The ultimate guide on where in London to live in second year
It’s North London or nowhere baby
Deciding on where to live in second year is a big decision. London is a huge place, and once you’re out of halls there seems to be endless options on where to live.
Especially during the pandemic, when lots of students haven’t been able to spend much time in London this academic year, making the decision on where to live with not much knowledge of the area can be a bit daunting, but we’re here to give you a guide on some of the areas of London and how good they are to live in as a student.
Whether your priority is somewhere close to UCL, somewhere cheap, somewhere pretty or something else entirely, we’ve got you covered!
Camden is a popular spot for second year student flats: it’s close to campus, has loads of bars and pubs (and clubs, RIP), and the high street has everything you could ever need. It’s not too expensive as well, but be warned that Camden is not as cool as you may think. Despite thinking that Camden markets are the coolest place ever when you visit them at age 16, the novelty quickly wears off and once you live within walking distance you will just get annoyed by how busy Camden is with tourists. The high street can be a bit grim and loud, and with an assortment of characters around, walking through Camden alone at night can be a bit scary.
However, the further you go from Camden high street the prettier it gets and there are loads of lovely affordable student flats and houses. Overall, Camden is a pretty mixed bag, but you can guarantee that you’ll have mates within walking distance if you choose to live there. It’s a basic choice, but it’s still pretty cool to say you live in such a well-known area of London.
Kentish Town is like Camden’s slightly classier big sister. Perhaps I’m biased since I’ve lived in good old KT for two years, but Kentish Town is a pretty ideal student area. The high street has everything you could need but is nowhere near as busy as Camden, and there are a tonne of nice, local pubs and restaurants without being overwhelming.
Campus is still within walking distance (just about) or the 134 bus goes directly through KT to UCL. Kentish Town is still popular with students, and you’re walking distance from Camden if you want to visit the markets or some of the more famous bars and pubs in Camden, but come home to the safer and quieter Kentish Town.
Both Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath are about a 20-minute walk away, which is essential in COVID times when all you can do is go on walks. Overall, Kentish Town is pretty great, and it has my personal stamp of approval.
Chalk Farm is lovely: it’s so close to Primrose Hill with amazing views of London, the buildings are just super pretty and there are loads of independent shops and cafes nearby. It’s on the expensive side due to this, so not the most popular with students, but there are certainly some affordable flats in the area.
It is within walking distance to Camden and has good transport links, is very close to venues like the Camden Roundhouse and Camden Assembly (for when gigs reopen!), and in general is just a really nice and aesthetic area. Although it is expensive, if you can find an affordable flat in Chalk Farm, it is pretty ideal!
Holloway is also a bit far from campus, but there are definitely convenient bus routes so it isn’t too bad. It’s fairly popular with UCL students, as it isn’t too expensive and it is more out of the way than somewhere super busy like Camden. The student houses are nice and whilst there isn’t huge amounts of things to do, it’s a pretty good location for students. It’s definitely further away from campus than you might initially think, so beware if that is a priority for you.
Honestly, Tuffnell Park is a bit generic. It’s certainly nice, and the high street has some lovely independent cafes and restaurants, but there isn’t really much to do. The houses are pretty I guess, but it is a bit far from campus and there isn’t much going on and it isn’t super student-y. If Kentish Town is Camden’s classier big sister, Tufnell Park is their suburban aunt.
However, it is home to some of the best and most affordable brunch and coffee places, because it’s just far enough out not to be considered “too central”.
Archway is definitely getting into North North London territory, making the commute from UCL campus and back a bit of a trek. Honestly, Archway is a bit forgettable and out of the way, but you are close to the Whittington Hospital if you need to go to A&E. Not quite sure what the appeal is, but it’s cheap I guess….?
Belsize Park is another kind of generic part of North London, pleasant enough but a bit far from campus and the more lively student areas like Camden. A plus is that it is close to Hampstead Heath, which is lovely for a walk and to feel like you’re getting a bit of fresh air in the middle of the city.
This is a pretty popular area for UCL students, as it is so close to campus but still affordable for most. It’s the area between Schafer House and Camden Town, so a spitting distance to campus, but it is also just….a bit grim. There isn’t much to do here, the area is not the prettiest and the housing options are basically just huge blocks of flats and council estates. If you’re looking for somewhere fairly cheap within walking distance to campus but don’t care as much about the aesthetics of where you live, Somers Town is definitely ideal. It’s basically full of ex-Schafer students who can’t quite let Schafer House go so move just down the road.
