An artsy area sandwiched between Brixton, Peckham, Oval and Elephant and Castle, Camberwell and Walworth Road can sometimes be thought of as a ‘no-man’s area’ where few actually choose to head. After all, there are no tubes here (gasp!), and you can really only get here by bus (double gasp!). But not stopping here would be a major mistake, as this little pocket of South East London is a real bloody gem it has to be said.
From intimate theatres and the South London Gallery to more pubs than you can shake a stick at, there’s plenty to see, do, eat and drink in Camberwell. And with news that the railway arches where the old station used to be are set to be redeveloped, there’s plenty more to come on the horizon. So, without further ado, here’s a rundown of 10 of the best things to do in Camberwell.
1. Dive into some delicious Ethiopian Food
Now, when it comes to out-of-this-world Ethiopian food, the family-run Zeret Kitchen should be your go-to spot. Not only are their flavours consistently excellent, but it’s also great value; very few restaurants can offer this quality while still keeping prices low enough, fitting most budgets.
Standouts on the menu include the vegan ‘shiro wat’ – a heavenly mix of roasted and powdered chickpeas simmered in a unique hot and spicy berbere sauce – and the ‘yebeg fitfit’ – a simmering lamb stew served with injera and delicately seasoned with garlic, ginger, and tumeric.
If you’re feeling really hungry and are looking to really push the boat out, then go for the ‘zeret surprise’ – a delectable combination of beef wot, chicken tibs, atkilt alicha, misir wot, azefa, shiro wot and a garnish of salad. Trust us – leave room in your stomach for this one!
📍You’ll find Zeret Kitchen at 216-218 Camberwell Road, London, SE5 0ED.
2. Take a scenic stroll around leafy Burgess Park
One of South London’s most beloved parks, Burgess Park boasts a mahooosive 56 acres of wide open space and landscaped gardens – which means it’s Southwark’s largest park. As well as a prime place for dog walking, it also offers a serene lake which is primed for fishing – and a couple of ping pong tables and tennis courts too if you’re looking to practise your swing.
They’re right by the Western entrance, so you can try your hand at both if you’re feeling particularly sporty. In fact, there’s a cricket pitch, a running route, an outdoor gym and even a BMX racecourse here, so you can really go the whole hog here if you’re wanting to get sporty! There’s also the Orbit Beers Brewery and Taproom just a stone’s throw away. Post-park pint perhaps?!
📍You’ll find Burgess Park at Albany Road, London, SE5 0AL.
3. Get your Chinese food fix at the legendary Silk Road
This unassuming spot is one of South East London’s best-kept secrets. It’s a fairly small and simple Chinese restaurant – decked out in long wooden tables – but the food here is to die for. The menu is refreshingly short and offers up a whole host of offerings from Xinjiang – the vast north-western frontier province of China once traversed by the legendary Silk Road trade route.
As a result, the food served here is a melting pot of cultures, with Mongol, Muslim and central Asian influences tied in to the more traditional Chinese fare. Signature dishes include sliced belly pork with chilli, Szechuan pepper oil and garlic and boneless red snapper kebabs with chilli and cumin.
But the real star of the show here is the aptly-named ‘big plate chicken’ – a succulent stew with chicken, potatoes, anise-and-chilli broth and belt noodles.
📍You’ll find Silk Road at 49 Camberwell Church Street, London, SE5 8TR.
4. Chill out and watch some jazz at The Crypt
Another one of the best things to do in Camberwell is watching a jazz show at The Crypt – a subterranean live music venue under the magnificent St. Giles Church. They’ve been putting jazz on every Friday night since 1995, and they quickly gained a reputation of being one of the best places to watch jazz in the entire UK.
The music here is all improvised, the drinks are cheap and it’s a pretty magical way to spend an evening it has to be said. What better place for a date night then?!
📍You’ll find The Crypt at St Giles Church, Camberwell Church Street, London, SE5 8JB.
5. Enjoy perhaps the best falafel wrap in the whole of London Town
Ok, so this may be biassed (after all this author was once a long-time resident of Camberwell) and a BIG claim, but the falafel wraps at Falafel & Shawarma are the best in the whole of London. FACT! It’s a heavenly concoction of crispy homemade falafel, hummus, chillies, lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and onions – all wrapped up in a bangin’ flatbread parcel with optional chilli and garlic mayo.
It costs under a fiver (£3.50!) and is quite frankly incredible, and there are options to add in aubergine and halloumi too. Other fast food-style joints of note include FM Mangal, Bolu, Enish 24 and of course Morley’s for your fried chicken fix.
