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Area guide for Southwark

Southwark overview

What it's all about?

The London Borough of Southwark’s coat of arms reveals much about this area of south London, which stretches from the Thames down to Crystal Palace and from Elephant and Castle across to Rotherhithe. The shield is held by an actor playing Hamlet, referencing the Globe and Rose theatres, and the squire from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, a nod to Southwark’s role as the gateway to the south. The ship refers to Bermondsey and Rotherhithe’s maritime past and the well to Camberwell’s springs, while the cinquefoils are from the prestigious Dulwich College further to the south. The inhabitants of such cultural and historic riches are rightly proud of being South Londoners and cite many of the best theatres, museums, galleries, parks, schools and views over the city as reasons to love their neighbourhood. And with considerable regeneration projects bringing fresh life to some of the urban areas, and the blossoming of street-food markets and new cafés and bars, the area is now in demand as a destination for young professionals and families alike.

Fact file

  • The areas within Southwark are Borough, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Walworth, Peckham, Camberwell, Peckham Rye and Nunhead, and Dulwich.
  • Author Enid Blyton, footballer Rio Ferdinand, actors Tim Roth and John Boyega and musician Florence Welch of Florence and the Machines all hail from Southwark.

Architecture and housing

The area around Elephant and Castle in particular is notable for large-scale regeneration projects and new-build housing. Elsewhere there’s a wide range of housing available, from the occasional Georgian cobbled street nestled by the Thames alongside luxury apartments and riverside warehouse conversions, to pockets of solid Victorian terraces in Camberwell and Peckham. As a rule, the further south you go, the larger the property and its garden are likely to be.

For house price information please visit our resource centre.

Going out

Eating: For fine dining and dazzling views over the river while you dine, it’s hard to beat the OXO Tower Restaurant. Originally a power station, it was transformed into the Art Deco icon we know today in the late 1920s. Head south to Joanna’s in Crystal Palace and grab a window seat to enjoy a modern British and international menu and spectacular view of the London skyline. Meanwhile, Necos Creperie next to Canada Water station creates fabulous sweet and savoury treats for you in minutes. Or book a table at the always-busy Paladar close to Elephant and Castle for Latin American cooking in as urban a setting as you could imagine.

Drinking: In Elephant and Castle, Mercato Metropolitano street food hall offers all-day dining and drinking and provides ample people-watching opportunities. East Dulwich has been a destination for some time and the line of bars keeps extending up the hill towards Horniman Gardens. The Great Exhibition is a magnificent Victorian corner pub restored to its former glory with an excellent choice of ales and a legendary bottomless brunch, while Hop Burns and Black is a super-trendy record store, craft beer shop and tasting room. For riverside pints, The Mayflower in Rotherhithe is hard to beat. Claiming to be the oldest pub on the Thames, it’s a candlelit delight tucked away on a cobbled street and overlooking the 1620 berth of the Pilgrim Fathers’ Mayflower ship.

Nightlife: Corsica Studios is a little more intimate than the nearby Ministry of Sound but both draw clubbers from across the capital. Peckham’s CLF Art Cafe is known as a club but also hosts comedy clubs and film screenings. Surrey Quay’s Printworks club offers a massive main room and stacks of smaller spaces with dramatic lighting and the latest acoustics.

Entertainment: Home to The Old and Young Vic as well as Shakespeare’s Globe, The National Theatre, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and a host of smaller venues, Southwark has a huge choice of venues. In Camberwell, Jazzlive at the Crypt has live music in a deconsecrated 11th-century crypt under the church, with homemade food served from a tiny hatch and an atmosphere that only a crypt can generate. For a more urbane evening, Omeara in Borough is a music venue under the arches run by Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons.

Events: For one day of the year in September, Bermondsey Street, behind London Bridge, is closed off to traffic and filled with stalls, street performers, bars, and residents for the Bermondsey Street Festival. Rotherhithe Festival is a community-run day-time party in July with a line-up of bands and free children’s rides paid for by local sponsors. Dulwich Festival is now in its 25th year and is held over a May weekend in locations across the area.

Local highlights

  • Tate Modern is London’s premier contemporary gallery, with blockbuster exhibitions and world-class permanent collections.
  • The Hayward Gallery hosts rotating modern art exhibitions and also has a fascinating digital archive
  • The phenomenon that is Peckham Levels was created in a derelict multi-storey car park and is home to studios, shops, bars and performance spaces.
  • Dulwich Picture Gallery, housed in Sir John Soane’s neo-Greek building designed specifically to bring as much light in as possible, is a gem in this quiet corner of London.

Green space

Brunswick Park is the largest of Southwark’s recreational areas, with a BMX track, playgrounds and community gardens. There’s also the spacious Southwark Park in Bermondsey and Dulwich Park to the south, along with Peckham Rye to the south-east.

Changing times

Parts of Southwark are experiencing dramatic regeneration, including Elephant and Castle, where more than 5,000 homes are being built over a number of years. Peckham has also seen significant changes recently, bringing fresh interest to the area.

Transport

Rail: There are 11 railway stations in the area, including the London Bridge terminus. In addition, there are six London Overground stations, forming part of the South London line extension.

Tube: Three tube lines (Bakerloo, Northern and Jubilee) serve seven stops in the area, although they are concentrated in the north of the borough. A five-minute ride on the Northern line from Elephant and Castle will take you to Bank, while it takes just 12 minutes to get to King’s Cross. The Bakerloo line, also from Elephant and Castle, whisks you to Oxford Circus in 10 minutes.

Bus: Numerous buses, many of them 24-hour, criss-cross the area to and from central London.

Road: Arterial roads include the A210 Inner Ring Road from Elephant and Castle to Tower Bridge, the A2 Old Kent Road from Elephant and Castle out to Kent, the A202 from Peckham to Camberwell. The Walworth Road is the main north-south route connecting Dulwich, Camberwell and Elephant and Castle.

Cycle: Cycle Superhighways connect Elephant and Castle to St Paul’s, the City and King’s Cross, while a Quietway runs east from Waterloo to Greenwich.

Getting away

The Northern line provides a quick link to St Pancras International, while the Jubilee line travels through Waterloo, London Bridge and Stratford International. The Bakerloo line from Elephant and Castle travels to Marylebone and Paddington stations.

Education

As well as the prestigious public schools, such as boys’ day and boarding school Dulwich College, that Dulwich is known for, there are some 34 primary schools and 19 secondary schools throughout Southwark. There is also London South Bank University in Elephant and Castle, the media and arts-focused London College of Communication and Camberwell College of Arts. King’s College London university teaching hospital based at Guy’s Hospital in London Bridge is the largest in Europe.

Please see our education resource for more information on schools in this area.

 

Pop into your nearest KFH branch to talk to our local experts.

Did we miss something? If you have any local expertise to improve our area guide, then please email us on areaguides@kfh.co.uk

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