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Beautiful West Dulwich: A Local’s Complete Guide

West Dulwich high street

West Dulwich is a charming community in South London characterized by beautiful terraced homes, plenty of tall, leafy trees and two cute high streets with unique boutiques and bustling cafes. My husband and I have lived in the area for over two years now, and greatly enjoy the slower pace of life and the less-crowded feeling West Dulwich offers compared to the rest of London.

A local street with classic terraced homes.

West Dulwich is very family-oriented, with many prestigious schools like Dulwich College in the area. The neighborhood exudes a sort of understated affluence. Homes here are well-maintained, the people are friendly and I’ve generally always felt safe walking about, even after dark.  

I’d compare West Dulwich to (much-larger) Wimbledon or Richmond, but with a more down-to-earth, welcoming atmosphere.

West Dulwich Bakery and a sign welcoming visitors to the neighborhood.

West Dulwich History

In the early 19th century, West Dulwich was predominantly rural with large estates and farmland. However, the construction of Crystal Palace in nearby Sydenham in 1854 and the expansion of the railway around this same time spurred growth and development in the region, connecting West Dulwich to central London.

During World War II, the area endured some bombing raids, but it largely escaped widespread destruction. In the post-war years, West Dulwich continued to grow as a desirable residential neighborhood with elegant Victorian and Edwardian architecture.

Getting to West Dulwich

West Dulwich Station

By Train

While West Dulwich does not have any Tube (London Underground) stations, it is very easy to reach via public transportation from elsewhere in the city.

The two best train stations are West Dulwich and West Norwood. West Dulwich’s high street is just a 10-minute walk from West Dulwich Station or a 15-minute walk from West Norwood Station. It takes about 12 minutes to get from Central London to West Dulwich by train.

Tulse Hill Station, North Dulwich Station and Sydenham Hill Station are also within walking distance of West Dulwich. Be sure to check schedules and strikes to see if the timing works for your plans.  

Classic terraced homes along a street in Dulwich, London.

By Bus

Additionally, there are numerous bus lines through the area, with the P13 and 201 buses passing east to west on the A205 highway, the 3 and N3 buses running north to south on Croxted Road, and the 322 bus running from Clapham to Crystal Palace on Rosendale Road. In fact, the P4 bus line from Brixton to Lewisham also crosses through West Dulwich.

Terraced homes in Dulwich.

By Car

Lastly, there is a public car park in Belair Park at the junction of A205 and Gallery Road, and parking is free and unrestricted where indicated on Gallery Road as well. It’s usually easy to find parking off of Rosendale and Croxted as well as near the shops and restaurants.

West Dulwich Green Spaces

Life in West Dulwich is rooted in its parks. No matter the weather, locals love getting outside and enjoying nature. The abundance of green spaces, be it public parks or private sports fields, adds to the richness of life in West Dulwich.

Belair House

Belair Park

Belair Park in West Dulwich is an excellent place to catch up with friends, take the dog for a walk or go on an independent stroll for some fresh air. There are several entrances to the park, with the most central entry point located directly across from the West Dulwich train station, adjacent to Stephanie’s Café (an excellent spot to grab a pastry or warm beverage).

I like to think of Belair Park as having two sides, split down the middle by the River Effra: The left side has tennis courts, a playground and a large field with a paved walking path alongside it.

A friendly Dulwich squirrel.

The right side feels a bit dreamier, wilder, yet thoughtfully designed. There’s a gravel walking path that tucks into a tree canopy leading to a small clearing with hungry ducks and squirrels awaiting your arrival. There’s several trees dotting the fields where young families lay blankets underneath to picnic. Free public restrooms are also conveniently available on the right side of the park.

Additionally, situated atop the highest hill in the park (also on the right side), you’ll find a historic, Georgian mansion-turned-event-venue called Belair House. This romantic structure is also home to a modern British restaurant and bar called 1785.  

