In this post, I would like to share with you my perspective on the worst places to live in London: dangerous areas, unpleasant districts, poorly connected places, dull neighbourhoods or simply areas very few people would want to live in. Before we start this controversial topic, I must say that it’s my personal opinion and I don’t want to offend anyone who lives in these areas and likes them. However, the general rule in London is that good places, where everyone wants to live, are expensive. If the area is cheap – that’s because people generally don’t want to settle down there (because of various reasons).
I’ve been living in London for over three years, and I wish someone had shared an article like this before I moved to the city from Edinburgh, Scotland. London is so big and so diverse that living in different areas might provide a totally different experience. When I used to live in Elephant & Castle, I was quite unhappy and was thinking of moving out of London. However, when I moved to North London (East Finchley), I fell in love with the area. Some areas of London have a very strong sense of community, and the community strives to make the district better every day. Some other neighbourhoods feel like places where people are based for a short period of time and want to move out as quickly as they can.
Why there is little information about the worst places to live in London?
When I was researching this topic before moving to London, and one year later, when I was looking for another area to live in London, I couldn’t find much about the worst areas to live in London. However, there are a plethora of articles about the best areas (and most of these articles are lobbied by property developers and estate agencies).
Of course, they wouldn’t want to write about the worst areas! On the contrary, I’ve seen the worst neighbourhoods featured in their best lists so many times.
Naturally, they want to make more money and sell these properties to naive people, who just moved in and never lived in these areas before.
Why I didn’t want to write about the worst neighbourhoods to live in London
At first, I didn’t want to write about the worst places to live in London because it might offend people who like these areas. However, I also want to help others who are moving in and might end up in an area, which was featured as a great place to live and who might end up hating it and will have bad time for the entire duration of their rental agreement.
Also, what I want to add – you don’t need to take my opinion as absolute truth – you always need to go to the area and look yourself. Maybe you will end up liking it, but you will never know until you go, right? Same goes for the “worst places” to live in London – don’t just rent there! Head there at least twice – once during the day and once at night, so you can see, how will it be during the dark hours.
What about the best places to live in London?
If you want to read my opinion about the best places to live in London, well, I’ve got two posts for you – one if you’re a student / young professional – here’s a list of the best places to live in London for young people. If you’re a bit older and already have a family & looking for good schools or simply want a green and safe area – here’s my post about the best areas to live in London for families.
Areas during the day vs at night
For example, I really liked Walthamstow during the day, but I absolutely didn’t enjoy my walk at night. As a young female, I felt a lot of unwanted attention and realised that I wouldn’t want to walk home alone through the narrow streets. I also checked the crime stats on ADT, and there were so many sexual crimes (and these were only the reported ones) on these streets, so I kind of lost all the desire to live in this area.
However, this is my personal experience, as I know some people who happily lived in Walthamstow and walked late at night. Same goes for local groups in areas – we almost bought a flat in Blackhorse Road last year and joined the Facebook community of local residents. Pretty much every single post is about stolen bikes, and house and car burglaries. So different from our current local group in East Finchley, where people mainly rant about trash left in local woods and parks.
Alright, so enough intro, let’s start with the worst areas to live in London, whether it’s unsafe/dangerous areas, areas with a lot of drug crime, pollution or simply dull and unpleasant places to live in London.
Worst places to live in London (Unsafe, unpleasant or badly connected)
But first, I wanted to share with you the map of violet crimes in London – most of the crimes obviously happen in the touristic hotspots like Westminster or King’s Cross; however, you would be able to see some areas marked in red that are far from touristic locations. Most of the places mentioned below will be featured on this website in red or dark orange.
So let’s start with probably my least favourite place to live in London and the area I would personally consider one of the worst district to live in London. Whenever somebody asks whether it’s a good place to stay in London short-term want to live in London long-term I say that I don’t recommend staying in this area. However, in the last few years, it’s been changing for the better, there is a bit of investment going on at the moment. There are also more significant regeneration and gentrification plans for Barking. However, as of 2020, it’s still not a great place to live. I had the chance to visit Barking on multiple occasions and not even once there was something I actually liked about this area. However I haven’t gone that far away from the underground station probably 11-12 minutes away was the furthest I’ve been, so, perhaps, it gets better a bit further?
Upton Park & Plaistow
Acton Park and Plaistow are two areas located very close to each other, probably about 15 to 20 minutes walking away; hence I wanted to combine them in one point. Plaistow isn’t that bad, but there are no shops, no supermarkets and pretty much nothing to do in the area. Yet, there is a clear issue of trash collection from the streets of Plaistow and houses rarely look well taken care of. A friend of mine had rented a place in Plaistow before and described it as “very rough”.
