10 reasons to visit Lambeth
From the bohemia of Brixton Village to the dazzle of the London Eye, Lambeth is nothing if not diverse. The borough is bursting at the seams with culture and energy, making it a destination well worth visiting. Our Local editor Sarah tells us more...
1. Thing about the area
Lambeth is a place of endlessly exciting diversity. It's such a cliché to describe somewhere as a cultural melting pot but it really is true here. The streets are alive with the sights, smells and sounds of countless ideas and identities merging and being reinvented. Lambeth is an incredibly creative place that always has something new to offer, set against the backdrop of a rich historical narrative.
2. Child-friendly café
Under The Greenwood Tree in Clapham Old Town is an independent children's book and toyshop with a charming café at the back. As well as serving first-rate coffee and cakes, the café also has books and toys laid out to entertain visiting children. There are also plenty of events for children including the popular weekly Saturday story time.
3. Child-free night out
Start off at The Ritzy in Brixton, an iconic landmark in the area and a powerhouse of indie cinema for decades. There's a great café on the ground floor and a bar upstairs which hosts an eclectic list of live music from reggae and jazz to blues and folk.
From there, head over to Brixton Village, home to more than 20 cafés and restaurants and open until late on Thursday and Friday nights with live music. Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner recently called Brixton Village "the most exciting, radical venture on the British restaurant scene right now."
Particularly recommended are KaoSarn, a family-run Thai restaurant, and Elephant, a tiny Pakistani café that specialises in thalis. Honest Burger is also great, and serves rosemary-flavoured chips which are so tasty that there's often no tables left. Fear not though - staff will text you when a table becomes free, leaving you free to explore the market in the meantime.
Finally, head over to Electric, which hosts music and dancing in a converted cinema with an art deco interior.
For those with the energy, a quick late night trip on the 159 bus to Westminster Bridge to enjoy stunning views of the river (while listening to Big Ben chiming an early morning hour) is considered a wonderful way to end the evening.
4. Outside space
Lambeth is really spoiled with more than its fair share of outside space. Clapham Common is one of London's biggest parks with three cafés, two children's playgrounds, extensive ponds and a grandstand within its parkland. It also has tennis courts, a bowling green and a skate park.
Brockwell Park has a beautiful Walled Garden with heritage flowers, formal planted gardens and open woodland - all with amazing views of the city of London. As well as children's playgrounds and paddling pools, it also contains one of London's last remaining Art Deco lidos, which really comes into its own in the summer, though it's open all year round.
Average semi-detached house price
Average class size for primary schools
UK: 25.9 pupils
5. Hidden gem
The Hideaway is a club in Streatham which offers swing and soul as well as jazz evenings. Visit its café on a Sunday to combine lovely jazz music with their gorgeous eggs Benedict, easily making it among the civilised places to eat brunch in South London.
West Norwood Cemetery is a bit of a local secret. It's full of Gothic Revival architecture, and 69 of its tombs are listed buildings in their own right. As well as wondering at the carved stonework, search out its famous residents including Mrs Beeton, John Doulton and Hiram Maxim.
Cookery book author Rosie Lovell has her own small local café, Rosie's Deli, which you can find in Brixton Market offering delicious snacks.
6. Community venues
The Rookery at the top of Streatham Common has beautiful gardens that are perfect for summer picnics and frosty autumn walks. The Rookery has been virtually unchanged since it opened one hundred years ago and is beloved by generations of locals. Its friendly café serves authentic Italian food and ice cream, as well as the usual coffee and cakes. It can be very busy in the summer when the children's paddling pool is open. Every Sunday its popular garden community group meet, giving locals the chance to get involved – they welcomes help from anyone, allowing local children and parents to get stuck in.
7. Free visitor attractions
The best visitor attraction in Lambeth is really Lambeth itself. Its history is so rich and varied that a walk around the streets is in itself a rich cultural experience. Download a free walking guide and get stuck in. Especially recommended are the Brixton to Ruskin Park Walk, which looks at the history of Brixton. Also check out the Clapham and Slavery Walk, which looks at sites connected with the abolitionist movement.
The Poetry Library houses the Arts Council poetry collection, which is the most comprehensive and accessible collection of modern poetry in Britain. Meanwhile, the Mediatheque on the Southbank allows free access to every film owned by the British Film Institute onsite.
The astonishing 575 Wandsworth Road has virtually every wall, ceiling and door of the house carved with exquisite patterns by its former owner, Khadambi Asalache, and is stunning, though do note this is only free to National Trust Members, otherwise you have to pay.
8. Day out
Spend a day on the Southbank. Start with a trip on the London Eye to take in those beautiful London sights, and if it leaves you hungry for more then you can take a riverboat cruise down the Thames.
For lunch, wander into Gabriels Wharf - a collection of 50 restaurants, cafes and shops. Pieminster and The Gourmet Pizza Co are particularly recommended.
After lunch you could browse the second hand books on sale in the open air book market that is held under Waterloo Bridge daily, or if it's a cold, overcast day, a trip to The London Aquarium always offers something bright and interesting.
In the evening, Lambeth offers an embarrassment of riches - watch a world class play at the National Theatre or the nearby Old Vic, go to a concert at the Royal Festival Hall or watch a film in the BFI.
All have their own great restaurants, but the BFI Café is particularly recommended, as is Cut Bar, housed in the nearby Young Vic Theatre whose Rockerfella burger (with smoked oysters) is a local legend.
9. Places to live
Property off Clapham Common has long since been at a premium, with four bedroom properties on the nearby roads fetching upwards of £2 million.
Brixton is considered the fashionable place to be if you are after vibrant nightlife and has a lot of beautiful Victorian properties, many of which are being turned back into family homes decades after they were split into flats.
The Streatham Lodge Conservation area is a secret treasure, with a mixture of Edwardian Arts and Crafts houses and 1920s terraces. It is bounded to the North by Streatham Common and to the East by the mature woodland of Norwood Grove, meaning it feels incredibly leafy and quiet for London.
10. Places to shop
In Brixton, Morleys Department Store has been supplying local residents since 1929 and opposite is the food market, which is known as Lambeth's larder and is a great destination for foodies looking for unusual produce. Its local butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers supply half of Lambeth. There are also plenty of cafés and delis to sit in and people watch.
Don't miss Book Mongers on Coldharbour Lane, a wonderful second-hand book shop as famous for its much-adored and beautiful dog Rosa as it is for its brilliant collection of used books.
Clapham Common Old Town is great for gifts, clothes and jewellery buys, as well as some quirky local finds such as the Pond Gallery.
My name is Sarah and although originally a northerner, I have lived in Lambeth for the last 15 years. I love the energy and creativity here. I can spend hours just walking around and people watching. I am constantly amazed by the things I discover on my doorstep. As a keen cook, the rise of a new food culture here in the last few years has been especially exciting to me.
Last updated: about 3 years ago