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I was a little worried when the London local we met at Borough Markets said “Don’t go to Camden. They’ve ruined it.”
We were planning to go the following day on a Sunday, and I had been excited about visiting. Camden was a regular Sunday day out for my friends and I when I lived in London from 1997-99.
I loved it for its grungy alternative vibe with a proclivity for punk rock. It’s a London neighborhood known for the Camden Markets and its live music scene. Many famous artists from around the world have played here or got their start here, or sadly, died here.
I was excited to take the girls to experience this different side of London. Was the ultimate day in Camden I had planned going to be a flop?
We went anyway and had an enjoyable day. Thankfully, we know how to create a great travel day regardless. And in this post we’re adding in more than just Camden Markets and including a canal boat ride, a Sunday pub roast, and a visit to one of London’s best parks!
Camden Town sure has changed since 1997. It’s gotten a little yuppified, but not too much to overshadow its personality. Camden still boldly states, “anything and anyone is welcome – pink mohawks or not.”
We ended up staying in Camden for four nights at the Holiday Inn at Camden Lock for the last four nights of our London trip after returning from Oxford and Bath.
Most people will be visiting Camden London just for the day, so we’ve created an ultimate day out in Camden Town guide for you.
Where is Camden Town?
Camden Town is in North London, right next to Regent’s Park (and the zoo), and on Regent Canal and the Camden Locks.
You could actually walk to Covent Garden in the West End of London in about 45-minutes.
Its location is quite ideal for the city center. It’s also easy to get to Camden on the tube line. It’s on the black northern line which runs right through Central London.
For this day out in Camden, you’ll start in Little Venice, which is about 2.5 miles west of Camden, on the other side of Regents Park.
Little Venice is only a five-minute walk from Paddington Station (Green or yellow line)
When to visit Camden Town?
Although open every day, the best time to visit Camden Markets would be the weekend, specifically Sunday. This is the busiest time – so avoid it if you don’t like that – but I love the buzzing atmosphere of a Sunday out at Camden Markets.
The markets open at 10am but really don’t start ramping up until about midday. Our guide below will give you ample time to enjoy the day.
Beany Coffee and Lamingtons
Start at the colorful and funky Australian owned café, Beany Green, on Regent’s Canal on Little Venice. We ate breakfast at our hotel as it was included, but you could also eat here. I can verify from ogling diner’s plates, it looked sensational.
We grabbed a coffee and a few irresistible lamingtons – a favorite Aussie cake. Beany has a wide variety of flavors, including rainbow-colored lamingtons. I was thrilled that they had gluten free lamingtons which were delicious!
It’s a perfect companion for your canal boat ride through the Regents Park area!
Right near here is also the vibrant, graffiti wrapped boat, Darcie & May, also owned by Beany and known for great brunches. We were going to do this first but were unsure if it was family-friendly?
Beany Green has various locations around London. I actually found their coffee to be quite average (and we tried two locations), which surprised me due to its Aussie roots.
But I still recommend you get a hot drink and lamington here to start your day in a fun way!
Now walk with your coffee and lamingtons along the canal path to the Pool of Little Venice for your canal boat ride to Camden.
Canal Boat Ride, Little Venice to Camden Markets
How did I never know about the Regents Canal winding through North London?
This nine mile ribbon of water runs from Little Venice to the Thames at Limehouse (where it spills into the Thames) and offers visitors a chance to experience a quieter side of the capital.
Regent’s Canal was built during the early 19th Century to link the Grand Junction Canal’s Paddington Arm, which opened in 1801, with the Thames at Limehouse.
What was once a busy cargo transportation route has become leisurely waterways through London offering people a tranquil place to walk, paddle, or boat ride.
Arriving by boat along Regent Canal will take your Camden Markets experience to the next level. We joined the London Waterbus Company for their tour at Little Venice near the pretty Browning’s Pool.
The relaxing and picturesque 40-minute canal ride will take you along Regents Canal, through the 248m Maida Hill tunnel, and past the exclusive neighborhoods of Maida Vale and Primrose Hill, with homes of celebrities, and expansive and landscaped back gardens of grand houses.
The narrow boats have glass windows, so views are plentiful.
Commentary along the way will tell you about the history of the canals, the quirky houseboats that line it, and interesting stories about the locals.
You’ll also go past the Feng Shang Princess, an elegant floating Chinese restaurant, Regent’s Park, and the London Zoo, where you’ll learn about the day a gorilla escaped!
Keep an eye out for African wild dogs, which can often be seen in their canalside enclosures. We saw them in Africa, and they are cool animals!
And then you’ll finish at Camden Lock in the center of Camden Markets.
While I enjoyed the experience a lot, I was quite appalled to see the canals filled with rubbish. When we went past the stand up paddle board rental area, I gave a firm “Hard Pass”.
