By Ana Zoria
Go west doesn’t mean go broke: young professionals West London survival guide
West London became popular amongst the wealthy centuries ago and that’s still true today. The Village of Palaces, known today as Chelsea, has been a residence of royalties and a hangout of bourgeois bohemians since the 17th century. Today, the Victorian-style accommodation found in abundance across West London is home to financiers, socialites, Russian oligarchs and other Gucci-belted wealthy individuals. No secret, these lucky individuals and their weighty wallets have caused us less loaded fellows to avoid West London altogether!
Life in London isn’t easy for the majority of young professionals. You’ve finally found a decent job, had a couple of pay rises but still end up broke after bills and a couple of dinners out. Struggling isn’t cool, but being constantly reminded of it by your neighbourhood feels like a slap in the face. So why head west and be doomed to hardship?
Reason 1: Buzz: The excitement of being there: You might have to lower expectations around home comforts, but the life outside your flat will be an ongoing adventure, where every step brings a possibility of creative interaction and inspiration.
Reason 2: People: Brushes with fame: West was always home to artists, rock stars, actors and bohemians from the sixties, and it still is.
Reason 3: Culture: Proximity to the best of London’s nightlife, museums and venues: You can walk home from a nightclub – worth a lot in London!
Although your damp attic-cave overlooking Portobello Market is utterly romantic, sooner or later poor living conditions might wear you down. So how far should your compromise stretch?
A few simple West London flat-hunting rules, to help save you a few hundred without landing in a rat hole:
- Flat Share – Londoners share flats into their 30s and 40s. It’s cheaper and an instant community opportunity to meet like-minded people. Spareroom and Gumtree are great resources
- Raised basement apartments – Not all basements are gloomy, raised basements are almost at ground floor level. They, usually, are 20% cheaper, and most of them even have gardens.
- If you give something up, make sure you gain something else – E.g. your apartment might have a pretty nasty view, but if you settle near one of the many parks, squares, canals or even vintage cemeteries of West London you’ll benefit from some of London’s finest outdoor spaces.
- Savvy Shopping – Markets are great for fruit and veg, head to Poundland for cleaning products, use loyalty cards and vouchers for everything you can! Don’t forget that charity shops in such areas can be absolute goldmines plus, of course, vintage items will edge up your outfit or add character to your bedroom.
Let me clarify here, we’re not talking Cadogan Square. Firstly, it’s tremendously expensive, secondly – boring. There are way more affordable places in West where life is bustling, e.g.:
Cheapest room on Spareroom:£500 pcm
What about it?
Earls Court, a suburban area at that time, used to be covered with wastelands and green fields, until Price’s Albert decided to splash some cash on building The International Exhibition centre. It attracted millions of visitors, which transformed it into a prosperous metropolitan area. Today, fabulous Flemish-style red-brick houses surround square gardens, regularly hosting neighbourhood social events, are a typical feature of the district. If you decide to settle in Earls Court, you will love the practical amenities like the transport. Piccadilly line will swiftly take you to Mayfair or Heathrow, as well as Gatwick airport bus transfers do pick-ups and drop-offs at this station. If you fancy an out of town weekend, get the District line to Richmond.
A Few Hangouts
Brompton Cemetery – this peaceful and yet powerful place is one of the Britain’s oldest Victorian cemeteries. Stone monuments of sleeping lions and praying angels are bathing in the green oases of trees and plants. Despite its picturesque appearance, it’s not flooded with tourists: go on a sunny day, it’s extraordinary!
The Troubadour– ‘The wild western frontier of bohemian Chelsea’, as they call themselves, is one of the last remaining coffee houses of 50’s in London. Apart from its boho interior, wide choice of beers and burgers, there is a musical draw to it too. The place has got a rather odd basement club where Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Ronnie Wood and many more famous rock-n-rollers have performed. Go for brunch or catch a gig. And with 2-4-1 cocktails from 4.30 till 7.3, your casual Thursday night out is sorted.
Evans & Peel Detective Agency – if you feel like something more eccentric this place fits the bill. You’ll spot a crew of smokers piling onto a quiet residential road – that’s where the entrance is. A wooden door with a sign ‘Evans and Peel Detective Agency’ doesn’t look too promising, but it leads to a rather special reception.The venue is decorated as a typical 1920 detective bureau, with light wood bookshelves and dusty lampshades. The average price of prohibition-inspired cocktails is £10 pounds. However, a wide selection of ales dispensed from a radiator is also offered.
The Crowd – Earls Court is very international – known as the centre of the Filipino British community, as well as an Aussie and Kiwi district. Newly ‘coupled’ Italians and French, having moved out of nearby South Kensington, seeking a quieter corner for their no-more-single life are often spotted here too.
Cheapest room on Spareroom:£520 pcm
What about it?
Notting Hill used to be the ‘bad part’ of the Kensington and Chelsea borough and Ladbroke Grove the ‘bad part’ of Notting Hill. Before WWII, it was the land of pig keepers. And after the Afro-Caribbean immigrants inhabited the area, a cloud of racial tension and constant fighting descended. Locals often rioted against the migrants, who unofficially responded with the Notting Hill Carnival – which grew to become one of the biggest carnivals in the world. Ruins and riots turned into colourful houses, dirty burgers into organic eateries. Jimi Hendrix even threw a couple of awesome gigs in the area, luring other rock stars and celebs. Today, the area is awash with antique shops and even boasts one of the world’s most famous markets plus some fantastic independent cinemas.
Holland Park – one of London’s most mysterious parks with its magical tree tunnels, Japanese-style Kyoto Gardens, euphoric angel statues resting in wildish flowerbeds and impudent peacocks observing the space. You might overhear the opera coming from the park’s Theatre while having a picnic on one of its lawns. If you have visitors who would like to stay nearby without splashing cash, a youth hostel is a historic mansion located right in the middle of the park, where private rooms are available at £31.
Portobello Market – There’s always something curious going on along Portobello market: bizarre cross-dressing buskers in their 90s or indie fashion designers trying to sell you chicken feather hair accessories. The market offers antiques and bric-a-brac, fruit and veg, ethnic food, second-hand and vintage clothing and other bits’n’bobs. The greatest find of the week: authentic 70s style floor lamp only £19.
Coronet Cinema – The Coronet is an independent cinema screening blockbuster movies in an old Victorian theatre. It’s not the widest of screens, but you will certainly enjoy fine red velvet décor and the young vibe. On Tuesdays, all the movies are only £3.50!
The crowd: it’s a trendy and creative area, long favoured and admired by bohos. Today, not only will you find your stereotypical Shoreditch-style bearded dudes, sporting fake Ray-Bans, but a whole mixture of different generations of eccentric, expressive and idiosyncratic individuals of all nationalities.
West London, it’s not just about high-end designer clothes chains, Michelin-starred restaurants and fancy interior shops. Your lifestyle depends on the street you chose to live in, your personality and your interests. If you like cosy residential streets, period features, and beautiful parks coupled with the chance to meet quirky, interesting residents and enjoy an array of fun activities, go West now. It’s really not that expensive!