Moving to London | A Guide for First-Timers | CBRE Residential
Moving to London for the First Time? Here’s How You Can Quickly Acclimatise to Your New Home
London is, without doubt, one of the world’s elite cities. It’s renowned as one of the world’s leading economic centres (most obviously for the finance industry) but there’s much more to it than just that; it’s also a leading tourist destination for visitors from all over the globe, as well as a buzzing and vibrant cultural hub.
Moving to London can be a big undertaking, whether you’re moving alone or you’re taking your family with you. In both circumstances, relocating to a new city always comes with its fair share of challenges, not the least of which is finding somewhere suitable to live.
Proudly cosmopolitan, open for business and open to the world, it’s not hard to see what attracts so many people from all walks of life to start a new life in London. Whether you’re seeking new career opportunities, a more diverse array of cultural experiences or simply a fresh start in life, there are few better places in which to find what you’re looking for from life than in London.
If you’re planning to make the big move in the near future, then, there’s a few things you’ll need to familiarise yourself with: namely where to live, what to do, how to meet new people and how to get around.
In our guide, we’ll provide you with pointers and advice on all of these key questions.
Read on to find out more.
Moving to London alone? Here’s how you can settle in
If you’re moving to London by yourself, you’ll need to think about how you can get to know other, generally like-minded people in the nearby area. This is one of the challenges of living in London – it’s not that it’s an unfriendly city, as the stereotype would have it, but it’s such a big place that’s relatively easy to get lost among the sea of people that live there (nearly nine million of them, at the last count). There are, however, lots of ways in which you can reach out to new people in London. A particularly good place to look is Meetup, which lists all manner of different interest groups – making it much easier to discover people interested in similar things to you. Many of these groups are highly active, organising all sorts of interesting and fun events; there really is something for everyone. Alternatively, you might want to take some time by yourself to explore the city, and this can be a really interesting way of getting more familiar with it.
One thing’s for sure: you won’t be short of things to do. Whether you’re a film buff, a music lover or a theatre lover, there’s plenty to enjoy alone in London.
Moving to London in your 20s
Moving to London in your 20s is such an exciting prospect; there’s no shortage of places to see and attractions to explore in the capital.
So, where are the best places to go?
The most obvious hotspot for lively young professionals carving out a new life in London is Shoreditch. Just a short wander from Old Street tube station, you’ll find an eclectic and effortlessly cool collection of shops, bars, restaurants and cultural venues.
Its post-industrial Victorian architecture is another plus point, and the blend of old and new is one of the things that’s so distinctive: converted warehouses and workshops now house bars, galleries and cutting-edge tech start-ups.
Another must-see part of London if you’re moving there in your 20s is Camden Town. Famous among other reasons as the home of Camden Market, this bohemian part of north London is well worth visiting for its interesting and quirky mix of independent shops and market traders, street food from around the world, colourful public art, and much more.
And when you’re done exploring the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Camden, stop off at Regent’s Park – which straddles the boundary between Camden and the nearby borough of Westminster – from where you can take in wonderful views of the London skyline, including the Shard, the Gherkin, BT Tower and Canary Wharf.
Moving to London in your 30s
Once you head into your 30s, the chances are that you’ve got (most of) the raving you did in your younger days out of your system, and it’s time to move on to some more mature pastimes. Well, slightly more mature, at any rate. Fortunately, London is full of more leisurely and laid-back things to do after you’ve hit the big three-oh.
When it comes to finding the best places to live in London in your 30s, the Southbank is probably going to become your favourite new haunt. Home to the Southbank Centre, National Theatre, Bankside Gallery, Tate Modern, BFI Southbank and a lot more besides, the Southbank crams a whole lot of culture into a relatively small space between Blackfriars Bridge in the east and Westminster Bridge in the west.
On top of all this, there’s a diverse selection of restaurants, clubs, quirky bars serving craft beers and ales from home and abroad, and even a fascinating book market full of curiosities open daily and situated just near the Southbank Centre.
Moving to London with your family
If you’re moving to London with family, then you’ll be looking for experiences for everyone to enjoy during your time in the capital. In this case, it’s worth familiarising yourself with some of the numerous sprawling parks that London has to offer. Here you can enjoy lazy summer afternoons with the family, as well as providing a handy space to get some exercise and keep yourself trim.
The best-known of London’s parks is Hyde Park, a 350-acre expanse in the centre of the city. One of four royal parks forming a chain between Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park was established by Henry VIII in 1536. Since then it’s gone on to serve as a major focal point of London’s social and cultural life, and even of political protest; to this day, Speakers’ Corner (on Hyde Park’s north-east side, near Marble Arch and Oxford Street) regularly plays host to speakers airing all sorts of viewpoints.
In total, there are eight royal parks in London: Hyde Park, Kensington Palace Gardens, Richmond Park, Bushy Park, St James’s Park, Green Park, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill, Greenwich Park, Brompton Cemetery and Victoria Tower Gardens.
For something a little quirkier, there’s Crystal Palace Park, which is perhaps most famous for Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ full-scale dinosaur statues. These date from the 1850s and were originally featured in the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, after it was relocated from Hyde Park. The park is also home to a children’s play area, maze and farm, as well as a rowing lake where you can hire boats and take them out on to the water.
Finding the best schools in London
Naturally, one of the first things you will think of when moving to London with a young family in tow is the quality of the schools. With competition for places at the very best schools as intense as ever, it’s vital that you narrow down your property search to the right catchment areas.
