After spending the day in Forest Hill, I can now understand why it’s been rated one of the best places to live in London.

Last Friday (March 15), The Sunday Times' expert panel unveiled London's 'Best Places to Live,' with Forest Hill crowned one of the winners, along with Crouch End, Little Venice, London Fields, Wimbledon Village, and the highest rated place to live in London, Clerkenwell.

As soon as I saw that Forest Hill had been crowned one of the top places, I couldn't resist the temptation to experience its renowned charm first hand.

Armed with a sense of adventure and a healthy dose of scepticism (because really, how amazing could it be?), I embarked on a day of exploration.

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I began my day on no other than the trusted TfL bus, the P13, which took me from Streatham to Underhill Road in less than half an hour.

Acting as if I was the star of a new romance novel, I took in the south east London sightings, like the Tulse Hill Hotel, Dulwich College, and the 30.85 hectare Dulwich Park.

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Soon enough, I arrived at my destination and took a slow but steady walk up to one of London’s top places to live.

I first passed the Horniman Museum and Gardens, a local treasure trove of culture and history, but then I thought, ‘why dive into learning when I can dive into shopping?’, so, I saved the gardens for later and headed straight for the chaotic charm of the high street.

From quirky charity shops to artisanal bakeries, there was no shortage of hidden gems waiting to be discovered on the high street.

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I couldn't resist indulging in a spot of retail therapy, and skimmed through the aisles in Sue Ryder and the British Red Cross like I was a participant on Supermarket Sweep.

After my mini shopping break, I explored the streets surrounding the high street, and couldn’t help but admire the stunning street art scattered across buildings – it was bright, unique, and was like the buildings were wearing avant-garde fashion.

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My tastebuds were soon salivating, and I knew it was time for coffee, so I headed to the independent café just a one-minute walk from the shops, Canvas and Cream.

Canvas and Cream, a café which uses all upcycled furniture donated by locals, is centred in the heart of Forest Hill, and is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the high street.

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Not only does it sell coffee, cakes, breakfast, brunch, and lunch, but it’s also home to six art studios and a huge art gallery.

The public can rent out these studios and unleash their creativity, as they're encouraged to express themselves through painting.

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Afterwards, they can kick back, unwind, and savour one of the finest oat milk lattes they’ll ever taste (and let me tell you, it's truly exceptional).

After taking in the quirky Bric-a-Brac scattered across Canvas and Cream, I headed back to the treasured Horniman Museum and Gardens.

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On my way, I spoke with Fawne and Adele, two local women who shared their opinions on Forest Hill being rated one of the best places to live in the area.

Fawne said: “I lived here since I was born, and then moved to Brighton a few years back, but I still visit now.

“It’s always been such a nice area, and now I think it’s even more up-and-coming, like certain coffee shops.

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“There is lovely green spaces here too, Horniman’s Park and Mayow Park are great.

Adele added: “Forest Hill is very accessible - it has great connections to London Bridge, and there are loads of buses here which take you to Lewisham, Dulwich, Croydon, Peckham and even all the way to Tottenham Court Road”.

Five minutes later, I arrived at Horniman’s Museum and Gardens, and was pleasantly surprised with the upkeep of the museum's exterior, considering it’s been around for more than 100 years.

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Sadly, I didn’t go inside and see the displays, but I’ve heard it’s stacked with anthropology, natural history, and musical instruments, and is known for its large collection of taxidermied animals.

Despite feeling sad I couldn’t see the taxidermy; I was met with something even better – real life animals.

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Horniman's Gardens offers an ‘animal walk through’ where you can mingle with sheep, rabbits, goats, and my personal favourite, the alpacas.

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Who needs stuffed animals when you can hang out with the living, breathing kind?

As I strolled through the beautifully landscaped gardens and took in the stunning views of the London skyline, I reflected on my adventures in Forest Hill and soon headed back to where it all began, the P13 bus.

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Despite my initial scepticism, I couldn't deny its unique charm and vibrant energy, and recommend Forest Hill to any lovers of art, expression, and great coffee.