Bar Italia Serves the Spirit of Italy

bar italia soho london


Bar Italia is an Italian café in Soho that has been making excellent coffee since 1949. You can also get paninis, pizzas, wine, and liquor as you watch football on the television at the back.

Bar Italia, 22 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4RF. Phone: 020 7437 4520


And now it’s morning
There’s only one place we can go
It’s around the corner in Soho
Where other broken people go

Pulp, Bar Italia

In the months leading to my daughter’s birth, conscious that I didn’t need the extra anxiety, I quit coffee. When I came back to the cup two years later, I did it in a caf in Dalston. This must have been mid-2013, and at the time I wasn’t familiar with the semiotics of dark grey walls and heavily tattooed — and heavily bearded — baristas. I didn’t make much of the ubiquity of Apple products in a given place. Nor did I pay much attention to a quirky WiFi password or the ’80s music blasting ironically from the speakers. When my coffee arrived, I was surprised by what food writer Jay Rayner would describe with grace and accuracy a year later: “The colour is right. It’s coal black and across the surface is a fine, seashore foam of copper-coloured froth, the all important ‘crema’. The taste, however, is wrong. Very wrong.” I thought that my espresso was perhaps defective and sent it back. The second cup tasted very wrong too and I attributed the spiteful flavour to me falling out of love with coffee after a long hiatus. It took me several weeks to figure out this was a new kind of coffee: light roast was the name of the offending blend.

To this day, I would rather drink molten lead than one of these sour insults to the senses. Obviously, it is a matter of taste, yes. And in this matter of taste it is “heads of coffee development” in open plan offices that allow dogs, catering to well-off and caffeinated entrepreneurs of pop-ups and startups, and influencers of the world united in their terrible love for beans that taste like defecated tar who are in charge of deciding what good taste means. And so the sour coffee revolution keeps expanding beyond the confines of hip Dalston. Soon the whole of London — if not the world — will be Sour Coffee Hell.

To avoid the disappointment of this eye-squinting sour nonsense I have recently taken a radical decision: I only engage in caffeinated adventures in Bar Italia, Soho. No, it isn’t practical. And it obviously means I can’t drink coffee every time I fancy one. But at least I get to visit Soho more often.

bar italia soho london

Bar Italia stands in 22 Frith Street. It was opened in 1949 by the Polledri family, who borrowed the money to open it — £50 — from a fellow paesano. Seventy years later, the same family continues to own it. Perhaps as a testament to this continuity the bar looks pretty much as it would have in 1949, ancient till and espresso machine included.

Back at the time of Bar Italia’s birth, Soho was an area of London popular with the Italian community. Soho, with the famous Algerian Coffee Store just around the corner, was the go-to place for those after a good coffee. One and one make two, and the bar was a success from day one. Legend has it that, on the day of the opening, a party was organised on the street with the American comedians Abbott and Costello entertaining the attendees. Since then, it has continued in this trend, becoming a favourite spot for many famous Londoners and visitors: David Bowie, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul McCartney, among many others — including many jazz musicians from Ronnie Scott, just across the road — have patronised and continue to patronise this small café. Those more familiar than me with the world of theatre and television might be able to recognise a face or two in the place as well. Interestingly, this status as a ‘celebrity hotspot’ of sorts was perhaps sealed even before the bar was born: back in 1926, John Logie Bard — the television pioneer — demonstrated his prototype in his lab upstairs, as the blue plaque outside the bar reminds passersby.

bar italia soho london

Bar Italia’s deco and atmosphere really lives up to its name. From the Italian flags, football shirts, cycling memorabilia and pictures of celebrities to the chilli peppers and garlic hanging from the walls, everything is in place to hammer Italia home. The waiters are dressed in white shirts and black waistcoats, much like in your average Roman café. And it isn’t rare to bump into hordes of Italians watching the football on the telly at the back. And if the authentic feel isn’t enough for you, there is the opening to consider: the bar closes at 5 a.m. and reopens at 7 a.m., making it a favourite of late drinkers, early risers, and those who just stayed up all night, natural or chemically-induced insomniacs — a licensing miracle fixed for posterity in the homonymous Pulp song that opens this piece.

