Walking Town With ‘Undiscovered London’: Camden Markets & Music Legends Tour
For me, walking tours of all kinds are an essential part of an active city getaway. I guess it doesn’t need much explanation.
Before I came back to London, Undiscovered London invited me to a couple of their tours. I didn’t have to think twice, for a walking tour a) always means new inside info, and b) it is the perfect, active way to see more of a city. You know me by now, I prefer a good mix of both.
The Camden Markets & Music Legends Tour was on the agenda the first day of my London visit (Saturday, October 31st this was). A little after 3 pm on Saturday afternoon, the tour attendees including guides met in front of the KOKO, a famous music venue, located just about a one-minute walk from Mornington Crescent Station. Coldplay and Prince are famous artists that performed here quite frequently. In former times, this place was called Camden Palace. It’s always been a popular venue featuring famous musicians.
Our tour guides Dale and Ed were telling us stories about it in an entertaining manner and Dale - carrying his acoustic guitar around - started singing a song. In my opinion, he sure is musically gifted.
In a laid back atmosphere, chatting on the way to the next interesting building, the group moved forward.
Camden is a very quirky, lively and quite alternative part of London and so you won’t miss pieces of street art, some of which are definitely very colorful and impressive.
The sun was shining and tinting the houses in golden light. I believe a sunny autumn day brings out the best of a city. Specifically London. Well, I might be biased but nonetheless.
We had a quick stop at TheBlues Kitchen. Here, live blues and rock’n roll are on the menu and a fun night out is almost guaranteed.
We moved on and listened to a story about the Earl of Camden. This is one of the many old pubs in London. I believe all of them are somewhat old.
Here comes a story that really spurred my interest. I wonder whether you’d known before but this is certainly something I didn’t have on the radar - up to that point. Ed and Dale told us that, during the 1800s when the railway workers came from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and, of course, England, Camden underwent a massive transformation and there were oftentimes fights after people have had too many drinks. Folks were quite patriotic.
Thus, the best solution was to build three different ‘castles’ for each nationality. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
This is when they built the Dublin Castle - photo above -, ‘Edinboro’ Castle, Windsor and Pembroke Castle to avoid bloody fights after work. The latter is a very popular venue.
Funnily enough, when we passed by, there were people having a heated argument and throwing around some glasses. I wonder whether they were all Irish (I don’t think so). So yeah, that’s that.
The Good Mixer is another famous drinking spot. Music legends such as Amy Winehouse and Oasis got their booze here. Certainly, there’s no need to dress nicely when deciding to grab a few pints here, for it’s all shabby-chic, tattoos and laid-back atmosphere.
Before we strolled around the small Inverness Street Market, Dale was throwing off another musical performance.
If you are in need of fresh, seasonal vegetables, this market is for you. You’ll also find cheap clothing but it’s actually more about the food.
We reached buzzing Camden High Street (gee, it was CROWDED!) and lost half of the group, only to find them again at the Regent’s Canal, so no worries at all. Dale told me they were doing this tour on such busy days like Saturday with two guides to not run the risk of losing people for good, basically. Sounds legit.
Every time I am in Camden, I feel…alive. Does that sound cheesy? Well, yes, I guess it does. However, if there was another word that helped me describe this particular feeling, I would definitely use it. For now, I have to stick to the cheesy description of feeling alive. I get a really serious thurst for action and urge to hit the next tattoo studio for some crazy body point. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe not? Anyway. I just leave it at that and stop this topic by saying that we had good fun.
Since it’s a very arty part of London, you have to really pay attention to detail - like those faces at house facades and other walls. You find those all over London.
We stopped, once again, at the Regent’s Canal, where the whole group gathered.
Camden Lock is one of the busiest places here - also filled with tourists but still there’s always something new to discover, even if one has been there several times.
We got ready to snap a group picture and listened to another one of Dale’s songs. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a song that he wrote, rather one he chose and performed. But I believe there’s no need to tell you this.
Now, I won’t, and actually cannot, tell you everything I learned on the tour in detail. This is rather just to give you a visual tour and encourage you to join the Undiscovered London team on this particular tour to really get a feel for this special area. You’ll head home with a lot of new impressions, thoughts and inside things learned about this part of town. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t like it, that’s for sure.
