Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Family Day in Camden

Not going back to my day job after the summer holidays also meant waving goodbye to daily chats with my Languages department in a busy secondary school. We had all planned to meet in Côte, a French restaurant (what else?) in Camden Town and I was very much looking forward to it.
When the children found out I was leaving for the day (I was wise enough not to mention anything before this morning), all hell broke loose with the girls and I literally had to push them away from the front door so I could leave and lock the door. Talk about dramatic!

I left with a sleeveless top on and sandals. The sun was shining. What a promising start! As I got to the train station, I had some spare time to get a coffee. As soon as I opened my mouth, the lady behind the hill asked me whether I was French (damn it, I might have to work harder if I ever want to become a spy). She arrived from France three years ago and we had a nice chat. She even paid for my almond croissant. This little gesture made my day!

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - Lock
Camden is one of those places so unique to London. Whenever I get there, I always feel happy and at home. It is a tiny part of London yet it contains what I see as the essence of the city. It is busy but rarely feels too busy (to me anyway) if that makes sense. I am not keen on empty Camden; I much prefer it when it is full of hustle and bustle, tourists asking for directions, street vendors advertising their stuff, music coming from all directions, etc.

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - Camden High Street
It is vibrant, colourful and loud. Every shop front on the high street is unique, more colourful or larger than the previous one.

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - Shoes

It is noisy. Have you ever stepped into Cyber Dog? The volume of the music in there will take you by surprise. It feels like you are inside an amplifier (not that I have ever tried)!

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - Cyberdog
It is eclectic. I cannot think of another place where you can buy homemade soaps, vintage cameras, old records, bespoke jewellery made there and then, 50s dresses, skating gear, superhero lampshades and rude statement T-shirts all in one place. The people are also a mixed bunch and everyone seems to cohabit with no trouble whatsoever.

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - All Saints
It is inclusive and does not judge. Sporting a pink Mohican, covered in tattoos from head to toes or wearing black from head to toe? No one will judge you there. You could wear a Lycra Spiderman costume whilst doing the Moonwalk and nobody would look at you as if you were sticking out like a sore thumb. I love that. I doubt there are many places in the world where you can be yourself (really yourself) like Camden.

It is multilingual. This Tower of Babel in the heart of my favourite city is just lovely, from the tourists taking it all in, to Asian, Italian or Mexican food stalls, vendors determined to get your attention by waving their specialities as close to your face as they can get.

You can buy anything there. Looking for an unusual present? Enjoy listening to live jazz music?  Looking for a Pop Art print for the living room? A leather diary? Handmade jewellery? An old camera? Shoes? A carpet? Fancy a gig? A gift for a new baby? Furniture? Malay food? Antiques? A shower curtain? Clothes from the 1930s? You will find it there!

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - Cameras

Here are my tips for a successful day out in Camden Town:

1- Money
Bring some cash with you. I had two cards cloned in Camden over the past 15 years, resulting in a lot of faff with two different banks.

2- Photos
Take a camera or a phone to capture the colours, the busy atmosphere, the Lock.

3- Common Sense
Hold on to your bag and valuables. Tourists are such easy targets in crowds and can be spotted miles away. Just like any other large city, there are pick-pockets in London. If you leave your phone in your back pocket, do not cry if someone discreetly takes it as you are walking around, completely unaware.

Tourists strike me as a bit daft with their big cameras around their necks and cash in hand sometimes… I have a big camera, but I keep it in my bag when I am not snapping away, and I tend to bring a small purse with cash and just one of my cards when I go to busy markets, rather than my big purse with all cards and clubcards under the sun.

4- Travelling by Tube
You can get to Camden Town by tube (Northern Line), but it is exit-only at times when there are risks of overcrowding on the platforms (weekends in particular).

You have two options here. You could walk to Chalk Farm station, which is towards the bottom of the high street a couple of minutes’ walk past the Stables and the petrol station.

If you are towards the top of Camden high street (where Camden Town tube station is), your easiest option is to go to Mornington Crescent station by walking straight ahead in the opposite direction, on Camden High Street).

