The Top Things to Do in King’s Cross, London

There's much to explore in the revamped area around King's Cross
There's much to explore in the revamped area around King's Cross | © jeremy sutton-hibbert / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Laura Piccirillo
24 August 2020

Home to King’s Cross and St Pancras International train stations, Harry Potter’s Platform 9¾ and the trendy Coal Drops Yard shopping area, King’s Cross is becoming one of London’s most well-loved areas. Get exploring with our round-up of the 12 most entertaining things to see and do in this North London borough.

Coal Drops Yard

Shopping Mall
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Coal Drops Yards, Kings Cross, London.
© Geraldine O'Regan / Alamy Stock Photo
A stylish collection of shops, galleries, bars and restaurants housed in Victorian viaducts, Coal Drops Yards combines the industrial legacy of King’s Cross with its status as a one of the capital’s trendiest destinations today. The cobbled streets and brick arches are home to a curated mix of independent shops and signature brands from the UK and abroad, as well as an intelligently programmed series of cultural events. With its canal-side setting, eye-catching architecture and lively public squares filled with rotating interactive art installations, this area is well worth a visit.

Regent’s Canal

Natural Feature
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Regent's Canal in Islington
© Richard Barnes / Alamy Stock Photo

A stroll along Regent’s Canal, a 13.8-kilometre (8.6mi) waterway winding through the heart of King’s Cross, is one of our favourite London walks. Start off at Granary Square and head down the astroturfed stairs to the towpath, along which you can walk to ZSL London Zoo, Primrose Hill and Little Venice. We recommend heading west past charming narrowboats and the Camley Street Natural Park urban nature reserve towards Camden market, to end up at Regent’s Park.

Granary Square

Building
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Sitting on the banks of Regent’s Canal, Granary Square is the historic heart of King’s Cross. Once the location of the Goods Yard, where barges unloaded their produce to be sold in the city, the square is today the home to more than 1,000 choreographed fountains that are lit up at night. Whether it’s children splashing around in the fountains, Londoners enjoying the boats pass by from the canal steps, or special events such as the Floating Cinema that take place throughout the year, Granary Square is a magnificent and animated spectacle. It’s also flanked by an exemplary selection of restaurants and bars.

Word on the Water

Bookstore
© George Hughes
© George Hughes / Culture Trip

Floating on Regent’s Canal is our favourite London bookshop, the Word on the Water. Selling everything from classics to contemporary literature, the 1920s Dutch barge-cum-bookstore permanently moored on Granary Square hosts poetry slams and live music on its roof stage.

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

Boutique Hotel, Suite Hotel, Business Hotel, Hotel
An architectural marvel, the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, forming the frontispiece of St Pancras International railway station, first opened its doors in 1873 as the Midland Grand Hotel. Today, guests can stay in its five-star rooms or stop for a pint at the George’s Bar in the Gilbert Scott restaurant, with its high painted ceilings and dramatic red walls.
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KERB street food market

Market
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Kerb, a street food market just north of King's Cross Station
© Jonathan Goldberg / Alamy Stock Photo
Street food market KERB, open 12pm-2pm from Wednesday to Friday, has some of the best lunch stalls in the city. The food pop-ups transform the Granary Square area, with a rotation of different vendors serving up everything from fresh gnocchi and poké bowls to calamari and Korean-Mexican fusion bowls.

The British Library

Library
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Home to 150 million items, from the Magna Carta to original lyrics of the Beatles, the British Library has one of the world’s greatest book collections, and is a must-see for bookworms and history buffs. Only a few minutes’ walk from King’s Cross, the library – the largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th century – is free to the public.

Platform 9¾

Shop
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A tourist poses at the secret Platform 9 3/4, a setting in a Harry Potter film. King's Cross railway station, London, UK.
© Phil Wills / Alamy Stock Photo
For Harry Potter fans out there, this famous destination needs little introduction. A tribute to the fictitious Platform 9¾ that serves as a portal to the magical world immortalised by JK Rowling’s writing, the title character’s trolley stuck in the wall offers the perfect photo opportunity. And if you haven’t got your Harry Potter fill, just pop next door to the official shop and deck yourself out in wizarding gear for the Tube ride home – unfortunately, the train to Hogwarts isn’t in use.

Wellcome Collection

Museum
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Advertised as “the free destination for the incurably curious”, the Wellcome Collection’s quirky range of exhibits is a testament to its founder Sir Henry Wellcome and his enthusiasm for travel. Enjoy the museum’s wide programme of events, from drop-in workshops and activities to its permanent displays on science and medicine.

House of Illustration

Art Gallery
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House of Illustration - Paul Grover
Courtesy of Paul Grover / House of Illustration | Courtesy of Paul Grover / House of Illustration
Brought into being by the renowned Quentin Blake, the House of Illustration is a hub of doodles, drawings and designs. Housed inside is a mix of exhibitions, event spaces and educational workshops, giving guests an excellent entry into the world of illustration. Since opening in 2014, the gallery has attracted nearly a quarter of a million visitors a year looking for an alternative take on artwork.

St Pancras Old Church and Gardens

Church, Museum, Building
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The churchyard of St Pancras Old Church, which dates back to the Roman Empire, is a real treasure trove for literary and history enthusiasts. In 1877, to make way for the railway, the site was converted into public gardens by canonical English novelist Thomas Hardy, then a young architect. As well as the chance to visit the mausoleum of famed British architect Sir John Soane, the gardens are known as being the birthplace of the romance between poet Percy Shelley and the future author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.

Drink, Shop and Do

Shop
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Drink, Shop, & Do, an eclectic all-day cafe and designer shop on the Caledonian Road near Kings Cross, in London.
© Monica Wells / Alamy Stock Photo
The clue is very much in the title with this celebrated arts venue. From dance classes to art workshops or almost anything that you can put your mind to, Drink, Shop & Do is a creative institution in the heart of King’s Cross. Housed in a former sex shop, the three floors are a perfect way to while away an afternoon taking part in one of the many creative events or a great spot to grab a drink in the evening in one of the venue’s bars.

Additional reporting by Nicholas Grantham.

These recommendations were updated on August 24, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.