The Elephant and Castle is one of the most central places in London - draw a circle round on the map and you will see it is equidistant from Westminster, the West End and the City. It also boasts a cosmopolitan population with a vibrant Latin American contingent. No wonder it is so popular with young professionals.
What's In A Name?
The Elephant and Castles strange name has been the speculated about for centuries. It was the name of a coaching inn on the site, which had previously been used by a blacksmith who was a member of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers. Their coat of arms was (and still is) an elephant with a howdah in the form of a castle on its back. The story that the name derives from "Infanta of Castile" is very unlikely to be true.
Elephant and Castle became an important transport hub when Westminster Bridge was opened in 1751. By 1900 it was fashionable, with a shopping area known as the Piccadilly of South London. Music hall flourished, with the construction of the huge Trocadero, the South London Palace of Varieties and the Elephant and Castle Theatre. All the top stars such as Dan Leno and Marie Lloyd appeared there. Charlie Chaplin was born in the area and for a while was sent to a workhouse - appropriately, it is now home to the Cinema Museum.
A New Future
After terrible war damage, Elephant and Castle was rebuilt according to the then-fashionable Brutalist principles, the most prominent example being Fleming House, built for the NHS by Erno Goldfinger and now converted into stylish and very popular flats.
The regeneration of Elephant and Castle is now under way. Several iconic towers including the Strata (nicknamed 'The Electric Razor' because of the prominent wind turbines at the top) have been completed and others are in the pipeline. The current maze of roads will be rationalised and a broad pedestrian mall lined with trees, shops, cafes and bars is planned. Elephant and Castle will soon be transformed into a fashionable and stylish place to live, work and play.
Food And Drink
The area's cosmopolitan vibe is reflected in the international cuisines on offer, especially from Latin America. Try La Bodequita (Columbian), Constancia (Argentine), Costa Azul (Ecuadorian) and Costa Dos (Bolivian). For a traditional Chinese, the Dragon Castle cannot be bettered. And if you want to stick with French, the Toulouse Lautrec is a lovely brasserie.
Sport And Leisure
Mary Harmsworth Park (around the Imperial War Museum) and Newington Gardens are pleasant places to run, and there a numerous gyms in the area - a situation that will get even better as the regeneration process continues.
The ease with which residents can get to all parts of London is a major draw for Elephant and Castle - and it is in Zone 1 so commuting to centre is cheap as well as quick. The rail station has frequent Thameslink services to St Pancras and beyond, and to stations in the south.
The tube station is on the Bank branch of the Northern Line and is the southern terminus of the Bakerloo Line to Oxford Circus and beyond. Buses flow through Elephant and Castle to most areas in the capital.
The area has many cycle routes with points for picking up Boris bikes - a very popular option when residents discovered how quick and easy it is to cycle to work from the Elephant.