Moving to London

Parent Q&A

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  • Living in London with kids

    (2 replies)

    Hello BPN community - we are a family of four with two boys age 5 and 9 and are considering living in London for one year starting late summer 2022.  We have just started exploring neighborhoods, and are pretty open as my husband will be working remotely most of the time, very occasionally going to St. Johns Wood.  We have explored places in Maida Vale, Richmond on Thames, Clerkenwell, and Camberwell.  We are open to independent schools but would be great to find a state school for our 2 boys.  I would love to hear of others' experiences living in London with children, where you lived, schools, what you would do again and what you might do differently?  We would like to have over 1000 sq ft of living space (our house here is about 1400sq ft), and we won't have a car.  It would be great to have some parks nearby and an open feel, but also very walkable to public transit, shops etc.  We realize it will be expensive, but hoping not to completely break the bank. Thank you for any info!  -- nb.

    Hello! I lived in London over 10 years and have recently moved to the East Bay. 
    You will have a fantastic time there with young kids, and your comments are spot on, find a small(ish) place next to a huge park is what keeps the balance. 
    In terms of places, I would really suggest that you look at Chiswick in West London. It is very well connected in terms of public transport and has all kinds of parks, shops, and is quite family friendly. Schools are good also!

    I have friends with young families in Battersea and they also enjoy that area. 

    good luck!

    That’s amazing! We lived in London for 3 years with our two kids (one was 5 when we left, the other 2.5) and absolutely loved it. We dream of somehow moving back there every day. We lived in Chiswick in West London (from 2017-2020) and I truly believe it’s one of the greatest neighborhoods anywhere for families. It’s a few tube stops closer to central London than Richmond (which is also an amazing neighborhood, and we’d also consider living there if we were to move back). Parks, shops, tube and bus stops with easy access to central London, great schools, Heathrow nearby, easy access to the highway to get to the countryside for weekend trips, near beautiful Kew Gardens which is a must with kids...I could go on and on. The main downside is that it is an expensive neighborhood, but many neighborhoods in London are. It’s a little more affordable than Maida Vale and neighborhoods that are in central London, but we loved the welcoming, neighborly feel of Chiswick while still having access to literally anything you could need on the high street within minutes. My daughter only went to preschool while we were there, but we toured the local schools for what would have been her kindergarten year and I was very impressed. And her friends that are still there definitely progressed much more quickly with reading/writing than she has back in her California public school (which is great, but the quick progress the little kids made in London was surprising). Nearby Richmond, Kew, and Barnes are other lovely neighborhoods to check out. Fulham, Putney, and Clapham are a few other popular family areas that we found to be a little trendier than Chiswick- not our scene but still really nice areas with everything you could need. On the other side of the city, Greenwich is a popular area for families. Wherever you end up, you’ll have a wonderful time! 

  • Where to live in London with kids

    (1 reply)

    Hi parents! We'll be moving to London this summer for my husband's job. We have a 17-month-old and will be trying for #2 sometime in the near future. Is there anyone out there that has lived in, traveled extensively in, or is from London and can recommend family-friendly neighborhoods to help us focus our apartment/house hunting? My husband's office will be near Cavendish Square and we'd like to keep his commute to 30-45 minutes. We'll likely be there for 2-3 years. Thank you! 

    If you can afford it, try looking at Hampstead. I lived there as a kid, and when I visited a few years ago noticed lots of little kid activities on offer. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Seeking good real estate agent in London

April 2014

Dear list members, I am considering moving to London and buying a flat there, preferably in the Kensington/Chelsea area. Can anyone recommend a good real estate agent in London who might handle these areas? Thanks a lot. Jim

London is a big place. You may want to be more specific about what part! N, S, E or W? I would also try Southerbys or another US company as they often have affiliations. Or even branches worldwide. Mathew

Apologies if this doesn't respond to the initial question, which I can't find. I live in London at the moment and just wanted to let you know that the market is very different here -- each property is usually listed with/can only be shown by just one agency, so prospective buyers/renters generally need to register with a number of agencies covering whatever geographic area they're targeting (the situation may be different with long-distance transactions, since I suspect that Sotheby's and a few others may specialize in that sort of thing). There aren't 'buyer's agents' vs. 'seller's agents' here, although each side in a purchase hires its own solicitor. I think the single best resource is, which has a pretty sophisticated map-based search mechanism. Running some searches should give you an idea of which agents handle the types of properties you might be interested in. Good luck! Temporary Londoner

