When I moved to London twenty four years ago, Kings Cross was not what it is now – run-down and seedy in lots of ways, the only positive aspect of the area was its edgy club scene that made its home in some of the old warehouses behind the station off York Way.
Somehow in the intervening years its become one of London’s most attractive and exciting places to be – take for example St Pancras station which is probably the most beautiful railway terminus in the country. If you’re not travelling to the North of England or Europe from there it’s still worth visiting because it doubles as a sculpture gallery – there are two permanent installations (a statue of Sir John Betjeman and the gigantic The Meeting Place) plus a changing art commission which hangs from the roof, currently Cloud: Meteoros by Lucy Orta.
Next door, Kings Cross station has had a makeover and now sports an amazing space-age concourse, and this autumn the front of the station will be revealed for the first time in over a century when a new plaza is unveiled. At the back of the station Granary Square, the home of the Central St Martins, delights with its hundreds of fountains and a short distance away you’ll find the Kings Place arts and performance complex on Gattis Wharf as well as the London Canal Museum.
For the drinkers there are a whole host of options these days – the Booking Office bar in the St Pancras Renaissance hotel, The Parcel Yard in Kings Cross station and the GNH bar in the Great Northern Hotel are three very fine examples of classic hotel bars. For those looking for something a little more hip, there’s also The Driver on Wharfedale Road or The Fellow on York Way.
If you don’t fancy fish and chips from the old takeway that seems to have been opposite Kings Cross station since the dawn of time, in 2013 you’re still spoilt for choice – highlights include Richard Bigg’s Camino (which is very probably London’s most authentic Spanish restaurant) and Drink Shop Do which offers coffee and cake during the day and has a rather unique basement bar for the evening (the building it’s located in was a Turkish bath in the Victorian era and a sex shop in its most recent incarnation!).
The Kings Cross hotel scene has changed beyond all recognition too – once the place to find bed and breakfasts of dubious reputation, now you’ll find a whole range of five star and boutique hotels from many of the international hotel groups. If value for money comes first for you, your choices include the London St Pancras Hotel from Ibis and a Premier Inn, for example.
As far as future developments are concerned, the area behind Kings Cross station (which has a new postcode, N1C) is going to be home to the London Borough of Camden’s new headquarters building and a vast new Google campus in the next year or so.
Still not convinced? According to Trip Advisor’s stats the area also has London’s number one visitor attraction – the fantastic Hint Hunt which I visited a few weeks ago…