Islington isn’t just for the champagne socialists – its boutiques, bars and restaurants offer something for the weekend, whichever way you lean. With a vibrant arts scene and big-name Islington clubs drawing headline bands, N1 is guaranteed to offer a daytrip or big night out that gets your vote.
What are your favourite Islington haunts? Let us know in the comments.
The best bits of Islington
14 reasons to go to Upper Street in Islington, N1
Upper street runs right through the very heart of Islington, which means an excursion here involves rubbing shoulders with glam mums and their pushchairs and socialists waving their bottles of Moët about. There’s no denying it: this patch of London has a certain chichi reputation, and it’s very much deserved. ‘How chichi?’ we hear you ask. Well, there’s a gluten-free bakery... and a sugar-free bakery. Just metres apart. So, yeah, very chichi. Much has changed since the days of Charles Dickens, who described Upper Street as ‘among the noisiest and most disagreeable thoroughfares in London’. In the 1970s it became a hotspot for radical leftwing politics, home to countless Trotskyist activists and London’s first feminist bookshop. Not long after, however, Upper Street became the place where Tony Blair and Gordon Brown reportedly made a pact that would see the former take the Labour leadership in 1994. It’s like ‘House of Cards’, except everyone’s really, really polite. Nowadays, it’s fancy, beautiful and very delicious. The road is home to some of the finest eating and drinking in London, from Ottolenghi to 69 Colebrooke Row. There’s culture galore too, with an amazing independent cinema and a true jewel in London’s music-venue crown. Whether you’re after fine dining or raucous gigs, Upper Street knows what’s up. Do this A photo posted by James Verlinden (@citizen_jxv) on Apr 16, 2016 at 12:34pm PDT Settle into the plush seats at Screen on the Green for a
13 reasons to go to Southgate Road, N1
De Beauvoir Town is every bit as middle-class as it sounds. Thankfully there’s loads to see and do along its relaxed, handsome main thoroughfare. Poised between the traffic-choked Dalston strip and manic Essex Road, Southgate Road quietly goes about its business with some of the best cafés, pubs and delis in this neck of the woods. When they hear N1, most people think straight away of Angel, but unlike chain-choked Upper Street, Southgate Road has proper Islington class. It’s mostly free of high street shops and traffic, with the beautiful Rosemary Gardens and Regent’s Canal at one end, De Beauvoir Square just a stroll away, and rows of pretty Georgian terraces lining it and the streets nearby. This is the jewel in the De Beauvoir crown: a proper looker. And make no mistake – it’s posh round here. There’s more organic veg, artisan bread, locally roasted coffee and vintage furniture than you can shake a hand-whittled stick at. No surprise, then, that the two best boozers – The Rosemary Branch and The De Beauvoir Arms – are upmarket watering holes. But unlike your local blah-blah gastro joint, each hosts a year-round programme of theatre and performance. Hackney cool meets Islington style: that’s Southgate Road in a nutshell. It’s the perfect place for a sophisticated Sunday. Drink this A photo posted by @avetusta on May 22, 2016 at 1:29am PDT A hangover-busting flat white at the funky 52A Coffee House, a cool little shop with eclectic furnishings and awesome
15 reasons to go to Caledonian Road, N1 and N7
Michel Foucault, the great theorist of nineteenth-century power, would have had a field day with the Cally. To Victorian Londoners, there was something about this mile-or-so-long stretch between King’s Cross and Islington that screamed, ‘Erect disciplinary facilities here!’ Formerly Chalk Road, in 1861 the street was renamed Caledonian Road after the Royal Caledonian Asylum, which had moved to nearby Copenhagen Fields. The Great Northern Hospital was here until 1884, Pentonville Prison was built just south of the asylum in 1842 and the recently closed HMP Holloway is a few minutes away from the top end. It’s a forbidding legacy, but today’s Cally Road, throbbing with the down-to-earth character and multiculturalism you’d expect from a working-class slice of London, is practically unique in leafy Islington. With cheap global cuisine, happy-hour bars and pubs, cool galleries and even a prog-politics bookshop catering to Cally Road’s sizeable student population, the area is an antidote to the artisan delis of Clerkenwell and moneyed crowds in Angel. The skint students, as well as Bangladeshi, Ethiopian and other immigrant communities make the Cally one of the most authentically ‘London’ parts of the borough. Even though the Victorian hospital and asylum have disappeared, Cally Road will always be an institution. Eat this A photo posted by halalmapper (@halalmapper) on Aug 21, 2016 at 2:58am PDT A ‘pimp steak’ dog from New York-inspired Big Apple Hot Dogs. There
You know you live in Islington when...