It is always reassuring to bump into a piece of London where history hasn’t been erased and replaced by the latest fad. Soho is an area under threat both by gentrification and the CrossRail development. Many of the places that gave it its aura have gone or will be gone soon. Bar Italia hangs on — heroically. May it hang for a long time. Or I will have to quit coffee again.

Photographs by Fernando Sdrigotti



Go Bananas At Ally Pally



Perched on a hill between Muswell Hill and Wood Green in North London is the imposing Alexandra Palace, affectionately known as Ally Pally. It was built in in the late 1860s-early 1870s by the Lucas Brothers, who also built the famous and beautiful Royal Albert Hall in London at around the same time. The Great Hall and West Hall are today typically used for exhibitions, music concerts, and conferences. There are also activities such as skateboarding and boating for visitors.

Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY


It was a hot day as we walked up the hill, stopping off on the sloping lawns to take in the view of the London skyline. Families had taken advantage of the beautiful sunny Sunday with picnics spread out on mats and kids running around playing.

Alexandra Palace was never a palace in the true sense of the word but a massive recreational centre designed solely for the enjoyment of the people – opera, musicals, plays, and all kinds of entertainment. It opened in 1873 but just 16 days later was gutted by a tremendous fire. However, it was quickly rebuilt and re-opened two years later.

In Victorian times, audiences were thrilled by actors seeming to appear and disappear into thin air and leap to incredible heights made possible by the under-stage machinery and traps. The theatre remains frozen in time, hidden away for more than 80 years, with much of the original décor and stage machinery still in place. Since 2016, a lot of work has been underway to bring the theatre back to life while retaining its original character. Excitingly, it is now open to visitors and not to be missed!

It’s a little forlorn through years of neglect, but Alexandra Palace is still an impressive building with an incredible alternative history. In the First World War, it was used as a refugee camp then an internment camp. Then, in 1936, the BBC leased the east wing to use as a production and transmission centre. It remained in residence for 50 years, but as other studios developed in and around London, the Ally Pally studios became outdated and eventually closed in the 1982, especially after the second massive fire in 1980 left a large portion of the building derelict. This wing also housed a Victorian theatre and, amazingly, both the studios and the theatre survived the fire. Today, it is the only surviving early TV studio in the world and is still used to exhibit historical television equipment.

alexandra palace

There are numerous events and shows taking place daily at Ally Pally, as well as activities like the indoor ice rink, outdoor skateboard park, boating lake, and the ‘Go Ape’ adventure park. At £36 per adult (£28 for children under 16), Go Ape isn’t cheap, but everyone inside seemed to be having so much fun that we bought tickets. We were in for challenging, blood-pumping action tackling high rope obstacles including Tarzan swings, a fun 79m-long zip line, and a 46ft sheer drop called the Plummet.

Kids are catered for in a separate Tree Top Junior specially designed for mini Tarzans aged between 6 and 10 years. They’re safely harnessed and taken around a practice run to ensure safety and comfort first. It is high, but the children loved it and staff were on hand to provide encouragement and support for not-quite-so brave.

There is also a 10-hole Pitch and Putt course open in the warm months and a picturesque lake where you can hire boats or ride in brightly coloured flamingo pedaloes. The indoor skating rink is open year-round, as is the Phoenix pub for drinks and food.

Our visit coincided with a Sunday morning Farmers’ Market at the bottom of Muswell Hill, and we walked through it, breathing in the aromas of fresh bread and home-made cakes and pastries. We ate at a French-Caribbean stall – a delicious Bokit’la, a pitta-style pocket bread stuffed with aubergine or salt fish, lettuce, avocado – so if you don’t want to eat at one of Ally Pally’s dining options you can always make a day out of it and grab a bite from one of the market’s offerings. With history, entertainment, and views, Ally Pally really has it all.

Feature photograph by John Bointon [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo 2 by neiljs [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr



Makers of London: Samantha Warren



Professional textile designer Samantha Warren launched her eponymous brand of stylish accessories and gifts in 2013. Heavily influenced by her love of nature and travel, her products combine vibrant aesthetics with practical functionality.


The City Story: Tell us a little bit about how the concept of your accessories and gifts line came about.

