Camden is one of the best places in London for people watching.
You’ll see eccentric characters, all different types of fashion, and people having a go at busking (they’re not the slick performers you’ll get in Covent Garden).
If you’re a Londoner, you might know it as the place you went to your first gig. And if you’re on holiday here, it’s somewhere you’ll want to photograph.
It’s busy, it’s gritty and there really isn’t anywhere else like it in London – but if that doesn’t convince you, here’s some more reasons Camden should be on your list.
1. You can see live music every night of the week
Punk and Brit Pop were two of the biggest movements to really explode in Camden Town. And gigs still happen here all week, in venues big and small.
Dingwalls only fits a maximum of 500 people inside, but has still had stadium acts like Foo Fighters and Mumford and Sons pass through in recent years. The Dublin Castle helped launch the careers of Blur and Amy Winehouse.
And anyone who’s anyone in music has played the Electric Ballroom, including Prince, Joy Division and The Clash. Places like the Jazz Cafe have a mix of club nights and live music, while Green Note has world music acts and very tasty veggie samosa snacks to munch on.
2. There are loads of really good pubs and bars
Many a lazy afternoon has been spent in the Edinboro Castle’s vast garden – they can fit in 300 people when the sun shines. The Devonshire Arms – or The Dev – is another great live music pub if you like rock, punk and metal.
The Hawley Arms, famously one of Amy Winehouse’s old haunts, has been serving up pints and some live music since 2004.
And whisper it – Camden’s even got a decent Wetherspoons. Have a drink at the Ice Wharf, it’s got a prime canalside position with lots of outdoor seating.
3. You can get a decent cuppa tea (or coffee)
Visit one of Yumchaa’s cafes (we love the Camden Parkway one in what was once a pet shop) or get a takeaway from the stall in Camden Lock Market – loose leaf, naturally.
If you like coffee chains you’ll be fine, equally if you want an artisan roastery with mismatched furniture and crockery you’re in a good part of town.
Coffee Jar always has queues so you know its good.
4. The local street food and restaurant scene is excellent
Now KERB Camden Market is open seven days a week there’s 35 different food stalls to grab a bite to eat.
You’ll get the latest cult cuisine in the city here.
If you’d rather go for a sit-down meal then pick something up in the food markets, there’s a great range of new and established restaurants.
Goodfare Italian cafe has been serving residents and visitors for more than 40 years, and there’s a really nice family-friendly vibe here.
Camden also has Europe’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour. The Chin Chin Laboratorists use the appliance of science to produce ice-cream – and the flavours are as experimental as the process.
5. It’s got some of the most eccentric shops in London
Let’s be honest. Nothing makes a statement like a giant skull or converse shoe jutting out of your shop.
If you want a wild interior, go to fluorescent clothing emporium, Cyber Dog. Watch out for the naughty shop downstairs and the glow in the dark rave clothing.
Camden is also full of vintage shops – we recommend starting in Rokit.
Now one of the most popular markets in London, as the name suggests, Camden Stables used to house the horses which worked along the canal in Victorian times.
The original 16 stallholders at Camden Market would probably be amazed to see the hundreds of small businesses selling their wares in the 21st century.
6. There’s urban street art all over the place
There are now more than a hundred murals, graffiti pieces and portraits on hoardings and buildings in Camden – giving Shoreditch a run for its spray-painting money.
To see as much of the art as possible, take a walking tour.
You’ll find more local art at the Camden Arts Centre.
With it being Camden, they also have music nights on here. It’s one of our favourite lesser known galleries in London.
Proud Camden in the Stables Market is also part nightclub, part art gallery – it’s got a 10,000 sq ft exhibition space for photographs.
7. London Zoo is just around the corner
You can actually catch sight of the giraffes from the canal, but it’s definitely worth paying to get in and see some of the world’s rarest animals up close.
You can even stay the night in the new lion zone.
8. There’s a beach on a roof (really)
Come the summer, the Roundhouse’s outdoor terrace takes delivery of several tons of sand, deckchairs and beach huts for a few heady months of Camden Beach.
9. There’s a secret(ish) spot to watch the sun set or rise
Primrose Hill park used to be a place for duels, but these days it just goes quietly about its business as one of the best natural viewpoints in London.
It’s surrounded by beautiful grand houses and they kindly keep the trees low so you can see across the city.
10. You can stroll, ride, or sit along the canal
The Regent’s Canal towpath stretches from the depths of Paddington all the way east to Stratford.
You can take a themed (or normal) narrowboat tour, a waterbus, Boris bike, or walk along it. Or grab some food from the market, and sit along the edge.
Keep an eye out for the diagonal bridge with cobbles as well as the places where the horses that towed the barges were tethered.
To discover more about the history of the canals – pop down to Kings Cross and visit the London Canal Museum.
11. You can see where Charles Dickens and co got their ideas
Charles Dickens lived in Royal College Street (now No. 112 College Place) – and placed many of his characters in Camden, including the long-suffering Bob Cratchit’s family in A Christmas Carol.
Other famous residents of that street included the French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, who enjoyed a stormy romantic relationship at No. 8.
There was even an influential group of artists who met in the area at Walter Sickert’s studio – and they called themselves the Camden Town Group.
Sickert’s most famous work is the gruesomely titled, The Camden Town Murder.
Gloucester Crescent in Camden Town is immortalised in the film, The Lady in the Van, starring Maggie Smith. It tells the real story of Miss Shephard, who lived in the driveway of playwright Alan Bennett.
The out-of-work actors in cult-comedy Withnail and I also live in Camden Town. Although sadly Richard E Grant and Paul McGann’s “local” has been demolished now.
12. It’s got some beautiful old buildings
St Pancras Old Church can lay claim to being one of the oldest Christian sites in London, however it had to be rebuilt and reworked in Victorian times to create the pretty place of worship it is today.
Raymond Burton House houses the Jewish Museum London.
The former Carreras Cigarette Factory is an Art Deco masterpiece, best known for its Egyptian-style gigantic effigies of black cats at the entrance.
13. And finally, don’t forget the festivals
Camden Rocks festival is a June all-dayer – more than a hundred acts play at venues across the area.
The month-long Camden Fringe runs at the same time as its larger Edinburgh counterpart – but has about 250 different productions on at 25 venues.
Essential Camden information
Getting there: Camden Town tube station is the most central, but on Sundays it’s exit only between 1pm and 5pm. Chalk Farm, Mornington Crescent or Kentish Town are all nearby for your return journey.
If you’re coming from out of town, its only a few stops on the Northern Line from both Euston and Kings Cross mainline stations.
It’s also fortunately one of London’s major bus hubs – most buses going north will pass through here.
Staying there: You’re probably going to need a place to stay for the night if you want to make the most of the neighbourhood, so here’s some Camden hotels to try.
Tell us your favourite things to do in Camden
We’d love you to share your Camden stories with us, where you like to hang out, you’re favourite pubs, clubs and music hotspots.
let us know by leaving a comment below.