Camden Town: People Watching and Pigging Out
Introduction: Camden Town Station
Welcome to Camden Town. You should be standing in front of the tube station, looking across the road at a Barclays Bank.
You are also probably surrounded by many people because Camden gets notoriously busy. This area doubles as a great place for People-Watching and "Pigging Out" – you'll hear more about that in a bit.
My name is Maame Blue, I am a Londoner and your guide for this tour. Before we start, let me explain how it will work.
VoiceMap uses your location to play commentary automatically. You can put your phone away, and focus on the surroundings. I might be quiet now and again, but just keep walking unless I tell you otherwise. My voice will kick in again when you reach each location.
Let's get going. We're heading in the direction of Barclays Bank, so let's cross over at the junction in front of you.
Camden High Street: Cash Machines
Stop here for a moment at Barclays. You are very likely to see people queuing for the cash machine. But on the left, next door to Barclays, is another bank called RBS. They also have a cash machine hole in the wall, with absolutely no queue. People always miss it, so that’s a tip from me to you.
Now is a good time to get money out as you’ll soon be entering Camden Town market. If you want to buy something, it’s just easier to do if you have cash on you. I personally prefer to avoid the awkward fumbling with a credit card. Or worse, desperately searching for a cash machine while the amazing ice cream that’s just been scooped for me starts to melt. But that’s just me.
I’ll wait for you to get cash. When you're ready, head up Camden High Street with Barclays on your left. I'll meet you a bit further along.
Walk along Camden High Street
While we’re walking, we can play a little game I call “Count how many people stop in the middle of your path suddenly looking lost, causing you to accidentally walk into them”.
It’s a working title, but if it never happens to you on this walk, then you get ten points! There's no reward for points. But at least you won't have walked into anyone!
Inverness Street: A Pit Stop
This is just a quick pit stop to point out some of the interesting things on Inverness Street to your left.
If you head down it later after this tour, you'll find a comic book shop, some market stalls and a lovely Spanish bar to replenish yourself from all the people watching we'll be doing.
But for now, let's keep walking up Camden High Street and leave Inverness Street behind.
Camden High Street: Shoes and Haircuts
So as you walk up Camden High Street you’ll see that there are lots of shoe shops lining the road, like Aldo, 4Feet and one of my personal favourites, Destiny. If you’re a sole traveller and you appreciate a good shoe, Camden is definitely the place for you. Plus, if you look up, you will see some big sculptures of shoes above each respective shoe shop. The artwork and creativity is another great thing about Camden.
And that brings us to another game I like to play here: Spot the best haircut! Camden is well known for its amazing punk hairstyles and fashion. So 10 points for spotting the best haircut, and an extra point if you spot an authentic Mohawk. Taking on the Camden crowds is hard work right? I think it’s almost time for a "pig out" stop. By the way, for those of you who don’t know, pigging out just means eating something tasty. It’s not as gross as it sounds.
Turn Left on Jamestown Road
Let's turn left here on Jamestown Road.
Pig Out Pit Stop: The Diner - American Breakfast
Welcome to The Diner. It's the restaurant on the other side of the road, so stop here for a moment. I'll tell you a bit about it.
I have picked The Diner because it’s one of my favourite places to go for a good, American-style breakfast, free refills on coffee, and most importantly, People Watching. It’s also fun because the wait staff dress like they’re from the fifties and the service always comes with a smile.
I’ve observed some great groups of American tourists in The Diner; they must be drawn towards the familiar food and great service. If you're an American tourist, I suggest you try the breakfast just to test its authenticity.
But if you’ve been clever and brought a packed lunch with you as a well-seasoned traveller would, I suggest just popping in for a quick coffee, tea, shake or juice.
Once you leave the Diner, go back to Camden High Street and turn left.
Punks and Starbucks
Stop here before the bridge for a second. If you're lucky, you might see some punks charging people to take pictures with them. That's an interesting exchange to watch if you ask me.
There's a Starbucks on your left, with rooftop seating for the more adventurous coffee lover. When you've had enough of watching punks, take a walk down the path on the right side of Starbucks, to get a better view of the canal. I'll meet you at another bridge further down.
Head to the middle of the bridge
Let's walk to the middle of the bridge for a spot of People Watching.
Stop on the bridge to People Watch
Now stop and lean against the edge of the bridge. There are often people sitting on the edge of the canal, and some walking dangerously close to the edge. Some of us Londoners are Dare Devils. I suppose you'd win the people watching game if you actually saw someone fall in.
When you're ready, follow the path off the bridge.
Turn right into Camden Lock Market
We're turning right here into Camden Lock Market. Let's stop just inside the passage. On your left, you'll see a restaurant called Cafe Chula.
