It’s no secret that I love London. Despite working there Monday to Friday, I will always jump at the chance to spend some of my downtime there. Wandering the streets of the City is one of our favourite things to do; nipping down side roads and alleyways to find out where they lead and what treasures they hide. It’s been a while since we last spent a day exploring the City, so when I was challenged to explore King’s Cross and find out what it had to offer, it seemed like the perfect opportunity!
King’s Cross is actually part of London that we don’t know too well. We have been there a few times and it has so much to offer with plenty of hotels near King’s Cross station (we’ve stayed at Clink 78 before in one of their converted prison cells) and loads to do (we’ve been whisky tasting locally with Master of Malt, had dinner and drinks at the various bars in St Pancras, and caught a train up to Edinburgh using the overground service when we went there for Ben’s birthday). But, all that being said, we have never really thought to take a wander and see what the area has to offer. Which, looking back now, has been a massive error on our part, because having spent a few hours there this weekend just gone, we’ve discovered it’s an absolute treasure trove of things to do and – somehow – feels like it is miles away from London. We both felt like we had gone away for the weekend!
We barely scratched the surface of what the area has to offer having only 4-hours to explore (due to having to be elsewhere by 2pm) but we have already promised ourselves we will return in the future. But, for now, here’s what we discovered…
Platform 9 3/4
Despite being to King’s Cross lots of times in the past, I’ve never actually visited Platform 9 3/4 so I thought this was the perfect time to pop by. Having arrived there we were greeted with a huge crowd, security and cameras. I assumed this was just the usual set-up for a popular tourist attraction in a busy public space, however, this assumption was soon put right when numerous people informed me in replies to my Instastory that it was in fact 1st September and therefore the first day of term for Hogwarts – I had no idea! Later on in the day I then found out that in fact Jude Law and Eddie Redmayne were there meeting and greeting fans as part of their promo work for Fantastic Beasts 2. In true Penny style, I had not a single clue and just wandered off when I saw how long the queue was. Whoops!
King’s Cross Swing
Situated just outside the stations is the large outside swing. This has, in the past, been lit up at night with bright, neon lights, but during the day it’s a simple white cage with a swing inside that you can swing on for free. When we went there was a little gathering of people waiting for their turn – young and old – so I didn’t get a chance to have a go myself, but I’ve seen it pop up in quite a few people’s Instagram photos in the past and it’s a great little novelty thing to do for free if you want to get a photo!
Public Jukebox & Piano
Situated within St Pancras station you can also find a public jukebox full of tunes to be played (we got there when it was playing some old school rock) and there’s also a piano to be found elsewhere in the station, which had a little old man tinkling the ivories when we passed by, playing an array of tunes from Disney tunes, seamlessly moving from one into the next as people gathered to listen.
British Museum of Food’s Ice Cream Museum (Scoop!)
Just a few minutes’ walk from the station is the converted Gasholders Building which have been repurposed into apartments and retail spaces. Within one of these is Scoop!, a museum teaching you all about the history of ice cream. Upon arriving we watched a short film before making our way through a door into a giant freezer (so cold!) and onward into the museum itself.
There’s old items displayed including recipes and ice cream making tools, and from there you go into a kitchen area where you have the chance to make ice cream for yourself. Helped through the process, you mix the ingredients in a cocktail-style shaker and after 3-minute of vigorous shaking I actually managed to make a small amount of ice cream and it wasn’t at all bad! Whilst there we also got to sample some of the new Ben & Jerry’s low fat ice cream which is only around 128 calories per serving and is absolutely delicious, as well as a glow-in-the-dark whippy-style ice cream with a honey and B12 sauce (so tasty!)
This is a great little area, buzzy and full of people without being absolutely crammed full of people. There are small fountains which create a great little play area of children and dogs alike and, having visited on a sunny day, it was absolutely chocker with happy screams of delight as kids ran through them.
We stopped off here for a little bit of brunch at a restaurant called The Caravan. I opted for scrambled egg on sourdough toast with a freshly pressed apple juice and Ben had the same with the addition of smoked salmon. The restaurant itself reminded us both of Amsterdam, and in particular Amsterdam Noord, with its laidback yet industrial vibe.
King’s Cross Canopy Market
We stumbled across this little gem, situated just around the corner from Granary Square. A range of coffee, craft beer, fresh produce, street food and live music, it’s vibrant and full of life with a great buzz about it.
Wandering from the St Pancras Lock, you can follow the path down the waters side and see a different side of life. For us, this part in particular felt like we were somewhere totally different – on holiday, far away from London.
Clean and leafy, the sun dancing on the water, it was only the sight of the red London buses driving across a bridge ahead of us that brought us back to the reality of where we were. There were house boats moored along the bank, a swan and it’s cignets drifting lazily along the water, a heron looking for it’s next meal, plus an incredible floating bookshop outside which sat a few people lost in the stories they were reading. If you’re looking for something with a little more action than a quiet wander, there are party boats or boat tours available to be booked, which would make a great way to spend a few hours.
After over 4-hours of walking around, my knee was just about ready to give up, so it was time for us to call it a day, but as we had football that afternoon, we decided to go from St Pancras to Stratford International using the Javelin Train – a first for us! I was pretty excited about going on a super-fast train, but as we were only going one stop, I didn’t get to see the benefit of it, but it’s definitely better than going via the Underground for this route!
All in all, we had a brilliant time and were so impressed by what we saw. King’s Cross has so much to offer and there is such a great variety of places to visit from shops to restaurants and bars, various attractions, or even just spending time outside appreciating the canal and its surroundings.
We have both said we want to go back again in the future and spend more time there seeing what it has to offer as we feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface!
I feel like every time I spend time in London I end up leaving it more in love with the City, and this was no exception. I haven’t visited every City in the world, but I’m inclined to feel that London might just be the very best of them all.
* In Collaboration With Brand – spending money was provided Hotels.com, however all opinions are my own, as always *