‘Isn’t Kings Cross just the train station?’
I surmised to my myself while I read the email from Clink Hostels inviting me to explore the area where their London based hostels are based. Clink78 and Clink261 can be found just a stone’s throw away from the train station that everyone associates with when they think of Kings Cross.
Sure, I’m a fan of trains but a whole day out in Kings Cross? I walk through the station many times a week and even I raised my eyebrow in mirth thinking that there would be enough to do to warrant my daylight hours in this corner of London. After all, Kings Cross to me is where I get my trains to Yorkshire and is the calling point on my return or as a jumping off point to go deeper into central London such as Soho.
After a day there, I was proved utterly and rightly wrong.
On one cold day in the beginning of November, I called in at Clink78. I remembered my stay there, bringing a smile, when I stayed in one of the prison cells as the building that is Clink78 now used to be a courthouse.
See more: Review: Clink78 Hostel, London
It was a special day to be in Clink78 judging by the high activity seen in the lobby by staff who would be putting on the party of the decade.It would be the day when Clink Hostels are celebrating the 20 years of Clink261 and 10 years of Clink78. Aptly, the party hosted in the Clash Bar in the basement of Clink78 would be called the Twenty Ten Party! With a live band, 90s theme and a wealth of surprises, it would be a night to remember. But also to celebrate this day, Clink Hostels has invited the #ClinkBloggers17 to explore the Kings Cross area in the day time too. If it was anything like my ClinkNOORD experience in Amsterdam last time, then I’ll be rubbing my hands and I’ll have a face of gleeful expectation.
With the bloggers assembled, we headed off to the station first to join our tour guide from Golden Tours who would tell us more about the history of Kings Cross – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Golden Tours of Kings Cross
I rather loved the guide. A flamboyant woman with a personality that’s greater, she soon had us hanging on her every word. There was something about her that made us believe that she was the living embodiment of Kings Cross and boy, did she know her stuff!
But let’s get Kings Cross sorted. What exactly is Kings Cross if it’s not just a station?
An inner district in north London in the boroughs of Camden and Islington, this used to be a former red light district that has been regenerated since the 1990s with the arrival of the Eurostar at London St Pancras station next door to kings Cross station.
But what about the history?
A village known as Battlebridge, this used to be a crossing point of the River Fleet. This could have been the site of a major battle in the first century between the Romans and the Iceni tribe led by the famous Boudica (there’s talk that she’s buried beneath platform 9 or 10 at Kings Cross station. For centuries, the area was just countryside until the 1800s. The name Kings Cross was first used in this century and has its origin in a monument to King George IV that stood between 1830 and 1845 at the ‘Kings Crossroads.’ It was demolished later but the area still kept its name and attributed to the name of the new station that was opened in 1852 shortly followed by St Pancras Station thanks to the rivalry between train companies.
The area grew prosperous and thrived until after the Second World War. Industry companies abandoned the district and thus the area fell into decline. It was so bad that by 1980s, the area was known to be rife for prostitution and drug abuse and slowed down attempts to regenerate the area. Until 1990s that is. The government established the Kings Cross Partnership to fund regeneration projects and still to this day, the area is a major focus of redevelopment. Other than the Eurostar, offices and hostels began to open, cultural establishments such as The London Canal Museum, the British Library, art galleries and more began to draw investment in the area.
This surprised me. Ever since I started visiting London since 2007, I always thought that Kings Cross was a standard area and not a place of anti-social behaviour. It goes to show how redevelopment can bring social and economic progress in the area.
Right, so that’s the history lesson over. How about we look at some photos to show where we went in Kings Cross?
As you can see, going behind Kings Cross station in the canals area can be utterly surprising to everyone. Clean, fresh and vigorous, Kings Cross is where you can feel London can lead the way forward. Hell, if Google has their office in the area. it’s gotta be good!
Thanks to Golden Tours for showing us around!
Ruby Violet Ice Creams
After a morning spent walking off our feet (Kings Cross district can be massive!), our tummies were definitely rumbling. To stop the pangs of hunger to distract us while we headed off to our next unexpected delight of Kings Cross, we stopped off at Ruby Violet Ice Creams and Sorbets. How good does this look?!