Samantha Warren: I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial and had experimented with a couple of business ideas before setting up my own brand. After years of designing for high street fashion brands, I saw an opportunity to combine my commercial experience with an experimental approach to print design to create statement and wearable accessories. Central to this approach is a constant push to be playful while still producing wearable and elegant objects.

TCS: How does your love of nature and travel influence your work?

SW: Nature relaxes me, and I feel so inspired when I’m in these environments.

I’ve always had a love for landscapes and open spaces, maybe due to the fact that I grew up in south London. My love of travel is perhaps an extension of this love of nature, and the desire to see new and inspiring places and people. One of my most popular collections was inspired by Iceland, where I was completely blown away by the beauty and scale of the landscape. The theme of nature has naturally continued as I’ve designed new collections and played with new techniques and products. The energy, smells, and my emotions in these surroundings all help to inspire my work and I love honing in on interesting colour palettes, unexpected pops of colour, textures, and organic shapes.

Samantha Warren_004

TCS: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?

SW: Prior to launching my own brand, I worked primarily as a print designer. Moving from this specialised role into taking on the design, prototyping, development, and distribution of my own products was, and still is, a huge learning curve. Besides that there is the day-to-day balancing act of design, marketing, sales and dealing with an increasingly challenging retail environment. Being a small company means that it can be difficult to balance all these functions, but it also means I can adapt quickly to changing markets and design and develop new products with agility.

TCS: How does London inspire your work?

SW: I’ve lived in London my whole life, so I think that the city has shaped much of who I am as a person and a designer. London is such an inspiring, energetic and eclectic place, which comes through in my use of colour and print techniques. It also informs a more practical side of my work. Urban living requires stylish but also functional products, which is a nice synergy of requirements to work with.

Samantha Warren_003

TCS: Are there any interesting clients you’ve met through the sale of your products?

SW: All of my clients are interesting, really. I love hearing what they think of my work, especially those in the art and design fields who really respect my unique style. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a happy customer wear my products with pride and joy.

TCS: What are your short-term and long-term goals, going forward?

SW: I like to think big. My overarching ambition is to make Samantha Warren a household name. This really defines much of my short- and long-term goals. I am hopeful that continuing to fuse my experimental approach to print techniques with beautifully practical accessories will be the secret to my success.

We discovered Samantha Warren through Shopping With Soul.



Discover Stunning Contemporary Art at Halcyon Gallery


halcyon gallery new bond street city of westminster london


Halcyon Gallery was founded in 1982 and showcases modern and contemporary art from artists worldwide. It has three locations in London – at 29 New Bond Street (an intimate space), 144-146 New Bond Street (a space covering three levels), and in Harrods.

Halcyon Gallery, 29 New Bond Street, London, W1S 2RL. Phone: 020 7499 450


In a city like London that is replete with world famous galleries and museums, it’s not often that one ventures to smaller, more specialist ones. But, over the years, Halcyon Gallery in New Bond Street has carved a niche for itself. Like the Tate Modern, it specialises in modern and contemporary art from emerging and established artists. Unlike the Tate Modern, which was founded in 1897, Halcyon Gallery is only 37 years old.

Because of the way shops are situated in New Bond Street – like numbered houses – when you walk into the gallery, it almost feels like you’ve entered the living room of a mansion with large paintings that line the walls and sculptures that dot the floors. Smaller galleries and museums have a more personal feel. There are usually fewer people, as these spaces aren’t as “touristy”, and you get to discover the best contemporary artists. The first time I visited Halcyon Gallery was to see the works of renowned glass blower Dale Chihuly, and I thought it was an apt space for his glass art.

If you want a taste of the art scene beyond the hustle and bustle of the popular, large galleries, Halcyon at 29, New Bond Street is where you should be. Just like its name suggests, it evokes serenity and tranquillity, which indeed is vital to appreciate art.

Feature photograph courtesy Halcyon Gallery




Fuel Up With Filter Coffee At Allpress Espresso


allpress espresso coffee and roastery hackney


Allpress Espresso is a roastery and café in Hackney that attributes its delicious coffee to the Hot Air Roasting Method it uses. In London, it started out being on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, where it still sits as an espresso bar.

You can also find Allpress Espresso in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.