Honestly, if you can afford to live in Bloomsbury, you may as well go for it. You will be so close to campus, which will be useful when lectures start again and you can just roll out of bed for your post-Loop 9ams (we all miss this feeling secretly). Bloomsbury is just really nice, close to everything with lots of lovely buildings and little green spaces, but it is definitely expensive and not usually within a student budget.
It’s basically the opposite of living in Somers Town: both are close to campus, but Bloomsbury is the posh version. If you have the money, and you really don’t want to leave the halls experience of living practically on UCL campus, Bloomsbury could be your ideal spot, but alas most students move away from Bloomsbury in second year to seek somewhere cheaper or to live in a different area after halls, so it isn’t especially a student-y area.
The area around King’s Cross is a pretty good spot for your second year flat. Obviously, a big appeal is proximity to campus and to the train station, which is ideal if you like to go home and your trains go from King’s Cross Station. It’s also close to the canals and Coal Drop’s Yard, a lovely little area for restaurants, bars, shops and walks.
You’ll be well connected and able to get pretty much anywhere in London very quickly, as King’s Cross underground has loads of different tube lines, and you’ll probably also be within walking distance to campus, which is always a plus.
Angel is honestly a really nice area of London, although not necessarily a huge student area. It’s fairly expensive to live in, but there are a lot of nice shops and pubs around to keep it from feeling too quiet. The flats are likely in a nice London townhouse and it feels a bit out of the way from central London, whilst still being not too far away from campus on public transport (around half an hour on the tube).
You might not be super close to your mates who are all living in Camden but you’ll be living in a much nicer area, so if that’s your priority Angel is a great option.
Cally Road and Barnsbury
Caledonian Road and the surrounding area of Barnsbury is a pretty ideal student area, to be honest: it’s affordable and easily accessible if a little bit far from campus. It doesn’t necessarily have the appeal of somewhere like Camden or Kentish Town in terms of shops, pubs and bars on the high street within walking distance, but it has the essentials and you can find some really nice student flats for a reasonable price. Pretty solid for a student flat, in my opinion!
Maida Vale and Kilburn
If you have visions of London suburbia Maida Vale is where you want to live. The people who live around this area are usually humanities students who get off on the Bakerloo Line (even though it gets you nowhere). If you’re a Waitrose shopper and proud, you want to live in this area because you can frequent the Bayswater Waitrose (it’s a nice one) and trek it all back home on the bus- so you can performatively show everyone that you do shop in Waitrose.
Maida Vale is a great location if you’re looking for somewhere that is solely residential. It doesn’t have the same nightlife or central busy vibe that many of the other locations on this list do. However, it can still come with a pretty hefty price tag so be warned.
East London is not necessarily the most popular spot for UCL students due to being pretty far from campus. However, you will find the occasional student who thinks they’re so cool for living in a place like Hackney rather than somewhere basic like Camden.
In fairness, Hackney is a pretty cool, up and coming place, definitely popular with arts students and young professionals. It just has a different vibe to the North London spots on this list, but does feel a bit far removed from UCL and campus life, as well as other second year flats which are mostly closer to campus.
The vibes of Dalston are basically the same as Hackney – far from campus but a pretty cool part of London even if not too many UCL students live there.
Another pro of East London is that you’re close to clubs like Dalston Superstore and Moth Club, which are fun and a bit different to the typical student nights out of Loop and Electric Ballroom.
South of the River
In general, south of the river is a bit taboo as a place to live for UCL students. You immediately feel far away from campus and the rest of the student population – you’ll find that no one wants to make the trek to yours for pres and instead that you will spend a fortune on transport costs when for pub nights halfway across the city. As nice as your flat might be, you will inevitably be endlessly bullied for living south of the river as a student.
In all honesty, Vauxhall is a nice place with nice houses and flats, and it is fairly well-connected for somewhere south of the river, but it is still south. You can’t escape that it is a right trek to campus and even further to other second year student flats in North London, which doesn’t matter too much at the moment but as soon as things are open again you may start to feel a bit isolated from the rest of the student population, and it’s likely that your mates won’t be willing to make the trip across the river too often.
Clapham is also very nice, but just far away from UCL, making it not as popular for second-year students. Apparently, it is a more popular spot for post-grads, likely as it is popular with young professionals as well, but for under-grads you’ll have more luck somewhere further north.
Choosing a spot for your second year flat might seem overwhelming, but honestly, you can make anywhere in London work and it’s just best to relish living in the city and having the unique student experience of exploring London, no matter where your flat is.