For my fourth trip to London, I decided I wanted to get a real sense of what it’s like to live in London, so I rented a room in a flat in the North London borough of Muswell Hill. That choice turned out to be one of the best travel decisions I’ve ever made. I spent three weeks in Muswell Hill and it didn’t take long for it to feel like home.
Muswell Hill has the feeling of a small town, despite being surrounded by the giant metropolis that is London. The streets and neighborhoods are surprisingly quiet, yet bustling with city energy. Made up of middle class and working class professionals, this neighborhood feels a lot like my own back in the States. The only difference is instead of stucco homes built twenty years ago, the buildings of Muswell Hill are red brick and at least 150 years old! The mix of modern life and historical architecture is one of my favorite elements of the London atmosphere.
Like most London boroughs, Muswell Hill has a central point where shops, public transportation, and social events converge. Muswell Hill Broadway serves as the central artery that pulls everything and everyone together.
I spent more than a couple of days enjoying the shops of Muswell Hill Broadway. There are fantastic bookshops tucked into unassuming storefronts and more than a few worthwhile cafes. On one of my favorite days, I went to a great craft store, Art for Art’s Sake, and then the coffee shop next door.
Follow the curve of Muswell Hill Broadway and it leads to the center of town. This is the where the buses from the city come through and it’s the hub for all major streets. Bus 43 goes from Muswell Hill all the way to London Bridge. For the price of a bus fare, (£1.40 with Oyster card), it’s possible to see the all major sites of London from a double-decker bus, while also taking in the local scenery.
Past the central hub is the area’s only movie theater or cinema, The Odeon. I saw “X-men: Origins” one afternoon and it was a hoot, (see Saturday Matinee in Muswell Hill). The Odeon is actually considered a historical building as it is well-known for its art deco architecture.
Last, but not least, Muswell Hill offers a very unique view of the London skyline. Whether peeking through side streets or from one of the hills of Alexandra Park, the landmark buildings of downtown London seem so far away even though they’re only a 15-minute train ride away.
Aside from amazing city views, Alexandra Park is also a nice place to sit and feed the ducks. The roses always seem to be in bloom and there’s never a shortage of green.
The best part about Muswell Hill is how easily the people accepted me as part of the neighborhood. Within a week the baristas knew my usual coffee order and said hello like I’d lived there all my life. I’ll never forget that kindness.
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Part of the A to Z Challenge!
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