Allpress Espresso, 55 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 2NG. Phone: 020 7749 1780


There are more coffee shops in Hackney than there are corner shops. Maybe this is hyperbole; maybe this is fact – either way, you are never too far away from a decent café serving average-to-excellent coffee. I’ve gone from cortados (my first brush with coffee only four years ago) to doppios and dabbled with a few soy/oat/coconut lattes along the way.

For the past six months, though, I have been obsessed with filter coffee, and I fuel my habit by front rolling to Allpress Espresso near my apartment several times a day. Allpress does excellent single-origin filter brews (as well as other permutations and combinations of the drink), but their coffee is just one aspect that keeps this particular café busy all day. Allpress in Dalston Lane is housed in an erstwhile joiner’s factory – meaning it has ample space to sit both inside and al fresco. Through the glass partition that divides the café and the roastery, you can see their massive hot air roaster (which is powered by solar panels on their roof!), and the few items on the food menu never disappoint. There isn’t any WiFi, so you will occasionally end up sitting next to someone drinking coffee, reading a book, and not much else – which is both terrifying and refreshing in our digital age.

I’ve spent sunny, rainy, hail-y, dreary, and cheery mornings at Allpress, and I always walk out feeling better.




Witness a Criminal Case at the most famous courtroom in the world, The Old Bailey



There has been a criminal court on the site of the Old Bailey since the 16th Century and a jail for over 1,000 years. Various fires and attacks have seen the court rebuilt time and time again; the famous domed Old Bailey as we now know it opened in 1907. Anyone can watch the proceedings of a court case from the public galleries without any bookings or fees.

The Old Bailey, London EC4M 7EH, United Kingdom


Stepping into Court One at the Old Bailey, where the walls still echo with some of the most heinous criminal cases, can be an eerie experience. This courtroom has witnessed the country’s more notorious trials, including those of the Kray twins, who instilled terror throughout East London during the 1950s and ’60s; Dr. Crippen, whose wife’s torso was discovered under the basement floor in 1910; Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, convicted in 1981 of the murder of 13 women and attempted murders of seven others; Dennis Nilsen, who murdered at least 12 young men in the 1980s; and Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK, who was convicted of murdering her lover.

Ten minutes before the afternoon session was due to start, we rang the bell at the Newgate Street door and waited for a guard to invite us in for a security check. After going through security – no phones*, cameras, or large bags (including backpacks) are allowed in – we climbed three flights of stairs to a large waiting area with a prominent sign forbidding you from discussing cases in public areas.

Visitors have to stay for a minimum of 30 minutes for each case so as not to cause too much disturbance to the proceedings. That didn’t prove to be a problem for us at all –­ we got so caught up with the case, we ended up spending the entire afternoon there!

Some things have changed at the Old Bailey since the early days. Today, there are laptops and iPads where once there were inkwells and ledgers. Some things haven’t changed – all the court officials, including the judge and barristers, still dress in robes and wigs.

From the old oak public gallery, we had a bird’s eye view of the courtroom, including the accused – a young man accused of armed robbery – seated meekly in the dock. It was a fascinating experience with the barristers presenting their cases, calling witnesses to the stand, and the judge ensuring the legal validity of the claims made. We heard him many times state, “I have to, at all times, remain totally impartial so need to view all relevant information.”

old bailey

The accused had previous convictions that the jury was not allowed to hear, and they were asked to leave the courtroom a few times during the proceedings when this topic needed to be discussed between the legal team and the judge. We in the public gallery were privy to this information, which made it all the more exciting. Unfortunately, the case was not concluded in that session and was held over for another day, which meant we did not find out the fate of the accused.

The public galleries are open on weekdays from 9:55 a.m. to 12.40 p.m. and again from 1:55 p.m. to 3:40 p.m. Visitors are not allowed anywhere else in the building aside from the occasional open days or on paid tours when you can see the famous dome from the inside, but we will definitely return to the Old Bailey to witness another case.

Did You Know? These days, few people these days get to see “dead man’s walk” at the Old Bailey where, for hundreds of years, convicts were led out to be executed outside on the site of the old Newgate Prison. There was once a secret tunnel that ran from the church opposite to the Old Bailey so the chaplain could avoid crowds while visiting the Bailey to give condemned prisoners their last rites.