Upton Park is a much more commercial area with a lot of shops, but the lowlight of the area is huge semi-indoor market. And to be completely honest with you, this market doesn’t look pretty even remotely, and it doesn’t look like it’s located in the UK at all. It reminded me of the apocalyptical shopping mall in Elephant and Castle, where we used to live in 2017 (as I mentioned before), but much much worse. You will be able to buy a lot of cheap clothes that are laying in bulk on various stalls and a lot of low-quality plasticky objects for all purposes. Just as Plaistow and Barking, Upton Park has issues with rubbish collection, so the streets can be dirty at times and not very welcoming.
Tottenham has been on the list of the most dangerous areas of London for at least a couple of decades or maybe even longer. It is a huge area, and some parts are definitely worse than the others. The area with the highest number of crimes in Tottenham is definitely around the north of Tottenham where it’s bordering the Higham Hill in Walthamstow.
However, Tottenham Hale tube station (despite having amazing connections to the city centre, where you can get in less than 15 minutes) can be quite sketchy and dodgy at times, especially at night. All the people I know who lived in the area strongly discouraged me from even coming there for a visit in the evening. There are huge plans for the regeneration of this area because of its proximity to the city centre and the convenience of commute to central London; however, it’s still at the earliest stages, so it would take perhaps 5 to 10 years for the area to be transformed even a little bit.
Harlesden / Willesden
Another area with a relatively high crime rate is Harlesden and as well as the neighbouring area called Willesden. Both of the areas have been changing a lot recently and that caused a spike of charming cafés and coffee places in these neighbourhoods. You can even find Gail’s bakery there nowadays (in case you haven’t heard of this bakery, basically, it’s a trendy chain, and it’s usually based in these areas in London, where yummy mummies live, such as Chiswick and Highgate).
Yet, there are still many complaints about burglaries and sexual assaults in the area, and despite the fact that the house prices have increased dramatically in the last six years, it would still take circa 10 to 15 years for the area to become lovely, if it continues to change like it’s been changing in the last few years.
Bethnal Green / Whitechapel
Both Bethnal Green and Whitechapel are located super close to the city centre. From Whitechapel, you can actually walk to the City of London (where all the banks are) in less than 10 minutes. Both of these areas, however, see a high level of crime. They can be quite rough and definitely not pretty, and Bethnal Green is also dominated by sizeable social housing blocks. People often refer to Whitechapel because there are quite a few stabbings and the only news I ever read from Whitechapel and news like these ones or these. If you’re a young female and you are certain that you will be going home alone quite a lot in the evenings, I would definitely not recommend living there because you might attract a lot of unwanted attention.
London is one of the world’s most diverse multicultural cities, and that’s pretty awesome. However, some areas are less diverse than others. One of such areas is Southall – it’s often referred to as Little India or little Pakistan because pretty much all the residents living there are from India or Pakistan. Unless you’re from this area of the world, you might feel a little bit excluded from the local community, and you might have difficulties to find the groceries you’re used to eating. Apart from that, Southall also has a lot of issues with crime and often appears in the news with headlines like that.
Deptford + some parts of Bermondsey
Deptford and some parts of Bermondsey were historically very poor areas even in the survey of Charles Booth of 1899, these areas have been marked in dark blue or black colours meaning these were some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in London.
When the slums were demolished, the council has built a lot of social housing but hasn’t eliminated the underlying problems and solved the inequality. To these days, it remains one of London’s most deprived areas with a lot of problems, and this is very unfortunate.
However, some other areas of Bermondsey have become quite posh in the last ten years.
Thamesmead is a district built mainly in the 1960s, and it was supposed to be a planned perfection. However, due to its very remote location and huge issues with transport, most people just didn’t want to leave in these blocks, and the area has gone downhill dramatically. In Thamesmead, you can probably buy the cheapest flats in London, and that’s probably on the estate that looks pretty abandoned and apocalyptical. If you ever watched a TV series called “Misfits”, you must have seen Thamesmead pretty much in all the episodes. I’ve recently heard that the government started demolishing some of the estates, but nobody foresees the area changing much in the future, as the transport problem hasn’t been solved.
Ilford has gone downhill in the last 10 or 15 years. While many areas of London are being gentrified, unfortunately, Ilford is really going downhill and quite a lot. It already has a negative connotation, and it’s definitely not helping the area. The news from Ilford are pretty much never positive – all about drug dealers, other criminals and knife attacks.
