An insider’s guide to eating, shopping and finding some fun in King’s Cross’ Granary Square (and a bit of Coal Drops Yard).
A superb mix of shops, restaurants, bars and cultural attractions, Granary Square and the almost indivisible Coal Drops Yard, can at times seem like London in a nutshell.
They weren’t always the tarted-up lifestyle hubs that they are today. The section of King’s Cross north of the canal used to be known as a seedy spot, rife with drug dealing, prostitution and (in something that’s more our wheelhouse) nightclubs.
Yep, the illegal rave scene used to kick off in these warehouses, eventually finding its way more into the above-board, less illegal mainstream.
Like most parts of London, Granary Square’s history runs back centuries. In the Victorian day, it was a hub of industry: the unloading spot for canal boats carrying goods from across the country.
This industrial past is visible in the buildings that enclose Granary Square. Their brickwork and the faded traces of their past are part of the area’s charm. The same canals are also worked into the setup to make for a nice bit of waterside drinking and dining, and even an outdoor cinema.
In this guide, we cover it all, from the shops to the best spots to eat and things to do in Granary Square, with a few nods to Coal Drops Yard for good measure.
Cool Things to Do in Granary Square
Catch a Film at Screen on the Canal
It’s set up so that tiered and astroturfed seating makes an open-air auditorium big enough for a few hundred people to cram onto at the canal’s edge. On the other side of the canal: a big screen showing everything from the family-friendly to the thriller, running multiple showtimes of classic cinema and a few new releases while the good weather permits
Unfortunately that means that the Screen on the Canal closes outside of summer, but while it lasts, and while they run that little snack and drink truck outside, with passers-by watching from nearby bridges, it makes for quite the atmospheric summer hangout.
Explore Britain’s First and Only Museum of LGBTQ+ Culture
If you fancy something that makes a change from London’s blockbuster list of prestigious art galleries and museums, why not check out the humble, but no less significant Queer Britain.
This museum of queer culture was the first of its kind in the UK and surprisingly is still the only one. They run an ever-evolving exhibition that charts the history of queer equality in Britain since the UK’s first pride march.
They also run a programme of roving exhibitions that play on the same themes and some very interesting talks by notable figures in the community. Well worth checking in on if this is your thing, they’ll be hosting everyone from artists to activists to discuss their experience of queer life and how it intersects with what they do.
Stroll Along the Canal
Once you’ve had your fill of the shops and restaurants in Granary Square, a nice way to pass an hour or so is to stroll along the Grand Union Canal.
You can pick it up pretty easily by cutting through the space between shops in Coal Drops Yard (it’s very easy to find). The route snakes around some peaceful spots and runs all the way up to Camden Lock and Camden Market.
That’s about a half hour’s walk away but if you carry on a little further yourself in Regent’s Park. There are also plenty of good options for shopping and eating in the Camden section if you didn’t get enough of that already.
The Best Places to Eat in Granary Square
Looking for the best Granary Square restaurants? These are the spots to have on your radar…
Caravan seems to be able to tick every box you’d want without becoming one of those messy, too-much-going-on ventures you see Gordon Ramsey shouting about on Kitchen Nightmares.
Arrive in the morning or afternoon and the place is likely being treated as a cafe, coffee-swigging groups of friends at every other table. Lunchtime offers healthy, nicely presented salmon fillets and superfood salads, or a menu of sourdough pizzas.
When a similarly eclectic dinner service closes for the day Caravan then turns bar, with a solid menu of wines and simple cocktails – The exposed brick and lounge music making for a sophisticated, very London (dahling), setting.
Sons and Daughters
Home of the sandwich in King’s Cross, and arguably the whole of London, Sons and Daughters is a favourite of ours. They do these chunky creations that make for an ideal lunch between shopping sprees, or (if the weather is on your side), a little impromptu canal-side bite.
We should point out to avoid any disappointment that the sandwiches aren’t as massive as they used to be these days. With the cost of living the way it is, things have had to slim down a bit.
They are still by no means small. And it’s really the filling inside them, not their size, that’s the main draw about this place. That’s especially true of the merguez number they do – a spicy lamb sausage with fries and gremolata packed into a bun. We see it in our dreams.
If you’ve not heard of Dishoom you probably haven’t spent much time eating around London’s excellent Indian food scene. Even in a city where curry can be had as near to authentic as it comes in the UK, or with white tablecloths, silverware and Michelin star decorations, Dishoom stands proud as one of the best.
This is evident in the queue you’ll probably have to navigate should you want to get a seat at any of their London locations. This is also going to be the case here. On the plus side though, the Granary Square branch boasts the addition of Permit Room, a dedicated bar serving superb Indian-inspired cocktails.
It’s the ideal spot to sip drinks and wait for the queue to die down so you can tuck into the restaurant’s equally superb Indian food.
Granary Square Brasserie
One of the area’s classier options for a feed, Granary Square Brasserie offers a menu of brasserie regulars – read: steaks and meat-heavy dishes made for comfort as much as they are taste – that changes on a monthly basis.
The restaurant boasts the addition of a nice cocktail bar where well-dressed bartenders mix up a menagerie of cocktails and serve a menu of wine and champagne by class and bottle. Another draw is a terrace that backs right onto Granary Square itself – a lovely place to soak in a bit of life and engage with some mealtime people-watching.
If you walk out of Granary Square and back toward the King’s Cross St Pancras Station nexus, you’ll pass by a large, out-of-place-looking building on your right. That’s the German Gymnasium, one of our favourite places to eat in the area.
That’s largely to do with the food they cook: a menu of German classics done artfully well. You probably won’t leave feeling as side-splittingly stuffed as you’d expect, which is good to remember because the levels of heartiness often put people off eating German food and you don’t want to miss you on this.
It’s also got a lot to do with the history of the place. It really was once a gymnasium for local Germans. The interior has changed a lot, obviously, but they’ve kept in place a truly incredible ceiling, something we seem to find ourselves staring up at an awful lot every time we eat here.
Shopping in Granary Square
Coal Drops Yard
As we said before, Coal Drops Yard is basically inseparable from what’s going on at Granary Square that you’ll probably not even notice you’ve walked into it.
The space is loosely demarcated as the stretch that’s sunk lower and to the edge of the canal. You’ll probably notice it through the change from restaurants to shops, and the fact the space is covered over.
Those shops cater mainly to the clothing curious with a mix of designer brands and independent boutique stores. Paul Smith, A.P.C. and Carhartt can all be found here.
Here they don’t have the same selection as they do at the original location but the crates they do have are chock full of classic vinyl largely leaning toward the jazz, reggae and blues end of things.
For any true music enthusiast, you can also pick up some very obscure music books and magazines at Honest Jons, stuff you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the city.
Granary Square: Practical Information and Tips
Address: Granary Square, London, N1C 4AA
Opening Times: You can walk through Granary Square at any time of the day (or night), but the shops and restaurants will close at their respective times.
Nearest Tube: King’s Cross St Pancras Station