King’s Cross area guide: Harry Potter, restaurants, shops and the station
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Your guide to all the things to do in King’s Cross, including the best shops, cafes, pubs and schools. PLUS our guide to property in N1C
Welcome to King’s Cross
The Cinderella-like transformation of King’s Cross from notorious red light district in the 1990s to established cultural capital would have seemed unlikely 20 years ago. But, with The Guardian and Google offices and the famed University of the Arts: Central St Martins settled in the area, its status seems to be cemented.
The geographical area of King’s Cross has a remarkable history that dates back to the Roman Era. The story goes that the legendary battle between Queen Boudicca and the Roman invaders took place here and that the warrior queen’s final resting place is actually below platform nine at King’s Cross Station.
The name St Pancras derives from a group of monks who in AD 597 arrived with the relics of the martyr saint St Pancras and build a church in the place where St Pancras Old Church lies today. The famous station itself didn’t appear until the 19th century, opening in 1852.
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Just decades before, a statue of statue of King George IV was erected at the Battle Bridge crossroads in an attempt to redefine the area’s unwelcome industrial reputation; built in 1830, it unfortunately attracted ridicule and was torn down 12 years later, but the new name for the area – King’s Cross – stuck.
Today it’s perhaps most famous for being the location of Platform 9 3/4, the magical portal to the Hogwarts Express in J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
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Shopping and culture
Everyone knows that running through the barrier at platform 9¾ gets you a ticket on the Hogwarts Express. Make your pilgrimage to the site in the station and visit the shop afterwards for a whole host of Potter-themed goods.
Best for the crafty…Drink, Shop, Do, as its name suggests, is a bar/shop/crafts space selling crafty items from independent designers, perfect for last minute gifts. Cocktails, meals and afternoon teas are available in the bar/café and a range of fun booze and cake fuelled activities from unicorn pinata-making to Beyonce dance classes are on offer throughout the week.
Best for eco-warriors… The nearby Skip Garden is a triumph of upcycling, with wildflowers and vegetables planted in skips and a cafe serving produce from the garden.
Best for arts… On Britannia Street there’s the Gagosian gallery ; or for something more leftfield try the House of Illustration in Granary Square, the UK’s only exhibition space dedicated to illustration, or Work Gallery on Acton Street. Affiliated to independent art and architecture publisher Black Dog Publishing, the gallery shows an esoteric yet fascinating selection of events ranging from little seen views from Stanley Kubrick’s archive to international names who are less well-known on the London arts scene.
Best for music lovers… The Place as become one of the city’s leading dance theatres while King’s Place has similar pedigree in the world of classical and contemporary music. The Scala and The Water Rats are more renowned as venues for pop and indie music.
Best for politicos… Radical bookshop Housmans has been operating since 1945 selling political classics and new releases, pamphlets, magazines and general ephemera, and hosting events with such authors as Iain Sinclair and Bidisha.
Best for book lovers... Word on the Water is a bookshop on a barge, which now has a permanent mooring at Granary Square.
Food and drink
The newly refurbished train stations at King’s Cross and St Pancras offer convenient access to a host of high street shops, cafes and restaurants. The area is rich with restaurants: Caravan boasts ‘well-travelled food and mighty fine coffee’; Karpo is an independent neighbourhood brasserie; while the Great Northern Hotel’s Plum + Spilt Milk features elegant British cooking.
Best for a quick bite… For cheaper eats, Paolina’s Thai Cafe on King’s Cross Road can’t be beaten for bargain lunch or BYOB evening meals. Costa’s café across the road is a greasy spoon with a Portuguese slant – the pasteis de nata are a treat with an espresso.
Best for street food… For independent fare head to KERB in Granary Square, which offers some of London’s best street grub. On Saturdays Cally market has an array of independent producers selling everything from shoes to macaroons and hemp-based baked goods.
Best for a sit down meal… The latest addition is The Lighterman, a pub/bar/dining room serving an all day British menu with views over the canal.
Best for a pint… The King Charles I is a tiny wood-panelled pub with an open fire in winter. It’s tiny inside, and often the streets outside are packed with punters.
Primary and secondary education
For primary schools within King’s Cross, Winton Primary School and The Gower School are both rated Good by Ofsted. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson provides Outstanding girls’ secondary education. Children’s Hospital School at Great Ormond Street and UCH, rated Outstanding, is a school focusing on children with special educational needs.
King’s Cross is in zone 1 and has the largest Underground station in London, connecting the Circle, Piccadilly, Hammersmith & City, Northern, Metropolitan and Victoria lines. It is also a mainline station connecting with suburban and home counties stations, Luton and Gatwick airports and routes heading to the North of England.
Next door St Pancras International houses London’s Eurostar terminus, connecting the city to continental Europe. The area is also served by numerous buses connecting it to regions across London.
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King’s Cross is split between Camden and Islington and the area around the station itself has its own postcode, N1C. The parliamentary constituency for the area is Holborn and St Pancras.
Council Tax for Camden ranges from £944.97 for the smallest properties in Band A to £2,834.92 for the most expensive Band H homes. Properties in the average Band D should receive a bill of £1,417,46. In Islington the figures are £900.72 for Band A, £1,351.08 for Band D and £2,702.16 for Band H.
Though best known as a transport hub due to its historic train station, in recent years King’s Cross has seen a rejuvenation that is increasingly offering new, high quality apartment buildings with slick modern design. The ArtHouse building offers stunning Regent’s Canal apartments, while new developments have spring up at the Plimsoll Building and Gasholders, and are on the rise at St Pancras Place and North One.
Two-bedroom flat - £583,791
Terraced house - £1,680,850
Semi-detached house - £1,007,222
Detached house - £2,224,724