Without a shadow of a doubt, Finsbury Park would be an underdog in any contest for the most attractive London neighbourhood. However, if it had to compete for the title of the edgiest area in the capital, it would stand a chance!
It’s a cool neighbourhood to explore with its growing multicultural community, green spaces, quirky shops and trendy cafes, epic international eateries and offbeat attractions.
Today, I’d like to share the 8 very best things to do in the Finsbury Park area:
- Go for a stroll along the old railway tracks of Parkland Walk
- Burn calories from guilty pleasures in Finsbury Park
- Take a peek at Finsbury Park’s art mosaics
- Buy healthy meal ingredients at the Stroud Green Market
- Experience Finsbury Park’s cultural life
- Get a morning coffee in an artsy café
- Get a dose of retail therapy
- Treat yourself to a new dining experience
Go for a stroll along the old railway tracks of Parkland Walk
Parkland Walk is the longest nature reserve in London and a mecca for art and nature lovers. It’s also a perfect playground for photographers.
It follows the former railway line connecting Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace. But it’s not a usual nature trail. The shadows of sycamore and birch trees hide secrets few people know about.
If you’re a keen observer, you will notice miniature artworks created by artist Ben Wilson in various spots along Parkland Walk.
Watch for the numbered marker posts. They indicate where the artist’s small paintings are hiding. Each piece of art is like a tiny jewel telling a story about the reserve and adding to its distinctive character.
I first came across Ben Wilson’s art visiting Millennium Bridge in London and got hooked by his miniature chewing gum paintings. It’s exciting to know that the artist chose Parkland Walk as another space for his unusual creations.
While walking along the trail, passing through abandoned platforms and ghostly train stations (no wonder they are often used for television dramas), you will also find graffiti and other art pieces embellishing the walls of bridges and tunnels.
To the side of the main path, close to the entrance to the Parkland Walk from Holmesdale Road, you will come across the Wildlife Trail, a conservation project run by volunteers.
It’s like a hidden-from-curious-eyes sanctuary where you can smell wildflowers, watch the birds, learn about wildlife, spot some animals like hedgehogs or foxes, or even create your own clay creatures (there is a special clay ground where you can exercise your creative energy).
Wildlife Trail Opening Hours:
9.00am-4.30pm every day of the week subject to availability of volunteers.
How to access Parkland Walk:
It can be easily accessed from Crouch Hill (near Ella Road), Blythwood Road, Oxford Road or from Finsbury Park via the footbridge over the mainline railway.
Finsbury Park or Highgate
Burn calories from guilty pleasures in Finsbury Park
Opened in 1869, Finsbury Park beats nearly any other park in London as to the number of sports facilities.
It has tennis courts, basketball, volleyball, street hockey areas, a full athletics track and field run, baseball and softball grounds, football pitches, gym areas and a skate park, just to name a few. It’s a perfect place for any keep-fit buff.
Even if outdoor sports are not your thing, you can come here to catch some fresh air in McKenzie’s historical flower gardens or grab a coffee in Finsbury Park Café while watching the wildlife on the Boating Lake (my favourite way to unwind).
Beginning in mid-April, you can hire a boat for a relaxing lake tour.
Every Saturday from noon until 3 pm, they offer discounts for those dressed up as a princess or pirate. As this discount is not valid on Halloween, I personally haven’t used it, but if you’re under 7, it’s something you should definitely consider :).
Finsbury Park is a great choice for a sunny weekend afternoon, too. There can’t be a better place to treat yourself to a cheerful alfresco feast on the grass.
I often come here with friends to soak up the sun over a glass of bubbly and snacks. The drumbeats fill the air with some extra funky vibes on Sundays.
Be assured that the Finsbury Park Art Club musicians will do their best to boost your endorphins with their free jamming sessions.
How to access Finsbury Park:
It can be accessed from Endymion Road, Seven Sisters Road, or Green Lanes
Take a peek at Finsbury Park’s art mosaics
At the junction of Wells Terrace and Clifton Terrace next to the new entrance of Finsbury Park station, you can view an intricate art mosaic called the Elm Tree of Life created by artists Carrie Reichardt, Karen Francesca and ATM.
It represents stories of the Finsbury Park neighbourhood, local tales and the connection between the urban environment and nature.
Next time you take the tube from Finsbury Park station (Southbank Piccadilly line), pay attention to the series of colourful hot air and helium balloon mosaics created by artist Annabel Grey on the underground walls.
Buy healthy meal ingredients at the Stroud Green Market
You are spoilt with the choice of food stores and supermarkets in Finsbury Park. However, nothing compares to the local market, where you can buy homemade specialities and fresh produce from local farmers and traders.
I like to visit the Stroud Green Market for a cup of fresh artisan coffee and meander along the stalls piled high with artisan specialities.
You can get anything from freshly squeezed juices, exquisite cheeses and bread to freshly made tiramisu and scallops.
