How fast fortunes change in London; commercial centres spring up out of farms and fields, warehouses are abandoned, transformed into workshops then chic restaurants, and even royal castles fall into decline, crumbling slowly into the Thames. It's a constant wheel of change and activity, and nowhere is this more obviously than the new and improved Kings Cross, which has risen from the sooty dust of derelict warehouses and criminal dealings to become a chic, desirable modern hub, complete with convenient national and international transport connections.
Situated north of Fitzrovia and south of Camden, Kings Cross is just on the edge of North London, but still benefits from being short distance into the centre as well as an easy stroll to the glorious expanse of Regent's Park. The transformation that began in the 1980s is still not quite fully complete, with predictions estimating an end by 2020, and in this time the whole area has become unrecognisable. Former warehouses and storage buildings have become restaurants along the canal, glass-fronted apartments and offices have risen up from scrub land by the railway tracks, and the whole area is positively buzzing with activity, from local office workers visiting weekly street food markets, to students mooching around on the Central St Martins campus.
The arrival of creative and media institutions such as Central St Martins and the Guardian offices to the area has added another level of revitalisation to the area - rather than just a soulless modern space with new homes and a fancy train station, King's Cross has become an area to live, work and play in for all different types of people. City workers wanting a short commute, students for Central St Martins and UCL, French workers seeking an easy route back to Paris on the weekend and North London media professionals are all to be found in the area, although for families it's generally seen as a little too frantic and busy.
Culture is never far away with the British Library and the British Museum, and the rave lifestyle that developed in the warehouses before they were transformed can still be found at nearby clubs such as Egg. The restaurant scene is vibrant and independent, with some of the city's most interesting new eateries popping up here as well as street food traders, and for a taste of luxury there's always Searcy's Champagne Bar in St Pancras before hopping on a late train to the continent.
On a map
Kings Cross is situated in the boroughs of Camden and Islington in North London. It sits to the north of Fitzrovia and the south of Camden, and covers the postcode N1.
History of Kings Cross London
Records of life in Kings Cross date all the way back to AD60, when it was known as the village of Battlebridge. A major battle was held here between the Romans and the famous Iceni leader Boudica, who was rumoured for many years to be buried beneath platforms 9 and 10 at King’s Cross Station. A few hundred years later in AD597, a group of Roman monks arrived in the UK, determined to convert the population to Christianity. They built a church in the site where St Pancras Old Church sits today, dedicated to the martyr saint St Pancras, making this spot one of the oldest Christian worship sites in Europe.
For the next millennium or so the area was largely fields dotted with small commuter villages and roads out of London, until the completion of the Regent’s Canal and the arrival of factories including the Gasworks in the mid 1800s. The name King’s Cross arose when a sixty-foot high monument to King George IV was erected in 1830, and although the building was swiftly demolished just 15 years later, the name stuck. Not long after in 1852 the original King’s Cross railway station was built, followed by St Pancras station, and the area became a hub of activity focused around the railways, with housing for workers and storage buildings for handling and goods.
As industry slumped following the Second World War, Kings Cross became notorious for prostitution, crime and poverty, with many disused buildings and disheveled Victorian houses. In the 1980s a number of regeneration schemes began to transform the area, leading the the sleek, modern and very desirable Kings Cross area we see today.
Transport from Kings Cross London
Whether you're travelling to the City, south of the river or even internationally, it’s hard to beat Kings Cross for transport connections. Kings Cross St Pancras Underground Station covers a staggering 6 lines (Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Piccadilly, Northern and Victoria) making it easy to find a direct route to wherever you want to go. A journey to Liverpool Street takes a mere 8 minutes, while in the other direction a trip to Piccadilly Circus will only take 7 minutes.
Meanwhile Kings Cross Station serves trains travelling to destinations across the UK such as Cambridge, Leeds and York, while the neighbouring St Pancras Station has been the home of the Eurostar since 2007, offering speedy modern trains to European destinations including Paris, Lyon and Brussels.
Finally, for any other possible transport options, Euston Station is a short walk away and offers trains to destinations such as Edinburgh and Manchester, as well as the London Overground. The area is also served by many buses both day and night, and is walking distance from areas such as Fitzrovia, Bloomsbury and Regents Park among others.
Cost of living in Kings Cross London
As a result of it’s diverse history, Kings Cross offers a range of different property types, from converted factories and warehouses to new steel-and-glass constructions overlooking the canal, as well as Victoria housing built for railway workers and even the occasional canal boat.
