Crisscrossed by the main thoroughfares of bougie Upper Street, Essex Road and Liverpool Road – and the Regent’s Canal waterway too – The borough of Islington is a lively and popular place synonymous with excellent pubs and restaurants, various markets, green spaces and the spectacular Union Chapel.
Its epicentre is arguably Angel, which takes its name from The Angel – a historic landmark and series of buildings set at the confluence of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road. But there’s more to the borough than just this small stretch of road. So, without further ado, here’s the Secret London roundup of 10 of the best things to do in Angel, Islington:
1. Take a wander through the charming Camden Passage
Kicking off this roundup of the best things to do in Angel, Islington is a walk down Camden Passage – a bustling, pedestrian-only street full to the brim with independent boutiques, art galleries and chic cafés. It’s a lovely place to visit on any day of the week, but try and aim to come here on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which is when street market traders descend and sell all manner of vintage and retro clothes, antiques and collectables, jewellery, secondhand books and endless quirky items and nicknacks too.
If the market isn’t on, then there are still a wide array of shops for you to peruse to your heart’s content. If it’s artisan cheese you’re after, head to The Pistachio and Pickle Dairy, or for antiques, Kaveh’s is a good bet. You can also buy homeware and kitschy interiors at In-Residence.
📍You’ll find Camden Passage at 1 Camden Passage, London, N1 8EA.
2. Catch a flick at the famous Screen on the Green
With a pretty unbeatable location on Upper Street, this Angel institution is a part of the prestigious Everyman chain of cinemas. A luxe gem, it’s got some of the comfiest seats in the city, with sofas, footstools and even a bloody licensed bar set right at the back of the auditorium.
There’s only one screen at Screen on the Green, so you’ll have to pick your time wisely depending on what kinda movie you wanna see. But with waiters bringing you pizzas and sharing platters – yep, really – it’s well worth a visit when you’re in this neck of the woods! As well as all the regular mainstream fare, they also play several indie flicks and old classics too.
📍You’ll find the Screen on the Green at 83 Upper Street, London, N1 0NP.
3. Dance the night away at The Old Queen’s Head
Queues snake around the block every weekend for this lively boozer – and for good reason as it’s the place to go to really let your hair down. DJs spin the decks until 2am on Fridays and 3am on Saturdays, and they’ve also got their very own karaoke room so you can unleash your inner Mariah/Whitney/insert here.
Add in a weekly pub quiz – which throws in some seriously brain testing questions and some dirty doodle rounds too – live sports on the TV and cocktails and beers on tap, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a venue. Heck – it’s even got a naked ‘neon’ life drawing class! You can cop your tickets for that here.
📍You’ll find The Old Queen’s Head at 44 Essex Road, London, N1 8LN.
4. Take a scenic stroll by Regent’s Canal
The peaceful Regent’s Canal snakes its way from Little Venice in West London all the way to the Limehouse Basin – a distance of about seven miles. Along the way, it cuts through Angel and comes out through the Islington Tunnel. From here, you can take a stroll along the waterfront to The Narrowboat pub (which isn’t actually a boat, but it’s close enough to the water to make it feel like you’re floating). They rustle up some great grub here so it makes for a great pitstop, and they’ve also got a whole host of craft beers and the like on tap.
If you really love London’s waterways, you might also want to pop into the London Canal Museum, which you’ll find if you follow the canal west from the Islington Tunnel, on New Wharf Road. It gives you a real insight into the history of the area and paints a picture of just how integral these waterways have been to the capital through the years.
📍You’ll find The Narrowboat at 119 St Peter’s St, London N1 8PZ.
5. Tuck into a delicious lunch at Exmouth Market
Take a wander down towards Farringdon past the Sadler’s Wells Theatre (more on that later), and you’ll likely stumble across Exmouth Market – a picturesque, semi-pedestrianised street which plays host to craft beer pubs, independent, boutique stores, pretty florists, coffee shops and bougie restaurants too. They’ve also got an array of street food stalls here (30+ to be exact) during weekday lunch times, which ply hungry worker bees with all manner of goodies.