Camberwell & Peckham
Some of the areas of Peckham (close to Dulwich and Peckham Rye park) are actually pretty nice. It’s very green, there is a big park, and there are plenty of nice independent restaurants and coffee shops. Some other areas, on the contrary look quite bad.
Peckham is pretty much the only place in London where I have seen people literally fighting for the reduced food in Asda. There is also trash flying around everywhere on the High Street of Peckham, so there are definitely issues with trash collection, and it’s definitely not the prettiest place to live in London.
Camberwell, on the other hand, doesn’t have any nice areas. It’s famous for its regular stabbings and a lot of unrest in the social estates. Moreover, it’s also badly connected, so I don’t see any reason to live in this neighbourhood unless you absolutely can’t avoid it.
Dagenham is located very far; it’s also not pretty, and it’s famous for being rough and having a lot of crime. It’s often featured on the list of the worst places to live in London even by their estate agents which generally don’t publish this kind of articles, but in case of Dagenham, they can’t avoid it.
Lewisham & Catford
Other two areas that often see a high level of crime are Catford and Lewisham. Lewisham has a really really bad shopping mall that is dominating the entire landscape, and it’s pretty much the only thing to do in the area. Similarly to Camberwell, I don’t see any reason to live in this area unless you really need to.
Wembley it’s probably not as bad as the other areas, as it is actually pretty well connected. It has also seen a lot of investment in the last few years a lot of new builds, including this fancy new millennial style rental properties from a company called Tipi.
However, the area looks pretty rundown; it’s not pretty; it can be dirty sometimes and overall, Wembley is just not a desirable place to live in London.
Wood Street (Walthamstow) + St. James Street
Walthamstow became really trendy in the last five years, and young professionals and Millennials are flocking there because they can buy their first homes for a relatively low price. However, even in the last three years, the prices have increased a lot almost by 20%. Yet, many areas in Walthamstow are still very rough, and one of the streets in Walthamstow is actually the most dangerous street in the entire country – the name of the street is Vallentin road. The area around Ward Street is especially rough.
Another stretch between St James Street and Walthamstow Central is also quite dangerous. A lot of drug trade happens there and it’s also a hub for one of London’s drug gangs – Mali Boys. Believe me, you don’t want them to hang out in front of your house.
I was pretty unlucky to stay in Airbnb in Forest gate in 2015, and it was one of my worst experiences ever. In this place, the police sirens never stopped. You can hear them all night long. We couldn’t get back inside our Airbnb flat, because one of the residents has changed the code of the lock.
As they later said, somebody tried to break in 30 minutes before we came back. While we were just sitting and waiting for the owners to answer our calls, a few drivers have stopped in front of the house, lowered the windows, gave us a weird look and went away.
It doesn’t look bad during the day, but at night, it changes completely.
Croydon (CR0 & CR7)
Croydon has its fame for being rough and particular areas of Croydon are rougher than the others. It still has a lot of very affordable housing, but it’s probably not the best place to live in London. Many people don’t even consider Croydon as part of London.
Stratford (some areas, e.g. E15 1)
Olympic games in 2012 have really changed Stratford for the best. Stratford sees a lot of construction and development he has a great shopping Mall Westfield and a fabulous Olympic Park. It has some of the best connections into the city of London and King’s Cross. However, some of the areas in E15 1 are very sketchy rather unpleasant, not nice to walk around and generally should better be avoided.
Hackney / Dalston / Clapton (E8 2)
Despite becoming super trendy in the last few years Hackney, as well as Dalston and Clapton, are still pretty rough areas to live for families. You can still hear gunshots at night from time to time, and that’s because there are a lot of criminal organisations that are fighting between each other for the areas of influence.
Brixton used to be dangerous about 15 to 20 years ago, but it changed a lot in recent years. It has even become super trendy because of the fabulous Brixton street food market. However, some areas of Brixton can be dangerous at night. Some crazy things can happen in Brixton: for example, this has been in the news in the last few days. If you think about the community where all the residents respect each other and strive for the better, that would probably not be Brixton, and this is really unfortunate, as I actually like the area a lot.
And the last area for today is Hounslow. A friend of mine, who lived in this area actually liked it quite a lot, as it was very convenient for him to go to work from there. However, most people find this area extremely dull and sometimes even ugly. Many people call it rough and unwelcoming, and I wouldn’t recommend living there unless you have a very good reason or you found your dream home that happens to be in Hounslow.
Summary of the worst neighbourhoods to live in London
Alright, so this is my list of the worst places to live in London. This list, however, is subjective. It can be very relevant for a young female who often has to come back home late after work and doesn’t like attention. As I mentioned before, please don’t take this article for absolute truth because everybody is different and so are opinions.