One of the most historic areas of London, Farringdon and its northern neighbour Clerkenwell are perhaps most famous for Smithfield Market – a Grade II-listed spot which has been in continuous operation since the mediaeval times – and St. Bartholomew-the-Great – the oldest-surviving church in the capital. But there’s more to this area of town than just age-old buildings and monuments – great as they are. From eating in Michelin-starred restaurants to dancing the night away in London’s most famous nightclub, here’s our rundown of the best things to do in Farringdon and Clerkenwell:
1. Eat your way through Leather Lane
Kicking off this roundup of the best things to do in Farringdon and Clerkenwell is none other than Leather Lane – a street nestled in between Hatton Garden and Chancery Lane which plays host to one of the best street food markets in the whole of London Town.
It has been a staple in one form or another for well over 400 years now, and runs Mondays through Fridays from 10am to 2pm, offering office workers and residents some much needed sustenance. There’s everything here from churros and jerk chicken to saltfish and halloumi wraps. My personal favourite dish is the falafel wrap from Dukan 41, which rivals Camberwell’s Falafel & Shawarma for being the best in town.
📍12A Leather Lane, London, EC1N 7SS.
2. While away the hours in Exmouth Market
We all understand the joys (and the relative safety) of a pedestrianised street, and Exmouth Market is most definitely one of the best that this city has to offer. Indulge in coffees and cocktails, tacos and tequila, books, bagels and brunch… in other words, it’s the perfect place to spend your weekend!
This uber-cool enclave is also home to some pretty fantastic restaurants and eateries. Though it’s hard to pick, our favourites would probably be Moro – which specialises in exquisite Moorish cuisine and tapas – and Briki – which rustles up some of the best Greek food anywhere in the capital. Don’t also miss a visit to the Exmouth Arms – a great boozer which has served patrons all the way back since 1863.
📍23 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QB.
3. Listen to live music at The Piano Works
The Piano Works is the only spot in London where the audience decides what is played music-wise, so what better spot to spend a couple of hours with a mate or a date, hey?! The idea is that guests pick up a napkin once they’ve settled down, write down their song request and send it to the pianist, who will then get down and give their best rendition of it.
In terms of food and drink, you’re all set for a good night here. You can get two courses for just 24 quid here, and dishes include dry-aged ribeye steak, vegan shepherd’s pie and salmon tartare. They also do a mean selection of cocktails, happy hours and bottomless brunches too.
📍113-117 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3BX.
4. Get a slice of ancient history at St. Bartholomew-the-Great
The capital’s oldest surviving church, St. Bartholomew-the-Great was founded as an Augustinian priory all the way back in 1123, and it’s been welcoming worshippers and visitors ever since. It’s a serene and peaceful spot that adjoins the St. Bart’s Hospital, and you might recognise it from films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sherlock Holmes and The Other Boleyn Girl among many others.
Given that it’s so old, you might expect it to be haunted… and you’d be right! Rumour has it that Rahere – an Anglo-Norman priest and monk who actually founded the church way back in the day – emerges from the vestry every year on the morning of July 1. Spooky stuff!
📍West Smithfield, Barbican, London, EC1A 9DS
5. Party the night away at legendary nightclub Fabric
One of the city’s most famous spots. fabric officially opened in October, 1999 – just in time to begin serving a new millennium of ravers from all around the world. The Farringdon-based club was conceived by people that ‘go to clubs, for people that go to clubs’.
The legendary space boasts three separate rooms: two with stages for live acts, one with a ‘bodysonic’ vibrating dancefloor (yep, really), and all with their own independent sound systems – allowing clubbers to feel the music through their skeletons, via their ears, and even their feet!
Expect everything from techno, disco, electro, and minimal house here through to drum & bass, dubstep, deep house, grime and other bass-heavy sounds. Over 19’s can visit Friday through Sunday, because fabric is ‘never not making noise‘.
📍77a Charterhouse Street, London, EC1M 6HJ.
6. Pay a visit to the historic Smithfield Market
Another historic gem here, Smithfield Market is the largest wholesale meat market in the UK and it’s actually one of the largest markets of its kind in the whole of Europe. It’s been in continuous use since the Middle Ages, and was also the site of many a grisly execution back in the day – including Sir William Wallace.
