6 Quirky Things to do in Camden Town
When finding quirky things to do in Camden Town, it depends on what you want to see first. If you want to start in Camden Market, then get off at Camden Tube Station (black line), walk through Regent’s Canal, explore Regent Street, visit London Zoo, Madame Tussauds and Primrose Hill. Check out Regent Street Road where you’ll see many colourful Victorian houses and graffiti art scattered around Primrose Hill. Camden Town offers more than just markets and canals, so there’s more than meets the eye.
If you want to start at Primrose Hill, get off at Baker Street and walk towards Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill. If you have young children, I suggest you start your walk in Primrose Hill, Regent’s Canal and Regent’s Park. They’ll be able to enjoy Madame Tussauds, Regent’s Park and London Zoo because Camden Market can be overwhelming for them if they’re not used to crowds.
Click for the Camden Town website.
Getting to Camden Town is easy. Located in the North West of London, you can get on the tube on the Northern Line towards Edgware or High Barnet from London Bridge. You will get off at Camden Town. If you’re taking the bus, take the 134, 214, 27, 29, and 31. Once in Camden, it’s better to walk and explore your surroundings. It’s always crowded with people and the nightlife is better than Soho, in my opinion.
What is Camden Town famous for?
When people think about Camden Town London, they think about vintage, rock, punk, eccentricity, trendy, young, colourful, and fashionable all rolled into one. There are plenty of things to do in Camden Town, whether you want to buy the latest vintage, punk or rock gear or walk-through Little Venice on the Regent’s Canal, admiring Georgian houses, and boathouses. You’re either mixed with the bustling crowds or feel at peace with nature.
Expect most people wearing spiky silver black boots, and spiky colourful hair and biker jackets holding a Union Jack flag. Camden Town is open to the LGBT community and individualism too. Don’t worry, you can still wear your casual clothes, but if you want to experience eccentricity and vintage, then Camden Town is the place to be.
A row of colourful houses in Camden
History of Camden Town
Camden Town is named after the 1st Earl Camden, Charles Pratt. He built many houses in the area for the rich in 1791. Later in the century, the development of railways and the introduction of Regent’s Canal divided the town in two. One part was an area for the rich and the other part was an area for the working class where warehouses and factories were built.
During the Industrial Revolution, the Regent’s Park area was more prosperous than the St. Pancras’ area, where it’s impoverished and grubby. You can still see the difference in class between the two areas today.
Camden originally started selling piano, wines, and gins, and because of this, the upper and working class started socialising together, consequently becoming overcrowded.
By the beginning of the 20th Century, there were many theatres and cinemas being built and by the 1960’s, punk, rock, and fashion came together. This has led to Camden accepting individualism and eccentricity. Places like The Roundhouse hosted many popular artists such as The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix. Although The Roundhouse has been talked about in the media a lot, when you pass the venue outside, it’s nothing spectacular. When you watch a live show, it’s the same experience as watching a concert show, the only difference is that it’s limited to 1500 people.
By the 1970s Camden Market was introduced, and it’s been a popular attraction ever since. Read further to find out more about Camden Market.
Stables Market, Camden Town
Walking towards Camden Town
Start your walk from Camden Town tube station, turn right towards Camden High Street where you’ll see various colourful punk, vintage, and retro shops. Most of these shops are independent, most are smaller versions of chained stores. Unlike Oxford Street, all the shops here are quirky and small.
Camden Town can get busy and people usually come for the various markets scattered around the area (open from 10 am – 6 pm every day). It can get claustrophobic at times, that’s why some people just go window shopping.
Regent’s Canal, Camden Town
Electric Ballroom is a live music venue that holds around 1,500 people. The music serves mainly rock and alternative artists such as Pet Shop Boys, The Undertones and many more, although Harry Styles from One Direction has performed here. It also hold comedy shows such as Stand Up Central, and if you love a little bit of British humour, then head over to Electric Ballroom.
Click for the Electric Ballroom website.
If you love Jazz, then head over to Jazz Café, the famous Jazz Café that people keep talking about. It’s only a few minutes’ walk from Camden Town Station and like Electric Ballroom, it mainly holds live music, mainly from black, African, and Caribbean artists. I have been to the Jazz Café several years ago. I booked a table on the first floor, although it can feel stuffy, the setting has a dark intimate feel to it, it’s as if you’ve stepped back in time to the 1920’s. If you book at table by the balcony, you’ll see a bird’s eye view of the stage, however, you might have to turn your head back, and can give you an aching neck. Overall, it can’t get any better than that.
Click for the Jazz Café website.
Explore inside various Camden markets and you’ll notice several shops under the bridge and cobbled alleyways selling silver jewellery, more vintage items, handmade fashion brands, and souvenir ideas. As you walk through different markets, it will feel claustrophobic as the walkway can be very narrow. The red £10 signs on top of vintage and leather jackets are usually visible as you pass through the narrow-cobbled alleyways as several people try to squeeze through the walkways. You’ll see the traditional 19th Century bricked walls, hear the train driving past above you and often hear music in the background as you walk through.
In the summer, people would often come out with their vests and shorts sipping on cold beer and cocktails in the pub’s beer garden, dancing to loud music in the background. Expect to see the market overcrowded with people socialising, sniffing different aromas of hot street food dishes from Asia and Europe.
Click for more information on Camden Town shop.
