This is a follow-up to my previous post about the Support Croydon! pub crawl (which went very well and was a lot of fun). I asked people after that to tell me what they like about Croydon, and here are the results, along with some reasons of my own.
Trams. The Tramlink network is centred on Croydon, and stretches from Wimbledon in the west to Beckenham, Elmers End, and New Addington in the east. This is the only area of London with trams. (See RGL for a map of tram stops.)
Other transport links. Croydon has truly excellent transport links, both to destinations within London and places further afield. Trains from East Croydon to London Bridge can take as little as 15 minutes, while West Croydon is served by both overground trains (to London Bridge or Victoria) and Overground trains (East London Line to Highbury & Islington). If you fancy a trip to Brighton, that's just 45 minutes on a direct train.
A wide range of restaurants. From the more upmarket places like Fish & Grill, Le Cassoulet, and Albert's Table, through the mid-range places like Galicia and Osushi, to the little Indian, Sri Lankan, Kurdish, and Caribbean places on and around London Road — Croydon has it all (well, OK, aside from non-Cantonese Chinese food, but Tai Tung is good for dim sum, at least). There are also plenty of chain eateries like Wagamama, Yo Sushi, Miso, and Subway.
Loads of pubs. Even the less-good pubs in Croydon are still often worth popping into, but the one I'd recommend mostly strongly is the Royal Standard — I don't usually go in for "best of" lists, but if I were to make a list of my five favourite pubs in the whole of London, this would be on it. Other good Croydon pubs include the Claret, the Dog and Bull, and the Builders Arms. (See also the RGL map of pubs in Croydon.)
A good mixture of chain shops and independents. I buy my vegetables from Surrey Street Market and my fish from Surrey Fish Co. There's Wing Yip for East and South-East Asian ingredients, and small family-run shops for African, South Asian, and Eastern European food. There's Hobbycraft and IKEA, and there are small independent hardware stores. There's an M&S, with a 99p shop directly opposite. There's a bargain clothes shop that hasn't had a name on its frontage since at least 2007, and there are two large shopping malls with all the familiar chain names.
Plenty of green stuff and pedestrian-friendliness. Croydon has loads of parks, woodland, and open spaces within a short distance, and most of the area is very pedestrian-friendly. Shortly after I moved here, I was walking down North End (the main shopping street) and wondered why the ambient noise was "strange". I soon realised that this was because it sounded exactly like the conversational buzz in a good restaurant — there was no traffic noise, and the street was just filled with people strolling along and talking to each other. That is what a city centre should be like.