* We left our phones at the travel agents just a couple of minutes walk down the Old Bailey street for a small fee.

Feature photograph copyright a4stockphotos –
Building photograph copyright Alena –


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A Guide To The Royal Air Force Museum

raf museum london



If you have a love for aircraft and want to experience the thrills of piloting a jet fighter or experience what it’s like being a Red Arrow pilot, you cannot miss a visit to the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum in north London. You can see up close aircraft from the World Wars such as the massive Lancaster bomber, the only Beaufighter (also known as the Whispering Death) in the UK, and the German Messerschmitt to more recent supersonic aircraft like the Phantom, the Tornado, and the Lightning. In addition to displaying over 100 magnificent aircraft, the museum also tells the story of the people behind the aircraft.

Aviation History Timeline Wall & Support Vehicles

Located in Hangar 1, the wall is about 50 metres long and illustrates key events in world aviation from before World War I, when the Wright brothers completed the first ever flight in a powered aircraft, up to the modern age of flight.

In addition to aircraft, Hangar 1 also displays support vehicles such as ambulances and helicopters used in the World Wars. Don’t miss the Enigma machine that was invented by a German and used by British codebreakers to decipher German code during World War II. It is said to have curtailed the war by two years!

RAF During World War I

The exhibit is located in Hangar 2 and brings moving and inspiring stories to life. It includes many personal artefacts including medals, letters, and uniforms, as well as the finest collection of First World War aircraft.

World War II Aircraft

The collection of aircraft used during World War II is so enormous it needs not one but three hangars to contain it – Hangars 3, 4, and 5 are home to British, American, French, and German aircraft. This is where you will find the Messerschmitt, the Spitfire, Hurricane, Beaufighter, and many more.

Flight Simulators

Hangar 1 offers a range of unique hands-on experiences, including interactive displays. You can design your own laser guiding bombing mission and even have a go at designing your own airplane and then seeing if it would actually fly. Very popular with kids!

The Gnat flight simulator is in Hangar 1, and you can also try on an RAF uniform. Take the pilot’s seat in the state of the art, full motion aircraft cockpit. A huge, 200-degree spherical screen provides you with an authentic experience. You are in full control of take-off and landing. The simulator experience will cost you £6.

There are also various rides in Hangars 3, 4, and 5. Enjoy a breath-taking flight with the Red Arrows; fly in the Eurofighter Typhoon, Europe’s most advanced aircraft; or take part in in a Barnstorming to experience daredevil stunts and tricks in the pioneering days of aviation from the 1920s and ’30s. Cost is £3 for a four-minute ride.

4D Theatre

The newest addition to the museum, the 4D theatre offers exciting experiences of the greatest advances of navigational technology. Fly with the Red Arrows or participate in a World War I dogfight with the Red Barons; race through death defying ravines at supersonic speeds or enjoy a film of a World War II bombing mission in the B7. The rides open at 10.30 a.m. with the last ride at 4.30pm and cost £5 each or £16 for a family of four.

Spitfire MkXVI

Take the pilot’s seat in a real Spitfire Mk XVI to discover what it is like to fly this iconic plane. You can take photos inside the cockpit, but be aware that the Spitfire’s cockpit is very small so a small camera with a wrist strap or a camera zipped into your pocket would be ideal. Only flat shoes allowed in the cockpit. It opens at 11 a.m., and the last session is at 4.30 p.m. Make your way to the Historic Hangars to book your time slot. There is a charge of £10.


Stop off for a hot drink and pastries in The Sunderland Café in Hangar 1, sitting under the wings of the enormous Short Sunderland Flying Boat. Or you can enjoy hot and cold food and drinks at the Claude’s Café in the 1931 heritage building. The third café, The Wessex Café, is located opposite the Royal Wessex Helicopter in Hangar 3.

If the weather is good, borrow a parachute rug or bean bag and enjoy a picnic outside on the lawn next to the themed playground or indoors in Hangar 3. There is a great shop too where you can pick up some interesting memorabilia of your visit to this museum.

