Camden’s not had a lot of love lately. In the last ten years the leafy open spaces of south London and the vibrant nightlife out east have stolen its thunder. It’s fair to say that NW1 has incurred some reputational damage since the heady days of the mid-noughties. Back then it was the epicentre of all that was cool, a place where teenage Indie Cindys like me waited outside legendary boozers like The Hawley Arms in the hope of catching a glimpse of our guitar heroes (Pete, Carl – if you’re reading this, call me).
Nowadays, the perception of Camden is of teenage goths and groups of tourists buying questionable memorabilia from the myriad stalls of Camden Market. Rocketing rents have posed a challenge for the area’s hard-earned reputation for creativity and independence. But there’s still plenty of quirk here – not least on Chalk Farm Road.
Whereas Camden High Street is largely chain shops and tourist tat, Chalk Farm Road (which runs down from Haverstock Hill and stops just short of Regent’s Canal) has an unusual mixture of independent shops and cafés, pubs and music venues, as well as the Camden Stables Market. It’s a major thoroughfare, but if you dodge the traffic and the tourist throngs, you’ll find plenty to do.
A full English with a couple of rounds of toast and plenty of milky tea at Truly Scrumptious – and you’ll get change from a tenner.
The fresh Ferrero Rocher gelato at Marine Ices: it’s an ambassador’s reception in your mouth.
A Middle Eastern salad at Iraqi-Kurdish Hawraman Café. It’s sadly facing closure, so go soon.
Melty slabs of cheesy goodness from The Cheese Bar in the Stables Market – their toasties will send any thoughts of salad out the window.
A G&T in the beer garden at The Lock Tavern, a bustling three-storey pub which hosts DJs and bands.
A nightcap at Joe’s Bar, where the vintage tunes play till late. It’s a small space that packs a big punch.
Sourdough from artisanal bakers Peace & Plenty. Take it home for a banging avo-toast.
Musical instruments from around the world at Ray Man. It’s been a family business since 1972.
Unloved crockery at dirt-cheap prices from the Reject Pot Shop.
Lovely old volumes from Walden Books, a beautiful shop hidden on residential Harmood Street.
A pair of Dr Martens from the bootmaker’s new flagship store in the Market – after all, this is Camden!
Check out some up-and-coming talent at the Camden Assembly, formerly the Barfly: an integral part of the Camden music scene.
Take a cocktail-making masterclass at Caribbean joint Cotton’s Rhum Shack. Yes, you can test as you go.
Have a night on the town at Proud Camden, the former horse hospital turned burlesque venue and club.
Pay your respects at the statue of Amy Winehouse – the late and much-missed queen of Camden.
And if you only do one thing…
Catch a set at world-famous performing arts and concert venue the Roundhouse. There’s something to suit literally everyone, from spoken word to contemporary dance to DJ Shadow.
By Sirin Kale, who’s still got a Libertines jacket somewhere.