The side streets of Balham are lined with rows of identical houses, making it a very calm residential area, with most of its inhabitants driving around on their bicycles. The area is increasingly populated with local families, which adds to Balham’s neat and relaxed vibe.
When you go for a walk around Balham striking murals on the walls pop up, which enrich the otherwise orderly town. It is these kinds of artistic uses of the public space that make the town more alive.
The doors of the houses are usually painted in different colours, brightening up the street, and giving your stroll a pleasant visual surprise. You soon come to realise that each house has its own individual twist, which makes Balham so unique.
Hildreth Street is one of the most amiable areas of Balham, featuring cobblestone, pedestrian-only road, which features independent shops and cafés. Many of them are quite popular with locals, giving this town a friendly atmosphere.
No matter the weather is like, the residents always go out on the weekend. The queue outside Brickwood was only occasionally out-shined by the one for Milk, a café and tearoom next door. Both cafés rival for the best weekend brunch, what with their selection of pancakes, juices, toasties, muffins and so much more.
Hildreth Street Market is a small yet steady staple in Balham. Thanks to the varying stalls on different days, people are always drawn here whether it’s rain, hail, or shine, looking for the new variety of foods to taste and buy.
The London Cheesemongers are also a feature of Hildreth Street Market and they make for an excellent addition. Despite their small size they offer a high quality selection that changes weekly.
Balham also offers the Balham Farmer’s Market, which takes over the grounds of a primary school every Saturday. A decent variety of produce is offered, and the atmosphere is friendly and local – as can be expected from the rest of the town!
One of the stalls here specialises on bread alone, from classical loaves to baguettes, focaccia and more. Other stalls specialise in anything from fish, fresh vegetables, cakes and pastries, hand-made juice, free-range hamburgers and ricotta pies.
The Balham Library does not seem to belong to a crowded city such as London. It proudly occupies its own impressive brick building near one of the parking lots, right off the main street. It is clearly a staple of the community.
The Bedford is one of the most-loved spots in the Balham area. It has been bringing the community together since it opened in the 1830s, when it was founded as a hotel. Now it is a lively pub, offering the neighbourhood a variety of nightly activities and events.
Right on the main street, the classy Lamberts made a name for themselves, thanks to their high-quality food, which has won several awards. It is highly ethical, sourcing its food from local suppliers and featuring a menu that changes seasonally.
The Exhibit is one of Balham’s community hubs. Calling itself a ‘youth club for adults’, it is essentially a creative space that hosts a variety of events, including cinema, comedy and art.
Balham Baptist Church is an impressive building that stands near the library. The church runs groups for children, youth and the elderly, as well as a food bank that is always open for donations.
The Church of St. Mary and St. John the Divine is a very noticeable part of a walk down the main street in Balham. It was built in 1805 for an approximate cost of £3000 – a very large sum at the time. Many of the stained glass windows were added to the church in 1920 in memory of the members who died during World War I.
Nowadays, the church has become something of a community centre, offering a range of activities including pilates, yoga, discussion groups, concerts, and more.
Du Cane Court is a very distinctive local landmark. Towering over Balham’s central street, its 676 apartments make it Europe’s largest privately owned collection of flats under one roof. Due to its incredible size, some say it was used by the Germans as a navigational landmark for bombing during World War II.
Some parts of it may seem intimidating but Du Cane surrounds a relaxed, small garden and fountain where residents, of all ages, can stroll about.
By Alyssa Erspamer