Living in Camden Town

By Josh Loeb

Camden Town is located in the heart of the London Borough of Camden, which stretches from Islington in the east to Kilburn in the west and from Holborn in the south to Hampstead's Whitestone Pond in the north. This interesting, leafy borough has a rich literary history, and much of it is expensive and considered highly desirable by those looking to buy a house. But despite the general affluence of the place, Camden Town itself has long been associated with drug dealers and other criminal types, and many feel it has gone downhill recently.

Housing

The streets in the immediate vicinity of Camden Town are stuffed with old but respectable terraced housing, as well as newer council estates, many of which house privately-owned flats. The east side of the Borough of Camden is generally cheaper than the west; a week's rent for a room in a shared house in Gospel Oak or Kentish Town is normally around 100, whereas in Primrose Hill you'll be looking at more.

People

All human life can be found in Camden, from immigrants and students to celebrities and literati types. 'Bo-bos' - bourgeois bohemians - are particularly prevalent in these parts (these are the British equivalent of American Trustafarians - young boys and girls who have a rich mummy and daddy but who pretend to be poor).

Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment

Though Camden Town is overflowing with places to get pissed (and it's not uncommon to witness visitors stumbling down the tube escalators after overdoing it somewhat) the discerning drinker will find much to be disappointed about. If you want loud, raucous and borderline illegal, this is the place to be. If you want a quiet pint of good ale, you're better off steering clear.

Because of the vibrancy of the area's live music scene, Camden Town is a favourite with punks, goths, and indie kids. Sure, the Devonshire Arms is good if you look like a bat with drag queen ambitions, but the area's most interesting watering holes can be found clustered around Chalk Farm Station. Bar Tok, for example, has good cocktails and (sometimes) good live music. Watch out for celebrities in the quirky Sir Richard Steele pub (Haverstock Hill).

Inverness Street and Parkway have many decent bars (the former also has a cinema), but The Proud Galleries in Stables Market are widely regarded as Camden Town's coolest bar/club.

Parks and Recreation

As any local worth their salt will tell you, Hampstead Heath is emphatically not a park. What it is is a massive area of fields, ponds, woodland and brooks - a glimpse of what Camden Town looked like before London's expansion in the mid-1800s. On a sunny day the place is swimming with lovers and eccentrics, but you can still find serenity if you know where to look. If you want to continue the rural idyll theme, the nearby Kentish Town City Farm is worth a visit - provided you don't mind walking through goat shit.

Shops, Restaurants and Takeaways

Although much of Camden Market is quite tacky, it's still probably worth a walk through if you've never been. Queen's Crescent Market (Saturdays) is a decent place to buy food, and the area is well served by supermarkets (Morrisons on Chalk Farm Road is particularly good).

Those hunting a bargain will have fun in Kentish Town's charity shops. The Owl Bookshop (also in Kentish Town) is a favourite among book lovers, as is Walden Books on Harmwood Street.

For a good, cheap, sit-down meal, visit the Viet-anh Cafe on Parkway. Woody's Grill on Camden Road is one of Camden Town's few good post-clubbing takeaways, and you can wash it all down with a cappuccino from nearby Cafe Silvers (open late)!

Transportation

Chalk Farm, Mornington Crescent and Kentish Town stations are all close, as (obviously) is Camden Town station. The area is a hub for busses, and the footpaths of the Grand Union Canal are an excellent and much underused resource for cyclists. As with other parts of London, rush hour Camden seethes with human beings like an old rat corpse seethes with maggots. Though rush hour on the Northern Line remains the true sardine experience, the line is on the whole better than its reputation suggests. Anyway, if you get really fed up with it you can do the sensible thing (ecologically and financially) and get a bicycle.

Good Points

  • good transport links
  • strong sense of community

Bad Points

  • dodgy goings on around the canal at night
  • pompous posh arseholes in Primrose Hill

AREAS OF LONDON


Acton
Cheap rent means more money to spend at the pubs.


Brixton
Gritty, cheap and international with loads of character.


Camberwell
Edgy, gritty and artsy area close to central London.


Camden Town
Full of punks, market stalls and a great canal.


Clapham
Diverse area with everyone from yuppies to yobbos.


Ealing
Decent shopping but the nightlife is a bit uninspired.


Earl's Court
In zone one but expensive and full of tourists.


East Dulwich
A posh area south of the river but still affordable.


Finsbury Park


Fulham
Very nice area but expensive and the District line is crap.


Greenwich
Nice, safe, close to the city but not much nightlife.


Hammersmith
Great transport links and near to the Thames.


Kilburn
Great transport links but a bit dodgy at night.


Putney
Green and pretty but a little bit on the dull side.


Shepherd's Bush
A lively, edgy, multicultural area in West London.


Shoreditch
Edgy, creative and trendy with a great nightlife.


Stoke Newington


Tooting
A bit rough around the edges but a great place for a curry.


West Hampstead
Well connected by transport but a little expensive.


Willesden Green
Cheap, full of travellers and well connected.


Wimbledon
Nice area, decent nightlife and good transport to the city.

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