Gentri-vacation: London's most happening neighborhoods

Peter Walker, for CNNUpdated 22nd May 2015
(CNN) — Visitors to Britain's sprawling capital often complain that they never get to experience any of the sprawl.
After traipsing around the main sights they often lack the energy and knowledge to experience London life beyond a few central square miles.
Which means they're missing out.
London's inner and outer suburbs are alive with creative energy as, for better or worse, waves of scenesters and gentrifiers sweep through the suburbs and, inevitably, push prices beyond the reach of many locals.
In this turbo-paced reshaping city, neighborhoods fall quickly in and out of fashion -- making it doubly tough for visitors to know the most happening spots.
Here's a guide to six currently on the rise.

Peckham

Peckham Multi Story Car Park, London
Peckham: London's coolest parking lot.
Mary Turner/Getty Images
This south London suburb's reputation was long fixed by a popular 1980s British TV comedy, "Only Fools and Horses," centering on an ambitious market trader whose van bore the absurd and hubristic slogan, "New York, Paris, Peckham."
All is different now.
In part it's immigration that's transformed the area, with many shops on the bustling main street catering to the burgeoning local West African population.
There's also been public investment, like the copper-clad modern library, winner of the Stirling Prize for architecture (122 Peckham Hill St., London; +44 20 7525 2000).
Gentrification has taken two fronts: middle class families, who colonized the Victorian houses before the prices got too high; and students and artists.
It's the latter who increasingly define the area, with studios common inside the cavernous spaces beneath railway arches, as well as a number of galleries.
One Peckham street, Bellenden Road, even has street furniture designed by the famous sculptor, Antony Gormley.
If one thing epitomizes the new Peckham it's Frank's Campari Bar (10th floor, Peckham Multi-Story Car Park, 95A Rye Lane, London; no phone), a hugely popular summer-only venue on the open top floor of a looming 1960s multistory parking lot.
Worth visiting just for the views and the fashionable company.
Just not if it rains.
Getting there: Connect to the London Overground circular loop for trains to Peckham Rye Station.

Walthamstow

Walthamstow Garden Party
In the suburbs there's a thousand things they want to say to you: About the Walthamstow Garden Party for example.
Courtesy Waltham Forest Council
Even 20 years ago the notion of Walthamstow, in the far northeast of London, becoming fashionable would have seemed amusing to its residents, mainly white working class families, augmented by various waves of immigrant communities.
But as other parts of east London become overrun by gentrifiers, the more intrepid were tempted by Walthamstow's plentiful supply of family homes, mainly Victorian, and quick tube link to the center.
The (relatively) leafy district known as Walthamstow Village was first to fall, with the stripped floorboards and tasteful front door paint gradually spreading further afield.
As with much of London the picture is hugely mixed -- there's significant social deprivation amid the lattes and real estate agents.
Many long-termers lamented the demise of the famous greyhound racing stadium, closed in 2008, the site now being turned into apartments.
Incomers are drawn by increasing numbers of good restaurants and bars and the thriving local market, as well arts events like the weekend-long Walthamstow Garden Party (Lloyd Park, London; July 18-19).
Getting there: London Underground Victoria Line to Walthamstow Central

Deptford and New Cross

Deptford Market, London
Deptford and New Cross: Artful living in the suburbs.
Sophie Wedgwood for CNN
As long ago as 2009 no less an authority on gentrification than the New York Times called this adjoining pair of southeast London neighborhoods "a boisterous concoction of blue-collar aesthetics and intermittent hipsterism."
It's probably still a fair description.
Both areas have big pockets of significant social deprivation, and are bounded by thundering main roads, but are nonetheless forging a reputation as the destinations of choice for young arty types, some priced out of former creative hubs like Shoreditch, even Peckham.
Both feature a sometimes motley collection of pubs and bars showcasing regular live music, with the Amersham Arms (388 New Cross Road, London; +44 20 8469 1499) in New Cross particularly popular.
Deptford was long exemplified by the Deptford Project, a popular cafe and art space based around a disused train carriage inside an old rail yard.
This closed last year for the construction of new apartments and commercial units.
In its place have come numerous studios and galleries, such as Bearspace (152 Deptford High St., London; +44 20 8694 8097), which specializes in young, upcoming artists.
It does still have the Laban Theatre (Creekside, Deptford, London; +44 208 691 8600), an award-winning, shimmering glass building built in 2003 for the Trinity Laban Conservatoire, the UK's leading contemporary dance school.
Getting there: Trains from London Bridge Station for Deptford Station.

