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How to spend the day in King's Cross

King's Cross is usually characterised as a transportation district filled with crisscrossing commuters and case-wielding travellers, though visitors with time to explore will find a part of London that's transformed into the city's emerging creative hub.

photographs by Rob Greig
Published 24 Nov 2019, 13:00 GMT
The Standard, London. The brutalist 70s building spent four years cocooned in scaffolding, emerging last summer ...
The Standard, London. The brutalist 70s building spent four years cocooned in scaffolding, emerging last summer as the first foreign foray for Standard Hotels, the high-end US hotel brand.
Photograph by Rob Greig


Have breakfast at Granger & Go
Aussie chef Bill Granger made a name for himself in Sydney for his breakfasts, and that legacy continues at this outpost of his London mini-chain, positioned between King’s Cross and St Pancras stations. Dishes include sweetcorn fritters served with cherry tomatoes and bacon, and the ‘fresh Aussie’: jasmine tea-smoked salmon with poached eggs, greens, furikake (Japanese seasoning), avocado and tomatoes.


Visit St Pancras Old Church
Located next to St Pancras’s train tracks, the graveyard is the real attraction here. Here you’ll find the Hardy Tree, an ash whose roots have grown around a cluster of gravestones that were piled up here on the instruction of the writer Thomas Hardy when he worked here as an architect’s technician in the 1860s. Far from being an expression of Victorian gothic artistry, this was to help make way for the Midland Railway. Another fascinating sight here is the Grade I-listed mausoleum designed by Sir John Soane (the architect behind the Bank of England) for himself and his family. It’s said to have inspired the design of the classic red telephone box.


Check out the House of Illustration
Founded by Sir Quentin Blake (best known for illustrating Road Dahl’s books), this museum pays homage to illustration and graphic design. As well as displays of Blake’s work, it hosts temporary exhibitions. Nearby is bookshop-on-a-boat Word on the Water, which sells new and secondhand tomes.


Eat lunch at Little Creatures
Just beyond Granary Square, you’ll find another Australian export: Little Creatures, the craft brewery’s only UK outpost. The bar here serves own-brand beers as well as a selection from other local breweries, plus sharing plates such nduja gnocchi and classics like burgers, pizzas and salads.


Wander the Gagosian Gallery
Opened in 2004, this branch of the global art gallery network is located just south of King’s Cross station on Britannia Street. On display until 14 December is ACTS + TABLE — a series of minimalist, rectilinear sculptures by American artist Ruby Sterling.

The graveyard is the real attraction at St Pancras Old Church, located next to St Pancras’s train tracks.
Photograph by Rob Greig


Explore the British Library
This big red bunker of a building on Euston Road doesn’t just attract bookworms, it also hosts excellent history and art exhibitions, usually linked to talks and workshops. Until 23 February a huge selection of Buddhist manuscripts and art is on display.


Sip sundowners at the Rotunda
Walk over to the Rotunda bar and restaurant, at arts and business complex Kings Place, on York Way, for a drink on the terrace overlooking Regent’s Canal. The cocktail menu spans classics and house specialities, including the savoury basil and black olive caipirinha sbagliato. 


Dine at Dishoom
The King’s Cross branch of this hip Indian restaurant chain is set in a former goods shed off Granary Square, so expect bold interiors of dark wood and bare brick walls. Don’t miss the black dhal — cooked for over 24 hours until it’s rich and buttery — or the vada pau, a Mumbai take on the chip butty. Wash it all down with an Indian-influenced cocktail.

Essential information

Getting there and around
King’s Cross and St Pancras stations have rail links to various UK cities, plus Eurostar connections. King’s Cross St Pancras tube station connects to six Underground lines.

Where to stay
The Standard
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel London

When to go
For the best chance at avoiding crowds associated with one of the capital’s international transport terminals, try to travel outside of school holidays, in the shoulder months (June and September).

For more information, visit the King's Cross or Visit London websites.

Published in the December 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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