If you think your kids may be bored, think again. Kids love this museum. They may even describe it as the coolest museum they have been to! In how many museums do you hear children saying, “This is amazing”, and “Can we come here again”? It has fun things for kids of all ages, including miniature planes for under 5s: DH9A, Spitfire, Gnat and Sea King. Allow a minimum of three to four hours to enjoy your visit to this incredible museum. It really is a fun and educational day out for the whole family.

All photographs by Mahrukh McDonald except feature photograph by Steve Cadman [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
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Makers Of London: Lo Blästa Of Blästa Henriët



Using sustainably-sourced natural and raw materials, Lo Blästa crafts Scandinavian wheat packs with hypoallergenic linen that are perfect for both targeted pain-relief and general comfort. We find out more about her brand Blästa Henriët, and how it connects her to her roots.

blasta henriet


The City Story: Tell us a little about your affinity to natural ingredients and the process of working with plain linen and grain.

Lo Blasta: I love the simplicity and feel of natural materials. Linen has become our go-to as it has so many amazing qualities besides just looking great: it’s durable, breathable, and hypoallergenic – the ultimate everyday fabric! It’s also one of the most sustainable textiles to produce, as flax requires no irrigation or pesticides and very little water to grow. It’s also important to me to work with local suppliers that we can trust and to know the origins of the ingredients we use. The grain we use for filling the Wheat Packs is grown in the Cotswolds and has been tried and tested to make sure it’s just right for our products.

TCS: What is the story behind the name Blästa Henriët?

LB: Blästa and Henriët are the surnames from the two sides of my family, which are Swedish and Dutch respectively. There have been many artists and creatives on both my mum and dad’s sides of the family, so I feel proud to be able to carry on that legacy.

TCS: Describe to us your studio space in South East London. What about this area inspires you?

LB: My studio is at the top of an old brick building which gets gorgeous afternoon sunlight. It has white walls, tall pine shelves, and seemingly endless stacks of boxes and linen panels. The area I’m in is vibrant and friendly with lots going on. I love biking through the city to work as the hustle and bustle fills me with energy, and seeing people and sensing community is always inspiring.

blasta henriet

TCS: What makes your wellbeing products special? Would you say it keeps you connected to your roots?

LB: My work keeps me connected to my roots in many ways. I grew up on natural home remedies and around my dad’s fabric-cutting table. Much of the knowledge I have is thanks to my upbringing and my creative parents. My products were also created to fulfil a personal need and, therefore, they have evolved thoughtfully using the best materials available. All our products are tried and tested over a long period of time to ensure that they will last, and that we ourselves honestly love them before adding them to our collection.

TCS: Describe your product ‘The Wheat Bag’ to us in three words.

LB: Natural. Therapeutic. Multifunctional.

TCS: Who are the various interesting clients you’ve met in London through your work? What do they enjoy about your product?

LB: Oh man, I’ve met so many lovely and interesting people living in London! It can be a fleeting, yet inspiring, meeting or the start of a lifelong friendship. I think that people really appreciate how well-made our Wheat Bags and Eye Pillows are, and that you can use them for so many different things – as natural pain relief for various ailments, in yoga and therapy, during pregnancy or just to stay warm and cosy throughout winter. As well as being useful items to have in your home, they are also aesthetically pleasing –  I think that’s a welcome surprise to our customers.

blasta henriet

TCS: What are your short-term and long-term goals going forward?

LB: Short-term, I’m gearing up for the festive season with large orders to fill and so many fun events to look forward to – Old Spitalfields Market with Urban Makers throughout Autumn, Christmas by the River at London Bridge in the winter, and the Crafty Fox event at the Department Store in Brixton, of course. Long-term, I have plans to expand our collection with a few carefully-chosen items that we’ve been developing. I’m very excited to share them with you when the time comes!

We discovered Blästa Henriët through Shopping With Soul.



12 Hours In And Around Camden




The Borough of Camden is a rich seam of London, culturally, historically, and geographically. It stretches from just north of the River Thames, from Covent Garden’s famous Seven Dials and the Inns of Court, the city’s historic centre of training for Barristers, all the way north to the vast expanse of open parkland that is Hampstead Heath. On its western side, it touches the leafy Regent’s Park, while on the eastern side it meets the beautiful and bustling districts of Clerkenwell and Tufnell Park.

