Once renowned as one of South East London’s dodgy urban neighbourhoods most would be afraid to set foot in, Peckham is now the epitome of city gentrification. The introduction of the Overground line in 2012, running through to Peckham Rye between Clapham Junction and Dalston Junction may well be a heavy contributor to this.
Now, artsy cafes, shabby-chic vintage clothing shops, and buzzy bars serving cocktails in jam jars sit between the fried chicken shops and the cut-price nail salons. With this brings flocks of art students, young professionals, and yummy mummies.
Still, the contrast in the district is a fascinating one. Despite the recent influx of money, the original sense of community is still very much present. Interestingly, huge African populations are living in the area.
Stroll down Rye Lane and it won’t be long until you discover corner stores selling yams and takeaway shops dishing up warm plates of chicken stew, jollof rice, and plantain. Weave between these mixes of cultures and lifestyles and a visit to Peckham is sure to be a unique one.
Bellenden Road, or affectionately known in the community as ‘Bellenden Village’, is branded as the ‘posh part’ of Peckham. An afternoon here can be well spent, dipping between the slick cafes and the impressive range of independently owned shops. Such shops sell everything from antique furniture to, believe it or not, dog makeovers.
Over the weekend, craft stalls and food pop-ups can crop up along the street, adding to that warm sense of local community. The large intricately-designed murals adorning the brick walls along the street only add to the charm, injecting another splash of quirkiness to the spot.
As evening commences, the change in clientele is most significant. Peckham, over the past eight years or so, has become known as trendy nightlife hotspot that compares to the uber-cool district of Shoreditch. Vast numbers of clubbers across London now travel to experience it every day of the week.
Once you’ve got those dancing shoes on, the 120-year old multi-level warehouse club Bussey Building is the only place to be. Playing a broad range of music genres across different nights, from house and electro to disco and funk, the hip music venue with its various floors, rooms and corridors is a fun place to explore. It wouldn’t be unusual to find yourself in an atmospheric dark room bopping away funky tunes you’ve never heard of.
Eating and Drinking
Although quite pricey, The Begging Bowl, standing out in a pretty corner on Bellenden Road, offers a short menu of tapas-style Thai sharing dishes created with fresh ingredients and unique flavours.
For hearty Italian cooking, Il Giardino serves up authentic Sardinian food in a quaint rustic setting, decorated with wooden tables and flickering candles.
Or for beers and nibbles with a view, climb up to Frank’s Café, located on the 10th floor of a multi-story car park. Here you can admire the panoramic landscapes of London in the summer months. Plan your visit during sunset to catch that elusive orange glow settling over the city.
Where to Stay
The cosy family-friendly Victoria Inn pub on a corner of Bellenden Road offers a range of 15 design-led boutique bedrooms to suit different needs for a homely stay in Peckham’s most sophisticated spot. From £82.50 a double, each air-conditioned bedroom presents an ensuite bathroom with a shower, tea and coffee making facilities, HD Freeview television, and a hairdryer.
For a budget option, head over to the popular student area of Queen’s Road Peckham. Here the Peckham Rooms Hotel houses 22 bedrooms, starting from £55 for a double. The simple yet elegant bedroom décor is inspired by the deep tones and textures of Africana landscapes, reflecting Peckham’s very own special and diverse community.
Or, the 3-star Best Western London Peckham Hotel is another affordable option. It offers small but funky and clean bedrooms a 10-minute stroll from Peckham Rye station, from £75 a double.
Where to Shop
Amble along Rye Lane and you’re sure to come across the famous Khans Bargain Ltd. This is a gigantic discount emporium selling, well, pretty much anything you want. From huge collections of unrecognisable fruits, pulses, vegetables and spices to towers of Supermalt, the range of items is remarkable.
On the contrary, The General Store on Bellenden Road is small upmarket grocery. It sells artisan produce from homemade crumbly cakes to carefully-sourced rich cheeses. With a strong focus on ethics, each item has been very carefully chosen, with both the producer’s and the customer’s best interests at heart.
Other Places of Interest
For a cinematic experience under the stars, head to the rooftop of the Bussey Building. There you can catch a classic sky high above the ground during the summer months.
Nearby, the Peckham Levels complex is well worth exploring too. The building features seven levels of multi-story car parking space transformed into one creative hub. Expect the likes of stylish bars, independent food pop-ups, yoga classes, hairdressers, office spaces, and more.
Seeking some green space? Retreat from Peckham’s urban centre to explore Peckham Rye Park. There’s recreational grassland, woodland, community wildlife gardens and even a ‘secret’ Japanese garden.
Want to see more of London? Check out my review of Dans Le Noir where guests are served in the dark by blind waiters.