Living in Camberwell

By Mike Watson

Camberwell has enjoyed mixed fortunes over the years. It has gone from a fashionable area with a good, large-scale Victorian housing stock to an area associated with drugs and deprivation to a trendy area once again, stoked by the booming art market and the spread outwards of London’s relentless growth in wealth.

Camberwell certainly bears the marks of two very different worlds – from the local population to the growing trendy student and artist crowd (centred around Camberwell College of Arts and the nearby South London Gallery). The charming brick town houses co-exist with sprawling Council Estates that appear on the news frequently for all the wrong reasons. Camberwell Green which marks Camberwell’s living centre leads on all sides towards a blend of bars that grow ever trendier each year, fried chicken joints, charming delicatessens and a mixture of the usual High Street stores.


Housing in Camberwell is well known for being marginally cheaper than in the trendy Shoreditch and Hackney, and makes a good alternative for those for those interested in the thriving arts and music scene. However, it must be noted that Camberwell is not cheap as such and is growing in price all the time. For a decent size flat in a Victorian conversion not too far from London’s centre, Camberwell still makes a viable option. If you don’t mind living in an ex-local authority block, prices are even more affordable.


There is a strong African and Afro-Caribbean influence in Camberwell, admixed with a Greek-Cypriot presence and a strong student representation drawn from Camberwell College of Arts, Kings College London, Goldsmiths College and the Institute of Psychiatry. Note also that there is a large hospital and an internationally renowned mental hospital – the Maudsley – lending a strong presence from the medical community.

It has been forecast that the rising price of rents in Hackney and Shoreditch will see artist communities displaced once again – this time to the Camberwell and Peckham areas. This seems probable and those considering a move may well wish to consider this as the next creative boom area.

Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment

Denmark Hill station is home to the Phoenix Pub featuring an original old iron stair case, a station clock, and a plethora of fine ales. The pub is a sign that this is an area on the rise. Camberwell includes a number of charming pubs home to an arty crowd with taste for ale, wine and conversation. The George Canning, just a stones throw from The Phoenix is a fine example of this.

Trendier bars line Camberwell Church Street, the main artery road running through Camberwell towards Peckham. The Cube Bar, Hermit’s Cave and Funky Munky are just three of these. Across the road a Jazz Club operates from the Crypt of St.Giles’ Church on Fridays. Many of these bars operate a late licence on weekends and run club style events.

With new bars appearing and old ones being refurbished regularly, Camberwell offers enough to compensate for not being Hackney or Shoreditch. In two years as Shoreditch has begun to resemble Angel, or even Notting Hill, you may be glad to have made the move to what is, arguably, an edgier area.


Camberwell features a number of wide open spaces. Camberwell Green itself is central to all of Camberwell life but is not an ideal place to hang out as it is frequented by boozers and drug addicts. Try instead the pleasant Ruskin Park which is a short walk from Denmark Hill Station. With its many park benches it's an ideal place to meet people, especially if you are a dog owner. Also check out Burgess Park and Kennington Park, both of which are on the way out of Camberwell towards central London.

Shops, Restaurants and Takeaways

As with bars and restaurants, quality shops are springing up in Camberwell and there are plenty in the way of trusty hardware stores, bargain stores, food stores (a Somerfield’s and a Morrison’s), an independent bookshop with a few good titles (but leaning on the trashy side, I hate to say) and much more besides.

Takeaways are in abundance and the usual Indian and Chinese style foods are well represented. Try the Denmark Hill Tandoori and Tasty House for good examples of both. Indiaaah is also a good choice for a curry. In terms of restaurants, few come here for the high quality dining yet the Black Sheep is famed as a Gastro Pub. The Vineyard Greek Restaurant has being doing good trade for years and is ideal for dining with friends in a relaxed atmosphere. There are many more besides to try.


Camberwell has a number of bus routes going in all directions, making Peckham, New Cross, Kennington, Dulwich, Nunhead, Forest Hill, Waterloo (just across from Charing Cross), Elephant and Castle, London Bridge and the City all reachable with ease. Further afield Shoreditch is only a 40 minute ride in peak time. Buses include (besides others): 35, 40, 42, 171, 176.

Trains from Denmark Hill go regularly to Victoria and Blackfriars (just a ten minute journey) making an ideal area for commuting. The addition of a tube station in Denmark Hill, linking to the East London Line that runs to Whitechapel and Shoreditch makes this an area to watch, ideal for investment.

Good Points

  • up and coming arts and bar scene
  • good transport links
  • relatively inexpensive to live
  • close to several colleges

Bad Points

  • few very good restaurants
  • good shops, but room for improvement


Cheap rent means more money to spend at the pubs.

Gritty, cheap and international with loads of character.

Edgy, gritty and artsy area close to central London.

Camden Town
Full of punks, market stalls and a great canal.

Diverse area with everyone from yuppies to yobbos.

Decent shopping but the nightlife is a bit uninspired.

Earl's Court
In zone one but expensive and full of tourists.

East Dulwich
A posh area south of the river but still affordable.

Finsbury Park

Very nice area but expensive and the District line is crap.

Nice, safe, close to the city but not much nightlife.

Great transport links and near to the Thames.

Great transport links but a bit dodgy at night.

Green and pretty but a little bit on the dull side.

Shepherd's Bush
A lively, edgy, multicultural area in West London.

Edgy, creative and trendy with a great nightlife.

Stoke Newington

A bit rough around the edges but a great place for a curry.

West Hampstead
Well connected by transport but a little expensive.

Willesden Green
Cheap, full of travellers and well connected.

Nice area, decent nightlife and good transport to the city.

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