Ten Free and Cheap Things to Do in King’s Cross

Becky Matthews

King’s Cross connects London with national and international rail destinations. But even if you’re not trying to cross the country or get to Paris, Amsterdam or Brussels from St Pancras, there are plenty of reasons to hang around. Here are ten things to do in King’s Cross for your visiting pleasure.

Find Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station

things to do in king's cross
Photo by Sarah Ehlers used under CC

Harry Potter fans are well rewarded in London. From official studio tours and walking tours to the West End stage show, there’s no shortage of things to satisfy Potter heads. One of them is right in London King’s Cross Station itself.

Fans queue up draped in their Hogwarts house scarves of choice to take a snap at the famous platform 9 ¾ sign and luggage trolley. You can’t take a trip on the Hogwarts Express, but you can visit the Harry Potter shop, which is designed to look like Ollivander’s Wand Shop.

 Platform 9 ¾

Address:Euston Rd, Kings Cross, London N1 9AL, UK
Hours:24 hours (restaurants and shops vary)

See art and artefacts at St Pancras International Station

Pancras Clock
Photo by Dun.can used under CC

St Pancras is a beautiful station, and well worth a visit even if you’re not catching the Eurostar or heading to other UK destinations. The building is also full of interesting art and artefacts to check out, as well as the usual run-of-the mill Boots and Costa Coffees (and more expensive shops) on the station concourse.

Among them is The Meeting Place, a 9 m tall bronze statue of a couple, that is loved by the public despite harsh criticism from the likes of Anthony Gormley (fellow sculptor) and Jeremy Deller (installation artist). The upper level is also home to Tracey Emin’s neon pink “I want my time with you” sign.

During the London 2012 Olympics, a giant set of Olympic Rings were suspended from the ceiling. They’ve since been lovingly reconstructed as colourful benches if you fancy some non-athletic sitting.

Sir Elton John also left a grand piano as a gift to the public, which you’re free to play in the station concourse.

 St Pancras International Station

Address:St Pancras International Station
Hours:Open 24 hours (shops and restaurants vary)

Visit Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard

Coal Drops Yard
Photo by Tom Page used under CC

Paying tribute to the area’s industrial past, Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard are two of the better, less corporate examples of London regeneration. The Granary itself is now home to the famous art school Central St Martin’s, which overlooks the fountains on the main square.

Just off the square is the canal, which over the summer has a big screen showing free sporting events and films.

Over on Coal Drops Yard, old Victorian viaducts have been stylishly updated, and are now home to restaurants, bars, galleries and public art.

 Granary Square

Address:4 Stable St, London N1C

 Coal Drops Yard

Address:Stable St, Kings Cross, London N1C 4DQ, UK
Hours:24 hours (restaurants and shops vary)

Feed your mind at the Frances Crick Institute

Microscopes
Photo by Ousa Chea used under CC

The Frances Crick Institute invites curious members of the public to explore the work of its world-leading biomedical researchers. It’s free to visit, and you can hang out with scientists in their labs, pop into exhibitions exploring subjects that include biomedical imaging and the relationship between art and science. There are also regular lectures and seminars.

 Frances Crick Institute

Address:1 Midland Rd, London NW1 1ST, UK
Hours:Wednesday 10:00am–8:00pm, Thursday–Saturday 10:00am–4pm

Wander around The British Library

Panras Library
Photo by Jon Evans used under CC

Although it’s the national library of the UK, the British Library is also home to a huge world research collection with over 170 million items from every age of written civilisation. For academic and research purposes, you can visit the reading rooms, but you’ll need to register for a reader pass first. You can pre-register online, which will allow you to order items in advance of your first visit. You’ll need to show up in person to actually register though—so be sure to bring proof of identity and address.

It’s not just worth a visit for scholars though, there are plenty of exhibitions and public events on throughout the year too.

The free “Treasures of the British Library” permanent exhibition on the ground floor is worth a visit alone. Get up close to rare and beautiful items, from surviving copies of the Magna Carta of 1215, the novelist Jane Austen’s writing desk, letters and specs, and original Beatles lyrics.

