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Camden, London Travel Guide

Camden Summary

Pros

  • Vibrant and eclectic hub where all cultures are welcome
  • Camden Market is home to over 1,000 diverse vendors
  • Great live music scene, with up-and-coming acts and big-name artists
  • Tasty cheap eats with lots of top-notch street food  
  • Fabulous nightlife including burlesque and LGBT venues
  • Camden Lock for boat trips along Regent’s Canal to Little Venice
  • Views over London from grassy Primrose Hill 

Cons

  • Can be super touristy -- weekends can be insanely busy here
  • The unorthodox charm and some of the goods on sale won’t be to everyone’s taste

What It's Like

Camden has long been regarded as the home of London’s alternative scene, and its eclectic free-and-easy atmosphere has been enticing visitors for decades. Sure, it’s an assault on the senses and super touristy -- weekend crowds rival those in Piccadilly Circus -- but this offbeat pocket of North London has managed to retain its authentic vibe. Art is appreciated in all forms here, whether it’s graffiti on the walls, pastel-painted terrace houses (you’ll find these on Hartland Road), buskers, or market stalls pumping out bass music. When you add cutting-edge designers and wild nightlife to the mix, Camden feels a like a place where anything is possible.

In traveler terms, "Camden" means Camden Town. Visitors flock to Camden Market, where over 1,000 stalls sell everything from vinyl records to antiques and fetish gear. While the market is technically a series of markets -- and they all seem to blend together on the busy weekends -- the main areas are The Lock and The Stables (best for vintage gear), both of which are close to Camden Lock. Another big draw in the market is the food. At KERB Camden Market, visitors perch curbside or on top of any available surface to sample the offerings of the diverse street-food stalls. For eat-in restaurants, options range from modern fads -- like the Cereal Killer Cafe, serving up the rainbow-colored cereals of your childhood dreams -- to Mildred’s, one of London’s longest-standing vegetarian eateries. 

Camden has a strong music scene, with big-name artists playing KOKO, The Roundhouse, and the Electric Ballroom, and up-and-coming acts gigging at the likes of the Dublin Castle (a mecca for indie music and Britpop fans). One of Camden’s most famous residents was late British singer Amy Winehouse who lived -- and died -- here; there’s a statue of her in The Stables market. After hours, Camden comes alive with happening nightlife that includes a big burlesque and gay scene. 

When the atmosphere all gets a little too hectic, breathing space can be found along the tranquil Regent’s Canal. Hop on a canal boat from Camden Lock and cruise down to Little Venice, or stroll along the towpath. To Camden’s west, the grassy summit of Primrose Hill has some of the best views of London’s skyline. 

Where to Stay

There are a few budget hostels and mid-range chain hotels around Camden Lock and Camden High Street -- suiting those in need of nothing more than a place to crash after a night out. There are also a handful of independent bed-and-breakfasts and vacation rentals. Camden doesn't have many luxury hotels -- probably because many visitors prefer to stay in quieter, more traditional areas of London, but there are a couple of quality options closer to Chalk Farm and Primrose Hill.

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