It would be a fun way to experience Regents Canal, but imagine if you fell in? I’m surprised the local council and community isn’t doing more to clean up the filthy canals, especially since the Thames is such a clean river.
Anyway, rant over.
We caught the 9:45am canal boat, which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the day’s planned activities.
The London Pass by Go City has Jason’s Original Canal Boat Trip as an included attraction. The London Canal Museum in Kings Cross, is also an attraction on the pass. It’s the only museum dedicated to London’s inland waterways.
Whether it’s worth it to utilize the Go City Pass for this attraction, or book direct with Get Your Guide above, depends on how many attractions you have included on your pass. I save the most expensive attractions for the pass, and then pay direct for the cheaper ones. You have to run the math.
Explore Camden Markets
The smells of fish and chips, Indian Curries, and pizza envelop you as soon as you get off the canal boat. The international food stalls continue as you make your way through the cobblestoned alleys of Camden Markets, one of the most famous markets in the world.
Camden Market began in 1974 with only sixteen small arts and crafts stalls in the backyard of Dingwall’s, an iconic London music venue (now known as Powerhaus).
It’s grown from a small Sunday only market to the largest market in London open daily.
There are over 1,000 diverse, independent stalls filled with handmade jewelry, vintage clothes, on-trend clothing, and quirky gifts. It may not be the place of cheap clothes and products anymore, but you still may pick up a bargain.
There are too many cool stores to mention, so wander and find something that resonates with you. I bought some ceramic coasters – a new souvenir hobby collection of mine! To Home from London is a fun place with quirky souvenirs. Koko Art paints custom designs on converse boots.
The market is made up of two main markets: Camden Stables Market, previously a horse stable and hospital, and Camden Lock Market. You’ll find plaques on the wall telling the history of the area.
A life-size bronze statue of singer Amy Winehouse is located in the Stables Market. She was tiny! Amy Winehouse was a much-loved Camden local.
Across the road is Hawley Wharf, a new area of Camden which has eateries and boutique shops. The people gazing and store browsing continues as you walk down the main street of Camden.
Be sure to look up at the unique building facades. You’ll find colorful wall murals and giant 3D artworks emerging out of facades from voluptuous lips to Chinese dragons and sexy boots.
Also new along the main street is Buck Street Market, which was an open air market when I lived here. This area is made of recycled shipping containers and houses, 26 sustainable food brands and more than 50 ethical fashion traders.
Duck down the side streets in Camden Town as well to find more stores and street art. Many people like to walk the main street from Camden Lock north to Chalk Farm Tube station.
Sunday Roast at Edinboro Castle Pub
You can’t come to London (or England) without experiencing a Sunday roast!
One of our favorite pubs in London (we went here twice) was the beer garden of the Edinboro Castle Pub.
Located a few streets back from the main Camden Town and less grungy than many of the other pubs in the region, the Edinboro is a wonderful place to rest your feet, soak up neighborhood vibes with a delicious pub lunch and local brew.
The beer garden is decked out with small red heated drinking booths and lights strung up between the shady trees. Inside is just as nice if you prefer that.
On Sundays, they have their Sunday roast, which, except for the Yorkshire Pudding, is gluten free, including the gravy!
They had a delicious gluten free beer on tap here too!
If you visit on any other day of the week, it’s still worth coming to the Edinboro for lunch, or even just a pint.
Walk along the Canal
Back to experience more of Regent Canal, this time from the perspective of the walking path beside it. Now you can wave to those cruising by in the boats.
It’s only a short 15 minute walk from here to the beautiful Regents Park, one of the most diverse of the London Royal Parks.
Regents Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks and covers an area of 395 acres.
Its beauty unravels as you walk across grassy meadows, past water sculptures and topiaries, through colorful, blooming gardens, and across multiple playgrounds. Regents Park has the largest outdoor area in London.
Somehow, we missed the memo for celebrity haven, Primrose Hill, which is an extension of Regents Park, near the northern entrance as you come from Camden. It’s said to have excellent city views of the city skyline from its 63m summit. (read our top London views here).
Take your pick for what you want to explore and experience
- Queen Mary’s Gardens is best known for the nearly 12,000 roses that bloom each June.
- ZSL London Zoo is located in Regents Park. Established in 1828, it’s the oldest zoological research facility in the world. TBH, we don’t visit zoos and wouldn’t give up my valuable time exploring what is unique to London to visit here. But we’re all different! (Included on the GoCity London Pass)
- The Boating Lake has paddle boats for rent, with hand-paddle boats for kids in their Children’s Boating Lake.
- There are nine eateries in Regents Park serving mostly lunches, snacks, and coffees.
- Avenue Gardens, a wide path flanked by formal gardens and seasonal flowers. In the center is the Griffin or Lion Tazza, a large circular stone bowl supported by four-winged stone lions. You will see lion statutes – a sign of courage – all over London.
