If there’s one word you might use to describe London as a whole, then it could well be ‘varied’. And that’s because it’s a city that’s all about the diversity; there are so many different things, people and experiences that make up the UK capital. Indeed, for something really quite different (and to underline such diversity), then it’s worth your time on a visit to the city to discover North London’s Camden district. An area that’s grown to wear its alternative culture kudos like a badge of honour, it’s very easy to reach from any centrally-located accommodation, such as the Royal hotel London…
The music venues
One of the things that Camden absolutely prides itself on nowadays is the quality of its live music scene. Quite simply, if you’re the sort who loves to check out up-and-coming artists, bands and so on (or you’re just curious to see who the very latest ‘unknowns’ or ‘next big things’ are), then this is the part of town to head for, all right. In part, Camden’s carving itself out as a live music focal point is born out of its reputation as a breeding ground for punk acts in ’70s, Britpop artists in the ’90s and indie/ guitar bands in the ’00s. Venues that were big and essential then and are just as big and essential now include the likes of the pubs/ bars-cum-venues that are Dingwalls, The Dublin Castle and the Electric Ballroom – and that’s not to forget the ‘nightclubby’ (and legendary) World’s End, the Jazz Café (does exactly what it sounds like it would) and the iconic mainstream Roundhouse.
The pubs and bars
Camden comes alive in the summer months in part because its marvellous coterie of pubs and bars offer up a fine, unique balance of the traditional and alt-edged – as well as the opportunity to bask in the sun while supping a pint. That said, the rather marvellously stylish and/ or earthy Edinboro Castle, Devonshire Arms, Hawley Arms, Ice Wharf and KOKO are all ideal for an alcoholic pit-stop whatever the time of year or whatever the weather’s doing outside.
The street food scene
Camden Market’s reputation precedes it (it is, in substantial touristy-market terms, world-famous), yet this indoors labyrinth of stalls, so many of which are dedicated to alternative culture that it’s almost a cliché, is also a fine source for, well, so many varied sources of great street food. Indeed, you’ll find here as many as 35 different stalls each offering high-quality takeaway grub to keep your tummy from rumbling throughout your day’s visit to Camden. Additionally, go on a bit of a hunt and you’ll discover there’s a number of decent restaurant-esque eateries too; Goodfare’s been serving up (ahem) good Italian fare for more than four decades, while the upmarket York & Albany dishes up solid British food and Gilgamesh (such a Camden name for an establishment!) is where to wend your way to for Pan-Asian cuisine. Plus, in Chin Chin Laboratories, Camden can also boast its very own liquid-nitrogen ice cream parlour. Curious? Check it out!
The eclectic and eccentric shops
Las but not least, who could forget all the rather extraordinary vending venues that line, one after another Camden High Street? Indeed, as soon as you step out the Tube station and start heading towards the market, they’re pretty much, unavoidably, the first thing you clock your eyes on. And, don’t doubt it, this is because of the giant, zany, cartoonish recreations of their wares that jut out of many of their frontages (the likes of Converse trainers and skull; yes, really). It’s a sight to behold; but then, so too is the experience inside of fluorescent clothing emporium Cyber Dog, vintage clobber seller Rokit and so many more a must-do. Frankly, you’re not ‘doing’ Camden unless you ‘do’ its wallowing-in-alt-culture shops. Wander in and breathe in the atmos and soak in the vibes.