5- Parking in Camden Town
I have never struggled to park there, not once.
On Sundays, I tend to park on Adelaide road (near Chalk Farm station) road as there is always space there and it is free.
Any day of the week, you can also park for free in Morrisons’ car park for up to two hours (no need to spend any money in the shop) and if you park towards the end of the car park, where it is quieter, you will spot a grey structure. It is a lift taking you to the underground of the stables, right in the middle of the action, in the middle of second hand books, records and old suitcases.  It is like a secret passage to the heart of Camden.

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - Secret Passage
6- Toilet Breaks
There are toilets in Starbucks by the lock, but they are quite seriously grubby. The public toilets in the Stables are not as bad, trust me!

7- Kids

I would not advise you to think twice before bringing a pram to Camden. I did it once, but it is a real pain to be honest. Babies are best carried in a sling, toddlers held by the hand with a bag pack that has a lead on for extra security and older children are fine held by the hand.

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - Toddler in Camden
8- Prices
You can pay the price you have been given (usually much much cheaper than you would pay on Amazon or Etsy anyway), but if you are buying several items from one stall or shop, you can always negotiate, within reason. Rather than £20 notes, bring £5 and £10 notes with you and never show all the money you have on you (put some in a pocket in your bag, a bit more in your purse and a chunk with your Oyster card for example).

I bought earrings for my friend’s birthday today and the price was so reasonable for a pair of handmade silver earrings that are completely unique I had no intention to haggle at all, but I would always try to get a good deal if I was getting 2 factory-made T-shirts or two prints.

9- Food
There are food stalls from all around the world in Camden Town. Eating out of a Styrofoam box with a wooden spoon might not be your thing, but you have to give Camden’s street food a go. It is something else!

As seven of us were meeting for lunch today and we wanted a quiet place to catch up properly, we opted for a restaurant off the high street (a few minutes’ walk from Camden High Street station) and headed to Côte. I had so much food I skipped dinner (not something I ever do). Check out my lunch:

Baked crottin
Traditional goat’s cheese from the Loire Valley, served with warm lamb’s lettuce and apple salad, walnuts, croutons and golden raisins.

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - Salad
Seared scallops with salad, green lentils and lardons

Praline crêpe
Chocolate and praline crêpe with caramelised bananas and crème chantilly (whipped cream, to you and me!).

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - Pancake

I ate all that for less than £25! I even had a latte with my dessert but it was so hot all I drank was tap water (lots of it!).

The girls also had some yummy food, from steak tartare (raw minced meat) to asparagus risotto to tuna steak.

Why You Must Visit Camden Town & 9 Tips for a Perfect Day in Camden - Tuna

Oh, and just before we left, the girls voted for little me in the BiB and the MAD awards in the food category. I would love your votes too! Just click here and here to vote; it takes a minute to do both!

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Comments

  1. You sell Camden so well!! And I love your tips 😉
    Had such a great day!!?

    • Thanks sweetie, I could spend all my weekends there (or maybe every other weekend!). It was great to catch up with everyone. Laughed so much 🙂

  2. susankmann says:

    Aww what a fab day. Looks amazing. And after reading this I have to go there. Soon!! Love your tips and I’ll be giving you a shout. Loved this xx

  3. Zoe Forde says:

    Definitely adding Camden to my list for heading to London in August! Great post x

  4. Sarah HP says:

    I love this post. I don’t live too far from London and have been there for days out hundreds of times but I’ve just realised that I’ve never been to Camden. It looks totally my kind of place and I think my kids would like it too. Thanks for the tips on the tube station.

  5. J’adore Camden Market ! La première fois que je suis allée, j’avais 17 ans et c’était vraiment an incroyable découverte! La dernière fois qu je suis allée, j’ai compris que malheureusement la mondialisation a passé aussi par las bas mais Camden continue a être un endroit hors de temps! J’ai bien aimé tes conseils ! x

    • Je suis 100% avec toi… moi aussi je suis tombée amoureuse de Camden quand j’avais 15 ou 16 ans et j’ai vu le coin changer au fil du temps, s’aséptiser un peu, mais bon, j’adore toujours autant y aller!

Thanks for taking the time to write a little message. Comments always make me smile! x Mel