London really is a tale of two cities, as there is a clear divide between the northern and southern parts of the Thames. For non-locals, this may seem a bit silly, but for Londoners it does mean more than you’d think!
If you’re preparing to visit London, you could do worse than learn some of the major differences so that when people ask you, you’re well informed and ready to come back with a fact or two. If you want to know more about the monuments and landmarks (as well as whether they’re north or south of the river), check out our interactive tour of the London Skyline for a ton of information, the link is included in my writer bio below.
With your knowledge of the city building, you’re already on your way to impressing the locals, but here are some differences about the two halves of the city that could really get you in their good books!
Wealth knows no bounds
Don’t get confused in thinking that north of the river is rich, and south is poor. Although the north side contains Chelsea, Hampstead, and many other posh places you’ve heard of, there are more than a few desirable locations south of the river. Ever heard of Wimbledon? Needless to say it’s one of the most sought after areas in the city, and it happens to be south of the river. As does Richmond and the areas heading further south. The further you get from the river, the bigger the properties are and the greater the wealth of the area.
On the flip side, lower income areas south of the river like Clapham and Brixton are seeing investment and growth. This is a trend that is not necessarily being mirrored by similar areas north of the river like Tower Hamlets or Harlesden. The key thing to remember is that each area is different, and no matter what people try to tell you, there is no richer and poorer side of the river.
Black cabs do go south of the river
Despite the famous phrase “I don’t go south of the river love” you’ll find many of the iconic black cab drivers are willing to make the trip. Due to the overabundance of transport options around the city, these stalwart drivers will often make the trip, knowing that they’re likely to get more business by venturing south.
Although the majority of the tube network lies north of the river, other lines like the London Overground and the DLR go south, and there are loads of rail options available ready to take you into the city. Getting home after a night out is a bit easier if heading north, because of the amount of night bus routes, and although there are a fair amount heading south, you’ll most likely have a longer wait.
South is just residential
This is simply not true. Because the majority of the city lies on the north side of the Thames, many people wrongly assert that south of the river is comprised only of residential areas. As with anywhere north of the river, each borough will usually have at least one major shopping centre or attraction, and almost every tube or rail station is nestled halfway along a bustling high street.
Likewise, huge parts of north London are situated far enough from the city that visitors may confuse them for the countryside! If in doubt about an area, go check it out for yourself, as this is the best way to gauge the environment. Don’t let people tell you “there’s nothing there” because there almost certainly is!
North London is more expensive
Along with the fact that there is no “richer” or “poorer” side of the river, eating well and going out isn’t always more expensive if you’re “up north”. London locals manage to live in a city that isn’t known for being cheap, so regardless of where you find yourself, with a bit of research and inside knowledge, you can grab a bargain.
Although the aforementioned “posh” areas will usually cost more to go out in, this doesn’t mean they’re all north of the river. Clapham is a big up and comer, and is host to many trendy bars that almost require a credit check before you’re allowed in the door! It all depends on how much you’re willing to spend and where you feel comfortable. If someone suggests heading north, don’t assume that you won’t be able to go because it’s too expensive. Find out more about the individual place then make your decision.
So there you have it, 4 things that people will try to tell you about north and south London, but which aren’t always true. If you’re visiting the city, regardless of where you’re staying, or where you intend to go, be sensible and keep an open mind and you’ll be able to see everything that this amazing city has to offer!
Michael and Gina Zullo says
Very good article, Jane. You are right on the mark about the differences you mention regarding the two halves of the city. We love expensive London and try to get there whenever we can when we travel in Europe. We’ve been there maybe 5 times and unfortunately find the Londoners not nearly as warm as New Yorkers.
Otherwise, a busy and great city to take in the sights and attractions.
Michael and Gina Z.
New York City, USA
i am a londoner, and i am genuinely surprised by your article. if anything, here, we say anything north of the river is a no no. south of the river has always been thought of as ‘ the right side of the river’ which north londoners hate! although this is more of a joke and piss take among the locals than anything based on fact. i also noted that the article is written in 2015, yet it says Clapham is an ‘up and comer’ ?? the only time Clapham wasn’t an Up and comer was in the time of Jane Eyre! ok may be that’s not entirely true, but Clapham and most of South London are by far the most expensive area to live in.
i think the general thought behind your article is fine, its just not accurate. and by the way, i am a north londoner, so no bias here.
Mimi is nuts. No North Londonor would speak this way. That’s Croydon talk. Clapham the most expensive part of London?! My eyes were watering with that one.
However regarding the article, seemed a bit – trying to promote South rather than highlighting our amazing city as a whole.
Lets not pit one side against the other and encourage our visitors to seek out the 4 corners of this place I am proud to call home.
Mimi’s clearly pulling our legs here. No one has EVER thought of South London as ‘the right side of the river’. I myself have absolutely nothing against South London and frequently visit (in particular Richmond, which in my opinion, has the best park in London). Not once have I ever heard a single Londoner say ‘the north side is a no-no’, rather it’s ALWAYS been the South that has suffered this unfortunate stigma
This article is drivel. Greater London is a region not a city, and Richmond is considered by anybody with a brain to be north Surrey, not south London. Go out south east to Orpington, and there are farms. Call the locals “Londoners” and the best you can hope for is to be laughed at.