Spending a year in London

Nov 2011

We are considering spending next academic year in London. Has anyone done this? Do you have advice for how to go about finding housing for the academic year? We have been looking at home exchange sites with no luck. how expensive is it really? How about schools? Our kids will be in elementary and middle school age -- is it crazy to think of sending them to 'state' schools in london? I know english schools follow a different curriculum --- but i'm thinking that's the way for them to really meet english kids and it's only a year....but what was your experience? How do we go about that? Is it easy to enroll if you live in a neighborhood? Should we be looking at schools now, in spring, or wait until next summer? Also, what advice to folks have about moving kids far away for a year? I worry that they finally seem in a good groove friends-wise and hate to take them away, but on the other hand this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. any advice or ideas is very welcome travelin' mom

We spent a year in London with our 4 children who were 8,10,12,14 at the time (this was in 2004). My husband was on sabbatical at the time. It was a fabulous year but very very expensive. Since I had two children in high school, we felt that we had to keep them on an 'american track' and so we enrolled them all at the american school in London (ASL) and paid private school tuition. The school was amazing, although I imagine with younger children you could use the british school system and it wouldn't be that important. We found an apartment that was quite small for our 6 person family but walking distance from ASL, in St. John's Wood- a wonderful convenient location and we were up the block from Abby Road Studios. We too tried to find a house to rent on sabbatical and were unsuccessful. Eventually my husband worked with a realtor and looked at a bunch of apartments/flats near where we wanted to be and we found someplace. When we went to England, we were living in Chicago at the time and found everything there shockingly expensive. Maybe coming from California prices, it won't be as much of a surprise. We didn't have a car for the entire time we spent there (didn't need it except once or twice and then we rented) so that saved us money. We did manage to see much of Europe by going on a trip email me. It was an amazing year, my kids my wonderful friends (the ASL school was set up to incorporate new children since there was a great turnover each year among the ex-pats). I highly recommend going if you can do it! fay

We are moving to London with the kids next spring, so I gathered some information about primary schools, enrollment, quality of schools etc. I'd be happy to share it with you. giulia

I recommend for housing. Rent is expensive, in fact most things are more expensive than here. Schooling is tricky. There are some great state schools and some truly awful ones. The good news is that all schools are regularly inspected by Ofsted and you can read the reports on You will probably need proof of address before you can enroll and for your elementary aged child you should not have a problem. Your middle school aged child will be in the secondary school system and enrollment for good secondary schools can be a nightmare; some schools are academically selective, some not, some are religiously affiliated and give preference to Church of England, Catholic or Jewish kids, some not, some give preference to kids from particular primary schools, some not. Think of the enrollment problems for San Francisco high schools and multiply by 10! If you can afford it I think it would be much easier to enroll your middle schooler in a private school and they would still meet English kids. London is a wonderful, wonderful city and although it is expensive many cultural activities like museums and art galleries are free, and you can pick up excellent cheap theatre tickets. Go and enjoy! English mum

Possible teaching position at King's College

Nov 2011

Dear BPN community,
My husband is going to interview for a teaching job (in the humanities) at King's college in London. We were told the process is very formal over there and there is no negotiating, no thinking about it (take it or leave it on the spot kind of thing), no information sharing. So before he heads out we would like to get as much info as possible on British academia and King's college in particular. What is the atmosphere like? What kind of retention system do they use (no tenure we heard)? What are the class sizes and the teaching load like? Can one live in London on an academic salary? Any and all info would be very helpful.
Thanks not crazy about roastbeef

What a fabulous opportunity for your spouse and family! I was an undergrad at University of Birmingham in the Midlands and a Visiting Researcher at Sheffield. I applied for the Ph.D. program at London and was accepted, but Harvard gave me a scholarship so I went where the money was.

That said, I adore many parts of England and London. The train, underground system and buses are all easy to use. London is a rail hub with four or so stations so easy to get out to the countryside on weekends or to France via the Chunnel. And what wonderful history for the kids: Tower of London and the Royal Observatory are two of my favorites. British cuisine has moved far beyond roast beef. You can find vegetarian and great Indian and Chinese (plus they stay open later at night!). Pubs were much less smokey the last time I was over and a good place for an inexpensive lunch.

