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 shops. 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. I went in August during the Summer holidays and the kids there love it. Every child is different.
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. 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 LGBTQ 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.
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.
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, and most are smaller versions of chained stores that were popular in the 90s. 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.
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 a 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. The Camden Markets have loud music, the smell of Indian incense, old vinyl records, old cameras, Indian lamps and many more. The sellers here aren’t as pushy as many countries though, they’ll just sit in the corner happy to serve you when you browse.
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 to Europe.
Click for more information on Camden Town shop.
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. 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 £6 – £12 per dish and it’s standard London prices.
Why not grab a bite to eat and sit on the edge of Regent’s Canal, overlooking the bridge? While having lunch, admire the many colourful street art as well as several colourful houseboats, especially the one 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 of 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.
Hidden Gem: Little Venice
Located in West London, Little Venice consists of boat houses, boat trips, Georgian houses, waterways and many more. You wouldn’t feel as if you’re in London at all. It’s quiet in some areas and crowded in other areas. Connected to Regent’s Canal and the Grand Union Canal, as you walk further up into the canal, you will see Camden Lock, Camden Market near Regent’s Canal and Portobello Market near the Grand Union Canal. Those two markets offer vintage, punk, quirky and trendy atmosphere, but don’t expect this to be a short walk. The canal is very long.
In Portobello Road Market, the crowds of people will make you feel a part of the friendly community and the quiet areas will give you peace. Don’t forget to check out some of the Georgian houses and see how locals live in council estates scattered around the canal. Why not ride a boat and enjoy the ducks paddling along with you against the currents? I guarantee you that you will have a chance to avoid the crowd, nature, and peace.
Another great thing about the areas near Little Venice are the classic and quirky cafes along and above the canal. It’s a great feeling sipping teas and coffees or cocktails in the evening, hearing crowds of people talking and the lights from boat houses twinkling in the night sky.
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.
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 and 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. From London Zoo, walk up to Primrose Hill where you’ll see a view of London. Walking up the hill can be tiring if you’re not fit, and the view isn’t as great as people think it is, but you can just about see the London Eye, the Shard, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Canary Wharf. If it wasn’t for the cranes, then the view would be better. This is what it looks like from my camera.
A lot of websites say you can see many graffiti around Primrose Hill, but the graffiti I found were from Regent’s Park Road on the bridge, and it’s not that attractive. It’s better to go to Shoreditch for graffiti art.
Regent’s Park Road
As you walk towards Regent’s Park Road, you’ll see rows of stylish and colourful Victorian and Georgian houses, The streets here can also be narrow, 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, but even during the weekday it’s busy.
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. Remember, when taking the tube and train several times, you won’t have to pay more if it’s capped.
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.
If your time allows it, before or after visiting Camden Town, check out the neighbouring town of Hampstead Heath.
Hampstead Heath is an upper-class area of London and not far from Highgate Cemetery. You can easily walk there. One of the most popular open spaces in London, Hampstead Heath is by far the best out of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. With 800 acres of woodlands, you will see a great view of London from the top of a hill.
If you’re coming from Trafalgar Square, it’s around 30 minutes from Leicester Square on the Northern Line. Alternatively, take bus numbers 88 and 214 from Camden Town, which will take you there in 14 minutes. Here are some activities you can do in Hampstead Heath Park.
You can swim in the open-air Bathing Ponds and Parliament Hill Lido during the summer.
These are usually for residents of the UK or if you’re here long enough. There are various paid sports events and sports activities, especially for families with young and older children. For sport lovers, you can go angling, practice your athletic skills, play cricket, cycling, dog walking, swimming and playing tennis. There are also sports clubs from rugby, running, croquet, bowls and many more.
For wildlife and nature, you can spot woodpeckers, bullfinches, stag beetle, grass snakes and many more. Although you rarely see beautiful colourful flowerbeds, you will still enjoy green trees turn orange and yellow in autumn, then disappear into leafless trees in winter.
You will often see bats, 25 types of butterflies along with foxes, hedgehogs, deer, a duck pond and many more.
Check out Golders Hill Park and Golders Hill Park Zoo (free), adjacent to Hampstead Heath Park for more open space greenery and wildlife area.
Since it’s COVID, I thought about going to one of London’s Hidden Gems, Highgate Cemetery. From Camden Town, take the Northern Line (black) to Archway and walk towards Highgate Cemetery. It’s worth the visit.
If you love cemeteries, then you’ll love Highgate Cemetery. Situated near Archway Tube Station, and the upper-class area of Hampstead Heath (another hidden gem), Highgate Cemetery is said to be haunted. Its peaceful surrounding is also situated in a large park with your children who can spend time in the playground. You can sip a cup of coffee or tea while you watch them play. Karl Marx’s tomb is buried here.
Check out Egyptian Avenue where you’ll find rows of subterranean passageways on a hillside, used to be used for religious purposes. All around you, you’ll find stuccoes brick, Napoleon’s campaign still had strong Egyptian influences.
Check out Waterlow Park where you’ll see great views of London, sit by the rows of benches just enjoying the green space and procrastinating, wildlife, several historical 18th – 19th Century buildings, and a place where you can sip your coffee and eat cake. Don’t forget to take photos of the stoned gargoyles on either side of the stone steps, enjoy yourself by the lake and have a picnic.
Check out Lauderdale House, an intimate art gallery where you’ll see numerous art collection. Great for an intimate wedding venue too.
In addition, I am able to recommend and advise on your travel plans before you book your travel holidays (vacation as the Americans call it).