I suggest stepping into this cafe for a Mexican hot chocolate, a juice or even a margarita if you're feeling fancy.
Or, your appetite might be wet for the street food market ahead. A few of my favourites are the falafel stand, the Bit Burger stand, and any stand selling pulled pork. I suggest you take your time and choose carefully, but don't take too long, because all the food might be gone!
Can you see the steps to your far left, and the shop next to them with a blue sign called Village Games? I'll meet you there when you're ready.
Turn left out of the World Street Food Market
Take a left turn here at Village Games out of the food market and into the main Camden Lock Market.
Follow the path through the market place
Now follow the path through the market.
This is also a great place to stop and look at the market stalls with its trinkets, cool t-shirts and numerous novelty lighters.
It's exactly the kind of thing you took the cash out for, unless you've spent it all on food. In which case I completely understand — this is after all, partly a Pigging Out tour.
Quick Pig Out Pit Stop: Chin Chin Labs
Speaking of food, check out Chin Chin Labs on your right for Liquid Nitrogen frozen ice cream! Amazing! If you stop to check it out, just keep going straight along the path when you're done.
Exit back onto Camden High Street
Now that you've perused a small bit of the market, continue straight with Chin Chin Labs on your right, and exit back onto Camden High Street.
You can always come back to the market and explore its deeper realms after the tour because now you know where it is!
Camden High Street and Chalk Farm Road
Turn left here into Camden High Street, which will eventually merge into Chalk Farm Road.
This is a good time to take in some London air away from all those crowds back in the market. Maybe not too much though, sometimes the London Smog can be a bit heavy.
So what did you think of the food market? I'm always delighted by the new stalls that pop up there each week. And Pigging Out there is just as good as the People Watching.
Walking to the second entrance
We're on our way to the second entrance of Camden Lock Market now. There are many more stalls behind the wall on your left. While we walk to the entrance, let me tell you about two of my favourite places, which you'll find inside.
There's a Morrocan shisha bar called Marrakech. I'm not a smoker myself, but if you've never had flavoured Shisha smoke before, it's a good place to try it. Order a fresh mint leaf tea with it and you've got a relaxation moment on your hands. Plus, their outdoor seating is located in the optimal People-Watching position.
Another place I will suggest is the Cereal Killer Café. If you like breakfast cereals from all over the world, crazy milk flavours and sweets with your meal, I can't recommend it enough. Go just for the experience, I dare you! If not now, then later.
Second entrance to Camden Lock Market
Stop here for a moment and look to your left. This is the other entrance to Camden Lock Market. There are two large robot statues standing as guards in front of a building.
As you can see, this section of the market is also lined with food stalls, just like the other side of the market. You'll find Marrakech on your immediate left behind the entrance.
You don't have to go in right now of course, but it's something to keep in mind for later on in your trip if you have the time.
When you're ready, just carry on past the entrance.
There are many more restaurants lining the street here on Chalk Farm Road. You might have already guessed, Camden is obsessed with good food. What's more, Londoners love food from all over the world. So wherever you might hail from, I suggest you try some food that claims to come from your land of origin, and see how it compares.
Just keep walking, and I'll leave you in silence for a while to scrutinise the culinary offerings to your heart's content!
Have a look to your right. I want to point out a pretty wonderful bagel shop across the road. It's called Bowery Bagels and Beans and they do the best New York style bagels I have ever had in London. Plus, they have cool seating with comfy chairs and good music. If you want to get one now, meet me further down the road when you're ready.
While we walk, perhaps I should tell you a little bit more about me.
As I mentioned at the beginning, my name is Maame Blue. I'm a blogger and a writer of Ghanaian descent who was born and bred in London. I've stayed in other parts of the UK, but I consider this city my home.
There's nowhere else like it in my humble and extremely biased opinion, and I especially love London at night because everything seems to get a bit magical after 7pm.
Camden is one of my favourite places because I feel like it captures the eclectic nature of the city pretty well.
You've probably noticed how diverse the people are that we've been watching. That for me, is a good example of London as a whole.
I suggest you explore as much of it as you can, although even I know that it's quite a beast. I've probably only managed to see about 40% of it in my lifetime!
Heading to Primrose Hill
By now you might have noticed that there are not many people on this path we're walking, and perhaps you're wondering where on earth we're headed? Well, after all the crowd squeezing and stuffing of our faces, I thought we could walk off all that food and get some actual fresh air at a nearby park called Primrose Hill.
It's actually a small section of the much larger Regent's Park, which covers North West London. It holds London Zoo and some other very well-tended gardens.
Primrose Hill is, as you might imagine, a large grassy hill. But I promise you that when we get there, it will be worth it.
