Cities > London > 7 Things Tourists Don't Do in London, but You Should...

4) Walk Billionaire's Row

London's Curious The Bishops Avenue in East Finchley

Billionaire's Row, The Bishops Avenue, East Finchley

It's hardly a secret that the wealthy of the world park money in London's real estate market. In fact, core luxury London neighbourhoods like Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Belgravia have become so expensive that foreign money largely has displaced the local elite.

One of the oddest real estate anomalies in London — and definitely one caused mostly by overseas money — is The Bishops Avenue, named in honour of Wealdheri, the Bishop of London in 704. The Bishops Avenue in the north London neighbourhood of East Finchley is more commonly called "Billionaire's Row" due to its ownership in large part by business magnates, oil tycoons, oligarchs, and the occasional criminal.

The Bishops Avenue certainly isn't a traditional tourist attraction, but if Los Angeles is the city of the rich and famous, it would not be at all out of place to describe London as the city of the rich and anonymous and humbly suggests that The Bishops Avenue perhaps reflects this trait better than any other location in the city.

If you work in retail or real estate, and you walk up the East Finchley high street, which is to the left of the Art Deco Underground station designed by Charles Holden and L.H. Bucknell in 1939 (The Bishops Avenue is to the right), you will quickly notice that the neighbourhood is modest and mostly has chain stores targeting a mass market rather than the wealthy. The primary grocery store, for instance, is the discount chain Iceland, rather than a Waitrose or Marks & Spencer commonly found in more affluent areas in the UK. The high street does host The Old White Lion gastropub near The Bishops Avenue — which is a convenient stop for lunch — as well as the historic Phoenix Cinema — which is a very cool arthouse theatre — but it's otherwise mostly modest local and chain stores. Not only is there not a single Michelin-starred restaurant in the area but there also is a section of what appears to be council housing.

Although the lot sizes on The Bishops Avenue are huge for London, it is famous among a certain segment of the global wealthy largely due to the brilliant marketing of Glentree International, an estate agency who has spent the past 40 years building The Bishops Avenue into a brand that has been able to command whatever prices the international market will bear and that are well above the rest of the area.

Unlike a walk — or, more realistically, a tour bus ride — through the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles to see the homes of the rich and famous, a walk down The Bishops Avenue to see the homes of the rich and anonymous is a bit surreal as the properties are a mix of attractive and well-kept homes, abandoned and derelict mansions, empty lots full of weeds, construction sites, and increasingly, flats for those priced out of the luxury market in London's core. You may even spot a sign or two indicating that a property was repossessed due to failure to pay taxes or criminal activity. It's a curious experience.

The Bishops Avenue is about a mile long and requires a return walk back to the Underground to leave. The full walk is about two miles (3.2 kilometers) in total. We've mapped out the complete route below. Of course, you can turn around at any point to shorten the total walk.

How to Get Here: Take the Northern Line (Black, Zone 3) line to East Finchley Station. Turn right from the station to go to The Bishops Avenue. Turn left from the station to go to the high street.

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  • Writing & Photos By Brock Kyle. All Rights Reserved. Published 10 January 2017. Feedback.