Living in Bayswater

Bayswater, a built-up district bordering Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, is an area of West London in the City of Westminister. It is one of the London's most cosmopolitan areas, with the significant diversity of the local population added to by having one of the London's highest concentration of hotels. In fact, when you first exit the Bayswater tube station, which is surrounded by small cafes, restaurants and shops, you might initially think that there are no real people living in this area! The streets are full of tourists with backpacks and suitcases trying to catch a taxi to the airport, looking for cheap accommodation or just standing on the street corner with a map of London, looking lost.

Once slummy, Bayswater was for many years the bad boy of the boroughs, dense with vice and crime comparable of that of Soho. Gentrification has changed it immeasurably over the last 50 years, though it remains the most cosmopolitan district of all of the boroughs, with a strong Arab presence, a substantial Greek community and vestiges of the African-Caribbean population. Once you leave the busy Queesnway (the main street in Bayswater) you'll discover that Bayswater is mostly a residential neighbourhood and a great place to live.

Ricky Mallone has lived in Bayswater for 25 years and loves it. "The best thing about Bayswater is its location. Everything is within walking distance," says Ricky. Notting Hill is just few miles down the road with some good shopping and cinemas. If it\s a nice day you can wander into Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and get lost amongst nature. Paddington train station is literally around the corner. So is Edgware Road with its markets, shops and great restaurants. "When we had the tube strike this summer and the entire London was at standstill, Bayswater was still as busy as a beehive. We weren't affected by the foolishness," he adds.

Housing

Architecturally, the biggest part of the area is made up of Georgian stucco terraces and garden squares, mostly - although not exclusively - divided up into flats. The property ranges from very expensive apartments to small studio flats. There are also purpose built apartment blocks dating from the inter-war period as well as more recent developments, and a large council estate.

The cheapest places to stay in Bayswater are hostels. There are around 4000 people living in plentiful Bayswater hostels as you read this, ranging from just arrived in the country folk to young professionals from all over the world. If you're looking for something more private you have to pay. Shared apartments start from £90 per week per person for one bedroom to £160 for a studio flat.

The rooms in Bayswater are not as roomy, spacious or light as they are in perhaps Holland Park of Notting Hill, but they are still better than central London. For a one bedroom apartment you'll end up paying around £300 per week, for two bedrooms £500 per week, for three bedrooms £600-£700 per week and for a house, prices start from £1500 per week and up.

Community

Bayswater has a population density of 17,500 people per square kilometre and you can meet most of them on weekends when you stroll down the Queensway to Westbourne Grove or High Street. Queensway, named after Queen Victoria who rode here as princess, is the heart and sole of Bayswater. It is one of the London's most cosmopolitan areas. Newsagents are abundantly stocked with foreign newspapers, cheap Lebanese and Chinese restaurants stand on every corner, and late-night cafes are plentiful. Queesnway has one of the heaviest concentrations of eating places outside Soho. There are two things in Queesway you can't miss when you visit: the ice-rink and Whiteleys Shopping Centre.

Whiteleys Shopping Centre is one of the main historic buildings in the area. It was built in 1912 by Belcher and Joass as a fashionable department store that stocked everything from "a pin to an elephant". It was converted in the 1980's into a vibrant shopping centre and it also has a movie theatre. When you get tired of Queensway head on to Westbourne Grove, which has become increasingly popular with the young, designer-led crowd and has some lovely boutiques, more well-to-do eating places and galleries. For a cultural experience visit St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Moscow Street.

Eating Out

Sheila's Sandwich Bar on Craven Terrace does terrific bacon rolls and sandwiches. Prices are good. Lo Spuntino on Bayswater Road is not gourmet Italian food but it will tame your hunger and leave money in your pocket. Patisserie Valerie on Queensway is a branch of the Soho legend, making great pastries from quick snacks to celebratory cakes. Bella Pasta on Queensway is an Italian restaurant that offers quick pizza and pasta dishes to suit all budgets. Masala on Bishops Bridge Road is an award-winning Indian casual dining restaurant. It serves delicious, authentic and wholesome Indian food, covering dishes from street food favourites to tandoori grills and curries. Halepi on Leinster Terrace is a small Greek tavern. The seating is a bit tight, but that is part of the charm; the food's flavourful and plentiful. Alanouk is a charming Persian restaurant on Westbourne Grove. It's always packed in the evenings; meals around £15.

Shopping

Whiteley's Shopping Centre is the heart of shopping in Bayswater. It's luxurious and elegant, with a full range of contemporary shops, restaurants and leisure activities. Queensway Market, two doors down from Queensway Tube station, is an arcade with stalls selling various items, including women's fashions and accessories. Nickelodeon is the home entertainment store; membership is free. Euro Souvenirs and Luggage on Queensway offers a market-style shopping for tourists; has a bureau de change. D Cobbler on Queensway does shoe prepares and key cutting while you wait. The tool shop opposite Whiteley's sells electric lighting, hand and power tools, ironmongery and paint, and also cuts keys. Paperchase on Westbourne Grove sells an unbeatable range of unusual papers and art materials as well as all the more widely available stationery, greeting cards, gifts and wrapping paper. Bo Concept is a trendy interior design store for every room in the house. SCP sells contemporary furniture, lighting, kitchenware, rugs, books and accessories by some of the most famous design names and brands in history. JoJo Maman Bebe on Westbourne Grove has maternity wear, baby and child, nursery bedding and practical products collections.

Pubs & Nightlife

The Redan is a warm and relaxing pub on the corner of Queensway and Westbourne Grove. It has an exciting menu and divine wine. The Bayswater Arms next to Bayswater Tube station sells lovely wines, traditional ales and fantastic food. The Elbow Room on Westbourne Grove is a pool lounge and bar. The Beachcomber, squeezed between a money exchange and the Four Seasons restaurant, is a basement restaurant and cocktail bar with light music and dancing. Harlem on Westbourne Grove is a great last night drinking venue with several booths and tables, a full bar and a DJ playing some good eclectic tunes. The drinks are a bit pricey and you have to pay £10 for admission. Westbourne House is a trendy and uber stylish venue. There are also outside benches which are great during the summer for people watching.

Eeva Kaun