However, unfortunately for those seeking an inner-city bargain, prices here have risen swiftly alongside the regeneration of the area and the chances of finding a cheap Victorian terrace primed for conversion are long gone. However, despite prices that have risen by an estimated 30% in just one year, the area is still cheaper on average for renting than in neighbouring Camden, Bloomsbury or Islington. As of March 2016, the average rental cost of a two bedroom apartment in Kings Cross is around £2600 per month, although similar properties can be found starting from £1400 per month.
Restaurants in Kings Cross London
Starting life as a small cafe on Exmouth Market, Caravan finally opened their main restaurant a few years ago, and they’ve been hugely popular ever since. Overlooking the lovely Granary Square and offering a sun-drenched terrace during the summer months, they serve a wholesome Modern European sharing menu with dishes including jalapeno corn bread and fried soft shell crab, as well as top-notch coffee made from their own small-batch beans.
Address: 1, Granary Building, Granary Square, London N1C 4AA
Phone:020 7101 7661
Just next door to Caravan, Grain Store is the brainchild of chef Bruno Loubet and drinks conisseur Tony Conigliaro, who came together to create a sustainable bar and restaurant in the heart of the newly-developed Kings Cross. Healthy and innovative, the dishes are filled with international influences such as aubergine with miso and focaccia bread with dukkah, and the cocktails are not to be missed.
Address: Granary Square, King's Cross, 1-3 Stable St, London N1C 4AB
Phone: 020 7324 4466
Forget Pizza Express - for a bargain pizza in a cool, warehouse-style restaurant, there’s only one place to go in King’s Cross. Pizza Union are famed for their delicious fire-baked Italian pizzas topped with fresh ingredients such as marscapone and parma ham, and with Prosecco at just £16 a bottle, it’s the ideal spot for dinner on a budget.
Address: 246-250 Pentonville Rd, London N1 9JY
Phone: 020 7278 9425
Shops in Kings Cross London
Indulge in your love for all things Harry Potter at the official Harry Potter Shop in Kings Cross, which is very appropriately situated at Platform 9 3/4. All the books can be bought here, as well as a wide range of merchandise including t-shirts for the different houses, magical mugs and even your very own personalised Hogwarts acceptance letter.
Address: 9 3/4, Kings Cross Station, London N1 9AP
Phone: 020 7803 0500
Keeping all your gourmet gift needs covered, this small branch of iconic London luxury department store Fortnum & Mason may not be as big as its Mayfair sibling, but it certainly has everything you could want, from loose-leaf tea and champagne to generous hampers packed with goodies. They’ve even managed to squeeze a refined tea room in too, if you’ve got time to stop for a pot.
Address: 1A, Saint Pancras International Station, Pancras Rd, London N1C 4QP
Phone: 020 7734 8040
Tucked away on the charming, cobbled Woburn Walk, Halfpenny London is the ultimate boutique bridal store. Established by Kate Halfpenny, stylist to the likes of Kate Moss and Emilia Fox, this unique shop is filled with beautiful wedding dresses inspired by vintage styles and modern trends. What’s more, as all the pieces are handcrafted in London, you’re guaranteed a truly individual dress.
Address: 10 Woburn Walk, WC1H 0JL
Phone: 020 3441 8894
Things to do in Kings Cross London
The fantastic open air Kerb street food market is finally back for spring and summer, so you can enjoy a mouthwatering selection of international street food every Wednesday to Friday. Grab a halloumi wrap and some feta-topped fries, and we'll see you by the canal.
Address: Stable St, London N1C 4AA
It's almost impossible to truly describe Drink Shop Do, the retro-styled bar-shop-cafe-event space hub on Caledonian Road, aside from to say that it's truly an experience. From pastries and charcuterie at lunchtime to cocktails to musical bingo and 'Lionel Rich-Tea' biscuit decorating sessions, it's a wonderland of lighthearted fun.
Address: 9 Caledonian Rd, London N1 9DX
Phone:020 7278 4335
One of the most unusual but brilliant things to have come out of the long Kings Cross regeneration project is the addition of Kings Cross Pond, a combined art installation and open-air swimming pool surrounded by grass and flowers right in the middle of all the action. The water has been purified through a natural system (so no pond slime) and there are even showers and changing rooms too, so book your place on their website as soon as the sun comes out!
Address: Tapper Walk, London N1C 4BE
Main image credit: David Skinner