Dale and Ed (yes, the one with the gas mask on, come on, it was Halloween weekend), were busy making sure everyone followed along and didn’t get lost before we finally dove into the hustle and bustle of Camden Lock Market.
All of the yummy smells were overwhelming. We had twenty minutes to walk around by ourselves but that time flew by without actually having moved a lot. There were just too many people. It’s especially crowded during the weekend, for Camden Lock Market is one of the mostpopular ones in London, being specifically famous for arts, books, crafts, jewelry, fashion and food. FOOD! Just saying.
I hope you can let that sink in. If it doesn’t bother you, well, good then. I for one get real cravings now.
Besides Camden Lock Market, there’s also the Stables Market. The story behind? It was a former horse hospital in which injured horses used for work around the Regent’s Canal were nursed back to health. Nowadays, you find a lot of leather products (can I just say that I love the smell?) and a good amount of vintage clothing, primarily.
I am a huge fan of those signs below. I think I am going to decorate my apartment with it - if ever I should have one for an indefinite period of time. The ‘Coffee - you can sleep when you’re dead’ appeals to me. ‘Amazingly enough…’
Dale and Ed also told us a few things about Amy Winehouse whose life-sized statue is obvious. She must have been tiny but her hair made up for her actual size.
And look, here’s another music legend! Can we all please pause for a second?
We heard a couple other stories about famous artists and the Camden Lock and Stables Market and the way the two guys brought them across was very entertaining and it was never boring, on the contrary. They threw in some very valuable and interesting information you usually only know when you’re a local.
Remember Jack, Jack the Ripper?
When thinking about it, this #spiritofjack seems quite ambivalent. Are we maybe not talking about the serial killer but rather the ‘spirit of Jack Daniels’? This would clearly be something completely different.
Perspective. It’s all perspective.
We left the markets behind for a few minutes and walked over to The Hawley Arms. This is where famous ‘Valeriiiiieeeheheee’ singer and generally music legend Amy Winehouse had a lot of gigs. This song, one of her most famous ones, without a doubt, Dale performed for us and we couldn’t help but sing along.
Look closely and you’ll spot Amy.
The tour came to an end in front of another one of Camden’s well-known venues, the Roundhouse. It’s particularly known as a place for rock music.
Here, musicians and bands such as David Bowie and the Rolling Stones have made the masses of people go wild.
Undiscovered London in a Nutshell:
Why Undiscovered London?
The tours are authentic, informative and entertaining. You will go home with a lot of inside knowledge about London and the particular field or theme of the tour - in this particular case Camden Markets & Music Legends. The tour guides are always willing to help and to give you additional advice and tips, you just have to ask. They are locals and know London like the back of their hand. You get what you pay for - and more if you ask.
What’s the cost?
If you purchase your tickets online, it’s 10 GBP per person; 14 GBP if you buy if right before the tour starts.
When does the tour start?
This particular tour - Camden Markets & Music Legends - runs every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 3 pm. Meeting point is outside of KOKO, mentioned above. You will recognize the tour guides by their orange umbrella and T-Shirts. Dale might even be jamming on his guitar.
After about a little more than two hours of walking, I headed back to the hotel (we stayed at the Ace Hotel Shoreditch) where I happily rested my feet and waited for my mom - who got a little lost on her way back from Covent Garden - and started feeling hungry. After her arrival - well, finally! - we decided to grab a bite at the hotel restaurant, have a couple drinks and finish off the day in style.
I did have the best cheeseburger! Now, I am not much of a meat fan and usually don’t really eat it. However, I was so hungry and the burger sounded so delicious, I just had to order it.
Luckily, I did. This burger was surprisingly good. Fries on the side and I was happy again, in an instant (I tend to get a little snappy when having a rumbling stomach - whoops).
At 10 pm I was so utterly tired, it was only natural that I slept like a baby, another day filled with loads of things to do ahead. But more about that shortly.
Thank you, Undiscovered London, for inviting me to the tour. Opinions are my own.