The old Paddington can be summed up by two statues, both of them at Paddington station, the west London mainline railway terminus which connects the capital to the West Country and Heathrow airport.
The first is of the famous 19th-century engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel who built the Great Western Railway and the station with its magnificent roof spans. The second is Paddington Bear, the much-loved character in Michael Bond’s children’s books who was found on the station with a label round his neck reading: "Please look after this bear. Thank you."
The new Paddington, on the other hand, does not need looking after by anyone. It is a fashionable, glitzy new hub characterised by its angular, shiny commercial and residential quarter created over the last 10 years along the Paddington canal basin, with offices, apartments, shops and new pedestrian and cycle routes along this historic waterway.
Why the mix is right
Properties: Paddington has a real mix of properties. There are magnificent stucco mansions on the Hyde Park Estate; large converted flats often flowing laterally over two, or even more, buildings along roads such as Sussex Gardens and Westbourne Terrace; large mansion flats in St Mary’s Mansions close to Paddington Green on the north side of Westway; flat-fronted early Victorian houses along Star Street and St Michael’s Street; quiet mews houses, and new one-, two- and three-bedroom flats and penthouses around Paddington Basin.
Best roads: the Hyde Park Estate, west of the Edgware Road between Hyde Park itself and Sussex Gardens, is the most desirable area. The best roads are Hyde Park Square, where flats in the white stucco houses sell for between £585,000 and £2.65 million, and Connaught Square - the Blairs bought their post-Downing Street house here - where houses now sell for as much as £3.55 million. In Albion Street and Connaught Square houses have sold for as much as £3.6 million.
The area attracts: there is a real mix. Families like Hyde Park Estate because it is central, quiet and close to Hyde Park, while the new flats around Paddington Basin have attracted overseas buyers and homegrown professionals working in the City.
According to Jonathan Pitt, lettings manager at Hamptons, this is an area popular with renters. "The modern flats attract corporate tenants who need to be in London during the week, and wealthy foreign students."
A recently completed block with 60 flats in the Merchant Square development on Paddington Basin was sold to an investor and two bedroom-flats with 750 square feet of space rent for £700 a week.
Staying power: families moving to the Hyde Park Estate tend to stay, but with a high proportion of renters in the new flats and lots of hotels in Sussex
Gardens and around the station, the rest of the area lacks a feeling of permanence.
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Up and coming: no specific area, but according to Chris Shaw, of estate agent Hamptons, Paddington as a whole has a lot of catching up to do.
In Paddington the price per square foot varies between £800 and £1,200 and up to £1,500 in the best parts of the Hyde Park Estate. This is still cheaper than other areas around Hyde Park.
What’s new: Merchant Square is the latest phase of the development around Paddington Basin. So far only two of six buildings have been erected. The developer, European Land, has recently reapplied for planning permission for the remaining four buildings.
There is a new architect, Robin Partington, who previously worked for Fosters. The application still includes a 42-storey tower block - already dubbed the Cucumber - but one of the two original office blocks will now be residential. The developer hopes to start building next summer, with the project taking six years to complete. Eventually the scheme will include a new public square facing the canal basin.
Schools: the two best-performing state primary schools are St James’s and St John’s CofE in Craven Terrace, a small school, judged "good" by Ofsted, and Hampden Gurney in Nutford Place which is judged "excellent".
King Solomon is a new state-funded city academy in Penfold Street which is an all-through school from age three to 18. Although it has not yet got its full complement of pupils it is judged "outstanding".
At secondary level, girls are well catered for, with top-performing state comprehensive St Marylebone CofE in Marylebone High Street, and two private schools.
A walk in the park
Shops and restaurants: Praed Street, Paddington’s main shopping street, remains run-down in spite of the large influx of wealthy new inhabitants to the new flats around Paddington Basin.There are more interesting shops and restaurants tucked away in Sheldon Square between the canal and Paddington station.
The one exception is the Frontline Club, which occupies a prominent building on the corner of Norfolk Place and St Michael’s Street off Praed Street. The building hosts journalism events and there is a ground-floor restaurant.
There are cafés, restaurants and boutiques around Connaught Street on the Hyde Park Estate. The area, which has now been branded "Connaught Village", is where you will find the Jimmy Choo shop; Cocomaya, the chocolatier and artisan bakery; Susanna Hunter’s trademark appliqué handbags, and old-fashioned hatters, Patey Hats.
Church Street, north of the Marylebone Road and east of Edgware Road has an altogether different air. There is a lively street market with a north African feel, and further along towards Lisson Grove there are antique shops and Alfies Antique Market, London’s largest indoor antique market with 86 traders.
Open spaces: Hyde Park is a short stroll away and there are magical walks along the canal basin to Little Venice and beyond.
Transport: Paddington is in Zone 1 and an annual travel card costs £1,032. Paddington is on the Bakerloo, Hammersmith & City, District and Circle lines, and is close to Heathrow Express with its 21-minute train journey to the airport’s Terminal 5.
Council: Paddington is in Westminster (Conservative controlled) and Band D council tax for the 2010/11 year is £687.62, the cheapest to be found in London.
Buying: Paddington (Average prices)
One-bedroom flat £397,000
Two-bedroom flat £686,000
Two-bedroom house £965,000
Three-bedroom house £1.5 million
Four-bedroom house £2.7 million
One-bedroom flat £350 to £550 a week
Two-bedroom flat £450 to £750 a week
Four-bedroom flat £850 to £1,500 a week
Two-bedroom house £650 to £800 a week
Four-bedroom house £1,400 to £2,000 a week
Pictures: Barry Phillips Reuse content