There are all sorts of parts of London, just like in Boston or New York (or San Francisco). I would check out Trip Advisor and house swap sites. Maybe you could trade with someone coming to CAL. My personal favorite is the Bloomsbury area near the British Museum or Mayfair, but probably difficult to find a house there. Houses are different in that the ones in the city are generally semi- detached, ie look like a duplex.

Academia is generally similar most places. Can people really negotiate for academic jobs here in the US during this economy?? I suppose if the person is prominent enough in their field...Anyway, I would be enthusiastic about spending a year or two in London. And, if you want a place more in the country, many people commute in on the train from Hampshire and other outliers. cocosar

Hello, I may be able to offer some advice on the forthcoming interview at King's College. I currently work at King's as a Business Development Manager - I'm in Berkeley for a year with my husband who is a Professor at University College London and who is taking a sabbatical year at LBL. I have a year unpaid leave of absence from King's and will be going back there in July 2012 - I have worked there for nearly 7 years.

I don't know many of the faculty in the Humanities - but I do know the Vice Chancellor is keen to increase the number of academic posts there. You are right there is no tenure in UK Universities - there isn't a lot of room for negotiation - the salary scale will have been advertised most likely so there may be some room for negotiating within it if you are offered the post. You will have time to think about the post - you won't be expected to decide on the spot - especially as it will entail a country move for the whole family.

We moved from Manchester (in the north of England) to London 7 years ago and find London very expensive (on academic salaries anyway!) We had a large, 4 bedroomed detached house with a garden and garage in Manchester - we sold that and took on a big extra mortgage to buy a 3 bedroom flat in London! You can really only afford a house if you live out of London and commute in (eg from Surrey or Sussex) - or compromise on the area and have a very small house. We live in a nice part of north London (Hampstead) and didn't want to commute - so that's the compromise really.

Good website for houses in the UK is King's is a nice place to work - Humanities are based on the Strand campus- in the heart of Central London on the River Thames and near all the galleries and museums - London is a great city for culture and I have heard that Humanities is a friendly School. Good luck!
'Sabbatical wife from King's College' Anna

Moving to London - Schools? neighborhoods?

Feb 2011

We're relocating to London in January with our 5-year-old and 2-year-old, and plan to stay for 3 to 5 years. We need to find a neighborhood that's convenient to central London (Moorgate tube stop) and has good options for kindergartens. We're hoping to go public but would consider private.

So far I've heard good things about Belsize Park, Hampstead, Dulwich, Islington, Greenwich, and Stoke Newington. But there are so many options it's baffling. I'd love a quick list of good schools/neighborhoods to target. We're going to have to do school applications for my older one without being there, which is complicated!

We'll probably make one short visit in the fall before we move, and I'm wondering how to narrow down the possibilities so we use our time wisely to check out schools and areas that are a good fit.

I'd love an area that's not too posh (read: crazy expensive) but has lots of families, some green space, within 30 minutes commute to work, nice schools, and an urban but not super-urban feel (Berkeley-esque, or NOPA/Haight in SF). Since we're staying for a while, I'd like to be immersed in British culture rather than doing the American school and expat-heavy stuff. But I'm also a bit concerned by comments that Brits are hard to befriend! Are certain areas of London more friendly to American buffoons like us?

I know, I'm asking for everything. I've looked at info on the Berkeley Parents site, which is wonderful, but it's a few years old so I wanted to get new info and contacts of fellow expats-to-be or former. Thank you! Londoner-to-be

I have just (3 weeks ago) returned from 5 years living in London. I would like to recommend the Muswell Hill/Highgate/Crouch End area as a place to investigate. There are not as many Americans as Notting Hill or Hampstead but I found it a wonderful place to raise a child. My son is 2 now and he was born there. We lived in Muswell Hill. The schools are some of the best government schools in London (especially Tetherdown Primary). Crouch End and Highgate (St. Michaels School) also have excellent schools.

As for preschools in the area, I strongly recommend Rocking Horse Nursery in Finchley Central (one stop north from Muswell Hill) and Fortis Green Nursery in Muswell Hill. My son went to Rocking Horse and never wanted to leave at the end of the day. It was wonderful place to begin his school experience. Both of these nurseries have VERY long wait lists (sometimes up to 18m for babies.) I don't mean to stress you out but I do recommend taking early action on the waitlist front. Also, reception (kindergarten) starts at 4 yrs old in London so your older child may be looking at a proper school. Schools in London work on a catchment system though each school has a slightly different system. Please feel free to contact if I can be of any help with information in this area. You may wish to contact schools directly once you have a sense of where you might be living.