Islington is one of the most restaurant-dense areas in the UK and home to Europe's third longest escalator - as well as the decomposing bones of lots of famous people, including Douglas Adams and Jeremy Beadle. If Foxtons is anything to go by, it's highly unlikely you'll be able to ever buy a pad in the area with its exploding property prices too, so enjoy being an Islingtonite while you can. After all, you know you live in Islington when: Breakfast at Sunday, Hemingford Road Emily Gibson ...you gained five pounds when you first moved here. This is because Islington - like relationships, pregnancy and ligament damage - is very fattening. Blame Smokehouse, Meat People, and a never-ending galaxy of chorizo-strewn, syrup-soaked pancake options elsewhere. Breakfast just isn’t breakfast without at least half a pint of hollandaise sauce. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img id="451709c3-96cc-9657-8cde-64c0f1418ba5" data-caption="" data-credit="" data-width-class="" type="image/jpeg" total="73770" loaded="73770" image_id="102880176" src="http://media.timeout.com/images/102880176/image.jpg" class="photo lazy inline"&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; ...there's always somewhere new to eat. Never mind that Upper Street probably has more restaurants than any other street in the capital, the arrival of MEATliquor in a few weeks' time is looking to be the highlight of your year. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;
Restaurants in Islington
A clean, somewhat rustic and brightly lit setting in which to enjoy a quick cuppa or bite to eat, while you catch up on a bit of work. Or sit down for a meal in their restaurant earlier, where they serve fine Italian pastas, seafood dishes, risotto and more. There are also a few products such as Tuscan olive oil, jam and pickles to buy from Food Lab's shelves.
Just a stone’s throw from the cavernous Haggle Vinyl (No 114-116), but a million miles away aesthetically, Flashback’s mostly second-hand stock is treated with utmost respect. There are usually a few boxes of bargain basement 12-inches going for pennies outside the front door, but inside stock is scrupulously organised. The ground floor is dedicated to CDs, with rock and pop alongside dance, soundtracks, soul, jazz and metal, while the new stock of urban and dance records, especially 1960s psych, garage and hip hop, is a well-kept secret among DJs. The basement, though, is vinyl only: an ever-expanding jazz collection jostles for space alongside soul, hip hop and an astonishing selection of library sounds (regularly plundered by producers looking for samples). Those not inclined to rummage can search out long lost gems on its website. For a more ramshackle experience, head along to Haggle.
Little Angel Theatre
Tucked away in the back streets of Islington, Little Angel Theatre is a hub of passionate puppeteering activity. Established by South African John Wright in 1961, Little Angel Theatre is London’s only permanent puppet theatre and stages diverse productions devised here or by visiting companies. In a quaint twist that reveals the artifice behind the magic, the compact 100-seat theatre shares its space with the workshop where the marionettes are carved and developed. There’s a Saturday Puppet Club and workshops and events to inspire the next generation of puppeteers. The shows are very much geared up for audiences of children, so expect to share the auditorium with chatty young'uns. Tickets are around £8-£10 for kids and a little more for adults. See more children's theatre in London
Bars and pubs in Islington
It's all about street culture at this Essex Road bar - one of three London venues from the Barrio group. The vibe is influenced by urban art and music from some of the world's big cities - London, Lisbon, Miami, Mexico and elsewhere. Cocktails play a lead role here, not least during the generous happy hours. Options range from the rumshackle (Santa Teresa rum with orange curacao, orgeat, pineapple and lime) to the ram berry jam (homemade raspberry jam liqueur with Stoli vodka, lemon and cava) and the pinata paloma - a mix of tequila, passion fruit, fresh lime, guava and Ting served in a porcelain pinata. There's an international flavour to the bar food, with wasabi peas, chilli rice crackers and platters of meats and cheeses alongside mixed olives, chips with dips, houmous with pitta and ciabatta with olives and chorizo. The venue's centrepiece - a '70s caravan with one side lopped off - provides the plum seats.
The perfect weekend in Islington
Love London Awards: last year's winners
The devil might have all the best tunes, but the Union Chapel is proof that him downstairs knows nothing about architecture. The Grade I-listed gothic masterpiece, completed in 1877, is still used as a working church and help centre for London's homeless. Noble purposes, to be sure, but equally uplifting is the effect the environment has on performances – and performers. Put simply, bands raise their game when they're playing the Union Chapel – it'd be sacrilege not to – and the spellbinding surroundings and acoustics mean it still beats the crap out of the most modern, purpose-built venue the twenty-first century has to offer. While itmade its name hosting acoustic nights and occasional jazz shows, the Union Chapel has since become a magnet for the thinking bands and their fans, particularly as part of the rightly lauded Little Noise Sessions for Mencap.