North London V South London - The Last Word

Last Updated 07 June 2024

North London V South London - The Last Word

Psst! Join Londonist for a party in a brewery on 12 June — to celebrate our 20th!

Big Ben Vs the Shard
Time to decide once and for all whether north or south is better. Image: Matt Brown/Londonist

2024 is a big year for birthdays. Londonist turns 20, while our good friends at Deserter are a sprightly 10!

To mark the birthday brace, we're facing-off against one another, pitting north London against south London in a series of (relatively random) categories. Seeing as Deserter reside firmly in south London — and have even written a book about it — we've let them (Vince Raison) represent south of the river. Which leaves Londonist (Will Noble) with north London.

Let the battle of north Vs south London commence!


Big Ben at night
Must've sold a billion bottles of HP Sauce.  Image: Matt Brown/Londonist

South London: The Shard may not be as beautiful as the Queen's House in Greenwich, or as beguiling as the Laban Dance Centre in Deptford, but, say what you like, it is effing mahoosive. It also represents a giant middle finger to, I don't know, aliens? Or possibly just north London. It is so wildly out of scale with the rest of London Bridge it can only be a mistake, but it is only by owning our mistakes that we grow. Or something.

North London: Big Ben, mate. Stone cold icon. Must've sold a billion bottles of HP Sauce. Top terrorist target in action films. The first thing we see and hear at the start of every year. Such a complex web of real names/nicknames, it could make a pedant's head explode. We even loved Big Ben when it was shrouded in scaffolding for what felt like 30 years. Architecture fads come and go, but this long tall drink of neo-gothic water is — excuse the pun — timeless.

Winner: North London

Green space

A parakeet eating an apple
Another win for north London. Keep your pecker up, south London. Image: Londonist/Deserter

North London: The vast majority of London's magnificent Royal Parks are situated north of the Thames, and the mighty double bill of Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens takes the biscuit. Less of a green space, more of a world unto itself, here is a grassy urban lung in which you can engage in a political debate, watch musical legends play, feed exotic birds, go swimming on Christmas day, say hi to Peter Pan or pay tribute to deceased Victorian dogs. Oh, you can also have a picnic.

South London: I don't know if south London is greener than north London, but it feels like it. And smells like it. The 50 hectares of Brockwell Park, between Brixton and Tulse Hill, have long hosted fab music festivals, including Wide Awake, the Mighty Hoopla and the Lambeth Country Show, where 120,000 locals get off their heads on Chucklehead cider, act like they were actual sheep worriers, and explore food, crafts, culture and sweet music. It's also home to an art deco lido, a BMX track, a miniature railway and rare bats. That's right. Bats.

Winner: North London


A green tiled pub with 'The Shirker's Rest' on the front. A man sits on a chair outside with a pint
The Shirker's Rest - a quality boozer if ever there was one. Image: Londonist

North London: Not going to muck about with this one; the Cheshire Cheese off Fleet Street is the pub every person and their dog have been to (actually, not sure that dogs are allowed, but an elephant once called in for a pint) and raved about. A glass of stout sipped by the fireside in a pub that thrums with Dickensian spirit, and has the sawdust-scattered floor to prove it. Marvellous.

South London: Bias alert — The Shirker's Rest in New Cross is the Deserter x Camberwell Shark micropub. Its walls are festooned with not-so-subliminal messages urging you to down tools and take it easy. Although it's only two years old, it has become a fixture on south London's beer map, with impeccably-kept cask ale, a fine array of craft beer and frequent tap takeovers. Crucially, the staff are absolutely lovely. (Can we 'lose' my tab now, yeah?)

Winner: South London


The Albert Hall illuminated at night
Albertopolis is positively glowing with culture... but is it enough to trump the South Bank? Image: Jason Hawkes

South London: One of the greatest cultural districts in the world, the South Bank boasts the National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe, the Tate Modern, the Hayward Gallery, the BFI and the Royal Festival Hall. Its sea of Brutalist architecture has long prompted travellers from out of town to tut and shake their heads in confusion at the modern world, which is a bonus. And it provides 'nuff balconies with great river views for a cracking time with a bag o' cans.

North London: Albertopolis! Dinosaurs! Spacecraft! Last Night of the Proms! Statues of naked people! Come to South Kensington any day of the year (but especially a rainy Sunday during half term) and you will see just what this place means to so many people. That said, we only know of one decent pub around this way...

Winner: South London

Late night food

A chicken shop
Knew this photo would come in handy one day. Image: Londonist

South London: Morley's has been feeding fried chicken and ribs to the ends since 1985. Though it has been spotted north of the river, make no mistake, this is the taste of south London. The iconic chain has inspired many imitators — Monley's, Mowley, New Morly — creating an entire industry of fake Morley's. Whatever the sign says, trust your local Bossman.

