Camden Town - whacky, Bohemian and lots of fun
Camden is an inner northern district of London.
For half a century, Camden Town has been the centre of alternative culture in London, be it punk, goth, hippie or emo. The area is home to large markets selling an extremely wide range of products from glowing t-shirts to digeridoos, mostly from independent stalls. With some of the capital's most varied cuisine, great live music and an anything goes attitude, Camden is one of the most vibrant and interesting of all London districts.
Two main London railway stations are located in the south of the district, King's Cross and St. Pancras International (so close together, they are virtually one). A number of important main roads also converge at this point.
Virtually the whole of Camden was traditionally a working class, inner-city area with large estates of run-down public housing and some very seedy areas indeed. Inevitably though given its convenient inner London location, considerable gentrification has occurred across the district.
The district is served well by the following tube stations:
- Camden Town (Northern line). Note that due to the popularity of the market, this becomes an exit only station on Sundays 1PM-5:30PM. Use Mornington Crescent or Chalk Farm for leaving on Sundays before 5:30PM.
- Mornington Crescent (Northern line),
- Chalk Farm (Northern line).
- Kentish Town (Northern line)
- King's Cross/St. Pancras (Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines).
- Euston (Victoria and Northern lines).
Eurostar  from Paris, Brussels and Lille to St. Pancras International.
From Scotland, north east England including York, Peterborough and Stevenage to Kings Cross.
- St. Pancras International. Marvelous Gothic architecture, used in the Harry Potter films.
- The Canal Museum, 12/13 New Wharf Rd (Near King's Cross), . Closed M (except bank holidays). Housed in a former ice warehouse on Regent's Canal. £3.
- Regent's Canal, (tube: Kings Cross/St. Pancras Station). You can walk or cycle along the canal through east London all the way to the Thames (3 hr). The St. Pancras lock is directly north of St Pancras station. Regents Canal was once a lifeline for trade and industry in London with narrowboats and barges ferrying goods to and from North London. The canal winds its way from the Grand Union Canal near Paddington in West London, past Regents Park, Camden, Islington and Mile End to Limehouse, where it meets the Thames. From Camden Lock you can walk upstream along the canal to The Regents Park and on to London Zoo. It is a great way to approach the Zoo and a good way to avoid the traffic. Downstream of Camden is less pretty but still an interesting walk, taking you through the Islington Tunnel (one of the longest tunnels in the British canal system) and out in to East London. Whichever way you go along the path, watch out for cyclists!
There are several nice walks along the canal, but the main focus of Camden are the shops, restaurants and nightlife.
- Camden Town Audio Tour, . Download the audio tour and take to the streets with Camdenite celebrity Robert Elms and explore Camden Town, an area known for being different.
- British Library, 96 Euston Rd (Next to St. Pancras International), ☎ +44 870 4441500 ([email protected]), .
Camden Town Markets
You will find several great markets , one for clothes, one for food, and one for all manner of things, from throws to second hand books, food from a hundred different cultures and a lot more.
- The Lock Market, (E of Chalk Farm Rd, by Camden Lock). Sa Su 9AM-6PM. Many stores mainly focused around music and clothing.
- The Stables Market, (The main entrance is next to the railway bridge across Chalk Farm Road, just past the canal). Some shops open all week, but most stalls only Sa Su 9AM-6PM. This is the largest of Camden's market areas, featuring hundreds of stalls selling everything from African art to beds to fetish clothing to antiques. This is probably the best place in London for interesting clothes, including vintage, goth, cyber and general club-wear. Do not miss The Black Rose and Cyberdog, two institutions in the alternative scene in London. Go early to avoid the crowds.
- The Canal Market, (In the large building beside the entrance to the Stables). Sa Su 9AM-6PM. Three floors of arts and crafts, including jewellery, paintings, candles, figurines and much more. A great place for gifts and souvenirs.
- Inverness Street Market, (Across Chalk Farm Rd from Camden tube station). This is a small market selling a range of common goods such as fruit and vegetables, cheap clothes and other bits and bobs.
- The Camden/Buck Street Market. A great spot for cheap knock-offs of expensive goods such as Doc Martens. Do not be fooled by the low price, these boots are not worth even that. Great for t-shirts and women's clothes, not so hot for men. Also lots of fake designer handbags.
In addition to the markets, there are a large number of interesting shops dotted all around the area.
Take a long slow wander down Chalk Farm Road (it will need to be slow, the sheer number of people makes walking quickly impossible!), checking out the amazing collection of boots and leather that dominate it. Of special note are:
- Amsterdam of London. Probably the finest purveyor of curious things in London.
- Resurrection Records, . The home of alternative music in North London.
Other shops include:
- Official Doc Martens Boot Co., Kentish Town Rd (tube: Camden Town). Selling Doc Martens since the 60s. The proprietor is always happy to talk and has some fun tales about the strange requests he has had from famous people.
