What’s it all about?
London’s elite – including, it is said, George III – used to make the journey to South East London to take Sydenham’s restorative spa waters, but it was not until the arrival of the railways and the relocation nearby of the Crystal Palace in the mid 19th century that the area became fashionable. Now Sydenham, a large area spread across several different boroughs, is a bustling neighbourhood with a range of shops, bars and restaurants to choose from, and is exceptionally well served for green spaces, being surrounded by award winning parks. Since its incorporation into the Overground network, Sydenham has become well connected to the City and Docklands, as well as being a short hop away from the entertainments of the Crystal Palace Triangle. Families with young children are spoilt for choice too, with all types of schools being represented here.
- Danish-French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro produced many paintings of the area and his 1871 work The Avenue, Sydenham was bought by the National Gallery in 1984.
- Famous one time residents of Sydenham include explorer Ernest Shackleton, television inventor John Logie Baird and the entertainer Bud Flanagan.
Architecture and property
Originally known as Shippenham, Sydenham began as a small settlement of a few cottages among the woods, whose inhabitants grazed their animals and collected wood. The neighbourhood grew rapidly, however, after the opening of the first canal in 1809 and then the railway in 1839, and many houses were built at the time of the relocation of the Great Exhibition to Sydenham in 1854. All this means that there is a huge variety of housing stock, including grand Edwardian statement homes, Victorian terraces, classic three bedroom 1930s semis and 1960s townhouses, as well as flats in newer developments.
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Eating: Sydenham is home to a number of highly-rated restaurants including Millennium Tandoori, named the Best Takeaway in Britain by readers of the Evening Standard in 2013, and Tratttoria Raffaele, the Best Restaurant in London according to Trip Advisor in 2016. Other popular options include Gurkha’s Nepalese and Indian Cuisine, Cobbs Corner which is a great coffee shop,Brown & Green Café which specialises in brunch, and Blackbird Bakery which provides delicious baked goods.
Drinking: One of the most popular pubs in the area is the Greyhound, voted Sydenham’s Favourite Pub in 2019. Other great options include The Dolphin, which offers decent pub grub and has a beautifully designed garden at the back, and The Golden Lion, which is home to the Sydenham Film Club on the last Thursday of each month. A short walk up Sydenham Hill brings you to the Dulwich Woodhouse, with its traditional country pub feel and family friendly vibe.
Events: The annual Sydenham Arts Festival, held at the Sydenham Centre, has been building momentum each year and now encompasses music, theatre, dance, art and film, often in unexpected places, both indoors and out. Another great venue is the Bridge House Theatre which hosts productions from the latest talent within the industry. Nearby Beckenham Place Park holds events throughout the year including markets, workshops, open air cinema, music festivals and free community events.
- The monthly Sydenham Market showcases local traders and offers a range of street food and artisanal produce.
- Calabash of Culture offers ethnic books and gifts, as well as hosting a vegan cafe. Long term fixture the Kirkdale Bookshop also hosts exhibitions and book readings.
- For your everyday needs, there is a large Sainsbury’s store at the Bell Green part of Sydenham, with two smaller Tescos and a Lidl.
- Sydenham Library runs a local service, and there is a large library with many facilities just down the road in Forest Hill.
- The Horniman Museum in Forest Hill is very close by and offers a great collection of exhibits, some of which you can touch, as well as having beautiful gardens and an aquarium.
- There is the sports centre at Crystal Palace, which has one of only nine Olympic sized pools in the country.
- Sydenham Tennis Club offers a range of membership options for players of all ages and abilities.
Sydenham has many lovely local green spaces such as Sydenham Wells Park, Mayow Park and Alexandra Recreation Ground, which are well maintained. There are shaded walks in Dulwich Wood and Sydenham Hill Wood, and pockets of woodland along the railway line at Dacres Wood, which is also a nature reserve, and at the locally maintained Albion Millennium Green off Albion Villas. Crystal Palace Park, with its lake, concert bowl, Victorian dinosaurs and sports stadium, is close by.
While houses in the area are predominantly Edwardian or Victorian, new developments and refurbishments to properties such as the popular Greyhound pub mean that Sydenham remains a modern and vibrant place to live, yet is slightly more affordable than its neighbours.
Rail: The area is very well served by rail, Sydenham, Sydenham Hill and Lower Sydenham stations, as well as Penge East and West, all offering trains into central London. The journey to London Bridge from Sydenham takes 20 minutes, and Victoria from Sydenham Hill is under 15 minutes. The arrival of the Overground now links the area directly to Docklands and Shoreditch.
Bus: The main bus route through Sydenham is the 363 to King’s Cross, mirrored by the N63. A short walk up to Crystal Palace Parade gives access to a range of buses to other destinations. The 176 and 197 also serve the area.
Road: Sydenham lies very close to the South Circular, offering easy access for weekend escapes into Surrey and Kent, and makes for a simple journey to the ferry port at Dover.
Cycle: Waterlink Way is a car free cycle route allowing you to cycle north along the banks of the Pool and Ravensbourne rivers from SE26 all the way to Greenwich. Head south and the route takes you through Kelsey Park to South Norwood Country Park and beyond.
Schools within the area that are rated Outstanding by Ofsted include the preschools Grace’s Day Nursery, Little Cherubs Nursery and Cuddly Bear Care Nursery; primary schools Eliot Bank and Harris Academy Kent House; and secondary Harris Academy Girls Bromley. There are fourteen additional primary schools in the area that are rated Good.
Please see our schools tab for more information on schools in this area.
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