Sadly, the actual market is now moving out towards Dagenham to cater to the new Museum of London, so pop on down while it’s still there! There’s also karaoke and a mini-golf course nearby – what more could you ask for!?
📍Grand Avenue, London, EC1A 9PS.
7. Whet your whistle at one of the area’s many pubs
Ok – so you know how much we love a boozer here at Secret London – and luckily for you dear reader (and us), Farringdon and Clerkenwell both have plenty of ‘em! We’ve mentioned the Exmouth Arms already, but we’d also recommend Ye Olde Mitre – where none other than Queen Elizabeth I herself danced around a cherry tree that once stood outside – as well as The Holy Tavern – a cosy spot with an ornate fireplace, dark wooden decor and plenty of nooks and crannies.
It’s located within the grounds of one of London’s most ancient hostelries – The Clerkenwell Priory – and also whips up a mean plate of fish and chips – best washed down with a pint of ale!
📍55 Britton Street, London, EC1M 5UQ.
8. Dine in the dark at Dans Le Noir
Maybe you’ve heard whispers on the street about this brilliant concept of dining in complete darkness, or maybe you’ve watched Richard Curtis’s About Time and have formed a deep obsession with the idea that you might meet your soulmate there á la Domhnall Gleeson (eternally Bill Weasley) and Rachel McAdams. Either way, Dans Le Noir is a dining experience like no other and certainly qualifies as being one of the best things to do in Farringdon and Clerkenwell.
You’ll be given a choice of four colour-coded menus: red (meat), blue (fish), green (vegetarian) and white (chef’s special) but the details of the menus at Dans Le Noir are always kept a mystery… it’s all part of the fun, remember!
📍69-73 St. John Street, London, EC1M 4NJ.
9. Delve into the area’s history at the Museum of the Order of St. John
Another one of the best things to do in Farringdon is to explore the Museum of the Order of St. John – a hidden gem which traces the continuous history of a charity that dates back well over 900 years.
The extensive collections housed at this museum include paintings and illuminated manuscripts, rare armour, a bronze cannon given by Henry VIII, ancient coins, decorative furniture, ceramics, silverware and textiles. It’s an intriguing spot to while away the hours and well worth a visit if you’re ever in this neck of the woods!
📍St John’s Gate, St. John’s Lane, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 4DA.
10. Go on a ghost walk and see if you can spot a spectre
Given that this is basically London’s oldest neighbourhood, you can expect that there might be some ghosts and ghouls knocking about – and what better way to see if you can spot one than on a guided ghost walk? One of our favourites is the *gulp* ‘Paranormal Activity’ tour, where you’ll hunt for ghosts and poltergeists using the tools of the trade while learning about some of the city’s grisliest history!
This walk of the weird will take you over mass graves that lie hidden beneath commuters’ feet via London’s largest execution site, a gin palace and jail cells that housed ‘one of the world’s worst serial killers’. You’ll also attempt to make contact with the other side and get to grips with an ouija board or two. Spooky stuff! Come and uncover stories of murder, plague pits, and the ghosts that linger deep within London’s walls… if you dare. Get your tickets here.
📍Farringdon Station, Cowcross Street, EC1M 6BY.
11. Wine and dine at the Michelin-starred St. John
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Farringdon and Clerkenwell is a Michelin-starred restaurant thank you very much – and the food, quite frankly, is absolutely bloomin’ delicious.
Loved by foodies and other carnivores, the menu at St. John pretty much pioneered the concept of ‘nose-to-tail’ eating wherein every part of the animal is used, including parts less popular in Western cooking, like the intestines and the brain. Standout dishes include the mallard and celeriac and – wait for it – blood cake with fried eggs! Best washed down with a glass or two of vino of course…
📍26 St. John Street, London, EC1M 4AY.
So there you have it – a roundup of the best things to do in Farringdon and Clerkenwell. So whether you’re looking to get a big old dollop of history or rave all night (and day) in one of the city’s biggest nightclubs, then you’re in the right place here!