Our Borough by Borough Guide offers a more detailed overview of how many ‘Outstanding’ schools can be found across the capital.
How to get around London
Getting around London is a doddle, especially compared to many other cities in the UK. The capital benefits from an extensive public transport network, most notably the Underground railway system. The Underground serves the London region and even extends into parts of neighbouring Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire.
North and central London enjoy the most extensive Underground coverage, with the bulk of the network concentrated on the northern side of the Thames. However, a number of locations in south London are also served by the Underground, including Elephant & Castle, Brixton, Clapham and Wimbledon.
London is also served by the Overground network, which has nine different routes and 112 stations across the capital. You can use both the Underground and the Overground to connect with National Rail services from London’s mainline railway hubs, these being Euston, King’s Cross St Pancras, Victoria, Paddington, Liverpool Street, Waterloo, Charing Cross and London Bridge. From these you can easily reach destinations across Britain, as well as Eurostar services to the continent from St Pancras.
When commuting by rail around the city, you’ll need to get familiar with its system of fare zones. There are nine zones in total and the fare you pay will depend.
Inner and Outer London are covered by zones 1-6, although some parts of Surrey, Essex and Hertfordshire are also included in zones 4-6. Zones 7-9 cover certain areas outside London where fares are set by Transport for London, extending into Buckingham, Essex and Hertfordshire.
It’s also really easy to reach London’s airports by public transport:
Heathrow Airport is served by Heathrow Central Underground and rail station, Heathrow Central bus station (the two are connected by underground walkways), Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3 Underground station, Heathrow Terminal 4 station on the Elizabeth line, Heathrow Terminal 4 Underground station, and the Heathrow Terminal 5 rail and Underground station.
Gatwick Airport is served by the nearby Gatwick Airport railway station, which is directly connected to the South Terminal. The Gatwick Airport Shuttle Transit system connects the railway station and South Terminal with the North Terminal. The non-stop Gatwick Express service runs between Victoria station in central London and Gatwick Airport every 15 minutes; the journey takes approximately half an hour. Coaches also run between Gatwick Airport and locations throughout Britain, including Heathrow and Stansted.
Stansted Airport is located just over 40 miles outside London in Essex, but can easily be reached from the city by public transport. Stansted Airport railway station is located just below the airport’s main concourse, with Stansted Express services between the airport and Liverpool Street running every 15 minutes. Coach services connect the airport to locations including Stratford, Victoria coach station, Liverpool Street and Paddington.
London City Airport is the airport of choice for many business travellers. It too enjoys good public transport links: it is served by London City Airport station on the Docklands Light Railway, which connects it to Canary Wharf and the City. Thames Clipper riverboat services will also run to a new stop at the nearby Royal Wharf development.
An extensive network of bus services connects locations throughout London. Oyster cards are still widely used, though many locals and visitors now opt to use contactless debit or credit cards to travel across the city. Either way, the ‘tap in, tap out’ system couldn’t be easier!
Where to eat and drink in London
London’s food and drink scene is, as you’d expect, enormously diverse. We’ve already noted the quirky markets and street food venues of Shoreditch and Camden, but if you’re looking for something a little more formal then you’ll be very well served by the capital.
If it’s fine dining you’re looking for, we’d suggest making a beeline for the city’s more upmarket districts such as Mayfair, Chelsea and the City of London itself. Here you can sample London’s real haute cuisine at Michelin-starred restaurants, whether at its leading hotels (some of which, like the Dorchester and the Ritz, are bywords for indulgence) or at top restaurants run by big-name celebrity chefs.
Keeping fit – where are the best gyms in London?
Once you’ve finished indulging yourself with all that cordon bleu cooking, you’ll probably be in need of somewhere to burn it all off again. Fortunately, there are enough gyms in London to satisfy even the most ardent fitness fanatic.
Where you head will depend on the sort of experience you’re looking for: Shoreditch is where you’ll find the more youth-orientated and somewhat off-the-wall gyms, so if you want to work out to the latest club bangers, this is where to go. Alternatively, if you want a different experience, we’d suggest heading over to Kensington and the City, both of which are full of sleek and sophisticated boutique gyms.
Not all fitness enthusiasts are ardent gym-goers, in which case there are still plenty of options: from exclusive exercise studios to boot camps, there’s a plethora of different options to choose from. And if you just want to stick to the no-nonsense parkrun, you’ll find a huge variety of these taking place regularly in parks across London every Saturday morning.
Shopping the old-fashioned way
If you ever feel yourself in need of some retail therapy – or you just want to pick up some smart new threads – then, once again, London is the place for you. While online shopping is second nature to many of us, sometimes you just want to make a day of it and do things the old-fashioned way.
The famous West End shopping hotspots of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street are home to a dazzling array of shops, including designer outlets and flagship stores of top brands. Bond Street and Mayfair offer an indulgent and more exclusive retail experience.
For the style-conscious gent, a visit to Jermyn Street in the upmarket St James’s district is an absolute must. Here you’ll find an impressive selection of specialist tailors, shirt makers and much more – so if you’ve got a big meeting impending and you need to dress to impress, this is the go-to place.
Other leading retail destinations in London include Knightsbridge (this is where you’ll find Harrods, a store that needs no further introduction) and King’s Road in Chelsea, which is full of fashionable boutiques, designer stores and high-street chain shops. Don’t forget to stop by at Carnaby Street as well – in the ‘60s and ‘70s this was London’s fashion mecca and remains synonymous with that era, but even today it continues to play host to cool independent shops and big names alike.