Within the borough’s large footprint, you’ll find the historic literary districts of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, famous institutions like the British Library, and at its centre Camden Town, best known for its lengthy association with rock and punk and its array of markets, bars, and restaurants. (To avoid confusion, remember that when most people say “Camden” they mean Camden Town specifically.)

9:00 a.m.

The ideal place to start exploring this borough is at its southern border in the heart of historic London. Catch the tube to Holborn Station, and if you haven’t eaten, stop by Fleet River Bakery on Gate Street for a fresh, healthy breakfast.

If you carry on along Gate Street, you’ll come to the beautiful grassy square known as Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Holborn has been associated with legal training since the 13th Century, and the precincts and chapel of Lincoln’s Inn — one of the Inns of Court, where barristers are called to the Bar – is open to visitors from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. On the northern side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, you’ll find one of London’s most unusual and intriguing museums, Sir John Soane’s Museum.

sir john soane's museum camden

Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a highly inventive architect, and famously designed the Bank of England. He was also an avid collector of antiques and the museum — formerly the house he lived in — is an incredible labyrinth full of paintings, Egyptian relics, classical statuary, and a host of other curiosities.

Fleet Kitchen, 7-11 Upper Woburn Place, Kings Cross, London WC1H 0JW. Phone: 20 7387 5544

Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

11:00 a.m.

If you enjoy museums, then this is one of the best parts of London for you. On the other side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the Hunterian Museum (full of medical curiosities), and just a 15-minute walk away is the world-class British Museum with a vast collection of items from all times and places. You also have the Petrie Museum, the Cartoon Museum, and the Charles Dickens Museum all within walking distance!


If you’re not a fan of museums, then this is an ideal time to catch a train to the northern part of the Borough and explore Hampstead Heath. It’s an enormous space, some 320 hectares in size, and it’s easy to feel as though you’ve left the city completely! Kenwood House, a beautiful stately home with masterpieces on its walls and activities for the kids, overlooks the Heath. As you explore its magical gardens, keep your eyes peeled for the flock of bright green parrots that live here. There are numerous theories as to how they got here – including that they were released by Jimi Hendrix – but the commonly held view is that they’re an accumulation of escaped pets that have made the Heath their home.

British Museum, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG

Hampstead Heath, Hampstead, London NW3 2QD

Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, Highgate, London NW3 7JR

12:15 p.m.

If you decided to take the museum route in Holborn, then the Great Court Restaurant in the British Museum is an ideal place to have lunch, or even a traditional afternoon tea complete with cream, jams, and scones. If you’re up in Hampstead, you can grab a delicious bite to eat at the Brew House Café in Kenwood House or head into Hampstead itself and have a traditional British lunch at the Buttery Café in Burgh House (if it’s a Sunday, try the Sunday Roast) or amazing pizza at L’Antica.


After lunch, explore the delightful Hampstead Village, which is well-loved for its boutique shops and is the ideal place to pick up gifts. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to stop by Venchi for fantastic ice cream and handmade chocolates. Oh, and if you’re a die-hard Harry Potter fan, you might want to make the pilgrimage to Kings Cross Station after lunch and visit Platform 9¾ and the Harry Potter shop.

L’Antica Pizzeria, 66 Heath Street, London NW3 1DN. Phone: 020 7431 8516

Buttery Café, Burgh House, New End Square, Hampstead, London NW3 1LT

The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 ¾, London King’s Cross, Pancras Road, Kings Cross, London N1 9AP. Phone: 20 3196 7375

Venchi Chocolate and Gelato, 65 Hampstead High St, London NW3 1QP. Phone: 020 7794 7894

2:00 p.m.

For a unique London experience and a taste of the city’s past, be sure to visit the grand Victorian cemetary at Highgate, the final resting place of a number of a number of well known figures from Karl Marx to poet Christina Rosetti and scientist Michael Faraday. It’s a peaceful and historic place, with highly-crafted funerary architecture, making it a memorable experience. It’s divided into two halves, Eastern and Western, and while both are captivating, the Western side has the more grandiose architecture and can only be seen on a guided tour. If you’re visiting on a weekend, there’s no need to book; they happen every half an hour, so just turn up. On weekdays however, booking is essential. You can explore the Eastern cemetery at your leisure.

highgate cemetery camden

If you prefer something a bit less sombre, then head over to Primrose Hill and take in the fantastic view over London before heading into Camden Town. Camden Town has a long and fascinating music history, which takes in all genres and a host of iconic figures, from Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie to the Sex Pistols and, more recently, Amy Winehouse. A great way to get to know Camden Town is to take one of the many available walking tours, several of which focus on the area’s musical history.

