If you’re moving from the US, when you don’t know London neighborhoods well, how will you know where to live? After moving from the US ourselves, my husband’s and my frame of reference worked in terms of Chicago and New York, so I thought I’d share what I consider to be some American equivalents of popular neighborhoods for those of you also moving from the US.
If you like Chicago’s ____, you’ll love London’s____
Shout-out to my Chi-town peeps! Even if you aren’t moving from the US city of Chicago itself, if you have any familiarity with it, this can still be your guide. Okay, so…
If you like Chicago’s Lincoln Park and Lakeview, you’ll love London’s South Kensington and Chelsea. A lot of neighborhoods in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, really, draw a similar demographic—young, urban professionals moving from the US and elsewhere who need something middle-of-the-road and affordable yet are willing to pay a little more for a little posh. Trendy shops, restaurants, and clubs abound, and pretty Victorian houses and leafy streets also give this area the somewhat more residential and polished aesthetic that LP Trixies (*hee*) are accustomed to and may still want when moving from the US. Another similarity is their easy access to the City, green space, and water (i.e., if London’s Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park could be Chicago’s Lincoln Park, the River Thames is Lake Michigan).
Falling within the Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, the neighborhood of Notting Hill is also similar to these Chicago locales, though it and its nearby Ladbroke Grove are also reminiscent of the Belmont Street area of north Lakeview, getting more into Boy’s Town and Wrigleyville with a relatively young, gentrified atmosphere yet artistic and maybe still a little sketchy in parts. Yet also like Roscoe Village (or further north around Irving Park) in a way, those moving to London from the US will also find some quiet, family-friendly residential streets.
Moving further along that side of the spectrum is north London’s trendy Islington and Angel area. This neighborhood retains its relatively alternative, gritty urban feel yet has certainly become increasingly gentrified, particularly along the major restaurant/club/pub strip just outside Angel tube station. If you’re moving from the US Midwest, the closest Chicago comparison in my estimation is the likewise increasingly yuppified yet arty (and in some spots dodgy) Bucktown and Wicker Park.
And to swing in the totally opposite direction, for truly upscale posh, expats moving from the US who like Chicago’s affluent Gold Coast will love London’s ritzy Mayfair, Belgravia, and Knightsbridge neighborhoods.
If you like New York City’s ____, you’ll love London’s____
As many folks moving to London from the US come from the east coast, let’s review some NYC London neighborhood equivalents as well. Regarding the areas mentioned above, for the same basic reasons already discussed, South Kensington, Chelsea, Notting Hill, and Ladbroke Grove (and other neighborhoods thereabouts) are arguably similar to Manhattan’s SoHo and Upper West Side. North London’s Islington/Angel area is akin to New York’s Greenwich and West Village, and NYC’s wealthy Upper East Side would equate to Mayfair, Belgravia, and Knightsbridge—perhaps Marylebone as well.
Going further, Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood is somewhat similar to Marylebone if you’re moving from the US and seeking variety in boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries. Though whereas Marylebone is rather affluent, Clerkenwell and Farringdon are somewhat rougher around the edges yet still thriving with art, cuisine, and nightlife, so could make for equivalents to NYC’s Chelsea/West Village as well.
Venturing into the bustle of London’s Soho and Piccadilly Circus area recalls New York’s Midtown and Times Square—Oxford and Regent Streets are a shopping mecca akin to 5th and Madison Avenues (and Michigan Avenue in Chicago, for that matter). And as a desirable residential area dominated by educational and other renowned institutions, Manhattan’s Morningside Heights (home of Columbia University) bears a similarity to Greenwich (home of the Royal Naval College, Maritime Museum, and National Observatory).
Where other New York City boroughs go, Brooklyn is like London south of the Thames, not so cosmopolitan or convenient a commute yet where people go for more space for the money (a draw for young families). And like some New Yorkers will similarly cross the Hudson to Hoboken, New Jersey to afford more for less, the fairly industrial east London has up-and-coming pockets that are drawing more upscale demographics to invest in housing there. Dodgy east London ’hoods like Hackney and Shoreditch, though—along with outskirt areas like Croyden or Wembley in the south and northwest—might be a little more like Queens or the Bronx. There admittedly isn’t a huge number of expats moving to London from the US that settle in those areas.
Comparing Big Apples to Oranges
Granted, it’s difference that makes an international relocation worthwhile, and in a lot of ways just can’t be compared to other cities. Nonetheless, there’s no shame in trying to seek out a little of what you already know, so hopefully the above comparisons help if you’re moving to from the US.