Try fish and chips or traditional British food in The Elephant’s Head
Street food in Camden Town
In front of you, you will see a green and yellow mural at the top of a train station that says Camden Lock. It’s an iconic mural for Camden. You’ll usually see this mural all over the internet when people search Camden Town.
As you turn left, you will see directions to one of the top 10 London Attractions London Zoo, Regent’s Park, one of 8 royal parks of London, the Roundhouse Theatre, and several street markets serving products and food stalls. There is always a massive crowd of people and you’ll be able to walk through a cobbled walk way with several pagodas in the middle as seating areas. Like Buck Street Market, you will smell different aromas from street food stalls, ranging from vegan dishes, Thai, general European dishes like burgers and chips and many more. Prices here are around £7 – £12 per dish and it’s standard London prices.
Why not grab a bite to eat by Regent’s Canal, overlooking the bridge? While having lunch, admire the many colourful street arts as well as several colourful boat houses parked under the tree under the bridge.
Regent’s Canal by Camden
After you reach the bridge, turn left and you will end up in Regent’s Canal. Here, you will listen to the birds chirping, several Georgian houses, (the upper-class community), dating back to the 18th Century as well as the entrance to the London Zoo, Regent’s Park, one of London’s Top 10 Attractions Madame Tussaud’s, and Sherlock Holmes Museum. Make sure to take photos the Chinese Restaurant nestled behind the canal before you reach Regent Street.
If you want to skip all of this, walk further up and you will often see several boats where you can take boat trips by the canal. If you like, walk through Regent’s Park and when you exit to the other side, you will finish off in Baker Street where you’ll be able to visit Madame Tussauds, and the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
Regent’s Canal is exceptionally long, and you’d often won’t know where you’ll end up, so make sure you always have your Google Maps with you. Alternatively, check out the signposts by several exits from the canal.
People often ask where Little Venice is. Well, if you see rows of colourful boathouses overlooking Georgian houses, then you’re in Little Venice, located in Regent’s Canal. You wouldn’t feel as if you’re in London when you’re walking through the canal. You’d feel like you’re already in Venice.
It does get tiring walking up the canal and it’s easy to get lost, but if you get out of the nearest exit, there are still several buses that go to other interesting areas and tube stations around London. We were walking for half an hour and didn’t know where we were. We found out we were just minutes away from Oxford Street, miles away from Camden Town.
If you have time, take advantage of the Thames Path Walk Tour where you’ll be walking along the Thames River where you’ll have a chance to see the rural and urban areas of London.
Primrose Hill is a park adjacent to Regent’s Park and when you arrive, walk to the top of the hill where you’ll see a view of industrial London, to be specific, Canary Wharf and the London Eye. In the evening, walk up the hill, and Canary Wharf lights up and it’s a great time to go for a breezy evening walk, socialise and enjoy the twinkling lights of London. Be careful though, Primrose Hill can be dangerous at night with muggings, but it doesn’t occur every night. Keep your eyes open.
Check out the colourful art graffiti scattered around Primrose Hill.
Regent’s Park Road
As you walk towards Regent’s Park Road, you’ll see rows of stylish and colourful Victorian and Georgian houses, from blue, pink, yellow, green, and off-white. Here is the upper class of London. The streets are very wide, quiet, and clean, and can be bright on a nice sunny day.
Check out the colourful Victorian style shops scattered around here. Primrose Hill Book store is a great shop to explore if you’re a book lover. I often go there to hunt for second-hand books. The store has a 19th Century feel to it. There’s not a lot of space to walk around but it’s nice to go into a 19th Century building searching for second hand reads.
When visiting Camden, the busiest time is on the weekends and if you don’t like crowds, visit on the weekdays.
Spend no more than 2 hours in the market and 1 hour walking down Regent’s Canal. Although you won’t know where you’ll be when you’re walking down the canal, walk to the nearest exit, you’ll often find several bus stops that will take you to the nearest tourist places.
The tube can be very claustrophobic but quicker to get there. Although taking the bus takes longer, you’ll be saving money on travel compared to using the tube and train. You’ll only be spending £1.50 for one bus journey. Depending on where you’re staying, you’ll be spending double if you get to Camden by tube and train.
Either way, Camden Town is a great day out since it has a peaceful atmosphere in Regent’s Canal and the busy market offering punk, retro, vintage, and street food. For more information about Camden Town and Camden Market, visit their website here.
Annisa’s experience in Camden Town during COVID
When I visited Camden Town, it was after the first lockdown, a few days after lockdown was eased. My first impression felt like it was a normal day in Camden Town. All the shops were open, the market was closed still and there were still many people walking on the streets. Buck Street Market was dead although some stores are open. It seemed like no one wanted to shop for clothes or food. Usually Buck Street Market would be packed with people. Now, a lot of shops sell masks for people to wear.
I walked further up, the crowds were no different. There were still plenty of people but not too crowded. Some were wearing masks, some weren’t. Some kept their 2 metre distance and some didn’t. I observed the many clothes and food stalls, I found most were still closed, especially The Stables Market. There were a few people walking past but there were no crowds. It was great for me since I prefer a quiet shopping experience.
I then walked through Regent’s Canal for a quiet stroll. I found local upper-class residents on their boats drinking wine and cheese. There were groups of people on boat rides through the canal while admiring the 19th Century houses. Boat people hung around by the canal with their neighbors, socialising and chilling on their decks, happy that the lockdown had been eased. Right now, there are many locals still enjoying the sun and socialising while social distancing.
Hopefully, in the future to come, travel will improve and Camden Town will be as busy as before.