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.
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.
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)!
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.
AREAS OF LONDON