Only a few tube stops from central London, Finsbury Park is a multicultural neighbourhood with a strong community vibe and a load of brilliant restaurants, pubs and shops. Below, discover where to go and what to do in this buzzing quarter of North London.
Bowling, karaoke and dancing at Rowans Bowl
Ah, Rowans. So much more than just a bowling alley, this retro, Americana-themed entertainment venue is nothing short of legendary, where you can bowl, play arcade games, book a karaoke booth or else flail your limbs around to a relentless stream of party classics on the dance floor. It’s the best spot in London for a guaranteed cheap and cheerful night out – £1 on the door (£3 on weekends), with strong, slushy cocktails for less than a fiver.
At the heart of the neighbourhood is its namesake park, a 115-acre (47-hectare) sprawl of gardens, tree-lined avenues, a boating lake, football pitches, basketball courts and more. In the summer months, the park is home to several music festivals and events, including the massive Wireless Festival, the all-day electro rave Abode in the Park and the indie music-focused Community Festival. On Sundays, a weekly drum circle that is free to join and open to anyone is held at Finsbury Park Art Club.
North London’s answer to New York City’s High Line, Parkland Walk takes ramblers along an abandoned railway line that runs all the way from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace. During the four-mile (6.5km) stroll, you’ll encounter street art, abandoned tunnels, wildlife and lovely views over the rooftops of North London – not to mention plenty of pub pit stops.
On a residential street just off of Stroud Green Road is the Faltering Fullback, a much-loved Irish pub known for its jungle-like, multi-storey beer garden. Once you’ve bought a drink in the trinket-filled front bar, make your way through to the roomy, old-fashioned pool hall and out through the back door to access what can only be described as one big, boozy treehouse. It’s perpetually busy and near impossible to find your friends, so get there early to nab your perfect nook.
You can’t leave Finsbury Park without paying a visit to Max’s Sandwich Shop, run by eccentric chef and sandwich connoisseur Max Halley. The self-proclaimed Kant of Sandwiches has made a name for himself with his gargantuan sarnies, served in brown paper and costing around £7 a pop. The menu changes regularly, largely depending on whatever brilliant, unlikely concoction of ingredients Max has come up with recently – recent creations include a spring roll sandwich and a take on the caesar salad, croutons and all. What makes Max’s stand out is the man himself; don’t be surprised if he joins you for a drink and a chat.
On the Green Lanes end of Finsbury Park is the UK’s largest climbing centre, housed in an old Victorian water pumping station. Climbing walls and bouldering routes to suit every ability can be found in the Grade II listed building, and there’s even an outdoor boulder garden for those wanting to pretend they’re out on the rocks for real. For some fresh air after an afternoon bouldering, the centre has a lovely community garden and backs out onto the Woodberry Wetlands.
For those who were kids in the ’80s and ’90s, Finsbury Park’s Sylvanian Families Shop is a true find. The North London store is the only bricks-and-mortar space in the country dedicated to selling the miniature animal figures, in addition to a huge range of tiny accessories and adorable doll’s houses. As soon as you arrive at its green and gold façade and see the shop sign painted in the brand’s signature typeface, you’ll feel like you’ve entered the Sylvanian Families world before you’ve even walked through the door.
Turn onto the restaurant-packed Stroud Green Road from Finsbury Park station and you’ll find the Crisis shop, AKA the best charity shop in London. With an eclectic yet very well-organised selection of clobber, plus homeware, an in-house café and £1 book sales, there’s no better place to hunt for bargains in the capital. Even if you only plan to pick up a few bits, it’s very likely you’ll leave with a bag bigger than your body. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.