Camden Town gets its name from the 18th century lawyer and first Earl of Camden, Charles Pratt.
You can see why they went for Camden.
Until he married into the estate, Camden Town was pretty much just fields and one pub, the Mother Red Cap (now The World’s End). It wasn’t until a couple of decades later, in the early 19th century, that the first proper buildings started to pop up – mainly warehouses and trade centres surrounding the newly built railways and canal (which now make up the characterful old buildings of Camden Market).
Over the intervening centuries, Camden’s seen it all – prostitutes, piano factories, post-Impressionist painters, punks, chippies, pubs, music halls, Victorian roller skating rinks, a 20-acre gin distillery and the world’s largest manufacturers of playing cards (not to be confused with manufacturers of the world’s largest playing cards, who surely must have worked on Bruce Forsyth’s Play Your Cards Right).
Nowadays, there’s less roller skating and prostitution (at least, not at the same time), but there’s probably just as much gin – in fact, you can make your own, at the city’s tiniest distillery. Then there’s the market stalls and street food, the subterranean fairground and the cocktail bar where you bring your own booze. This North London neighbourhood has got the works. So here’s our pick of the best places to eat and drink, as well as the most interesting things to do in Camden.
If you only do 5 things:
Ironically, the Roundhouse is pretty edgy. One of London’s best live music venues, it took over this old train shed back in the sixties, when bands like Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix took to the stage. Nowadays the music line-up is just as strong, and is accompanied by a jaw-dropping roster of other events, from spoken word festivals to circus cabaret, avant-garde opera and modernised Shakespeare…
2) Camden Market
Home to an eclectic mix of independent boutiques, market stalls, street food stands and subterranean Aladdin’s caves, the market’s been the beating heart of Camden Town since the 70s. Vintage clothing shops, vinyl stores and hand-crafted jewellery stands rub shoulders with a gin microdistillery, an ethical butchers and a high-tech ice cream lab, while food stalls overlook Regent’s Canal and the industrial-era Camden Lock…
3) BYOC Camden
A secret, illicit, subterranean lair plucked straight out of the shady side of 1920s London… that stocks no booze. Instead, that’s your job – pick your poison, bring a bottle, and the smartly attired barkeeps will spend two hours creating a never-ending flow of inventive, delicious cocktails with it.
4) Primrose Hill
Just behind Camden Market is Primrose Hill – the sprawling hilltop park with some of the most perfect views of London going. Wander down Regent’s Park Road, pick up a coffee and something sweet from the fancy cafés lining the high street, and watch the sun set over the London skyline.
5) Jazz Café
One of the best jazz bars in London, let alone Camden, the Jazz Café has been blowing its own trumpet for almost thirty years. In that time, it’s seen the likes of Amy Winehouse, Lee Scratch Perry and Don Cherry take to its stage, and now, alongside live performances across various genres, it also plays host to huge DJ sets ranging from funk and soul to electronica, Latin and reggae. Get into the thick of it on the vast downstairs dance floor, or head upstairs to the mezzanine restaurant for a better vantage point… and er, steak.
Of course, this is just a tiny fraction of everything that’s going on in Camden – so we’ve taken the liberty of gathering together all our favourite bars, restaurants and things to do in Camden right here:
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