- Cherry blossoms: We just stumbled upon the Avenue after following the road lined with cherry blossom trees. Take a right and you’ll find more cherry blossoms and other flowers. We were so lucky for this timing!
Depending on what time you finish in Regents Park, you can return to Camden, or jump on a tube to wherever you want to go next. There are several tube stations near Regents Park serving multiple lines.
Here’s what you can do if you return to Camden Town:
A Drink at Camden Town Pub (or live music)
How you close out the day depends on where you are staying and what you want to do next.
There are plenty of pubs and restaurants along the main street and side streets as well. As we stayed in Camden for four nights, Craig and I would duck out for a pint or two while the girls (we have a teenager) stayed in our hotel room relaxing.
As mentioned, Camden is well known for its live music scene. There are more live gig sites here than in any other London neighbourhood.
Check out these Camden Town Pubs:
- Hawley Arms: Known as Amy’s pub as she frequented often. It has the Camden feel of old – punk, grunge and full of fun. It’s prone to singing and dancing breakouts by staff and clientele.
- Dublin Castle is a pub that is also a live music venue that helped start the careers of Blur, Coldplay, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys and Muse! Also frequented by Amy Winehouse.
- The Oxford Arms is a family-owned English pub with good traditional pub food.
- Elephants Head is a historical pub, which once belonged to the Camden Town brewery. It was rocking out one night when we walked past with my patrons singing and dancing loudly!
- Worlds End is legendary in Camden for its unique alternative vibe. It’s where I would hang out when I lived in London. It’s huge with two bars and lots of nooks and crannies.
Alternative Finish: British Museum to Covent Garden
You may be too tired to walk anymore, but if not here is a great finish to your day in Camden.
On our first visit to Camden, we did this British Museum/Covent Garden alternative instead of going to Regents Park.
As Regents Park is so close to Camden Town, I recommend you do that instead. But here is an alternative in case.
You can walk to the British Museum (it’s free) after your Sunday roast at the Edinboro Castle Pub.
We’re not museum people, but this museum was phenomenal. We only spent an hour, which was pretty good for us, but I could have spent longer.
I loved the Egyptian Mummy section, especially Gebelein Man, one of the museums oldest mummies.
The mummified man was buried in a crouching position around 3500 BC in Egypt and was discovered in 1896, at Gebelein, about 25 miles (40km) south of Thebes, in Egypt,
His body was naturally preserved with the hot, dray sand he was buried in.
Near this London Museum is the historic Plough Pub. It’s. We recommend stopping in this quite refined yet very cozy pub for lunch or just a pint!
Our good friends from Raleigh, Curt and Jenny, recommended it to us as their favorite pub in London. Curt’s dad’s ashes sit in this pub, so we popped in to say G’day and have a drink with him.
You can then walk to Covent Garden for the evening via Soho. Harry Potter fans will want to stop in at The House of MinaLima.
This gallery and store, situated in the heart of Soho, showcases the graphic art of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films, all of which was exclusively designed by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima. It was incredible!
It made Kalyra’s top 7 things to do in London for teens list.
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Camden Lock
Consider staying in Camden. We stayed at the 4-Star Holiday Inn situated right on the Camden Lock for four nights as guests of the hotel.
We were very surprised at the number of kids staying at the hotel. I wouldn’t normally typically consider Camden an overly family friendly place, nor for a place for tourists to stay, but we really enjoyed it.
Here’s one reason families love it:
Kids aged 17 and under stay for free when sharing their parents’ room. Up to four kids ages 12 and under eat free any time of the day in any Holiday Inn® on-site restaurant.
Our girls absolutely loved being able to grab some snacks – i.e chocolate – as they came in after a long day exploring. Well played Holiday Inn.
Seasonal monthly menus created from fresh ingredients and light snacks can be enjoyed in the 24 hr Lobby Bar, which also serves Starbucks coffees.
The hotel is only a few steps away from Camden Markets, and only five minutes walk to the tube station, offering easy access into the city via the northern (black) tube line. You could even walk down into Covent Garden in about 40 minutes.
As mentioned, since we travel with a teen now, Craig and I could duck out of an evening to enjoy the Camden nightlife with a few drinks at some pubs, some with live music, and all with a really cool Camden vibe.
The rooms are small, which is to be expected for London hotels, but they were comfortable and more than adequate since we spent so little time in them.
Their buffet breakfast had plenty of options and was the perfect hearty start to a day of exploring.
The hotel has a Camden vibe with local artwork adorning the walls, a 24-hour bar, and a very cool mural that shares the music history of this London neighborhood.
You may like home rentals in Camden instead. Click here to see what is available via VRBO!
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More helpful London Content (from our trip)
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