 British Library

Address:96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB
Hours:Monday–Thursday 9:30am–8:00pm, Friday 9:30am–6:00pm, Saturday 9:30am–5:00pm, Sunday 11:00am–5:00pm

Explore the Skip Garden

Wooden structures in a garden
Photo by Becky Matthews

One person’s junk is another’s treasure. Or in this case, garden. The Skip Garden is a partnership between the charity Global Generation (which connects young people to sustainability) and students at The Bartlett School of Architecture. The small, sustainable mobile green space is a design marvel too. Zigzag through the network of various skips which are home to flowers, herbs and worms. You can even sit inside for a closer look (well, not in the wormery, obvs).

There’s also a big yurt called the Hide, a small roof terrace and even a cafe serving up food made from ingredients grown right here. But the real gem here is big greenhouse, made up of recycled windows. It’s a reminder of what Londoners do so well—take unused sites and old scraps and make something new. It’s one skip you shouldn’t miss.

 Skip Garden

Address:1 Tapper Walk, King's Cross, London N1C 4AQ
Hours:Tuesday–Saturday 10:00am–4:00pm

Pick up street eats at KERB

Kerb, King's Cross
Photo by Bex Walton used under CC

Londoners’ appetite for street food is only getting bigger. King’s Cross obliges by hosting KERB every week on Granary Square serving hungry commuters and busy office workers. The street food market keeps things fresh with a rolling line-up of food and drinks traders, but regulars include OMD! (Oh My Dog hot dogs), pizzas from Well Kneaded, Vietnamese food from Hanoi Kitchen, hot Kati rolls from Kolkati and Mediterranean flavours from Cyprus Kitchen.

 Kerb King's Cross

Address:Granary Square, 1 Granary Square, King's Cross, London N1C 4AA
Hours:Wednesday–Friday 12:00pm–2:00pm

Visit St Pancras Old Church and Gardens

St Pancras Old Church
Photo by Paul Hudson used under CC

Old churchyards have been beloved by gothic and poetic souls for centuries, but this one is particularly special. St Pancras Old Church gardens is where the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley first met Mary Shelley (before she went on to write Frankenstein) when she was visiting her mother Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave.

But it’s much older than that. The old church dates back to at least the Norman Conquest. Nestled in the residential Somers Town neighbourhood, the public gardens are the largest green spaces in the area.

Like The Union Chapel in Islington, St Pancras Old Church hosts live music gigs as well church services, which makes for a pretty atmospheric experience, but get down early as it’s quite small.

 St Pancras Old Church and Gardens

Address:Pancras Road, Camden Town, London, NW1 1UL
Hours:07:00am–dusk

Hang out at The House of Illustration

Quentin Blake illustration
Photo by EG Focus used under CC

Back on Granary Square, it would easy to miss this small gallery. The House of Illustration is tucked the top right hand corner, close to the Lighterman pub.

It opened in 2014 as the UK’s only gallery dedicated to illustration and graphic arts, founded by Sir Quentin Blake no less.

It’s not free, but tickets are under a tenner and there’s plenty of interesting stuff to see within a relatively small space. Exhibitions are a mix of well-known artists, like Quentin Blake and Posy Simmonds, along with emerging talent and touring exhibitions.

The HOL also runs workshops, short courses for adults and talks, so you can stick around and sketch once you’ve got some inspiration from what’s already on the walls.

 House of Illustration

Address:2 Granary Square, King's Cross, London N1C 4AA
Hours:Tuesday–Saturday 10:00am–5:30pm, Sunday 11:00–5:30 (open until 9pm on the last Friday of every month)

Drop into Drink, Shop & Do

Handmade gifts
Photo by Viktor Forgacs used under CC

Drink, Shop & Do is open day and night for cake, crafts, cocktails and classes. By day, it’s a cafe so you can just visit the shop, and eat and drink. The evening is where the ‘do’ part comes into its own.

Events range from the sublime to the super-niche, including comedy gigs and quiz nights, Spice Girls-themed dance classes, Lego robot-making classes, temporary tattoo parlours and nipple tassel making.

 Drink, Shop & Do

Address:9 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London, N1 9DX
Hours:Monday–Thursday 10:30am–12:00am, Friday and Saturday 10:30am–2am, Sunday 10:30am–6:00pm
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Filed under: Things to Do
Tags: Art, Arts And Culture, Featured, Food, History, King's Cross, London Bars, London History
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