“Camden was originally an accident, but I shall never be sorry I was left over in Camden. It has brought me blessed returns.”
– Walt Whitman
I’ve been to Camden a total of three times. The first time in 2014 was an accident since I initially wanted to go to Hampstead, but I decided to exit the underground a few stations early and walk the rest of the way. That first time was a bit of a shock (and I didn’t make it to Hampstead either). The second time, in 2015, I ended up in Camden due to another accident and stayed for a delicious four-cheeses-pizza. Now, in 2017, Camden is no longer an accident but my favourite place in London and I’m taking you on a walk through my favourite borough to make you understand why Camden is so incredible.
1. The Camden Market
Upon exiting Camden Town tube station, this will be one of the first sights that will come across your way. The majority of the many, many stalls consist of vintage clothes and shirts with London motives, but there’s also a rather broad range of jewelery and bags. Most of the clothes, bags, and souvenirs they are selling here are cheap, so don’t expect high quality products – it is, after all, just a street market and not a clothing boutique. Even if you arrive without the intention of buying something, strolling through the long aisles is always worth it and the people you might encounter there are a sight that is rarely seen in other parts of town.
2. Camden High Street
Now that we leave Camden Market behind, we continue further down Camden High Street, the very centre of the artistic and creative life of the residents of this borough. When I say I was overwhelmed the first time I visited Camden, this is the reason why. If one spends too much time in the city centre and gets used to the British architecture of the 19th century, Camden might seem a bit… shocking. Gothic clothes are located between tattoo studios and piercing stores, Punks are gathering in small groups, and people dressed in Gothic Victorian clothes pass by every now and then. This is the shopping mile for those with a little more special taste in clothing, and the façades are absolutely incredible. Don’t be intimidated by the colourful crowd and continue down Camden High Street towards Camden Lock.
3. Camden Lock
The infamous Camden Lock is situated right next to the Regent’s Canal and was originally built as a wharf. Today, you’ll find a lot of jewelery, art, and souvenirs there, and of course an impressive amount of food from all over the world. It’s the ideal place to buy souvenirs for those at home and admire the multicultural art talents of tomorrow. Those who are not keen on masses of people in close proximity should best avoid the Lock and continue down the road.
4. The Stables Market
If you still can’t get enough of Vintage clothes, antique furniture, and jewelery, the Stables Market should be next on your sightseeing list. By now, you might no longer be impressed by the range of products, but the old horse stables make for a very relaxed atmosphere despite the masses of people wandering through the narrow alleys. Fans of Amy Winehouse should definitely drop by for a photo opportunity with her figure and cookie fans will be delighted to find a stall selling extra large cookies and many other sweets. Compared to Camden Lock, the Stables Market is more quiet and if you’re looking for a lunch venue that isn’t an English pub, I’d recommend the stables.
5. Street art
Camden is not only known for its unusual shops and colouful lifestyle. It is also popular among street art painters. The small streets leading from and to Camden High Street are offering a glimpse of the amazing talent of street art painters that have created whole galleries of diverse styles. Portraits of Amy Winehouse are, of course, the most popular motive you’ll find, but making a detour is always worth it even if you’re not looking for her portrait specifically. While trying to find as many street art paintings as possible, we continue our walk up Chalk Farm Road and Adelaide Road, following the signs towards Primrose Hill.
6. Victorian architecture
Further up the hill, we’re back to Victorian architecture. Yes, I admit I really love old British town houses and if you do so, too, Camden will quickly turn into one of your favourite spots in town as well. Since the weather is on our side today, we make a few detours through streets lined with beautiful mansions and expensive cars. Up here, it’s easy to forget that the busy and lively Camden High Street is only a stone’s throw away. If I could choose one borough of London where I’d like to live, it would be this part of Camden. Sadly, I’m not alone with my opinion and living out here is extremely expensive due to high demand. It doesn’t come as a surprise that many film and music stars, as well as famous writers and composers have settled down in these beautiful villas. Before the opulence gets too depressing, we quicky continue our way towards Primrose Hill.
7. Primrose Bakery
After all the walking we did today, now is the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to one or two cupcakes or a piece of cake at the Primrose Bakery. Apparently, it is popular among celebrity children and as soon as you enter the bakery, you’ll immediately understand why. The cupcakes are not only tasty, but the designs are amazing. Especially the glittery Mother’s Day specials are some beautiful eye-catchers. If you have a sweet tooth and would like a little provision for the rest of our walk, continue down Gloucester Avenue and you’ll find the little shop right at the end. It’s not the cheapest address, but quality comes at a price.
8. Primrose Hill
We have arrived at our destination, Primrose Hill, just in time to watch the sun set over London. This breathtaking view over the city has quickly turned into my favourite spot in town and if the weather is as good as today, it’s only a short walk to the London Zoo and Regents Park. Not today, though. After this exhausting day, it is now time to sit down in the grass, relax your burning feet, enjoy the cupcakes, and watch as the last sunrays paint the sky in pastel colours. Very romantic, indeed!
In the end, I can say that Walt Whitman’s Camden experience has been the same for me. The first time I ended up on Camden High Street was by chance, an accident that I am now happy to have made, because it held many pleasant surprises and unexpected discoveries on its way. And of course I hope that you, too, enjoyed this little stroll.