Dulwich | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide
I met Bethie a few years ago through a Babyccino event that she was hosting. We had a few mutual friends, but now those have all moved away/drifted apart… and Bethie is one of the friends I’ve stayed in touch with. Bethie is fun, always laughing (even at my bad jokes!), empathetic, and a mover/shaker. She’s got ideas and ambitions constantly coming to her brain… and you’ll never think of her as a boring friend, I promise. She lives in Dulwich with her fantastically smart family and her love for their life there oozes out in every little post/conversation. Just read on, you’ll see what I mean. Thanks, Bethie, for contributing to this neighbourhood series and sharing a look into your sweet little life in Dulwich.
Dulwich Village, SE21
1. Tell us about your neighbourhood.
When were first moving to London from Washington, DC, we had our hearts set on living in Hampstead Heath, but we weren’t thrilled with what we could afford there. We ended up in South London where we eventually discovered Dulwich. The moment we stepped foot here, we knew we had found our future home. It is no coincidence that Dulwich is sometimes referred to as, “the Hampstead of the south”! With the quaint, villagey feel, amazing houses, yummy restaurants, and the gorgeous Dulwich Park, it certainly lives up to its reputation.
2. On a 1-10, how connected would you say where you live is? What are the major lines that run to/from you?
There are advantages and disadvantages of being well connected in London. When we lived in Clapham (which I would give a 10 in terms of connectivity), we would cram ourselves onto hot, busy tube trains, only to emerge onto busy streets, teeming with people. It was fun at first, but it has really helped us to appreciate being a bit less connected here in Dulwich. It is much quieter here, with very few tourists which really helps add to the great community feel we love about living here.
There are loads of bus lines to take you to better connected areas, and train lines to get you to London Bridge and Victoria (via North Dulwich, East Dulwich, and West Dulwich stations), and nearby Denmark Hill station to gets you to East London. Many people here have cars, but we love to bike everywhere and I can’t imagine a lovelier way to commute. My six-year-old rides her bike to and from school through past the gardens and lake in beautiful Dulwich Park and our au pair and I ride with my three-year-old on the back of our bikes. My husband works near Tower Bridge and it takes him 25 minutes to ride his bike to work each day. It takes 5-10 minutes to bike to a train station to take me into town, and a variety of beautiful local parks are also only a short ride away. However, when it comes down to it, there are definitely better neighbourhoods to consider if you plan to spend a lot of time in central London. I would rate Dulwich a 5 in terms of connectivity.
3. In a dream world, what would be the perfect street or area to live in within your neighbourhood? Why?
Dulwich Village isn’t very big. Most everything there is to see here (shops, restaurants, The Dulwich Picture Gallery, and Dulwich Park) are all located on the main street. Also lining this main street are some absolutely incredible houses. They have grand entrances with unbelievable gardens out back. I can tell you about these gardens because every summer a few of them open them up for villagers to come explore! They have live music, sell tea and cakes, and usually raise some decent money for a local charity. The gardens are absolutely bonkers and are filled with beautifully manicured lawns, incredible flowers, ponds, fountains, trellises, paths, and staircases. Villagers bring picnics and camp out for hours on end. Given the amazing gardens, I can imagine the inside of these houses would be equally impressive. I would have to say that living in one of these houses right in the middle of the village would be pretty dreamy!
4. On a 1-10, how would you say the value for square footage is? Do a pay a premium for where you live or would you say it’s a better value than other areas in London?
People don’t move to Dulwich because it is affordable; people move here for the incredible schools, the park, and the lovely village. That being said, South London is, in general, much cheaper than Central or North London. Purchasing a four-bedroom house next to Hampstead Heath would run you many millions of pounds, but here in “the Hampstead of the south” you can find houses closer to 1 million pounds. It is still a lot of money, but it is a bit more accessible.
