The decline of King's Cross started after World War II and during the 1980's, it became notorious as being London's red light and drugs district. It was a dirty, run down industrial area and considered seedy and unsafe. Its only visitors were the commuters using the King's Cross trains and underground linking the north into London's busy transport system.
Family friendly King's Cross has a Cool Britannia vibe
Fast-forward to 2013 and the area is almost recognisable. With the Eurostar international terminus moving to St Pancras in 2007, there has been significant demolition and redevelopment in the area. The district has been renamed "King's Cross Central" and has become a buzzing and energetic hub with a "Cool Britannia" vibe that offers some great activities for locals and visitors alike.
The magic begins at King's Cross Station, where fans of Harry Potter will be able to visit Platform 9 ¾ inside the station concourse. Although there was a twenty-minute wait in the queue when we arrived, the kids were kept entertained by performers who staged each photograph in scenes reminiscent of J.K. Rowling's books. A professional photographer was there to take photos for purchase but they're also happy for you to take your own photos for free.
Harry Potter fans will hit the wall at Platform 9 ¾
Wave your wand and step outside into Battle Bridge Place where you'll feel the energy as you take in the redevelopment work around the area. Walking down King's Boulevard, architectural drawings give a glimpse of how King's Cross will look in the future and there are viewing windows into the building sites where you can see the work in progress. Google's UK headquarters will be based here and it has been anticipated that this will generate about 35,000 jobs and creation of 1,900 new homes in the area.
Foodies will be spellbound by the diverse eating options around the area. Along the King's Boulevard you'll come across stalls selling a wide variety of street food, the delicious cooking aromas kicking the taste buds into action. Once you've selected your take away treat, there are plenty of relaxed seating areas along the boulevard or by Regent's Canal.
Cross Regent's Canal to Granary Square and you'll come across the Granary Building, an old granary store. The original brick façade of the building has been restored and integrated with modern materials, giving it a contemporary, yet rustic, feel. There are several relaxed restaurants and cafes around here to suit all tastes and budgets. We shared some small plates at Caravan and enjoyed watching the passing parade of people and kids playing in the choreographed fountains.
Granary Building - A new life for the old granary store
For £5 (£4 for kids), you can take the canal boat from here to Camden markets, enjoy the view from the water and experience the working 200-year-old lock. If you have the time, you can also walk along the canal pathways and have a close encounter with some of the ducks and swans along the way.
If you do take the trip to Camden Markets, wander around the narrow laneways and you'll be offered a glimpse into London's diverse population and culture and experience an eclectic range of shops, food stalls and interesting building facades along the high street.
To finish the round trip, you can return to King's Cross by canal boat, foot or catch a bus or the underground to your final destination.
In contrast to the red light district of old, the new King's Cross is vibrant and full of things to explore. Our intended brief visit became a whole day out and we came away feeling the excitement of the ever-changing London whilst appreciating the gritty history of this area. We gave it the green light as a magical place for a weekend excursion.