Highgate Cemetery, Swain’s Lane, Highgate, London N6 6PJ

Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park, Chester Rd, London NW1 4NR

4:00 p.m.

If you like shopping for interesting bits and pieces, the best place to start is the Camden Stables Market, so called because it was formerly a stables and horse hospital looking after the horses that pulled barges along the canal throughout the first half of the 20th Century. You’ll find an enormous selection of boutiques and stalls selling everything from taxidermy to chain-mail underwear as well as everyday things. Alternatively, take a walk alongside Regents Canal, which runs right through the heart of Camden, or stop in one of the many pubs and bars for a pint and a bite to eat. The Lock Tavern, The Black Heart, and The Hawley Arms are all steeped in atmosphere and musical history and are iconic Camden institutions in their own right.

Camden Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8AH. Phone: 020 7285 5511

The Hawley Arms, 2 Castlehaven Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8QU. Phone: 020 7428 5979

The Black Heart, 3 Greenland Place, Camden Town, London NW1 0AP. Phone: 020 7428 9730

The Lock Tavern, 35 Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AJ. Phone: 020 7846 8219

7:30 p.m.

Several of the aforementioned pubs host live music nights, so if you’ve stopped in for a drink, you might want to make plans to return later and catch a band or stay put and make a boozy afternoon of it. They all serve food, so you’ll be well looked after. If you want more options to choose from, though, Camden has plenty. Mildreds serves incredible vegan food; Karavas offers a delicious Greek menu; if you’re looking for traditional fish and chips, Poppies does just that.

Fish and chips

If you like to mix food and music, The Blues Kitchen will keep you fed and entertained with spicy Cajun food and live blues. If you’re looking to eat out somewhere a little fancier, your best option is to head towards Regents Park to Gordon Ramsay’s York & Albany gastropub or further out to Primrose Hill for Bryn William’s Odette’s. Both are iconic eateries run by world famous chefs.

Mildreds, 9 Jamestown Road, Camden Town, London NW1 7BW. Phone: 020 7482 4200

Karavas Restaurant, 87-88 Plender Street, London NW1 0JN. Phone: 020 7388 4121

Poppie’s Fish and Chips, 30 Hawley Crescent, Camden Town, London NW1 8NP. Phone: 020 7267 0440

The Blues Kitchen, 111-113 Camden High St, London NW1 7JN. Phone: 020 7387 5277

Odette’s, 130 Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8XL. Phone: 020 7586 8569

York & Albany Restaurant, 127-129 Parkway, Primrose Hill, London NW1 7PS. Phone: 20 7387 5700

9:00 p.m.

One of the best things to do in Camden is to go to a concert! You’re surrounded by world-famous venues that cater to all tastes. Roundhouse, a hotbed for underground music through the 1960s (hosting everyone from Pink Floyd and The Doors to Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stonesm and David Bowie), is one of London’s largest and best-known venues for live music. You’ll find live jazz at The Jazz Café, punk and metal at The Underworld, and everything in between at venues like Electric Ballroom and Camden Assembly.

electric ballroom camden

If you don’t fancy a night of gigs and prefer the theatre, you’ll need to head back down to Holborn where you have a great selection of theatres showing large scale musicals: the Cambridge, the Gillian Lynne, and the Shaftesbury.

Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8EH

The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London NW1 7PG. Phone: 020 7485 6834

The Underworld, 174 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London NW1 0NE. Phone: 020 7267 3939

The Camden Assembly, 49 Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AN. Phone: 020 7424 0800

Electric Ballroom, 84 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London NW1 8QP. Phone: 020 7485 9006

Gillian Lynne Theatre, 166 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5PW

Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Aveue, London WC2H 8DP

Cambridge Theatre, Earlham Street, London WC2H 9HU


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