In the meantime, let's play another quick People Watching game of spotting as many denim jackets as we can. It seems to be a piece of clothing that's come back in fashion in the last few years. I confess that I also own one, but I'm not living in Camden so it doesn't count.
On your left is a large building called the Roundhouse. It holds live music, theatre, comedy and poetry shows. It's a great place to go for an evening, but I suspect a lot of denim wearers frequent its halls.
That's my hunch anyway. Let's keep going straight.
On to Regent's Park Road
Now turn left onto Regents Park Road. As you do, have a look at the large piece of artwork on the wall on your left.
Just like the shoe sculptures and giant robots, Camden's creativity pops up in all kinds of places, and street art is no exception.
The road we've turned onto is a quiet one in comparison to the hustle and bustle of Camden Town, but do not be fooled by Primrose Hill's demure appearance. This is a very wealthy area that requires a whole other type of People Watching!
For now I will leave you to enjoy your walk. I'll rejoin you further down the road.
The Regent's Park Road Bridge
We're going to turn left now onto the bridge. As you turn, have a look at the gym-like place called Fierce Grace Hot Yoga on your left.
Have you ever tried Hot Yoga? If you don't know what it is, it's basically exactly what it sounds like. It's regular yoga in very hot conditions, so that you sweat more when doing the Downward Dog or something.
But don't worry, I'm not asking you to go inside. I imagine this long walk is quite enough exercise for one day. At least it is for me and I'm only talking you through it.
I've never tried Hot Yoga and I have no plans to, but this is a very Primrose Hill-like thing to do.
Off the bridge
And we've made it across the bridge. This is the home stretch of our tour! Cross over and walk on the right side of Regent's Park Road.
Hopefully by now you've seen so much already, from denim clad, bearded, skinny-jean-wearing men, to punks with Mohawks, an American diner, foods from around the world, and even giant shoes. What more could you ask for on a tour really?
I'm sure you're hoping the end of this journey makes all this walking worth it, right? Me too!
The Primrose Hill District and a Recap
So my dear listener, as you've been walking you might have spotted some boutique baby clothes shops, such as Elias & Grace on the left side of the road. This means that you've been formally introduced to the district of Primrose Hill. It's a very charming area and notorious for its high population of "Yummy Mummies". Basically these are the mothers with designer baby prams or strollers, who look fantastically slim and athletic although they just popped out a baby. They also have a live-in nanny and enjoy amazingly wonderful lunches out with their fellow Yummy Mummy Chums. Some think they are a myth, but I know that Primrose Hill is where a lot of them reside.
I love coming here just to have an overpriced brownie in a local café. It's like watching movie magic in real life. Primrose Hill is what people imagine London to look like if they've never visited. They think it's like Oliver Twist. Everyone speaks in cockney accents and we all eat pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Actually, they're not that far off.
If you need to locate a bathroom, there's a pub called The Queens on your right.
They have a very clean public toilet, which you can use if you ask nicely, or buy an orange juice or something. I realise you might not want to take in more liquids, but it's a very British and polite thing to do when using the bathroom of a drinking establishment.
If you don't need to go, just keep walking straight.
Primrose Hill Entrance
Can you see the park entrance ahead of you? That's where we're going. Cross over the road to enter it.
Primrose Hill: The Ascension
Now that you’re inside the park, take the first path to the right and begin the ascension up the hill. I'll provide some motivation.
Come on, you can do it! Look at all the people around you, also walking up the hill! You're part of a wonderful, athletic group of people who understand the benefits of hill climbing to achieve their ultimate goals!
Ok that's enough. The first time I climbed this hill, I was sceptical about whether it would feel worth it when I reached the top. But this is a popular place for a reason, and now I can reveal why.
The top of Primrose Hill is an attractive place to watch the fireworks on New Year's because of the striking view of the city.
And in winter, on the rare occasion when it snows, children can be seen flinging themselves on sleds down the hill. That's when I like to play: "How many flailing child legs can I spot speeding down the hill as an anxious parent tries to race them to the bottom?"
FYI, the parent never wins.
Hopefully I've enticed you enough make it up the hill to the end of our walk. If not, count how many people are sitting on the grass around you, just to pass the time. I'll meet you at the top of the hill.
End of the Tour: Primrose Hill
Here, at the top of the hill, we'll play our final game called "Count the Selfie Sticks". Ten points for every stick you spot, and if you have one also, give yourself 50 points for being the best tourist you can be! And this is where I'll leave you; with a multitude of people watching points and well exercised thighs! I hope you've enjoyed this People Watching and Pigging Out Tour, and you manage to grab a well-deserved seat at the top of Primrose Hill.