Today I want to bring you my guide to King’s Cross, London. This neighborhood has changed more than any other part of the city center since I moved to the UK, and there’s a lot to see and do around King’s Cross and St Pancras train stations.
Sometimes I’m amazed at how long I’ve been living in London. What often feels like a few months has actually been over a decade, and the city has changed a lot in that time.
When I first arrived, there wasn’t much to do around King’s Cross, but the area has been revitalized beyond recognition. Now I find myself here all the time to meet friends or just explore.
So here’s a little guide to what’s new, from the best King’s Cross cafes, restaurants, and bars to the area’s prettiest parks, secret courtyards, and colorful streets.
Revitalization of King’s Cross
The revitalization of this central London neighborhood started with the completion of the refurbishment of St Pancras International train station in 2007 and the unveiling of the iconic contemporary Western Concourse roof at King’s Cross station in 2011.
It continued with the opening of the stunning Gothic Revival-style St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. It’s one of the most eye-catching heritage buildings in London now, and a great place to stay.
The metamorphosis went on with the development of the whole King’s Cross area. It all happened remarkably quickly, and it’s still changing as I write.
From the pedestrianized stretch of King’s Boulevard to the fountains in Pancras Square and Granary Square, there’s a lot more to bring locals and visitors to this part of London than there once was.
King’s Cross Cafes, Restaurants, and Bars
I’m one of the locals it brings. I find myself in the neighborhood a lot these days, whether it’s for drinks at one of the bars or dinner with friends at one of the many King’s Cross cafes and restaurants.
I love having brunch at the outdoor tables at Caravan in Granary Square, and I’ve spent many afternoons and evenings at Vinoteca, German Gymnasium, and Granger & Co in Pancras Square.
Cocktails at The Booking Office Bar, one of my favorite travel-themed bars in London, are a regular occurrence, and I always love pressing the champagne button at Searcys in St Pancras station.
And that’s to say nothing of canalside drinks at The Lighterman and other bars along the water.
When I need a break from booze, I head back to St Pancras for tea at Fortnum & Mason’s sweet little cafe in the station.
Things to Do in King’s Cross
Despite the abundance of good restaurants, bars, and cafes, eating and drinking aren’t the only things to do in King’s Cross.
The Train Stations
The side-by-side train stations are worth visiting even if you’re not traveling. St Pancras International is one of the most beautiful stations in London both inside and out, and is home to a lot of great shops and cafes.
It has fun sculptures on its upper levels, too. One of them is one of the most romantic places in London.
King’s Cross is equally stunning, not least because of its new roof. It also has an underground tunnel that lights up in different colors and is popular for photography.
Most importantly, King’s Cross station is home to Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter fame. Visitors from all over the world come to have their photo taken with the sculpture of a luggage cart going through the station wall.
Regent’s Canal cuts through King’s Cross, and there are plenty of colorful canal boats to admire along the towpath.
There’s also Word on the Water, one of my favorite bookshops in London. This boat-turned-bookstore is a great place to see on my self-guided London literary walk.
And speaking of walks, I love walking along the canal from Granary Square up to Camden on sunny days, taking in the waterside views along the way.
Shopping in King’s Cross
There’s also great shopping in King’s Cross. From the shops lining King’s Boulevard to the Harry Potter Shop in King’s Cross station, there’s a lot of variety.
And that’s to say nothing of the restored railway arches in Coal Drops Yard, which have some of the best clothing and design shops in London.
King’s Cross Markets
There are great markets, too. Their opening hours vary, so make sure to check before you visit.
The Real Food Market in King’s Cross has around 40 producers who sell high-quality artisanal produce and prepared foods in the square outside the station each week.
Up in Pancras Square, the Canopy Market features stalls selling local produce, specialty foods, craft drinks, and artisanal goods under a Victorian steel-and-glass roof that provides welcome shelter on rainy days in London.
And in Lewis Cubitt Square, KERB King’s Cross is a lunchtime street food market with stalls offering a range of global cuisine and decadent sweets.
Parks and Gardens
KERB is right by one of the best parks in King’s Cross, too. Lewis Cubitt Park is a rectangular lawn with contemporary architecture and sculpture all around. It shows off the area’s new development and is a great picnic spot in London.
Elsewhere, Gasholder Park is a unique canalside green space featuring a refurbished cast-iron gas holder frame atop a circular lawn.
Across the canal, Camley Street Natural Park is an urban nature reserve in King’s Cross. The park has a wildflower meadow, wetlands, reedbed areas, and a visitor center.
Not far away, Saint Pancras Gardens show off historic King’s Cross in the same way Lewis Cubitt Park shows off the modern side of the area.
This green space comes complete with the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church, which is believed by some to be one of the oldest Christian worship sites in England.
It also has an ash tree that’s grown up around stacks of historic tombstones. The tree is called the Hardy Tree and is said to be named after celebrated 19th-century English writer Thomas Hardy.
As part of his day job as an architect’s assistant, Hardy was responsible for the removal of bodies from the churchyard as the St Pancras railway was being constructed in the 1860s.
King’s Cross Museums and Galleries
There’s more history in the museums, too. The London Canal Museum is one of London’s secret museums and is full of local heritage.
Tucked away on New Wharf Road, it offers insights into the history of the city’s waterways and their vessels.
Over in Granary Square, the House of Illustration is a public art gallery in King’s Cross that was opened in 2014 by Sir Quentin Blake. It’s dedicated to all things illustration and has rotating exhibitions.
Nearby, the Pangolin London gallery showcases historic and contemporary British sculpture in a sleek space on York Way.
Courtyards and Side Streets
And a little farther down the street are some of my favorite parts of King’s Cross. Hidden courtyards fill the area, drawing out my curious side as I duck my head into spaces showcasing a mix of old London and new.
One such courtyard is Varnishers Yard, which reveals tapas bars, restaurants, and cafes with nice outdoor areas in between.
Just across Caledonian Road are streets like Keystone Crescent, which has some of the most colorful doors in London.
They add welcome local and historic touches to the area, as if to remind us that despite all the new developments this is still a traditional neighborhood.
King’s Cross, London
And thank goodness for that, because exploring different London neighborhoods has been one of my favorite things to do over the last decade.
I’m sure King’s Cross will look different in another 10 years, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for the area.
What are your favorite places in King’s Cross?
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