First known as Little College Street, then Great and finally Royal, this stretch of Camden has played host over the centuries to loads of poorly animals and the lovely people learning how to make them better at the Royal Veterinary College. But back in the nineteenth century it was also a magnet for literary types.
Decadent French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine brought their tempestuous affair (and the nascent symbolist movement) to 8 Great College Street for a few months in 1873. And none other than Charlie Dickens lived at 112 Little College Street when his dad was chucked in Marshalsea debtors’ prison down in Southwark.
Sneaking northwards, parallel to mad-busy Camden High Street, Royal College Street today is an under-the-radar place dotted with weird and wonderful shops, proper pubs, a couple of art galleries and a sprinkling of quality eateries – including the blessedly tourist-free Castle’s, which has been dishing up bargain-price pie, mash and liquor to locals since 1934.
To top it all off, the road is bisected by Verlaine’s beloved ‘river in the street’, the handsome Regent’s Canal – so you can enjoy a relaxing, waterside pit stop after your literary pilgrimage. In short, this place is pure poetry.
A pint of real ale at elegant gastropub The Prince Albert, which manages to draw as many drinkers as diners, so you don’t feel like you’re making the place look untidy by standing at the bar.
A pint of Guinness at The Golden Lion, a back-to-basics boozer with loyal local punters.
A pint of refreshing lager to wash down your Thai grub at The Old Eagle, whose food menu refreshingly shuns the usual bangers-and-mash/burger/breaded-mushroom staples.
Fine cocktails at Grand Union on the corner of Camden Road. One of the borough’s busiest pubs, it offers loads of food and drink deals plus a rowdy weekly quiz.
A sunny pint in the canalside beer garden of The Constitution. You’ll find it just a few steps away, down Georgiana Street.
Seafood soup followed by Phnom Penh chicken from scandalously cheap and delicious Cambodian restaurant Lemongrass.
Dirt-cheap pulcinella pizzas from authentic Campanian joint Pizzeria di Camden. If you’re feeling brave, go for the patata, a pizza without cheese or tomato that somehow still works.
Harrington jackets, bovver boots and other old-school streetwear from Ben Nevis Clothing.
Everything a bass guitarist could ever need, including gorgeous vintage models, from The Gallery.
Contemplate the work of new and emerging artists at the excellent Cob Gallery…
…then (after a breather) scope two floors of leftfield art at Camden Image Gallery, a few doors down.
Go for a stroll along pretty Regent’s Canal: to the west is well-established Camden Lock while to the east the new Granary Square development is hotting up.
And if you only do one thing…
Grab a plateful from a hidden gem: Castle’s Pie & Mash. It’s been dishing up pie, mash, eels and little else since the ’30s. The decor hasn’t changed much, either. Don’t skimp on the liquor.