Balham is a neighborhood in South West London that is old enough to appear in the Domesday Book, where it was listed as Belgeham. It was meadows and farmland for centuries until the expansion of the city engulfed it and turned it into another suburb. Without much history of note, today, Balham offers a lot for people visiting. Those who are into greenspace will want to visit as it is situated adjacent to four common land parks, but that’s not all you’ll find here. We’ve outlined ten spots we think you should visit below and you can let us know any places we missed in the comments.
One of London’s neighborhoods that can boast its own library, the Balham Library isn’t just a repository of knowledge, it also acts as a community center. The library puts on several courses throughout the week for anyone wanting to learn skills or get fit. It also has a great amount of information on the area for those wanting to know more.
Balham Swimming Pool
And speaking of getting fit, the swimming pool at the Balham Leisure Center is the perfect place if you’re visiting during colder months and want to go for a dip somewhere warm. The high vaulted ceilings and large windows help make it a very pleasing locale as well but keep in mind that the pool can be reserved for water polo and other events, so make sure to check that it’s open in advance.
Sewing Machine Museum
It might not be the best museum for everyone, but for anyone who’s had to make costumes, repair clothes, or fashion a quilt will want to check out London’s only museum dedicated to the sewing arts. The museum is part of the Wimbledon Sewing Machine Co. Ltd building, which houses the exhibits upstairs and is full of many different models of sewing machines. Be sure to check that it’s open first as it does so only one day per month.
Balham High Road
The best shopping to be had in Balham will be along the High Road. From bakers to dentists to household goods, the Balham High Road is like a cross-section of the area’s daily life. Additionally, there are a number of pubs and cafes that line the street if you’re a big hungry or thirsty, so you can stop in while you shop.
Speaking of which, just off the High Road you’ll find The Exhibit, one of the best pubs and performance venues in South West London. On any given night, you might find a movie playing there, a band performing, strutting drag queens, or an up-and-coming comedian trying to make you laugh. The Exhibit claims to have “it all under one roof”, it’s a perfect place for anyone.
One of the aforementioned greenspaces in the intro, Wandsworth Common is nearly 172 acres of meadows, ponds, and amenities, including the Wandsworth Common Tennis & Bowls Centre. The common is also home to a wildlife education center named “The Scope” for the Craig Telescope that used to be located in Wandsworth Common.
Tooting Bec Lido
Tooting Bec Lido makes the list not only for being a major feature of Tooting Bec Common (more on that later), but also because it is the largest freshwater swimming pool and also the oldest open-air pool in London. The pool is open to the public from May to August, but come the fall and winter, you have to be a member of the South London Swimming Club to gain access.
Hildreth Street Market
The Hildreth Street Market has transformed from another outdoor farmer’s market to a true foodie’s paradise, with the fresh ingredients joining some of the best street food the city has to offer. It’s also worth wandering up and down the street to find many of Balham’s cafes and restaurants offering a wide variety of dishes and beverages sure to please any palette.
Perhaps the loveliest of the green spaces in Balham, Tooting Commons are actually comprised of Tooting Bec Common and Tooting Graveney Common. Of the two, Tooting Bec offers more to do with the aforementioned lido as well as Tooting Bec Stadium. However, neither one is lacking in a number of pathways, sports fields, and lovely plants to help you relax in the midst of the city.
The top location in Balham, however, has to be The Bedford. Beyond being a Grade II listed public house, The Bedford is a top performance venue, perhaps even more so than The Exhibit. It has often served as a comedy club as well as hosting early performances from some of music’s biggest stars including U2, The Clash, and Ed Sheeran. The food and beverages aren’t to be beaten either, so make sure to check the schedule and see what’s on to find the best night to experience this great pub for yourself.