- Rokit, High Street, . A proud up shoot that took its roots from Camden market and now has four high street stores across London.
Camden has some of the most varied cuisine in all of London.
A key part of Camden's food scene are the many stalls offering quick and tasty food from every country possible. Quality varies, but generally it is good and cheap. Stalls tend to be located in and around the Lock and Stables markets, but they appear everywhere. A perennial favourite has been the donut and cake stall located next to the bridge, as have the many Chinese and Thai stalls nearby.
Camden also contains a large number of sit-down restaurants, many of which are relatively inexpensive, and open after the stalls have closed.
- St. Pancras International, Pancras Rd, . Every day. A selection of cafes (at station).
- Chop Chop Noodle Bar, Euston Rd (Opposite the main entrance to King's Cross (adjacent to St. Pancras)). Selection of the usual Chinese/oriental dishes to either eat in (even if you have only got half an hour you can be in and out with time to spare) or takeaway (they give you a plastic fork with your takeaway without even being asked). Very filling with big portions. Quality is not great but you can not argue with the prices. Licensed and drinks are certainly no worse than what you would pay in any London pub. £3.50.
Camden has a great nightlife, with lots of cool bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants.
Pubs, bars and cafes
- The Big Chill, Pentonville Rd.
- Devonshire Arms, . The dress code is strictly alternative and the pub has got a late night license for Fridays and Saturdays. DJs every night and some gigs. The artwork on the walls was produced by Robin, the barman.
- The Dublin Castle, Parkway. A bit rowdy and often quite packed, this pub and music venue has played a pivotal role in British music. It is well known for producing Madness and helping a great many other groups along their path to glory. Worth a stop, just for the atmosphere.
- The Edinboro Castle, (Just off the end of Parkway to the left). A more refined side of Camden, this pub is part of a chain in North London attempting to apply a little class. It has a fine selection of beer and cider, including a selection of Belgian beers both bottled and draught. The food is always good and the staff always friendly. There is a large, semi-covered outdoor seating area with heaters.
- The Good Mixer, Inverness St (Off Camden Road). M-Sa til midnight, Su til 11PM. A nice pub where the likes of Blur and Pulp and a load of other Britpop bands from the 90's used to drink. Prices are reasonable, there are two pool tables, and the general atmosphere is laid back and friendly.
- Jazz Café. Food, drink, and music (jazz, soul, blues).
- The Misty Moon, (tube: Chalk Farm). A fairly average pub.
- The World's End, (tube: Camden Town). Local landmark and a good meeting point. It is large, with two separate bars and a lot of seating. Food is served at the weekend, though is not of the best quality.
Clubs and music venues
- Scala, 275 Pentonville Rd, King's Cross, ☎ +44 20 7833 2022, . Alternative music venue
- Egg, 200 York Way, King's Cross, .
- Electric Ballroom, . F 10:30PM-3AM. The Ballroom hosts a number of different club nights. It is a big place with three separate dance floors and a large bar area, though despite the large size tends to get very hot in the summer months. . Features a rock floor and an industrial/goth/rock/techno floor.
- The Underworld, (Beneath the World's End), . F Sa. It is a great spot to go and catch alternative bands: goth, metal, electronica, rock, punk and many others are found here. Friday night is also a regular club night, attracting large numbers from the young alternative crowd and more "studenty" than the Saturday.
- The Barfly, 49 Chalk Farm Rd, . One of the best gig venues in North London, the Barfly plays host to a wide range of music, concentrating on rock and pop.
- Premier Travel Inn King's Cross, (tube: King's Cross), . A modern, clean, reasonably priced hotel.
- YHA London St. Pancras, 79-81 Euston Rd, ☎ +44 870 7706044 ([email protected]), . Dormitory from £21.95, including breakfast.
On the whole, Camden is safe.
Camden has long had strong associations with drugs, in particular cannabis and magic mushrooms. Even during daylight, you are likely to be offered weed or hashish. These dealers will usually accept no for an answer. Remember that these drugs are still illegal, but if you are the kind of person to take drugs, these streetside dealers are not to be trusted, and often just steal your money if you look interested. Also, there are many undercover police around to catch you. Until 2007, it was possible to freely obtain magic mushrooms due a loophole that permitted the sale of fresh goods. This loophole has now closed, and possession is taken seriously by the police.
Walking around Camden at night is generally fine, but gangs of youths can seem threatening, and best avoided if alone. Take a taxi if you are feeling insecure.
Fake goods are found in abundance in Camden. Most of the time its fairly obvious (Bolex watches, etc.), but be careful when purchasing - refunds are not common. Fake DVDs are mostly terrible quality.
- Catch the Eurostar for Paris breaks  or to Lille and Bruxelles.
- Buses and tube trains leave the station for access to all areas of London.