📍You’ll find Falafel & Shawarma at 27 Camberwell Church Street, Londo, SE5 8TR.
6. Gorge yourself silly on a roast at The Camberwell Arms or the Grove House Tavern
If you’re looking for a bangin’ roast in this neck of the woods, then you could do worse than making your way to The Camberwell Arms, a cosy neighbourhood spot offering the best quality fare and a great wine list too. They run an extended Sunday menu featuring roast lamb, pork belly, chicken and beef – all with crispy roast potatoes. There’s absolutely no Yorkshires at this one – but we guarantee the roast is good enough without it!
Another fantastic pub for roasts is the Grove House Tavern up Camberwell Grove. Taken over by the culinary wizards at Mondo Sando – who whip up some of the best sarnies in town by the way – the roasts here combine hearty British grub with a few Mondo twists. Think a slow-roast lamb shoulder with a merguez and apricot stuffing, miso hispi cabbage, and pecorino spiked stuffing balls. Yum, yum.
📍You’ll find The Camberwell Arms at 65 Camberwell Church Street, London, SE5 8TR and the Grove House Tavern at 26 Camberwell Grove, London, SE5 8RE.
7. Become a culture vulture at the eclectic South London Gallery
Set on Peckham Road, the South London Gallery has been open to the general public for around 130 years, and it comprises a series of exhibition spaces, a bookshop, a lovely little café and a picturesque garden out the back – great for when the sun is shining.
Created by artist Gabriel Orozco, it was developed in collaboration with six architects and the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. Along with various different art exhibitions, they also host regular film showings, talks and events. They’re about to launch a six month residency with artist John Costi, whose work ‘explores broader, relevant conversations around men’s mental health, how we process anger and systems of oppression’. Even better yet – it’s all free to enter! Winner, winner.
There are also often art exhibitions and shows at the nearby Camberwell College of Arts, where graduates showcase the fruits of their labours after months of hard graft. Keep your eyes peeled on their website for further details.
📍You’ll find the South London Gallery at 65 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UH.
8. Pub hop your way through the neighbourhood
Now as we’re sure you’re aware dear reader, we bloody love a pub here at Secret London. And Camberwell has some real gems, it has to be said. If you’re looking for a panoramic view of The Shard et al. (something else we love), then make your way up to Denmark Hill to The Fox on the Hill. Sure it’s a Spoons but it does cheap beer and if the sun is shining, it’s a nice spot to while away the hours.
Another belter when the sun is shining is The Sun, which has a lovely beer garden, regular live music, DJs and weekly pub quizzes too. The Tiger is a good after-hours spot with dancing and a lively atmosphere at the weekends, and Stormbird is the place to go if you’re looking to whet your whistle with some craft beer. There’s also The Joiners Arms, which featured in Florence and the Machine’s ‘South London Forever’ – a love letter to the area in song form.
But perhaps our two favourites are The Hermit’s Cave – a favourite haunt of students from the Camberwell College of Arts who often mill outside chatting on the pavement – and The Old Dispensary – a cosy Irish pub where the tables are made out of barrels and where they’ve got an array of excellent beers and ciders on tap.
9. Dig into some award-winning food at Nandine
Now, when it comes to Kurdish food in the capital, Nandine is perhaps the best place to head in the whole of our beloved capital city. Winning rave reviews from restaurant critics and punters alike since opening back in 2019, it’s run by the lovely Baban family, whose matriarch Pary is the head chef.
Expect everything here from flavoursome mezze platters to succulent kebabs – and don’t forget the Kurdish biryani which is out of this world. They’ve also got another spot just off Vestry Road which does takeaway bits too. No wonder then that it features on our roundup of the best restaurants in London!
📍You’ll find Nandine at 45 Camberwell Church Street, Southwark, London, SE5 8TR.
10. Discover art, comedy, theatre and more at the Blue Elephant
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Camberwell is the Blue Elephant Theatre – an intimate, 50-seat fringe theatre which was established back in 1999 and which specialises in a wide variety of different performances all year round.
A real hidden gem, it’s tucked away in the backstreets off Walworth Road and has been the jumping off point for many famous theatre producers and directors throughout the years. None other than Joanna Lumley – yes, really – is its patron, and there’s everything on the bill from experimental dance shows to comedy clubs and everything in between. You can check what’s on here.
📍You’ll find the Blue Elephant Theatre at 59A Bethwin Road, London, SE5 0XT.
So there you have it – a roundup of 10 of the best things to do in Camberwell. From some mouthwatering food options to delightful drinking dens, this little pocket of South East London has more than enough going for it and is well worth a visit!