This formerly gritty neighborhood is now one of London's hippest.

By Emily Mathieson
June 12, 2015
Kings Cross
Credit: John Sturrock

A decade ago, grimy King’s Cross—one of London’s biggest rail hubs—was a place to speed through en route to somewhere else. Now it’s a place to linger, thanks to some well-funded and innovative redevelopment. It started with a revamp of the Eurostar station and adjoining St. Pancras hotel, and now is spreading to the formerly neglected areas north and east of the station.

The heart of the action spreads out from Granary Square, a plaza where kids frolic in the fountain displays and art students from the newly located Central Saint Martins university lounge on the tiered seating that lines the canal (pictured).

The best of the new restaurants here is Caravan, from a New Zealand team serving up excellent flat whites, small, internationally influenced plates (the jalapeno cornbread is a must), and, after dark, cocktails made from British aperitif of the moment Kamm & Sons. Round the corner, there are always queues for the six-month-old Dishoom, the hipster version of an Iranian café in a cavernous space that once served as an industrial transit shed.

Head a few minutes north to Lewis Cubitt Park, where the just-opened King’s Cross Pond Club—an installation that you can actually swim in—is a draw for hearty and arty types. Behind it, a permanent site for the no-waste pop-up Skip Garden Café will open next week, and in front of it, the park is home to KERB, a lauded street food collective where you can buy burritos, samosas, crab sandwiches and everything in between. This summer the park will also host Strawberries and Screen, where deckchairs will be laid out for free viewings of all Wimbledon matches.

If you’ve no time for exploring, just seconds from the entrance to both King’s Cross and St. Pancras rail and underground stations, local wine aficionados Vinoteca and Australian chef Bill Granger have opened spots worthy of killing time during delays. You can also catch the interactive play The Railway Children, which is currently showing on real tracks on the site that will be taken over by Google early next year.

Emily Mathieson is Travel + Leisure's correspondent in London.