The Liberal Zone
When you first pop up from Vauxhall Tube station, it’s overwhelming.
With shiny blocks of flats, crossings straddling three lanes of traffic at a time and the imposing MI6 building across the river, it looks like a city thoroughfare with little more to offer.
But, pierce the surface and there’s much more to this urban landscape.
Vauxhall’s atmosphere is young and lively – it’s full of 20-something professionals getting sweet deals on modern flats (south of the river, you see), and has a huge gay community.
Robin Sansay, manager of Moving Space estate agents in Kennington Lane, says: “The gay community has grown a lot and Vauxhall is well-known for being tolerant and open-minded.”
Vauxhall attracts a multicultural crowd too. Its new apartments have brought in a wealthy overseas market of particularly Asian and Russian students. And there’s a large Portuguese contingent, which has in turn attracted many South Americans to the area.
Yes, there’s a Starbucks and a Pret, but the foreign influence also adds some good independent eateries. A favourite with locals is Madeira Patisserie on Albert Embankment for morning coffee and pastries.
In contrast to its shiny modernity and inner-city feel, residents are spoiled with fresh produce.
The nearby New Covent Garden Market is the biggest fruit, vegetable and flower market in the UK.
But wake up early – or don’t go to bed – as it starts in the small hours and finishes by 11am in the week and 10am on Saturdays.
And if you’re looking for other ways to escape the city views, Vauxhall Park is the area’s patch of greenery, with Vauxhall City Farm on its edge – home to a farmyard animals and a community garden.
Riding lessons happen on the farm, plus there’s a textiles room where craftsmen weave, embroider and knit.
With Vauxhall’s plethora of pubs, the area awakens at the weekend. There’s the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Kennington Lane (an alternative gay club with comedy, cabaret, jazz and bingo) and the LED-laden Fire, inspired by the video for Justin Timberlake’s Rock Your Body.
There’s also the hyped Renaissance Rooms’ roller disco club (Kate Middleton once gave the dance floor a spin; rollerdisco.com).
When Monday hits, getting to work is easy as Vauxhall is well-connected and in walking distance from the West End. That’s the area’s biggest draw, says Andy Eleftheriou, from Life Residential estate agents in the coveted St George Wharf.
He says: “On my lunch break, I’ve walked to Covent Garden, bought a book and walked back within an hour.”
A boat stop is also about to open in the recently built St George Wharf to take commuters to Canary Wharf.
Another in-demand area is the period Bonnington Square – a bohemian area away from the main roads with a central garden and a co-operative cafe (bonningtoncafe.co.uk).
For bargains, gets an ex-council flat in Black Prince Road, Vauxhall Street or Tyres Street. Although rents are relatively low in the whole area.
Cheap but nice, fast-living but liberal? We’ll move there.
Words: Clare Vooght