I would rate affordability in Dulwich about a 4. There are definitely cheaper areas, and you do pay a bit of a premium here, but in comparison to other highly desirable neighbourhoods, it is definitely more affordable.
5. What’s the general vibe of the neighbourhood? Give us three people we might see on your high street?
As a Seattle girl, I really appreciate the more laid back vibe of South London. While many people here are very stylish, it is rare to see anyone with a Gucci bag or Jimmy Choo shoes. You are more likely to notice people wearing a lovely jumper from a local shop, or a fun dress from Zara. If you show up on the school run in trainers and a dirty t-shirt or heels and a suit, you won’t get much of a look either way.
There is a very friendly vibe here as everyone presumes that everyone else lives in the village. You are bound to have children at the same school, or will run into each other again at The Dog (our local pub that has just undergone a gorgeous renovation!) so you might as well be friendly! You also see a lot of familiar faces around here. It is rare to run errands and not run into someone you know. Even shopkeepers and local wait staff will stop and stay hello if they see us. We even know some of them by name (a special shoutout to Lucy at our favourite Italian restaurant who always gives snuggles to the kids!).
Three people you might see on our high street would be a mum and baby on their way to meet a friend for coffee, a dog walker on their way to the park with a handful of leashes, and a kid on a scooter. (There are loads of (amazing) schools in Dulwich and so you see kids everywhere!!)
6. What’s your favourite place to get coffee in your neighbourhood?
Often after the school run, there is a group of parents that will go and get a coffee together before starting their days. The group usually includes a stay-at-home dad, a graphic designer, a very famous artist (!), and me! We often have a few others join in as well. While there are quite a few places to stop and get a good coffee around here, we often find ourselves at Christopher’s Bakery (where I often grab some fresh bread for dinner). Gail’s Bakery is also a favourite, but it is usually so crowded in the mornings that I usually only go there in the afternoons. A short bike ride from the village over to East Dulwich and you have even more options such as the hipster mecca of Brickhouse Bread, and the newly opened Greek cafe, Kanella, who make the best matcha latte!
7. What’s your favourite place to eat dinner in your neighbourhood?
While there are loads of restaurants to choose from in East Dulwich (like Japanese food and cocktails from Yama Momo, or the best ever burger from Meat Liquor) our favourite local restaurant is definitely Rocca in Dulwich Village. Not only is the food delicious (try the carbonara!!) and the staff super kid friendly, it is also surprisingly affordable!
8. Best pub?
There is only one pub in the village and it has only just reopened after a nearly three year renovation. You will always see people sitting out front having a pint, and the garden is perfect for families to let their kids run in. However, as it has been closed for ages, we have spent a lot of time in East Dulwich pubs. I recently discovered The Cherry Tree which is located right across from the East Dulwich station and it is my new favourite local pub. It is a bit off the main high street so tends to be less crowded, yet it still has great food, a beautiful interior, and a lovely garden out back. (Added bonus is that my band, Wilford Social, plays there once a month! Come say hi!)
9. Best way to spend a Saturday in Dulwich Village as a local?
Hands down, the best way to spend a Saturday in Dulwich is in the park. Everyone is there with their families and there is plenty of space to spread out with a picnic, or enjoy food from the cafe. The kids love the play area, and you are bound to run into people you know there which is always fun. I also like to participate in the Park Run on Saturday mornings in Dulwich Park where you join a hundred or so other runners for a free timed 5K.
10. How much would an Uber to Oxford Circus cost you (approximately)?
11. What are three great schools in your neighbourhood? Are they State or Fee Paying?
Dulwich is known for its schools. There is Dulwich College (founded in 1619) which is a boarding and day school for boys, James Allen’s Girls’ School which is ranked in the top ten of UK secondary schools, and Alleyn’s which is one of the country’s leading co-ed day schools. All of the aforementioned schools are fee paying, but we also have very highly ranked state schools as well. We are really lucky here and definitely spoiled for choice in terms of schools!