North London: Hate to break it to you, but Kentish Town is home to Tay-Tay's favourite kebabie, Kentish Delight. Not only does she like to chow down on a chicken wrap here when she's in town, but the shop cameos in the her vid for End Game. What's wrong, south London? You've barely touched your spicy wing meal.

Winner: North London


A mural of David Bowie
Was Bowie actually from south London though, or another planet? Image: Londonist

South London: The defence could rest at David Bowie and Kate Bush. But with more recent talent like Stormzy, Kae Tempest, Fat White Family, RAYE, Tom Misch, Goat Girl, Shame, Steam Down, Poppy Ajudha, Afrikan Boy and more, live music is positively thriving down south. The scene, especially in small venues, is off the scale right now. and Brixton Academy is back. Over to you, north London.

North London: If we're namedropping now — how about George Michael, Chas & Dave, Elton John, Queen and Dua Lipa? Not to mention Muswell Hill's very own Kinks. Although, come to think of it, their biggest hit — Waterloo Sunset — is very much a transpontine song...

Winner: South London

Footy team

A football team celebrating
Dulwich Hamlet celebrate yet another win (sorry, we didn't have a picture of the women's team). Image: Londonist

North London: With a few square miles north of the river, you will find some of the world's biggest football teams — Brentford, Spurs, the Gunners, Chelsea. And what was the other one again... oh yeah, England! The very thought of Wembley makes our knees go trembly. In a good way.

South London: You can keep your TV teams, with their ubiquitous shirts in every corner of the capital. In the fifth tier of women's football, Dulwich Hamlet provided the best live football experience of the season. Over 1,100 people showed their love at the final home game at Champion Hill, along with ("How many dogs? How many dogs?") 27 very good boys and girls. And when they won the London and South East Regional Women's title, the players celebrated with the fans on 'Promotion Roundabout' by the East Dulwich Tavern, singing, drinking, setting off flares and waving inflatable palm trees at bemused traffic. A special night. A special club.

Winner: South London


A view from Primrose Hill was a rainbow
Primrose Hill - a view for all seasons. Image: Drew de F Fawkes via creative commons

South London: Nunhead Cemetery — a Gothic masterpiece and one of the Magnificent Seven — is set in 52 acres of spooky woodland, where overgrown graves are "scattered at angles like an ogre's teeth". You can sit on a bench and peer through a tunnel of ancient trees to the dome of St Paul's, surrounded by the sleeping dead and the smell of weed to remind you you're still in south London. A great place to be alive in.

North London: The Sky Garden, BT Tower or Parliament Hill are all top dogs for heady views in north London, but uppermost of the pile is the inimitable Primrose Hill. This panorama of the city — picturesque  in wind, rain, snow — sometimes even sunshine — feels like stepping into a living landscape painting. Featuring in everything from Bridget Jones to Paddington, it is perhaps THE iconic London vista.

Winner: North London


Train doors open at the platform
These things go faster than the trams too... Image: Paige Khan/Londonist

South London: I do love to sit at the front of the DLR, but I guess it's more east than south. The 'dangleway', or Cloud Cable Car across the Thames from North Greenwich is also a joyous way to travel, suspended over the water in a glass pod, even if there are only two stops. But keeping it fully south is the Tramlink — that beautiful madness of rails on roads connecting Wimbledon, Croydon and Beckenham. It's the past and the future in one.

North London: If you shave off Woolwich and Abbey Wood, the rest of the Elizabeth line is in north London. (Apart from, obviously, the bits that go into Essex and Berkshire.) The finest slice of transport infrastructure in the capital since the Victorians were kicking about, this suave purple beast swiftly gets you places you need to be. And Abbey Wood.

Winner: North London


South London: Is there a better state of being than leaning? It's what separates us from the animals. Bending the knee to cock one leg past the other, and resting the elbow on a suitably flat surface, preferably on the outside of a pub, with a foamy pint beside you. The Market Porter in Borough provides premier leaning facilities and excellent refreshment, beside the best food market in London.

North London: Referee! How is this fair? Deserter INVENTED the lean. Erm, I dunno, David Lean? Gah, no, he was from south London... Choked just before the whistle.

Winner: South London.

The scores on the doors...

Well would you believe it, it's a dead heat - 5-5! Join us all for a penalty shootout decider at Dulwich Hamlet sometime...

Deserter is a beautifully bibulous blog about south London, which we highly recommend you read. Tune into their pubcast too.

The Shirker's Rest is a doozy — one of Londonist's preferred south London drinking holes. Be sure to stop by for a pint next time you're in the New Cross area.