Sightseeing in Kings Cross

Panoramic view of the West Concourse

Panoramic view of the West Concourse

What to do on a wet May Bank Holiday? Go sightseeing in Kings Cross, of course!

The area around Kings Cross is undergoing something of a rejuvenation at the moment, focused around the redevelopment of St Pancras and Kings Cross stations and the major new development on former railway land to the north of the stations. With the British Library, Regent’s Canal and Old St Pancras Parish Church all a short walk away, in my opinion this is one of the most underrated parts of London.

West concourse - central structure

The ‘great steel stalk in the centre’ of the new structure. The restored Victorian ticket hall is behind.

The weather today was not really favourable for a walk along the canal, but no matter as the main purpose of the outing was to visit the new West Concourse at Kings Cross station. This was opened just a few weeks ago and has already been the subject of rave reviews. The semi-circular canopy, which has a span of 52m, is a truly impressive structure. As Rowan Moore writes in the Guardian, the roof structure “rises up a great steel stalk in the centre and then spreads into a tree-like canopy of intersecting branches, before descending into a ring of supports at the circumference. In so doing, it avoids the need to drop columns into the ticket hall of the underground station underneath the main space.”

At £500m, it should be good, although the cost of the project also includes refurbishment of the 160 year old station and the construction of new platforms. I particularly liked the contrast between the modern steel structure with its organic curves and the yellow stock brick Victorian station walls. We didn’t spend much time looking at the older part of the station (the platforms are behind ticket barriers) but everything has been cleaned up, including the glass in the twin barrel roofs, which allows much more natural light into the station.

View from the first floor footbridge

View from the first floor footbridge

Leaving through the north exit of the concourse it is just a short walk to St Pancras International Station. As we were walking through the shopping area in the lower level, I realised that between the two stations combined there are more shops than many a town shopping centre (some of them pretty up market). Of the two stations I think I prefer Kings Cross is the more interesting development, with the new concourse offering a more interesting space than the linear shopping mall of St Pancras. My main complaint at both stations is that there are no seats apart from those at the food outlets (presumably to encourage us all to patronise the restaurants if we want to sit down). And at St Pancras it is a long walk from the entrance of the station on Euston Road to the platforms at the far end of the station. It would have been nice if travelators had been installed. Or at least some seats to rest on the way.

Further photos of Kings Cross can be found here.

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About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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6 Responses to Sightseeing in Kings Cross

  1. St. Pancras works much better if you arrive at the First Capital Connect (Thameslink) station rather than by tube. Then you are already at the north end of the station.

    • Holloway Rev says:

      When we lived in Croydon we used the Thameslink service all the time, but I haven’t had cause to use it since it moved from the old Thameslink station across the road from Kings X. Paddington is the same – if you travel there on the Hammersmith and City line you arrive at the platform alongside the main line trains. If you have a ticket it is just a matter of transferring from one platform to another. Much easier than traipsing the length of the station from the Praed Street end.

  2. Martin says:

    There are more attractions in King’s Cross that you could have mentioned, including the London Canal Museum, London’s second transport museum, and more besides. The website visitkingscross.com gives more information about the tourist destinations of the area.

    • Holloway Rev says:

      Martin, thanks for that link. I have never found the time to call into the Canal Museum, which I really ought to do as I enjoy walking along the canal. It’s another reason for giving the area a thumbs up.

  3. Rob Smith says:

    If you are interested in the history and architecture of Kings Cross – Im running a tour of the area on Thursday at 7pm – see http://footprintsoflondon.com/portfolio/all-change-at-kings-cross

    Rob Smith

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