Muswell Hill is also wonderful in that it is surrounded by lovely parks including unique Highgate Woods where my son and I spent many afternoons exploring nature and watching birds - a great luxury in London! Highgate Woods also has a fabulous playground - ideal for both toddlers and older children. The whole Crouch End/Muswell Hill area has numerous mommy and toddler classes that I found really helped to keep my son engaged and busy.

Regarding the commute, Crouch End has a 7 minute express train to Old Street (near Moorgate). Muswell Hill has bus 43 to Liverpool Street via Moorgate (about 45 minutes with a 7am commute, longer if you leave it until 8.) Muswell Hill has a lovely, village feel that is the result of not being directly serviced by the tube, but a 10 minute walk will get you to either the Highgate or East Finchley stops on the Northern Line. You are wise to focus on locations that will make your commute as easy as possible. Without being a downer, I must say that anything under an hour is considered a reasonable commute in London. The city is SO huge and public transport is old, fragile and busy.

Re friendships, I DID find Brits to be a bit challenging to befriend at first but having children will really help to move things along and in the end, I left behind some of the best friends I've ever had.

I wish you the very best of luck. Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions. Maria

Finding a house exchange in London for 2-3 months

May 2010

I will be in London this summer with my family while my daughter-in-law does an externship to become a chef. As a Sr. Citizen, I will be acting as a nanny for my 3 year old granddaughter. What joy!

She leaves June 1st and starts work June 7th. The rest of us will follow July 1st. We are looking for a 2 bedroom rental or house trade (from San Diego)through August 15th. Does anyone have any advice or know anyone who could help us. We would really appreciate it. ann

I recommend the website to do a house swap. Try to hurry up and post your home there as well as inquiry for houses in london. anonimo

Sabbatical for a year in London with a kindergartener

April 2009

We'll be spending my husband's sabbatical year in London. I'd be grateful for tips on nice neighborhoods to live, and especially on schools for our daughter who'll be starting kindergarten. I'm not sure where to start! We're paying our own way so money is definitely a consideration (when isn't it..). Thanks! Moving soon

London for a year! This is a good time to go. Lucky you and your family! Husband taught in London years ago and we tagged along. Kids were then 4yr and 8yr. We had a GREAT time. I was so lucky to have made contact w/ someone in the midwest, who had done London the prior year, and they shared notes with me. Perhaps I can be of some help to you. We found housing and schools most convenient in postal code NW3, ie Hampstead Heath, Belsize Park area. It's a posh area but you can find rentals and the local schools are good-excellent, though classes are large. Because our stay was short, we opted for a small private school, run by an American and a Brit, Hampstead Preparatory, which I would also recommend. Once you have housing and schooling taken care of, all the rest will fall into place. Email me direct if you have more questions.

Moving to London with a 2nd grader - schools?

September 2006

Greetings! We are a family moving to London in January, probably for a few years. If anyone has suggestions about neighborhoods and especially schools, we'd be most grateful. We have a child entering second grade in September. I know it is very expensive there - we are also considering areas outside of London that are commuting distance, such as Greenwich, if it means a better school. Where are the best public schools? If we can afford to go private, which I am not sure we can/will do, what are the best options? Many thanks for your help. Travelin' Mom

Ooooh, lucky you! London is one of our favorite places in the world. It would be #1 on our list, if not for the poor exchange rate! Husband has taught there twice on two different occasions; lived there w/ two children for 6 mos. Would highly recommend North London, off either the Hampstead or Belsize Park or Chalk Farm tube stop. It's about 20min from London central, but a very lovely area, albeit a bit posh. We had a rental in Hampstead, postal code NW3, found that the schools were good, although the class sizes were large (about 30+). We opted for a private school (which I believe they call public) because of our temporary stay,otherwise, the local school would have been fine. Feel free to email me if you have more questions. It will be a fabulous experience for you and your family! Cheers! Elaine

I also replied to the question about moving to Bristol, England. Keep in mind that in England the name for public and private schools is often reverse from here. What might be a private school here is called a public school there. The school system is quite different and if you prefer and can afford it, there are ''American'' schools around. Anglophile

