London Street Guides: Islington

By Rebecca Brett

Spanning from Crouch Hill at the northern most point, down to Farringdon in The City of London, Tufnell Park to the west and Canonbury to the east, Islington covers approximately nine square miles of North London and is the 3rd smallest borough in London.

Known for its place in the game of Monopoly, Islington is unlike its lowly positioning on the board game, with a charming history, excellent transport connections and buzzing atmosphere. It’s no wonder that London’s Mayor Boris Johnson, and Hollywood stars Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet have all lived in the borough.

Things to do

No trip to Islington is complete without a visit to the Emirates Stadium, home to the (sometimes) formidable Arsenal Football Club. There’s nothing better than taking in the stadium when there’s no one else around. Book on to a tour and explore behind-the-scenes with the new audio tours. Hear what the gaffer has to say in the changing room and pretend like you’re getting paid £100,000-per-week when you hear the roar of the crowd as you walk down the tunnel. Tours cost €21 for over 16s and lasts approximately one hour.

If football isn’t your thing, perhaps you’d like to give hula hooping a whirl. The energetic workout, suitable for everyone, is an hour-long sessions at Islington Arts Factory (2 Parkhurst Road, N7 0SF, 020 7607 0561) find out more at www.ilovehulahooping.com

Parks

Islington has some great green space including Highbury Fields, perfect for a game of football and tennis or, if you’re more like me, an ice cream and a laze on the green. Either get involved with the sport freaks jogging around Finsbury Park or head to the more peaceful Clissold Park, a favourite for families and home to the Butterfly Tunnel, open during the summer months from 12:30 to 2:30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

There are great transport links to and from Islington by way of Overground, National Rail, buses, Barclays bike hire and the Underground. If you exit the underground station at Angel, don’t forget to climb all 318 steps and 60 metres of the escalator; you can tell your mates that you’ve been on the longest escalator in London and beat it without breaking a sweat! (yeah right!)

Theatre

The world famous Sadler’s Wells Theatre is the UK’s number one venue dedicated to international dance, from contemporary, flamenco, ballet and hip-hop. The dance house presents some of the best shows you will ever see. Book tickets to see the likes of the Royal Ballet Flanders, Mardi Gras and Danza Contemporanea de Cuba. Roseberry Avenue, EC1R 4TN.

Shopping

Take time to admire the treasure trove that is Camden Passage. The small cobbled street is behind the busy, and more commercial, Upper Street and is reminiscent of the antiques hub that Islington was once known for. You can spend hours snooping around in the small quaint shops selling all sorts of wares from bric-a-brac to fine antiques. Main market trading days are Wednesdays and Saturdays but most of the shops are open everyday.

Eating

The Breakfast Club on Camden Passage is a must for anyone suffering hangovers or with a gargantuan appetite. This is English breakfast at its best, from the full works with all the trimmings, to stacked pancakes with crispy bacon and maple syrup, to porridge topped with fresh fruit. No worries about what time you get up either, breakfast is served all day long, open from 8am Monday to Friday and 9am on the weekend.

For lunch, head to Finsbury Park and join the queue at The Happening Bagel Company for a quick lunch at great prices. The salt beef and dill pickle, or smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels are best here, but it’s also worth taking one of the many cakes on display for a treat later. Bagels from €2.50, 284a Seven Sisters Road, N4 2AA, open from 6am daily.

Giraffe, not the long-necked animal but a restaurant which goes by the same name, has great dinner deals everyday from 5pm. Grab a starter and main course for just €12 from a select menu which includes chicken satay skewers, proper fish and chips and veggie moussaka. Make sure you get there from 5pm (Mon-Fri) to get boozy on the cheap with cocktails, wine and beer for 50% off.

Drinking

Littered with drinking establishments, Islington is home to some of the best bars in London. The small Public House, tucked away off Upper Street on Islington Park Street, serves lethal cocktails with absinthe. The more refined 69 Colebrook Row (name and address the same) serves an incredible mint julep as well as hosting masterclasses and musical Sundays filled with jazz.

For a cheap alcoholic thrill in a great venue, head to the award-winning Sampler, one of the first places in town to invest in Enomatic wine sampling machines, which dispense tasters of some 80 wines, from 30p a tot. It runs regular tastings and meet-the-producer events.

For more things to do in London, check out our Camden street guide or see all London street guides.

Looking for London accommodation on a budget? See our guide Help! I need some cheap accommodation in London. Or, click for a full list of hostels in London.

Author bio: Trained journalist and food fanatic Rebecca Brett, AKA Hungry Becs, works as a restaurant PR by day and as a Fluid London bar and restaurant critic by night. When she isn’t eating or working Becs can be found dodging buses while cycling around London, running along the river to keep off the extra ‘foodie’ weight, or blogging and Tweeting about her experiments in the kitchen and experiences of the London food scene.

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Images courtesy of Flickr users wonker, kaszeta Ewan M and garryknight. Please note, all images were suitable for use at the time of publication according to the Creative Commons License.

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