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
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.
See art and artefacts at St Pancras International Station
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.
Visit Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard
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 as well as small green spaces like Bagley Walk and Gasholder Park.
There’s plenty to do all year round, but the area really comes into its own in the summer with lots of places to eat and drink outdoors including the terrace at Parrilan (where you’ll do your own grilling!) Mexican food at Plaza Pastor, or sundowners at the Coal Office. The area is also home to London favourites like Dishoom, Hoppers and Lina Stores.
Feed your mind at the Francis Crick Institute
Named after British scientist Dr Francis Crick, best known for his work with James Watson on the double helix structure of DNA – The Francis 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, and interactive events.
Wander around The British Library
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 civilization. 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.
Explore the Skip Garden
Currently closed – hopefully open again in 2024.
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.
Pick up street eats at KERB
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.
Visit St Pancras Old Church and Gardens
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.
Hang out at The House of Illustration
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.
Visit Camley Street Natural Park
Local nature reserve Camley Street Natural Park reopened in 2021 after shutting in 2017 for a major reconstruction and improvements to accessibility and its habitats. It’s open daily from 10am – 5pm and free to visit. You can explore the reserve’s woodlands, grassland, and wetlands throughout the year, but April to September are the best months to visit. It’s home to plenty of wildlife, including common frogs to kingfishers, mallards, and reed warblers.
The improvements also include a new Visitor and Learning Centre and new in-house café, and the reserve also hosts a regular programme of events including walking tours, exhibition and Saturday morning Yoga.
Take the King’s Cross Audio Tour
When you’re short on time, but want to see a lot, self-guided tours are a great way to find out more about the area you’re exploring. The King’s Cross Audio is free to download and there is free WiFi throughout the area. It’s a 45 tour of the area’s history, architecture and many transformations from heavy industry to club culture and redevelopment in the 21s Century and there are photos and videos to look at along the way too.
Originally published Jun 28, 2019. Most recent update Jun 2022.