You can’t really go wrong here to be honest – and the hipsters that frequent the area would probably agree – but one of our top picks would be Morito – which offers all manner of tapas such as montaditos (aka mini Spanish baguettes) and plenty of stuff for veggies too. Other options include Santorè – an Italian joint which specialises in wood-fired pizza and yummy pasta – and La Petite Ferme – a rustic spot where you can indulge in all the oozing raclette you could ever want. Sign us up!
6. Experience a gig at the magnificent Union Chapel
Known for its incredible acoustics, beautiful lighting and mighty organ, the spectacular Union Chapel is certainly an unmissable spot if you ever find yourself in Islington. Constructed in the late 19th century and now Grade I-listed, it certainly has stood the test of time and makes for a great place in which to catch a gig.
Everyone from Patti Smith to Amy Winehouse has played here over the years, and they also run a number of projects helping Londoners today, including their Margins Project, which provides a lifeline for the homeless. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from Highbury and Islington tube – so no traipsing to get here – and they also offer guided tours which explore some of the chambers rarely seen by the public.
📍You’ll find Union Chapel at Compton Terrace, London, N1 2UN.
7. Wine and dine at some of the area’s best gastropubs
Now if there’s one thing us Londoners love, it’s a good pub. And luckily for you dear reader, Angel and the borough of Islington have some real gems it has to be said. For roasts, make your way to the beloved Pig and Butcher, The Draper’s Arms, the Hicce Hart on Chapel Market or 12:51 – the signature restaurant by the much-accoladed chef James Cochran.
You’re not short on the drinks front either in this North London neighbourhood either. To be honest, you can’t really go wrong, though we love the Camden Head which offers free (!) comedy, The Three Johns, The York and the King’s Head – a cosy pub set on Upper Street with roaring fires, old photos and even its own theatre upstairs!
8. Watch ballet, flamenco and more at Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Speaking of theatres, there’s a fantastic one just down the way on Roseberry Avenue. Checking out a show here is definitely one of the best things to do in Angel, as they’ve got all manner of dance on the bill, including classic and contemporary ballet, tango, hip-hop and experimental dance too.
Don’t miss their annual flamenco festival and Breakin’ Convention – a yearly event that ‘represents the origins and evolution of hip hop culture from around the world and around the corner’. They also regularly do performances of ‘The Snowman’ come Christmastime, which is the perfect show to bring along the kids and give them some festive cheer.
📍You’ll find the Sadler’s Wells Theatre at Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN.
9. Chill out when the sun’s shining at Highbury Fields
Did you know that London is one of the greenest capitals in the world, with a staggering 40% of the city – or 35,000 acres in big-number-terms – dedicated to parks, gardens and green spaces? Highbury Fields is one of the larger spots in Islington, and it comprises 29 acres of open space which is home to an orchard, an adventure play area and tennis courts too.
Lined by a series of tall trees, it’s a lovely spot to go for an amble with your four-legged friend or catch up with some mates over a couple of cans. They’ve even got a pool here, so if you’re looking to get the exercise in, then this is the place to be.
📍You’ll find Highbury Fields at Highbury Crescent, London, N5 1AR.
10. Enjoy a nightcap at a neighbourhood speakeasy
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Angel, Islington is a visit to ‘The Bar With No Name’ (AKA 69 Colebrooke Row). Keep your eyes peeled for the lantern above the door to find your way in. Once inside, you’ll find a snug interior with a nostalgic jazz vibe – they do live music here – and a menu of inventive drinks (Heather Negroni, anyone?), which definitely makes it worth the hunt.
They also do masterclass cocktail classes here too if you’re looking to become a drinks-making maestro, and there are a whole host of tasty nibbles and bar snacks to line your stomach pre-your fifth House Martini. The bar has also got two sister venues in both Soho and Dalston, which are well worth checking out.
📍You’ll find 69 Colebrooke Row at 69 Colebrooke Row, Islington, N1 8AA.
So there you have it – a roundup of ten of the best things to do in Angel, Islington. From getting down and throwing some shapes in the lively Old Queen’s Head to enjoying a peaceful wander around Highbury Fields, there’s something for everyone in this delightful neighbourhood, so make your way here pronto!