Monday, August 1, 2011

Station survival

4 tips for escaping the crowds at King’s Cross station

Right now King’s Cross station is a challenge. Building work means there’s even less space and fewer facilities than there used to be, so it’s crowded most of the time and on hot summer days this can test anyone’s patience.

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If you have more than a few minutes to wait, the best thing to do is get out of the station. Here are some tips:

1. Check your platform on your phone or laptop

Find out what’s going on with your train without having to stay at the station. If you have a smartphone or laptop (St Pancras has free wifi - see below), bring up the King’s Cross live departures board and use it to check whether your platform has been announced or if your train has been delayed.

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If you don’t have a seat reservation and there is going to be a scramble for your train then you might want to head back to King’s Cross in time to join the rush.

2. Go to a quiet part of St Pancras station next door

Unlike King’s Cross, St Pancras has free wifi (network name: “StPancras WiFi”) and free toilets as well as far more places to eat, drink and shop. The best places to head for are:

The Circle

This is the area on the ground floor near the domestic rail platforms and it has a good sized Marks & Spencer, a Boots and branches of Starbucks, Pret a Manger and Paul with decent amounts of seating.

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The toilets up this end hardly ever have queues (unlike the ones near Eurostar arrivals).

Upper Level
This area of St Pancras tends to be less busy than the floor below, and the high roof makes it feel quieter.

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Cafés such as AMT Coffee, Camden Food Co or West Cornwall Pasty Company have seats outside, or up the other end there’s Carluccio's and the The Betjeman Arms.

You can easily get to both of these areas by going down into the Underground inside King’s Cross, turning right at the bottom of the steps and following signs for St Pancras which will bring you to the Circle. For the Upper Level, turn left past Sourced Market and go up the first set of escalators you come to.

3. Go to Argyle Square

If it’s not raining, Argyle Square is a pleasant open space the other side of Euston Road, just two minutes away from King’s Cross. This is a good option for groups of students or backpackers or anyone else who wants to get some fresh air and avoid spending money in a café.

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There is a small climbing frame for children and even an outdoor gym. You may find you are sharing the square with a few local characters, but it’s unlikely that they’ll give you any trouble.

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  • argyle_square_gym.jpg

To get there, enter the Underground outside the front of King’s Cross station, turn left at the bottom of the steps to go through the underpass. Turn left to exit the underpass by McDonald’s and go up Crestfield Street to reach Argyle Square.

4. Nearby pubs, restaurants and cafés

From outside King’s Cross, the busy Euston Road doesn’t look that promising, but there are places to be found if you zoom in on the maps in our restaurants, cafés and pubs pages or try these suggestions:

Pubs and bars: The Fellow, Camino, and McGlynn's all do food and have outdoor space. Millers only does food during weekday daytime but drinks are quite cheap, while The Lincoln Lounge doesn’t do food but is a pleasant place to go for a pint.

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  • Camino

Cafés: try Pompidou Café or Costa Coffee York Way which is one of the quieter branches of Costa round here.

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  • Pompidou Café

Cheap eats: there’s a nice branch of Nando's or Chop Chop the other side of Euston Road does very cheap Chinese food.

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  • Nando’s

…plus many more in St Pancras (see above) or listed here on KXLDN but a little further away.

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