How to spend 24 hours in Camden
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary stay at the Holiday Inn Camden Lock – however, all views on this post are mine, and my review aims to be unbiased. If there’s something I don’t genuinely like or enjoy, you won’t find it here.
A couple of centuries ago, Samuel Johnson famously said “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” – so we decided to put that to the test with a staycation. Here’s how to spend 24 hours in Camden:
What we did:
First day ( 5pm – 10pm)
We arrived at Camden on a rainy Saturday afternoon, around 5 pm. Eager and ready to explore, we decided to check-in at the Holiday Inn Camden Lock and drop our stuff off.
As the hotel is in front of Camden Market, we went for an exploratory browse of the stalls, making a mental note of what we wanted to try the next morning because we had dinner reservations.
I had wanted to try a Caribbean restaurant since I went to Notting Hill Carnival a couple of years ago, so when I heard of Guanabana (85 Kentish Town Rd, London NW1 8NY) I was sold.
We got there at 6 pm and got seated almost immediately. As a starter we had the Pickled Cactus Fries (£6) to share, and for mains I had the half jerk chicken (which included a salad, rice with beans and plantain, £14.50) and Tim had the curry lamb (which also included a salad, rice with beans and plantain, £15.50).
The seasoning on all of the dishes was stunning: Tim said the lamb curry tasted sweet and wasn’t spicy, and every component in my plate blended together in bites of spicy and savoury.
Content with our dinner, we decided to walk the calories off and have a stroll around the neighbourhood to look at some of the street art and to try to find a spot to have a drink.
We settled to have a pint at Dingwalls‘s roof terrace across the river from the hotel, and in spite of the rain (and thanks to their patio heaters) we enjoyed the atmosphere and our drinks. By 10 pm, we decided to head back and get ready for a full day of adventuring on Sunday.
Second day (8 am to 6pm)
We chose to have our breakfast in the hotel because Camden Market and a lot of the nearby shops don’t open until 10am, so keep that in mind!
When the markets opened, we beelined towards one of our favourite shops in Camden – Cyberdog. They’re a neon-filled, in-your-face clothing and accessory retail chain which tends to create apparel specifically for raves and festivals. Their store is filled with flashing lights, UV-fluorescent products and there are products for everyone – they have toddlers, children and adult sections.
Around 11.30am, we decided to visit the Vagina Museum – a free museum completely dedicated to tackling the stigma around anatomy and educating people about some myths and misconceptions about our reproductive organs. All in all, we were there for about 15 minutes, so if you’re passionate about gender, sexuality and feminism – this should go straight in your list!
For lunch, we decided to head to the lockside part of the market. Tim decided to go for the Yorkshire Burrito with beef (£9.50) and I decided to try the Paella (£9) with some mulled wine (£3). I wasn’t particularly impressed with my food, but Tim gave the Yorkshire beef burrito a 5* review. I mean… it looks delicious, doesn’t it?
We took some time to explore the indoor vintage markets, that sell anything from analogue cameras to old watches. In the markets, you can find dresses, shirts, shoes, hats but also paintings and even some street signs for purchase!
After about an hour of browsing, we picked up some coffee at Camden Cafe (worth a visit for the indoor seating with a view to the rest of the market) and headed out towards Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park via the Regent’s Canal.
The area near Primrose Hill is iconic for its Instagrammable pastel houses, but the views from the top of the hill are a must-see. On a clear day, you can see The Shard, The Gherkin, The Walkie Talkie (20 Fenchurch Street), St Paul’s Cathedral, The London Eye and the BT Tower.
After letting the views sink in – and many selfies later – we went on the hunt for a snack that got highly recommended to us: a carrot cupcake from Primrose Bakery (69 Gloucester Ave, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8LD). At £2.95, it was the perfect snack to take on a stroll around Regent’s Park. Sweet and raisin filled, I wish I had bought a box rather than a single one!
Now we only needed a warm drink… so we walked back to Camden Market in search of the ultimate hot chocolate – Chin Chin’s Marshmallow topped one (£4.95). This velvety drink, topped with a fluffy and thick marshmallow fluff is the perfect autumn drink.
Before heading back home, we couldn’t forget to pick up some souvenirs from our trip. We headed into To Home From London, a stall inside of Camden Market selling London-themed goods. Their range is designed by them and it includes a variety of products – from prints to mugs and jumpers. We picked up 4 magnetic coasters (£15) which we’ve been using every day, so it’s safe to say it’s a well-loved souvenir that will remind us of our staycation for years to come.
Where we stayed:
Just a five-minute walk from Camden Town tube station lies the Holiday Inn Camden Lock (30 Jamestown Rd, Camden Town, London NW1 7BY). This hidden gem is centrally located and is close to all the major transport links (it takes about 15 minutes by tube to get from King’s Cross to the hotel). Because it faces its namesake – the Camden Lock – and the Regent’s Canal, if you stay in one of the Lock Rooms, the Executive Suite or the Penthouse you get to see a birds-eye view of the bustle and hustle of the neighbourhood. Something I loved about my stay was that when we woke up for sunrise, we could barely hear anything… but as the city woke up, so did the market.
If you stay there, you can have breakfast at the hotel – they have your typical breakfast options, some dairy-free and gluten-free items and a pancake making station! – or can walk less than two minutes to the Camden Markets where there’s a plethora of options to choose from
What do to if you have some extra time:
If you’ve read our itinerary and have found yourself with more time to kill – congratulations! You must be a pro at planning your routes.
Here’s some things I wish we coud’ve done this time around, but will do the next time we visit:
- Pop into the Jazz Cafe – hailed as one of London’s premier live music venues, and where artists like Amy Winehouse and Adele have performed at – and listen to some live Jazz, Rap, R&B, Soul or whatever’s on the rota that day. Many up and coming artists tend to play there, so if you enjoy discovering new genres and artists, this is a must-do.
- The London Zoo: If you’re looking for a family-friendly option, the London Zoo is within Regent’s Park, and features lions, zebras, meerkats, giraffes, otters and penguins. It’s great fun, and your visit helps the conservation efforts of the Zoo. Win-win!
- Little Venice: Following the same route to Primrose Hill from Camden Lock, continue walking West (just North from Paddington) for about 45 minutes until you find the spot where the Grand Union and Regent’s canals meet. Famous for its similarities to its Italian cousin, you can find cafes inside boats and delicious pasta and pizza on-premises. The scenery does not disappoint, and it’s the perfect spot for a romantic walk.
- Visit Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill to look at some beautiful architecture. If you walk up the top of Parliament Hill, you can get some more skyline views of London that mirror those of Primrose Hill
Do you have any recommendations on what should we look at in Camden next? Let me know in the comments!