Camden, the Coolest District in London
Camden, a district in Northwest London, is a renowned cultural neighbourhood within the British capital. Originally a residential quarter from its construction in 1791, the introduction and development of the railway transformed Camden into an important industrial area.
These days, the industrial history of the neighbourhood is almost forgotten. Now, markets and music venues that exemplify North London counterculture line the streets.
Formerly, Camden Town had had the reputation of being rather run down and “unfashionable”, but the neighbourhood has shifted away from these old stereotypes.
Today, visitors are eager to explore the area. While contemporary musical icons such as Amy Winehouse, the “Queen of Camden”, and ska band Madness continue to contribute to the popularity of Camden Town, the Camden Markets, established in 1973, are now the main attraction drawing tourists to the area.
But the Camden Markets are not the only places to explore during your stay in Northwest London. The area is famous for its expressive street art – check out Ferdinand Estate, Hartland Road, and Miller Street. Of course, don’t miss John Bulley’s now-iconic painting on the Camden Lock bridge. This iconic blue and yellow instalment, painted in 1989, has stood the test of time, transforming into a symbol of the area. Furthermore, the district is famous for its music scene and nightlife. The world-renowned Electric Ballroom sits in the heart of Camden Town and has now become an iconic part of Camden culture which remains true to its Irish club roots. Over the years, it has been ho
st to many iconic rock bands like U2. Chalk Farm, one of the three tube stops serving Camden, is also a bustling culture spot, brimming with typically British cafés and pubs. In this article, we will take you on a tour of Camden Town and the surrounding borough, with plenty of insider tips on what’s hot.
The Camden Market
Camden Market, especially the area around Camden High Street, is the artists’ quarter of London. Here, you will find several different weekly markets where you can buy all kinds of food, souvenirs, and artisan craftwork. If you want to experience all the Camden Markets in their full glory, plan your visit here on the weekend. We also recommend that you bring cash or a card that won’t charge you for international withdrawals. Though nowadays most vendors accept card, queueing in front of a cash point is hardly the ideal way to spend your time in Camden. If you do bring money, only bring as much as you plan to spend. As with many tourist areas, Camden Markets are a hotspot for opportunistic pickpockets.
Of course, each market here is different in its own way, creating unique atmospheres that vary from street to street. Let’s take a closer look at a few…
Camden High Street
Camden High Street is a central street stretching through Camden Town and is celebrated as one of the highlights of the Camden Markets. Its colourful facades attract and delight tourists. The street starts at the Camden Town Tube station and continues all the way to Camden Lock Market. Many side markets branch off from High Street and offer almost anything you can dream of.
Camden Lock Market
This is probably the best-known of all the Camden Markets. Usually, people who mention the markets are actually referring to just this one. Here, you will mainly find second-hand items, as well as vintage and alternative clothing. At the indoor and outdoor areas of Lock Market you will also be able to purchase books and games, and you can even find jewellery and some unique souvenirs for your friends back home. If you’re hungry for delicious street food, you’ve come to the right place. Specialities from around the world are on offer, and at very competitive prices for the London scene. For this reason, the Lock Market is also a popular destination among locals.
Camden Stables Market
This market is located north of Camden Lock Market and consists of approximately 500 vendors. Previously home to horse stables, this cluster of buildings has transformed into a buzzing vending venue filled with food, craft, and fashion stores. Style oozes from every stall, and music fans are also in for a treat here. The iconic Amy Winehouse is right at home in this busy alternative scene. Three years after her tragic death, a statue was built in the late singer’s honour at the Camden Stables Market. Usually, subjects for statues are expected to have died at least twenty years ago, but the cultural link between the beehived diva and Camden Town was so great that the authorities made an exception.
Camden Canal Market
You will find this pint-sized market on your right after crossing the canal bridge. Clothing for all tastes is on offer here – whether you’re after trendy styles or more unusual statement pieces, you’re sure to find it at Camden Canal Market. Maybe you’ll even be surprised! However, the Canal Market is only open Friday to Sunday, so be sure to visit on the weekend.
Branching off Camden High Street, Inverness Street originated in the early twentieth century as a fruit and veg market for local residents. If you’re looking for a fresh and healthy snack, you can still find that here, along with other booths that have been added over time. Nowadays, you can also browse souvenirs and clothing items in between your snack-searching. Inverness Street also houses several bars where you can chat and sing the evening away with locals and other tourists.
Buck Street Market
Diagonally across from Inverness Street, you will find Buck Street Market. Petite in comparison to other markets along the high street, Buck Street sells jewellery and other fashionable accessories.
Treat yourself to a well-deserved break after all that bargain hunting in the nearby Regent’s Park. Just a 15-minute walk from Camden Market, Regent’s Park is one of eight royal parks in the British capital and covers an area of more than 400 hectares. Splendid terraces of old stucco houses, designed by renowned John Nash, frame the park to the South and the East, granting the area an unparalleled splendour. Get lost in the regal avenues, lined by perfectly pruned trees.
To the north of the park, you can venture on towards Primrose Hill, Regent’s Canal, and the London Zoo. Meander up Primrose Hill’s 64-metre summit and marvel at the uninterrupted view of London’s stunning skyline, or kayak along the canal. Regent’s Canal flows from Little Venice all the way to the Docklands, where it opens into the Thames. Kayaking tours on the canal could also form part of your London celeb-spotting adventure, as many famous personalities have private residences in this area. What’s more, the canal passes through the entirety of London Zoo and paddlers can catch a glimpse of the animals without having to pay any entrance fees.
If the heights of Primrose Hill aren’t quite dizzying enough for you, check out Parliament Hill, the highest point in the capital. Standing proud in the centre of Hampstead Heath, on the northern border of Camden, this hill is the highest point in the capital and offers iconic views of the city skyline and – you guessed it! – the Houses of Parliament. On a hot summer’s day, there’s nothing better than taking a dip in the Hampstead Pools after a brisk hike up Parliament Hill. The surrounding neighbourhoods are also gorgeous, with streets lined with magnificent Georgian mansions, including the famous Kenwood House.
The trendy district of Camden in the northwest of London is an exciting destination just waiting for you to come and explore. Originally built as a residential neighbourhood and later a major industrial site, the area now attracts alternative-style lovers from all over the world. The Camden Markets capture the quintessence of this neighbourhood: quirky, loud, culture-driven. Shop to your heart’s content on the High Street and Lock Market, before indulging in the Markets’ famous nightlife. All in all, Camden and the surrounding neighbourhoods are well worth a visit. We highly recommend adding this arts and culture district to your list for your next trip to London!