Drink Shop Do
Just a short walk away from Kings Cross Station is a place where you will find your wishes come true. This is ‘Drink, Shop and Do’. What does it do? Well, it’s a cafe by day, bar by night and has so many fun things to do on a daily basis.
So onwards we entered to explore just exactly what we would do today.
Passing through the bar area, we walked into the cafe to find a table already set up for us. But what’s this? What’s these pieces of paper, colouring pens and scissors hanging around? Are we doing crafts?
As we sat down, the staff gave us list of instructions along with the menu. And I squealed.
We would be making tattoo transfers!
Check out my two creations. One of them was a bit too brand heavy, eh?
The second one is my favourite. It’s a saying that I used to say a lot before recent months. Lately, I’ve been going through a tough time (talk more on this later) and it was a good reminder to keep that ethos told to myself that ‘it’ll be fine.’
But as I grinned at the surroundings inside the cafe that was full of pop art and crafts, we were soon greeted with a scrumptious lunch! Definitely needed after a good morning out in Kings Cross!
Lunch over and tattoos suitable applied, I took a chance to explore Drink, Shop and Do and I definitely agreed with their messages… do you?
Big Chill House
After all that eating, it wasn’t surprising that I needed a food nap and just chill while I digested. So, where best to go in Kings Cross to yet another unexpected delight? This suitably named, the Big Chill House. Found on Pentonville Road in Kings Cross, just a short walk from the Clink Hostels, the Big Chill House is a large bar that brings good people, good times and good music together. It can be used for any occasion really, whether it is an afternoon with your laptop (they have laptop station here), after work cocktails on the roof terrace or planning a party to go wild.
Us Clink Bloggers opted for the roof terrace to bask underneath the outdoor heaters on this November Day. It was rather relaxing as we caught up with each other on our news and meet the new bloggers over a delicious pint or two.
Charles Dickens Museum
With the afternoon drawing in, it was time to get intellectual again and pay homage to one of the best British people in history – Charles Dickens. Where better than to visit 48 Doughty Street, the Charles Dickens Museum, in Kings Cross where the author wrote Oliver Twist, The Pipwick Papers and Nichlolas Nickleby. It’s where he first became famous worldwide as one of the greatest storytellers ever. Here’s a great video to explain:
You can actually feel his presence in the house, the tumultuous life he led with his family and what antics he got up. It was a moving experience to my surprise. Here’s a few photos to find out more:
Now that the sun was rapidly going down, I couldn’t believe I was still in Kings Cross having spent the whole day exploring its unexpected delights. But yet, there was still one more place to go before the TwentyTen Party started.
This is Simmons Bar.
It’s literally one minute’s walk from Kings Cross station and I have walked past this every day without realising. I’m literally gobsmacked as I genuinely believe this is one of the best bars in London. With its quirky musical taste (I kept singing out loud) from disco to funk, the Simmons Bar is small but with a big personality. Seeing that they served cocktails in tea cups, I was sold but what really sealed the deal was when I went downstairs to the ‘Arcade’.
Hold on to your hats, people, there’s a SEGA megadrive to play on! And what’s more, Sonic the Hedgehog was waiting for us!
I was deliriously happy and I shrugged off the knowledge that pretty soon I would be finding many a weekend here trying to battle Dr Eggman whilst asking for another cocktail. This is where dreams are made of!
Alas, it was soon time for the TwentyTen Party to celebrate 20 years of Clink261 and 10 years of Clink78 so it was probably a good idea to drag me away before I got too sucked into the game. But one thing’s for sure. I’ll be back.
So, what did I think of Kings Cross district in London?
Well, I’m very VERY pleasantly surprised! As I said, I pass through Kings Cross on a regular basis throughout the week and I never thought to check out what could be found here. But as I have been shown round thanks to Clink Hostels. I know that on my way home from work, I’ll be stopping off at one of these unexpected delights I’ve visited again but there’s so much more to explore.
So, here’s the lesson. Never assume there’s nothing to do in the district. There’s always something unexpected and hidden just round the corner.
Now, where’s my SEGA controller?
Read other Clink Blogger articles about Kings Cross:
Sophie’s Scran: How to do a Cheap Weekend in London