Living in Islington


The epitome of gentrification for some, an idyllic haven for others, Islington is one of North London’s most attractive residential districts. Find out more about what it is like living in Islington in this area guide.

History of the area

Islington sits on a hill with access to numerous mineral springs, which gave it an important historic role as a supplier of fresh water to the developing city. The New River was created by Sir Hugh Myddelton in the early 17th century, bringing water from the river Lea. A statue of Myddelton now stands on Islington Green. The Great North Road ran through the developing village of Islington, and drovers used to herd their cattle down what is now Liverpool Road on their way to Smithfield Market. This rural area was popular as a day out for Londoners, and by 1716 there were 56 ale houses on Upper Street, along with pleasure gardens, theatres and later music halls.

Elegant new squares and streets were built, attracting the middle and upper classes. The population of Islington swelled in the 19th century, as working class Londoners displaced from the inner city settled there. The area was badly bombed during World War II, and many of the Georgian and Victorian buildings fell into disrepair. However, post-war development restored Islington to its former glory, and by the 1990s the area was home to bankers, lawyers, media stars and politicians. Perhaps the most famous resident was former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose ‘pact’ with Gordon Brown in an Italian restaurant on Upper Street is the stuff of political legend.

The property market

House prices in Islington are higher than the London average by some distance, with flats, terraced and semi-detached properties all selling for significant sums. Canonbury and Barnsbury are the most sought-after residential areas. Thornhill Square in Barnsbury, with its immaculate Georgian and Victorian terraces and town houses, is one of London’s finest squares.

New build homes

There are fewer new build developments in and around the Islington area than the wider borough, but there are still some options. Islington Square is a mixed use development just off Upper Street in the heart of Islington, and next to the retail and food hub in North London’s former postal sorting office. St William’s Court is a development of 1, 2 and 3-bed apartments close to Caledonian Road & Barnsbury station.

First time buyers

Due to the high property prices of the area it is very hard for first time buyers on average incomes to buy in Islington, although there is some former social housing available as part of ‘right to buy’ schemes. 

Renting in the area

Renting in Islington is expensive, especially the period properties that are its main housing stock. 1-bed flats of a good standard commonly have rents in excess of £2,000 per month. Prices are cheaper towards Angel but can still push renters to look to the more affordable areas of Dalston to the east and Finsbury Park to the north.  

Schools and education

Islington has a wealth of state and private schools. William Tyndale Primary on Upper Street and Richard Cloudesley School on Prebend Street are Primary schools rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. ‘Outstanding’ secondary schools include Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School on Donegal Street and Highbury Fields School for girls on Highbury Hill.

Transport links

The area is served by three tube stations, Angel on the Northern Line, Highbury & Islington on the Victoria Line and Caledonian Road on the Piccadilly Lane. The West End is just a few stops away. There are overground stations at Caledonian Road & Barnsbury, Highbury & Islington and Canonbury on the North London Line, with services to Stratford and Canada Water. All stations are in Zone 2 except Angel (Zone 1).

Lifestyle and leisure

From world-class arts and entertainment venues to the idyllic Regents Canal, there are few places outside the West End that can offer quite so much as Islington.

Places to eat and drink

Seriously, where do we start? Islington is door to door delis, cafés and restaurants. Just a sample: SUNDAY café in Barnsbury, for delicious brunches, Frederick’s in Islington High Street for modern European cuisine, and Mem & Laz Brasserie in Theberton Street. Whether you want a busy Upper Street boozer or a quiet pub in a leafy lane, the Camden Head and the Canonbury Tavern are two of North London’s finest watering holes.            

Things to do

Walk just a few metres from Angel tube station and you are on the towpath of Regent’s Canal. It seems a world away from the hubbub of the Islington streets. Also not far from Angel is Sadler’s Wells, home to world-class dance, ballet, opera and touring theatre productions. The Almeida Theatre in Upper Street stages award-winning drama often featuring world-renowned actors, while Union Chapel in Canonbury is one of London’s most atmospheric and distinctive music venues.

Where to shop

Camden Passage, just off the junction of Essex Road and Upper Street, is a treasure trove of antique and collectible shops. There is an antique and vintage market in Camden Passage on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Chapel Street in Angel holds a market six days of the week and a farmers’ market every Sunday. In Upper Street you will find independent gift shops, jewellers, toy shops and boutiques, along with national chains. 

Felicity J Lord can help you buy, sell or rent in Islington

If you like what you hear about living in Islington, we can help you buy, sell or rent in the Islington area. Get in touch with the friendly team at our Islington branch and they will be happy to help.