King’s Cross: Culture, cuisine and clubbing in a former red light zone
- Credit: Archant
The Cinderella-like transformation of King’s Cross from notorious red light district in the 1990s to established cultural capital seems unlikely to anyone old enough to remember the bad old days. But, since The Guardian moved their offices to the area in 2008 and the University of the Arts re-located to its Victorian warehouse premises a few years later, the area’s status as a creative hub seems to be cemented.
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 £891.32 for the smallest properties in Band A to £2,673.62 for the most expensive Band H homes. Properties in the average Band D should receive a bill of £1,336.81. In Islington the figures are £850.67 for Band A, £1,276.01 for Band D and £2,552.02 for Band H.
The average price of a two-bedroom flat in the area is £594,782, for a terrace it’s £1,475,000 and for a semi-detached home it’s £1,859,324.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 opened last year near Regent’s Canal, while spring saw the first batch of 250 apartments go on sale for the new Plimsoll Building.
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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 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.
Landmarks and history
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.
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.
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 courses from floral headband-making to Converse trainer pimping are on offer throughout the week.
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 while Word on the Water is a bookshop on a barge, which looks set to get a permanent mooring on the canal in King’s Cross.
Eating and drinking
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. For more independent fare head to KERB in Lewis Cubitt Square, which offers some of London’s best street food. On Saturdays Cally market has an array of independent producers selling everything from shoes to macaroons and hemp-based baked goods.
The area is rich with restaurants: Caravan boasts ‘well-travelled food and mighty fine coffee’; Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store offers bistro cuisine with a vegetable-heavy focus; Karpo is an independent neighbourhood brasserie; while the Great Northern Hotel’s Plum + Spilt Milk features elegant British cooking.
For cheaper eats, Paolina’s Thai Cafe on King’s Cross Road can’t be beaten for bargain lunch or BYO evening meals. Costa’s cafe across the road is a greasy spoon with a Portuguese slant – the pasteis de nata are a treat with an espresso.
Sports, leisure and culture
Outdoor swimming in the centre of King’s Cross would have been unimaginable a few years ago but now swimmers can take a dip at the King’s Cross Pond Club, a natural pool in Lewis Cubitt Park. The nearby Skip Garden is a triumph of upcycling, with wildflowers and vegetables planted in skips and a cafe serving produce from the garden.
The London Canal Museum and British Library have been here since 1992 and 1997 respectively, while The Place has become one of the city’s leading dance theatres. King’s Place has similar pedigree in the world of classical and contemporary music, while the Scala and Monto Water Rats are more renowned as venues for pop and indie music.
For art head to the Britannia Street branch of the Gagosian gallery, exhibiting world renowned artists such as Richard Serra and Jenny Saville; 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.
Good for kids
Camley Street Natural Park is loved by both adults and children, but the year round outdoor learning facilities teaching kids about wildlife in the heart of the city are unique. The two-acre site bordering the Regent’s Canal was created from a coal yard in 1894 and is now home to a diverse array of species including rare earthstar fungus; reed warbler, kingfisher, various geese, mallard, and reed bunting; and bats.