What's it all about?
From the modern apartment buildings and busy shopping hub of Angel to the leafy Georgian squares that lie just a few blocks away, Islington’s diverse qualities attract residents from all walks of life. Recent years have seen its popularity boom and prospective buyers are queuing up to gain a foothold in the area. Islington residents are as likely to be found searching for antiques in Camden Passage as they are tucking into some tasty international food from Exmouth Market, or sipping cocktails in a not so secret bar. Although it is only 10 minutes from the centre of the Capital and is now home to a good smattering of chains, Islington has managed to maintain its neighbourhood character, as well as the individuality of many of its shops, bars and restaurants. Its well established theatres and arts venues have gone from strength to strength, and continue to showcase the best of British drama, dance, and art. A thriving property market, with plenty of new builds as well as traditional period houses, lures a steady stream of house hunters to Islington.
- The escalator at Angel station is the longest of all London stations, at 60m, with a vertical rise of 27.5m.Tony Blair, Colin Firth, George Orwell, Lily Allen and Boris Johnson have all lived in Islington.
- The licensees for the board game Monopoly used to meet for tea in the Lyon’s Corner House in Islington. That’s why The Angel, Islington has a spot in the game.Islington was the first London borough to receive fresh water via an aqueduct running from Hertfordshire to the New River Head reservoir. This is now the path of the New River Walk.
- Many suffragettes, including Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Wilding Davison, spent time in jail at Holloway prison.
Architecture and property
During the 19th century, Islington’s agricultural landscape was transformed by a sudden surge in property development. Basic structures and rural land gave way to red brick terraced houses, music rooms and theatre halls. Unfortunately, with industrial development came declining social conditions and for many years Islington was seen as an undesirable corner of the city. The Blitz then destroyed what little appeal the area had managed to retain. However, post-war rebuilding and gentrification have changed Islington’s image entirely, and it is now one of London’s most popular locations with several examples of attractive contemporary architecture as well as some surviving period homes.
Islington’s most desirable buildings tend to be flat fronted Georgian homes and early Victorian terraces, like those lining one of the area’s most desirable addresses, Colebrooke Row. Several 1950s and 1960s flats and council estates remain, while new apartments blocks continue to spring up across the area.
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Eating: Islington’s restaurants line up along Upper Street, offering everything from trendy chains such as Wahaca and Pix to one offs like the longstanding Le Mercury with its reasonably priced French menu. Yotam Ottolenghi's first restaurant opened in Islington, and is still a favourite. Gallipoli is a popular choice for Turkish cuisine, so favoured in fact, that there are now three restaurants in the area. Established in 1969, Frederick’s is a popular family run restaurant in nearby Angel. Try Almeida, named one of London’s top 150 restaurants, for fine modern British dining. Head to Exmouth Market for yet more choice. Locals rave about the Italian menu at Santore and the beautiful tapas at Morito.
Drinking: Enjoy summer sunsets on the rooftop terrace at The Castle pub or, for something a bit different, try the bespoke cocktails and bar snacks at the trendy 69 Colebrooke Row. Don’t leave without trying the Woodland Martini. Those after a traditional pub, head for the Compton Arms or the Charles Lamb.
Theatre: Islington is a drama-lover’s dream with four theatres. The Almeida started life as a small literary and scientific society and has grown into a world-renowned venue. When The King’s Head Theatre was founded in 1970 it was the first pub theatre in London since the days of Shakespeare, and it is now well regarded as an innovative and exciting playhouse. The Tower Theatre is a non professional company that stages up to 18 productions a year, while Sadler’s Wells showcases dance and ballet.The Union Chapel is one of London’s most unique, intimate and atmospheric gig venues.
Art: The Estorik Collection boasts one of the finest collections of early 20th century Italian art in the world, housed in a Grade II listed Georgian building with an attractive garden.
- Islington High Street and Upper Street are packed with great independent shops. Here you can find everything from seductive home accessories at Abigail Ahern to the latest fashion trends at Diverse boutique. High street chain stores can be found at the Angel and Nag’s Head shopping centres.
- The Camden Passage antiques market has been supplying Londoners with collectibles and bric-a-brac for over 50 years, and is always busy with bargain hunters at weekends.
- There are several large supermarkets in Islington, including a Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer all on the same short stretch of Liverpool Road. Lucky Islington locals also have the option of shopping at Islington Farmers’ Market, London’s oldest such market. Some 30 stalls converge every Sunday on Chapel Market, selling a variety of fresh produce, local delicacies and organic foods. Visitors don’t need to worry about lugging their shopping home as there’s lots of free parking available on Sundays around Penton Street and Claremont Square.
- Islington has several libraries, many of which have free Wi-Fi and reading groups for children and adults. It’s now even possible to borrow e-books and e-audio online.
- Highbury Pool and Gym runs numerous exercise classes in its gym studio and pools. Islington also has several other exercise possibilities, such as outdoor gyms and branches of other major gym chains.
While Islington is primarily a built-up area, locals know that it has no shortage of lovely outdoor spaces. The largest is Highbury Fields, 30 acres of sports facilities, playgrounds and open space tucked behind the busy intersection of Highbury Corner. The Ecology Centre and nature reserve at Gillespie Park is great for kids who enjoy discovering its plant, butterfly and bird species, as well as adults who can seek advice on wildlife gardening and sustainable living. Keen ramblers looking to delve further into the countryside love the New River Walk. Neither new nor a river, it follows the path of a 17th century aqueduct and connects Islington with Hertfordshire.
The new apartment blocks popping up all over Islington makes it an exciting time for buyers. Both the Wenlock Building and the Queensland Terrace development are impressive examples of these new additions.
Tube: Angel Tube station is on the Bank branch of the Northern Line. Its Zone 1 location means it’s only five minutes to Bank and seven to London Bridge. Highbury & Islington station is in Zone 2 and a journey to Oxford Circus takes seven minutes on the Victoria Line, while the Overground connects to Clapham Junction, New Cross, Canada Water, Shoreditch and Stratford.
Trains: A commuter train run by Thameslink Great Northern links to Old Street and Moorgate on weekdays.
Buses: Islington is well served by buses, with 19 routes connecting through Angel. These include the 4 (to Waterloo), 214 (to Highgate Village), and 38 (to Victoria). There are also several night buses.
Cycle: Cyclists love living in Islington as it is relatively flat and offers straightforward routes to the City and the West End. Angel has several Boris Bike docking stations.
Islington has some 46 primary schools, three of which are academies, and one a free school. St Mary’s and St Mary Magdalene Academy are popular choices, the latter taking students all the way through to sixth form. St. Aloysius' College for boys continues to be a popular choice. Parents looking for private education often look to schools in nearby Highgate and Hampstead.
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