off at Columbia Road Flower Market to take in the smells and colors of one of London’s most famous markets. Nearby, you can duck into the V&A Museum of Childhood for a trip down memory lane.
North of London Fields you’ve got easy access to equally cool Dalston with its smattering of Turkish restaurants and the glorious art deco indy Rio Cinema; east of the neighborhood is Victoria Park, where you can rent a boat on the lake.
For a green escape
Just 30 minutes by Tube from the buzz of Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Station is leafy, well-to-do Hampstead. Choose to stay out here and you’ll feel like you’re in the English countryside, despite being just five miles from central London.
The village itself offers a welcome change of pace, with no end of excellent pubs for pints of ale and comfort food—try the 18th-century Holly Bush—and an outpost of Daunt Books, one of the city’s most loved independent bookshops.
Nearby, don’t miss Hampstead Heath. You could spend an entire day getting lost in this huge green space, from the ladies’ and men’s bathing ponds to the 17th-century manor, Kenwood House. For exceptional views of London’s skyline, scale Parliament Hill and score a bench at sunset.