Homerton and Clapton

If London, like all cities, gentrifies in waves, then these adjoining east London areas are part of a third or even fourth incarnation of the phenomenon.
Firstly, rising prices pushed people away from Islington to Stoke Newington and Hackney, and now on to Homerton and Clapton.
These used to be primarily known for squats and high crime rates, with one main street in Clapton known locally as the "murder mile" for the frequency of drug- or gang-related shootings.
But streets of generous size Victorian homes not too far away from the center have a draw of their own.
Homerton's generally recognized tipping point came with the opening of a much-loved coffee shop, Venetia's (55 Chatsworth Road, +44 20 89861642).
The same street now has a weekly market selling all the necessities of inner city life from obscure cheeses to vegan cakes.
Also there's Chats Palace (42-44 Brooksby's Walk, London; +44 20 8533 0227), a former library "reclaimed" by locals after it was shut in the 1970s, and long known as a raucous music venue.
The nightlife remains, but it also offers kids' music and dance lessons.
A few streets away is another iconic venue -- Toe Rag Studios (166a Glynn Road, Clapton, London; +44 20 8985 8862), the analogue-only recording hub famed for hosting the sessions for the White Stripes' album "Elephant."
And there's possibly the best Senegalese night out in east London at the Little Baobab (159 Lower Clapton Road, Clapton, London; +44 7798 688 042).
Getting there: Connect to the London Overground loop for trains to Homerton Station

Leyton and Leytonstone

Leyton High Road, London
Talking 'bout regeneration: Leyton High Road.
Courtesy Waltham Forest Council
For every gentrification action there's a ripple of reaction. As places like Walthamstow shoot up in popularity -- at one point last year it had the fastest-rising property prices in the UK -- people go elsewhere.
This elsewhere is now, for some, Leyton and its adjoining near-namesake, Leytonstone.
This is arguably fashionable London in its more mature, thoughtful form -- fewer crowded pubs featuring difficult indie bands, more bakeries and people thinking about schools and commuting routes.
Both areas always had much to recommend them, being bounded by the green spaces of Hackney Marsh, Wanstead Flats and Epping Forest, but remained resolutely unfashionable for decades.
Leyton was further damned for a period by the construction of a major road project that saw more than 250 homes demolished.
Now Leyton High Road, the shopping street, has been regenerated, a project begun to coincide with the 2012 Olympics, based in nearly Stratford.
All You Read is Love (877 High Road, Leytonstone, London; no phone) is a pop-up bookstore/cocktail lounge/coffee shop set up by Danish siblings that's proved such a hit it's in danger of becoming a permanent fixture.
Getting there: London Underground Central Line to Leyton Station

Brixton

Brixton Market, London
Brixton Market: Exotic cafes, restaurants and surging property values.
Sophie Wedgwood for CNN
Brixton arguably best epitomizes the fast-changing face of London, in all its good and bad points.
Long a hugely deprived center of the London's African-Caribbean community, years of tensions with police exploded in 1981 with some of the worst urban rioting seen in 20th-century Britain.
After that, properties in the area could barely be given away.
But over the last 20 years the established population have been joined by ever-more newcomers, many priced out of more posh nearby areas like Clapham, attracted by Brixton's excellent public transport links and vibrant, buzzy commercial center.
Property prices have rocketed.
A moribund indoor market specializing in Caribbean food and obscure reggae records was transformed, and is now packed with exotic cafes and restaurants -- and people.
The squatted blocks of apartments that once dotted the area, abandoned as worthless by the local council, have been hastily reclaimed and sold.
Brixton has kept its character, but there have been undeniable tensions.
For some, the recent arrival of upmarket real estate agents Foxtons has signaled the beginning of the end -- it's already twice had its window broken, most recently during a specific protest against gentrification.
All the more reason to see these neighborhoods before they change for good.
Getting there: London Underground Victoria Line to Brixton.