Itinerary Location: Dulwich | Duration: 7 Hours
Dulwich: it’s a neighbourhood that sounds famously boring.
But once you get past the name – and how far south it is, and how there are three different train stations (none of which are on the tube) – it actually has a lot to offer. Because like most of London’s far-flung neighbourhoods (Richmond, Leyton, Clapton), Dulwich is one of those places that the locals are actually quite happy you don’t know about.
All you need is a guiding hand to uncover a bustling weekend market, a parade of independent shops, a cosy Georgian eatery, a sprawling beer garden, and a literal house of dreams.
We are that guiding hand.
Join us as we hop aboard the train from Victoria and alight at East Dulwich…
➊ THE HOUSE OF DREAMS | 11.20am
Turning right out of the station, and taking the second right down Melbourne Grove, you’ll find yourself walking down a pretty typical Dulwich street: an avenue of trees, rows of neatly clipped hedges, and charming Victorian terraced houses. One of these houses, however, is not so typical. It’s called the House of Dreams (though it’s probably the house of Marie Kondo’s nightmares), and it’s a living, breathing project by artist Stephen Wright.
Wright moved here in 1982, and, after over a decade or so of settling in, decided as many homeowners do, to make some home improvements. What started “just as something decorative” has now snowballed into a bedazzling, full-scale installation crafted from over 20 years’ worth of objects scoured from flea markets, skips and attics.
There are sculptures made with old doll’s heads and mannequin legs; kaleidoscopic mosaics erupting across walls and ceilings; commemorative plates, hairbrushes and bleach bottles all requisitioned to cover every square inch with pattern and colour. It’s a masterpiece to behold, but there’s also meaning behind it: Wright began the project when he lost his partner Donald and his parents in the space of just a few years. Dotted between the mosaics are hand-painted memories and musings, which Wright found to be a form of therapy.
You’ll leave with your heartstrings plucked and your senses overwhelmed, a sound remedy for which is always khachapuri. Make haste towards to the nearest Georgian restaurant!
➋ LUNCH AT KARTULI | 1pm
If you’ve not yet encountered the cuisine of Georgia (the country, not the state), then there’s no finer place in South London to get acquainted than Kartuli. It’s set in a beautiful Grade II listed old grocers’, with the original marble shelving and ornate custom wall tiles still in place. You can even spend a penny behind the old Victorian payment counter.
Georgian cooking is deeply comforting and hearty, and it’s cooked with love at Kartuli. Khachapuri, a boat of bread filled with melted cheese and egg is a must-order (unless you’re dairy or gluten intolerant, in which case it’s very important you avoid it). Then there’s the badrijani, slivers of aubergine wrapped around spiced walnuts; lobiani, bean-filled bread from the mountains; and khinkali, folded pork dumplings prepared by hand. And then there’s the all-Georgian wine list, full of rich pickings from the oldest wine-producing region in the world.
➌ NORTH CROSS ROAD MARKET | 2.30pm
Time to work off all that cheese and wine with a stroll down Dulwich’s Saturday market on North Cross Road. Having had a renaissance in recent years, it’s a truly community-run set-up with an eclectic mix of stalls and local businesses plying their wares. Unlike many other markets in London, it’s not entirely food-focussed (although there are usually a couple of great stalls here) – instead, you’ll find vintage bric-a-brac, hand-made accessories, homeware, books and more.
If you’re not visiting on a Saturday – and even if you are – spend some time ducking into the bricks-and-mortar shops along North Cross Road, too. There’s the wonderful Rye Books and menswear shop Meet Bernard; ed for colourful homeware; plant emporium Forest and sister shop The Fresh Flower Company; and if you go far enough you’ll probably spot the queue for Eric’s, Helen Evans’ cult bakery (which will have likely sold out by this time of day but is worth mentally bookmarking for another time).
➍ LORDSHIP LANE | 3.30pm
Head back down North Cross Road to rejoin East Dulwich’s celebrated high street, Lordship Lane. Shop windows will pull you in along the way, but a couple of highlights include:
Meet Bernard – the women’s counterpart of the stylishly curated store;
The Cheese Block – a family-run cheesemongers with dairy for days;
La Cave de Bruno – a vintner’s where you can sip a glass or two in-store;
Mons Cheesemongers – more cheese (Gromit); and
Every charity shop you pass along the way – stocked to the rafters with cast-offs from well-heeled locals.
Carry on for another five minutes past the Picturehouse Cinema, and peel right onto Townley Road, before swinging a hard left onto Calton Avenue (this is particularly villagey stretch that makes for a nice short bike ride, too). Turn left at the big intersection onto Dulwich Village, and stroll just a little further under the canopy of leaves until you reach your final stop:
➎ THE CROWN & GREYHOUND | 5pm
It’s been a day well spent, and you’re probably feeling pretty spent too. Time to hole up at Dulwich Village’s undisputed al fresco boozer, The Crown & Greyhound. Inside is all saloon screens and gorgeous Victorian wood; outside is a vast beer garden & patio with space for 200 to soak up the last of the day’s sun with a pint in hand. Depending on your hunger levels, you could accompany that with a charcuterie board, a burger, or a slice of Basque cheesecake too.
You can even book outside tables in advance, and they’re very welcoming to dogs.
And, presumably, royals.
➌ North Cross Road Market | North Cross Road, East Dulwich, SE22 9ET | Open Saturdays 8am-5pm
➍ Lordship Lane | SE22
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