south London’s sleeper hit: lyvly's guide to balham

You know how the cool kids are the ones that don’t have to shout about it? That’s Balham. With Brixton to the east, Clapham to the north and Tooting to the south, some neighbourhoods might get self conscious. But with its own culture, community and comforts, SW12 is doing just fine.


Tucked into Zone 3, Balham is ideal for those looking to make their money go a bit further while not settling for the suburbs. In fact, over the last 10 years, this area has gone from strength to strength. The community has swelled with new arrivals making the most of the abundant green space, diverse food scene and welcoming vibes.

It also boasts an impressive cultural scene, with not only a literary festival but a comedy festival too (held at one of London’s top low-key venues, The Bedford.)


Tooting Bec Common


When it comes to properties, it runs relatively modern (for London). The area didn’t really get any attention until the late 19th Century, so you’ll find a mix of Victorian and Edwardian terraces alongside local landmarks such as the Art Deco block Du Cane Court and The Heaver Estate. 


The area is now a hotspot for young professionals in the know, which is stretching housing capacity. But Lyvly has a range of gorgeous properties that come with community included.




What’s the story  


For a certain generation (read: your grandparents) Balham was mainly known for a 1958 radio sketch by Peter Sellers that was once wildly popular. And to be fair, it was barely on the map until Balham Station was built in 1856, followed by the arrival of the Northern Line in the 1920s. 


Rail links spurred new buildings and estates which further shaped the geography of the area, with notables such as Alfred Heaver (after whom red brick The Heaver Estate is named) leaving their mark on the growing suburb. 


The area is now seeing a new spate of development as more young professionals and new families discover there’s more to south London than Brixton and Clapham, with shiny new projects such as The Tramyard offering a new vision for the future.


Getting Around


Zone 3 gets a bad reputation when it comes to getting around but Balham’s got it pretty easy with the Northern Line and National Rail access. 


You can get to Victoria, London Bridge, Bank and Oxford Circus in 20 minutes, or Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf in 30 minutes.


Clapham South tube station, which is in Zone 2, is also technically in Balham. That means you can bag a Zone 1-2 annual travelcard for £1,404 instead of shelling out £1,648 for Zone 3. 

Balham Travel square

What’s it going to cost me?


One of the big advantages of stepping into Zone 3 is the reduced cost of living. The average cost for a one-bed flat is £1,391 or £1,750 for a two-bed. 


What’s more, council tax rates are among the lowest in the capital thanks to efforts by Wandsworth Council. Council tax for a Band D property in Balham runs to £716.51 a year, compared with £1,386.27 next door in Clapham.


But as Balham has become more popular, the top flats are moving off the market faster and faster, which makes it hard to find the best deals. 


Lyvly makes it simpler by curating our own supply of awesome properties, with all your rent, bills and utilities rolled into one monthly payment. What’s more, your Lyvly payments are fixed-cost for the length of your tenancy, so you can relax.



What is there to do in Balham?


Balham puts a big emphasis on community and nowhere shows this better than Hildreth Street, a pedestrian-only area of independent shops, cafes and bars. There’s a thriving market, hot yoga and plenty of brunch spots to get you through the weekend in one piece.


Another community mainstay is The Exhibit, which somehow manages to be a bar, restaurant, cinema, gallery and comedy club all at the same time. It also offers life drawing sessions and bottomless brunches. It refers to itself as ‘a youth club for adults’, and isn’t that what we all want deep down?


You’re pretty spoilt when it comes to an evening out here, with atmospheric bars like Balham Bowls Club, Hagen & Hyde or Lost & Found welcoming a range of drinkers for cocktails, craft ales and, often, surprisingly excellent food. If you want to make a night out of it, head to The Bedford for some top notch comedy. The phrase ‘local institution’ gets thrown around a lot, but this one’s the real deal. Their Banana Cabaret comedy night has featured everyone from Omid Djalili to Harry Hill, Eddie Izzard to the Mighty Boosh. 



Pic courtesy of @tootingbec_lido


There’s also a solid dining scene springing up with swish Soho noodle bar Taro recently opening up their second venue alongside local stars like Arlo steakhouse, Lamberts and the Michelin-starred Chez Bruce.


You’re also covered when it comes to green space. Balham is surrounded by Wandsworth Common, Tooting Common and Clapham Common. For anyone feeling extra brave, or exhibitionist, try the Tooting Bec Lido, the biggest outdoor pool in the UK.





The Lyvly Insider’s Guide


Parris is our ambassador for Balham, he is in charge of welcoming the new members to the area, so you know he's the guy to ask about where to go if you're in the neighbourhood. 


Where insiders eat


If you’re looking for brunch in Balham, you cannot miss the delights of Hildreth Street. Two antipodean cafes, Brickwood and MILK, are most popular amongst the coffee-swigging masses. 


Brickwood will serve you brunch until 3pm with food from the cabinet after that. Highlights include the Hashbites and Banana Bread with espresso butter. Plus the avocado toast and mushrooms are not to be missed. 


Brickwood cafe


MILK will serve you a delicious smoothie while you wait for the best baked eggs in South London. But make sure to leave room for a lamington for dessert. 


Other highlights include Brother Marcus, which has a hidden outside space, and Arlos - we love their take on the pavlova!


For the more formal lady and gentleman, you'll want to dine at Gurka Diner. Boasting consistency and longevity, this family run Nepalese restaurant has a world-famous knuckle of lamb as their marquee dish. You may even see TV’s Michelin-acclaimed Michele Roux Jr there with his family. He does go a bit over the top about their peshwari naan though!


Where insiders work out


You'll need to burn off those calories after indulging at the aforementioned establishments. So how about a premium strength and conditioning facility? CrossFit by Tooting Bec tube station really is for everyone and their friendly coaches will help you get started no matter your experience level. 


Where insiders go to unwind on the weekend


Balham is pretty spoilt for sunny afternoon green spaces. The best is probably Tooting Common for a gentle cycle, throwing some stones in the hidden pond of romance, and watching the lycra clad wannabe athletes honing their interval times.


Where insiders cut loose


Some of Balham's pubs suffer from identity crisis; trying to cater to everyone, but doing nothing particularly well. 


The Bedford Saloon Bar

Pic courtesy of @thebedfordpub


One of your best options is The Bedford, just a stone's throw from the station. 


This food-serving, sports-showing public house has undergone a recent multi-million pound refurbishment. Boasting free live music on weekdays, and DJs and comedy at the weekends, you'll want to plan your visit for the mood you're in. It's also one of the few locals to do Lagunitas on tap, which is a must have for any serious drinker.


Find your place in Balham


Balham proves there’s way more to South London than the usual names, and that Zone 3 doesn’t mean giving up on London’s best bits. This sleeper hit of a neighbourhood is definitely going places, so now’s the time to embrace it.


Lyvly offers great properties with simplicity built-in, along with an awesome community of fun loving people to explore Balham with. Take a look at our available properties here.


If Balham isn't the area you're looking for, Lyvly's homes are in neighbourhood all over London. Have a look at our guide on where else is great to live in the city.


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