From the Tate Modern to a car park gallery, the central borough of Southwark is the perfect combination of national landmark and small community chic.
The London Borough of Southwark is an integral cog in the workings of our capital city. Stretching along the south bank of the Thames, it encompasses some of the country’s biggest attractions—but, travel a little deeper into the borough, and you’ll find several distinct towns and neighbourhoods with a great deal to offer.
With central London just on the doorstep, the towns within Southwark are simply bustling with vibrant communities, great restaurants, cinemas, parks, galleries and pubs—as well as the latter two combined. Travel south to Elephant and Castle, Peckham, East Dulwich and Dulwich—all of which offer a unique neighbourhood and social scene. Travel east to Canada Water and Surrey Quays – so close to the river, this area is home to many exclusive apartments, a fantastic houseboat community and stunning Southwark Park.
Well-connected for travel, and with plentiful parks and riverside views, Southwark is a great place to settle and, as such, is extremely popular with homebuyers.
Homes and residents
Though Southwark is an inner London borough, there are many close-knit communities and welcoming neighbourhoods within the area, making many parts feel more small town than city. It is also truly multicultural, with over 100 languages spoken within the borough’s schools.
Southwark’s proximity to central London attracts a great number of professionals looking to keep their commuting times short, and its increasingly blossoming towns continue to attract young, upwardly mobile residents.
Peckham, for example, is currently riding the wave of a renaissance that’s seen its popularity with young, creative professionals and young families increase five-fold in as many years. And the homes are beautiful too – a network of tree-lined roads with rows of tall Victorian terraces.
Homes vary across the borough, from old-style council blocks along the Old Kent Road, to new developments popping up in Elephant and Castle and multi-million pound mini-mansions in Camberwell.
Out and about
Perfect for a stroll in any weather, the Southbank can be visited time and time again. Head to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, board the historic Golden Hinde or take in abstract art at Tate Modern. Walk a little further, past independent eateries and bookstalls to the Southbank Centre, which runs an excellent programme of theatre, talks, cinema and festivals. There is usually something entertaining going on outside, too—a fun fair,
or music from talented street performers.
Head just south of here for famous Borough Market, and grab quality food on the go, or simply soak up the atmosphere of the market that dates back to 1276.
Beyond the big attractions, there are many lesser known, but equally great, places to visit. Southwark Playhouse on Newington Causeway is a highly regarded theatre, showing works of new and emerging writers throughout the year.
In Peckham, make your way to tree-lined Choumert Road, and visit the Montpelier, a beautiful old pub with craft beers and a cinema room. In the summer months, the now famous Frank’s, atop the multi-storey car park is also well worth a visit and combines a bar and café with a huge gallery space, from June-September. Alternatively the South London Gallery, an art space and café, is open all year round. Wander just 10 minutes further to Camberwell, for more quality pubs and the best falafel wrap in south London, at the appropriately named Falafel.
Further south, East Dulwich is extremely popular for its relaxed yet lively atmosphere and its long, central road of restaurants, gift and clothes shops, that stretches up to beautiful Dulwich Park—where the borough starts to get seriously green. From here you can visit the sprawling Dulwich Golf Club or take a walk in Dulwich Woods, stopping at the Dulwich Wood House pub for Sunday lunch, before heading to Crystal Palace Park.
For a fun day with the kids, visit Surrey Docks Farm near Surrey Quays. Children are invited to wander with goats, feed the pigs, plus there’s also a great café. For a bit of adult fun, walk 10 minutes to the Wibbley Wobbly floating pub on Greenland Quay—a permanently docked boat bar, with a classic pub interior.
You needn’t travel far to get to some of the world’s best shopping streets—Oxford Street, Bond Street and Knightsbridge are all easily reached on the tube. Southwark itself, however, has a great deal to offer by way of shops and markets. Surrey Quays shopping centre houses a number of large retailers, with a supermarket, cinema and bowling alley in close proximity.
Elephant and Castle is home to a wide selection of independent stores, selling everything from household goods to specialist natural products. Nearby East Street Market, off Walworth Road, is also a paradise for bargain hunters.
Peckham is home to a bustling high street, which includes 24-hour shops, as well as a small shopping arcade. You can find many big name retailers in Peckham, but it’s the independent shops that have really flourished here—which is true, too, of East Dulwich. In Peckham, visit Persepolis, a mainstay of the area that offers a happily eccentric taste of Persia and has even released its own recipe books.
The whole borough sits comfortably within travel zone 2, making it quick and easy to get around. Southwark is served by a great number of train and tube stations, taking commuters into the city in no time at all. From Elephant and Castle, services to Oxford Circus take 10 minutes, while from East Dulwich, trains to London Bridge take just 18 minutes. The Overground, meanwhile, enables travel to the east, west and north of the capital.
The bus network is also fantastic – with routes running through central London to all corners of the borough, with a main bus terminal in Peckham.
Getting around on two wheels is a popular pursuit in Southwark. Almost 8% of the population cycle to work—proximity to central London meaning the commute is only around