Make a Home in Harlesden. This well-connected, vibrant town in northwest London is turning around its fortunes to become one of the city’s most desirable new areas for home buyers.
There’s something of a buzz about Harlesden. Walking through the maze of pretty Victorian roads, you can’t help but notice the number of renovations spilling on to the street. People are getting excited about this town in northwest London: not just about the comparatively lower house prices and its proximity to the city centre, but about the vibrant and long-established community that lies at its heart and that forms the central hub of NW10.
The vast town centre, awash with shops, selling everything from sequins to speakers, and food from across the globe, reflects the diversity of Harlesden and the people in it. The bubbling music scene, spreading up from the locales of Notting Hill and Kensal Rise, is reigniting the passion of the town known as London’s ‘unofficial reggae capital’, and the place that was once the site of the original Mean Fiddler – a venue that attracted thousands of music fans to the area in ‘80s and ‘90s.
The town has had its bad times, but with recent regeneration and considerable efforts from Brent council and town-proud residents, Harlesden’s reputation is going from strength to strength.
Homes and residents
The people are the heart of Harlesden, and it is the mixing of cultures that helps create the spirit of the area. The town has a strong Caribbean heritage, as well as a big Irish community, but it’s easy to imagine that every nation is represented here, from Poland and Pakistan, to Sri Lanka and Somalia.
“Harlesden is a one-off,” writes local journalist, Rose Rouse, who published a book about the area. “But it’s also a mirror and a microcosm of what is going on in cities and towns all over Britain. It’s everything that diversity creates. It’s exciting, with an edge that is missing from, say, Suffolk or even Kensington and Chelsea… it is a place that shines with its own nitty-gritty light and spirit.”
Like the people, properties in the area are diverse. Around Harlesden you’ll see wooden-clad council properties, well-crafted social housing estates and several newbuild developments, but it’s the Edwardian houses and Victorian terraces that dominate here. For the moment, Harlesden is offering better value than its more fashionable neighbours. For example, a one bedroom conversion in Harlesden is currently selling for around £310,000, while in nearby Queen’s Park, similar will set you back almost £500,000.
Out and about
Away from the busy town centre, where you’ll see the recently refurbished and locally iconic Jubilee clock, there’s plenty of green to explore. First, head to Roundwood Park and climb to the top of the hill for great views of London. Children will enjoy watching the birds in the aviary, while the café is the perfect place to stop for lunch.
The Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal runs between Harlesden and Stonebridge Park and offers some great walks and cycle rides. Pop into the canal-side Grand Junction Arms for a tipple and then set out along the canal path towards Greenford, where things will get decidedly more leafy.
In Harlesden itself, there’s plenty to choose from in terms of food and entertainment. Visit O Tamariz on Manor Park Road for delicious, traditional Portugese fare. The family-run business is a favourite with locals and recently won two shop awards. For wonderful Brazilian food, and similar flavoured music, visit Gostosa on the high street. As well as its famous pizza, enjoy a taste of Brazil with traditional dishes such as feijjoida (pork stew) and bitoque (steak).
Come sundown, take your choice from local bars offering a variety of atmospheres. Pop into The Shawl on the high street, a vibrant Irish bar, with a diverse and welcoming clientele and an interesting, if slightly surreal, karaoke night. Next, visit Le Junction, a French-run bar with a penchant for live music, with bands and open-mic nights running throughout the week, as well as an impressive roast on Sundays.
The pub chain Antic has also opened a new pub, the Harlesden Picture Palace, in the centre of town and, with craft beer and retro furniture, has guaranteed hipster appeal.
For something more serene, the Neasden Temple is just a short walk away. This large and very beautiful Hindu temple serves as a local landmark and, until recently, stood as the largest Hindu temple outside of India. The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is open daily and offers tours of the building and grounds.
Independent stores are king here and, though there are several big names, including plenty of bank branches, it’s the hundreds of smaller shops that help to give the area of Harlesden its distinctive character.
Visit the Saturday market at Church End for fresh fruit and veg, or the many convenience shops selling more exotic variations. Fresh meat and fish are easy come by on the high street and the huge supermarket Way to Save is stacked high with European delights, fresh bread and ‘scoop your own’ gherkins.
To get your handle on the town’s reggae connection, visit Hawkeye, a long-standing music shop and staple for music lovers looking to up their collections.
You’ve so much choice in the wider area, too: IKEA and a 24-hour super-sized Tesco lie within a mile on the north circular, while Brent Cross and Westfield shopping centres are just a few miles and a bus or tube journey away.
Harlesden is served by several tube and Overground stations, making it easy to get around the city. From Harlesden, Bakerloo services land you at Oxford Circus in just 23 minutes, while the Overground takes 21 minutes to Euston. From Willesden Junction in the town centre, trains run to Clapham, or north to Watford. Residents also have the choice of Neasden tube, on the Jubilee line, for easy access to nearby Wembley Stadium, or south to Canary Wharf in 30 minutes. Harlesden is served by a comprehensive bus network, running to all corners of the city and through the night. Getting around the local area is also easy on foot or by bike: Willesden, Queen’s Park and Kensal Green are all within walking distance, while the canal offers the perfect, traffic-free, cycle route into central London.
Average property price (March 2015) – £423,595
Property breakdown:* (London borough of Brent)
Detached – £757,645
Semi detached – £511,351
Terraced – £482,470
Flat – £342,403
*According to the Land Registry House Price Index, March 2015
Some Famous Residents
• Film-maker Louis Theroux
• Boxer Audley Harrison
• Footballer Paul Merson
• Reggae singer Dennis Brown
• Singer Sabrina Washington