Dulwich Park entry

Dulwich Park

Dulwich Park is the king of all London parks for me. It’s very easy to spend hours here wandering the paths or relaxing on a bench with a good book. There’s tennis courts, a basketball court, an expansive children’s playground, a bowling green, bustling café with both indoor and outdoor seating, and a large, meandering pond with paddle boats for rent in the summer.

Picnic tables and park benches are plentiful throughout the grounds. There’s even outdoor exercise equipment to work off that Mr. Whippie ice cream you enjoyed at the park’s entry. Toilets are also available alongside the café.

Dulwich Park cafe

One of my favorite features of the park is the cordoned off area (no dogs allowed!) where expectant squirrels and birds roam free with anticipation of special treats from their human friends. In fact, the little critters follow you around like Snow White and practically eat from your hand—it’s very cute.

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery

In front of the impressive Dulwich Picture Gallery, you’ll find a lush 3-acre greenspace with a winding walking path, 25 species of trees and a cute café called Flotsam & Jetsam. This is an excellent place to spend an hour or so unwinding with people watching or just getting lost in the sounds of nature.

Lover's Walk nature trail in Dulwich

Lover’s Walk

Lover’s Walk is an ethereal pathway tucked between Gallery Road and College Road. The pedestrian-only cut-through runs parallel to a lush, often-overgrown meadow that’s well-known among foxes and other wildlife local to the area. You’re sure to spot some sort of magical creature on your short meander through here.  

Home in Dulwich Park

West Dulwich Restaurants and Shops

West Dulwich has plenty of options when it comes to shops and restaurants. A few of my favorites are:

Heritage Dulwich

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Heritage West Dulwich was named one of the best Indian restaurants in London by the MICHELIN Guide. The love and attention given to their recipes is apparent with every bite. I highly recommend eating here for an elegant dinner out.

The Rosendale West Dulwich

The Rosendale

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Another great dining establishment is The Rosendale–a fun local pub with a large outdoor seating area in the front and back. The food here has always been delicious, especially the pizzas. Definitely a great place to grab a pint and unwind for a bit—it’s never usually crowded.

La Gastronomia

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I love the paninis from La Gastronomia in West Dulwich, especially any that incorporate their house-made pesto. Head here if you’re looking for a great lunch along with some excellent imported Italian goods. Hot tip: Don’t miss the lovely garden seating in the back!

Cellar 107 London

Cellar 107

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Cellar 107 has some of the friendliest waitstaff I’ve ever interacted with throughout London. Indeed, it’s what keeps me coming back. Well, that and the creamy mushroom pasta, the arancini and spicy diavola pizza. Yum!  

Caffé Salva

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Caffé Salva is a local favorite for delicious coffee and other Italian specialties. Their hot beverages are a staple for actors and film crews living or working in the area.

Cook West Dulwich

Cook West Dulwich

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Not sure what to make for dinner or just don’t have the time? Swing by Cook in West Dulwich and your dinner plans are sorted. Cook offers simple, healthy and delightful frozen meals for busy families. The mushroom risotto is my favorite.

Dulwich Lyceum

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This chef-driven Mediterranean restaurant offers some of the finest grub south of the Thames. Pop in here for lovely classics like Iberico pork chops, sea scallops or grilled octopus.

The Dulwich Trader

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This super cute lifestyle store by Rigby & Mac is a great place to pop in and browse. The shelves are always well-stocked with charming housewares, elegant decor and fun greeting cards. Overall, it’s the kind of shop you always end up finding several things you love—similar to Anthropologie, in the best way.

In conclusion, West Dulwich is an excellent area to live or spend a leisurely afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of central London. The neighborhood is family friendly, great for walks and well-positioned for ventures further into the city. As a resident of the area myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed the tranquility and quality of life this area provides.

RELATED LINKS

Looking for a rural escape in England? Consider a day trip out to Leeds Castle in Kent.

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