ARTISTS, buskers and sidewalk spruikers jockey for attention, Jamaican rhythms pulse on the breeze, and shopaholics shuffle amongst the festival-like crowds – a normal day in my neighbourhood: Camden Town.
Like many, I was drawn here by the vibrant culture of the place, and after living here for a year I’ve learnt – despite being a bustling urban hub – it also has a great village-like sense of community. It may be better known for its world-famous markets and musical heritage, but I’ve discovered Camden has many hidden gems.
Here are five of my favourites:
A buzzing cosmopolitan strip, Parkway is my favourite street in Camden. A barbershop, a delicatessen and traditional Italian restaurants, together, give the street its old world charm. While trendy tea houses and cafes cater to the modern palette. Drinkers soak up the sun alfresco-style at corner pubs. Diners line the sidewalk, waiting outside eateries offering a melting pot of cuisines including Japanese, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Spanish and French. It’s also where you’ll find Camden’s best coffee, the syrupy-sweet Monmouth blend from The Coffee Jar.
2. Rock ‘n’ Roll at Underworld
Located beneath the iconic World’s End pub in the heart of Camden, this venue has been compared to New York’s (now defunct) rock‘n’roll institution, CBGB’s. Complete with toting graffiti-scrawled bathrooms – usually crammed with a swarm of dripping bodies – and poster-plastered walls, Underworld hosts an array of international acts. It’s a great mid-sized space able to accommodate the world’s best bands whilst retaining an intimacy usually lost on larger venues. Dark, dingy and bursting with energy, this place is everything a rock‘n’roll dive bar should be.
3. Banana Karma Shake from InSpiral
For a post-weekend detox, or if I’m craving a health kick, InSpiral eco cafe is my first port of call. Perched on the east side of Camden lock, they specialise in raw organic superfoods and offer an innovative selection of vegetarian and vegan treats. Downstairs by the canal is the perfect place to sample their range of organic beers and ciders – or if you’re feeling adventurous – the zesty kombucha mojito.
4. Melissa’s decadent desserts
If the aroma of freshly baked pastry doesn’t lure you inside, the sight of giant sugar-smothered walnut pretzels in the window definitely will. Melissa Patisserie and Confectionery is a Romanian-run bakery providing ridiculously cheap, top-quality sweet and savoury delights which will make you drool. With luscious chocolate éclairs, crispy macaroons and fluffy cheese twists – plus pizzas for under £2 – it’s no surprise the queue often spills out the door and onto the high street.
5. Regent’s Park retreat
One of the reasons I love this neighbourhood is because it has all the action of the city with natural serenity just a stone’s throw away. My weekly recharge involves taking the five minute stroll to Regent’s Park for a bit of rejuvenation and respite from the big-smoke. One of London’s largest parks, it boasts a horde of attractions. You can work up a sweat on the sports fields, linger on the grass by the pond or amble in one of the many stunning gardens. For the scenic route, take the canal walk west from Camden lock, which usually provides a novel sight: houseboat (garage) sales, singing African herbsmen, a ‘pirate castle’ and Feng Shang Princess – an incongruous floating Chinese restaurant.