Moving to London with an infant and a toddler

September 2005

My husband's job is relocating our family to London for 3 years. We have an infant and a toddler, and are interested in finding a child-friendly neighborhood in London. We're especially interested in finding a place to live where we can walk to parks, restaurants, shopping, etc. Also recommendations for childcare or other activities to do with kids (I'll be home with the kids) would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for any suggestions. Relocating Mom

I am British and have just moved from London to Berkeley. I would be happy for you to contact me by email to try to answer any questions you have. You mention young children, but not whether they will reach school age when you are in London. This of course would be critical to your choice of neighbourhood, as will budget for renting/buying a house. Other factors include whether you would like to live near other ex-pats (specifically American) in which case you should consider north London boroughs such as Hampstead and St John's Wood.

I would urge to you look at the wonderful neighbourhood where we still have a house: Dulwich, in South East London. It is very leafy, with great houses, several huge parks, a good selection of public and private schools and a lovely village-like centre. It is very family friendly with all the resources that entails. It is about 15 minutes by car to the City, 20 minutes West End and only 10 minutes to both by overland commuter train -- it's not on the tube, but nobody sensible would choose to commute by tube!

Do get in touch if you would like to chat. Tracey

Finding a neighborhood that meets your criteria is pretty easy - there are loads. Most Londoners walk or use public transportation, so getting to all amneties is usually doable. Driving in central London is actively discouraged since one has to pay a fee to do so. What narrows it down is your budget and your husband's commute. No use recommending a particular borough if it means he's going to be travelling for 2 hours, or if you can't afford it. I assume that any company that can transfer a family for 3 years without only one parent working to a city that has horrendously expensive housing costs (even for locals) is going to make it worth your while. Generally speaking, the further out you go from central London, the cheaper it is.

But London is HUGE, and sometimes it's easier (and cheaper) commute-wise to live hundreds of miles outside London and use one direct overground train than live closer and rely on busses and tube. How to start... Google.

Chat with locals to get a feeling of the character of each borough. Old prejudices have changed, neighborhoods have been revived. Living there is completely different than visiting, and you will find that your neighborhood will indeed be your world since you will not be very motivated to go into central London very often with small children... But make the most of it and good luck! Used to Live There

A few years ago, we spent 6mos in London w/ our two, then 4, 7. Lived in Hampstead, just north of London, off the ''Hampstead'' stop, Northern Line or 24(?) bus. Postal code ''NW3''. This is a lovely, lovely, not to mention posh, neighborhood. It's very convenient and NW3 schools rank highly. Would also recommend the area around the ''Chalk Farm'' stop, Northern line, just south of Hampstead. Both areas are an ez commute to London U. There are tons of Americans who move to Buckinghamshire, esp. since it is close to the American School, but I think that area is too far from London to be any fun. Figure out where you will be working and from there, figure out what school(s) you want for your kids. We had a wonderful experience, albeit a bit expensive. You'll have a great time!! [I'd go again in a heartbeat] Elaine

Hi, We did not read your original posting. But we will move to London, too, in December. We have a toddler and a baby and have extensively researched housing, childcare and schooling issues during the past months. The areas we have looked into most are Twickenham, Ealing and Acton. We are also looking for a family that moves the other direction to possibly swap electric appliances and the like. Please contact us. Looking forward to talking to you. Christina

Moving to London with school-aged kids

June 2004

Greetings! We may be moving to London in a few months to stay for a year. Any advice on affordable neighborhoods? Great places for kids? We also need tips on schools, as we have a child entering kindergarten next year. One of us would be commuting to ''The City'' (financial district). Thanks for your help. travelin' mom

I lived in North London for six years, in West Hampstead. Unfortunately, nothing in London is affordable any more, but Northwest London--St. Johns Wood, West Hampstead, Hampstead, Swiss Cottage--are all convenient to central London and the City and all have heavy ex-pat populations--really critical in meeting people in a short time (it takes MUCH longer to make friends in England than in the U.S.). In particular, West Hampstead has a Thameslink (main line) train stop, which is convenient to the City and (generally) less crowded and faster than the Tube. It also is close to St. Johns Wood, where the American School is located. While we didn't have kids in London, many friends did. If you're there for just one year, it's best to keep them in American-style schooling. The British system is just too different. Another plus: they're all close to Hampstead Heath, which is glorious. Former Ex-Pat