Located in the Stroud Green School playground, directly opposite the iconic Faltering Fullback Pub, the market is a go-to place for foodies on a Sunday morning.
Stroud Green Market, Perth Road / Ennis Road, London N4 3HB
Open every Sunday from 10 – 2.30
Experience Finsbury Park’s cultural life
Converted from a former office block, Park Theatre is an intimate space with the right dose of a hipster vibe.
It offers a mixture of musicals, dramas and experimental productions.
All the shows I’ve seen there were of outstanding quality. They are also more affordable in comparison to many West End shows.
Even if you don’t come here for a show, you can always treat yourself to a snack or a cocktail in the Theatre’s trendy bar.
Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, London N4 3JP
Picturehouse Cinema has recently opened in City North and offers, in addition to blockbusters, a vast program of non-mainstream films.
It deserves many kudos for ultra-comfy reclining seats with heaps of extra legroom. If you love cinema and become a club member, you will enjoy their lovely member’s bar, perfect for a post-film glass of wine or cuppa.
Don’t forget to cast your eyes over artist Dale Lewis’s mural in the cinema lobby.
Picturehouse Cinema, 17 City North Place, London N4 3FU
Get a morning coffee in an artsy café
There are many trendy cafes in Finsbury Park, mainly along lively Stroud Green and Blackstock Road. Every café has a unique character. Here is a list of those I’d recommend the most:
Common Ground – a perfect café/eatery for vegetarians and vegans who want to enjoy (insanely delicious) fresh and house-baked food in a trendy interior.
I especially like their terrace where you can enjoy your meal surrounded by plants. They’ve even got you covered with their cosy dining domes when it rains. Note that it’s a laptop/tablet free space.
Common Ground, 49 Stroud Green Rd, London N4 3EF
Boulangerie Bon Matin –an ideal café and bakery for those who want to enjoy homemade Parisienne-style pastries or freshly cooked food in a laid back, rustic ambience.
I’m a fan of their pancakes with berries, but you can get anything from poached eggs on muffins to soups, toasts and salads.
Boulangerie Bon Matin, 178 Tollington Park, London N4 3AJ
The Front Room Café –for those looking for a community café with a home feel. Often visited by locals, this café offers a wide selection of homemade food, such as soups, quiches and burgers. Don’t forget to glimpse the walls adorned with art exhibits by local artists.
The Front Room Cafe, 158 Tollington Park, London N4 3AD
Blighty Café – for anyone interested in food made with locally-sourced ingredients and the best British culinary specialities.
I adore their original and funky retro interiors and large garden, to say nothing about their exceptionally friendly service.
Blighty Cafe, 35-37 Blackstock Rd, London N4 2JF
Salt the Radish – is perfect for those looking for an independent café with healthy vegan or vegetarian food options.
You can get there anything from salads and eggs on toast to creative ciabatta sandwiches. The café also offers interesting evening and seasonal events when you can enjoy your meal at a large sharing table socialising with other foodies.
Salt the Radish, 45 Blackstock Rd, London N4 2JF
Get a dose of retail therapy
If you like shopping, something will catch your fancy in one of many shops along Stroud Green Road, Fonthill Road and Blackstock Road.
You can get anything from African and Afro-Caribbean hair and beauty products (nowhere else have I ever seen so many shops with hair products as in Stroud Green Road) to stylish homeware, pre-loved fashion, artisan food and gifts. Here are some unique shops I would recommend:
For food connoisseurs:
Butler’s – this elegant independent shop offers an extensive range of fine cheeses, wine, charcuterie and other artisan food products from around the UK and Europe.
Try to visit it on Saturday from 1 pm for a free wine tasting to discover exquisite wine flavours and choose gourmet products for your next special dinner party.
Butler’s, 186 Stroud Green Rd, London N4 3RN
For organic food lovers:
I highly recommend Green and Glory and Urban Native on Stroud Green Road and Planet Food on Seven Sisters Road to anyone looking for a huge variety of healthy, organic foods (including vegetarian and vegan options) and eco-friendly products.
Green & Glory, 55 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3EG
Urban Native, 188 Stroud Green Rd, London N4 3RN
Planet Food, 298 Seven Sisters Rd, London N4 2AG
For pre-loved fashion lovers:
Crisis –this charity shop with a mission to end homelessness is possibly the prettiest shop of this kind in London.
I always see it crowded with people hunting for vintage and second-hand clothing or furniture. But you can come here just to relax over a cup of coffee at its lovely coffee bar. It has a unique character with a constantly changing décor.
Crisis, 19 Stroud Green Rd, London N4 3FB
Treat yourself to a new dining experience
Finsbury Park has an extremely diverse and eclectic culinary scene. Most of the restaurants and bars are located on Stroud Green Road and Blackstock Road and offer international cuisines from nearly every corner of the world. Here are my top three favourites:
Pizzeria Pappagone – for those who love an authentic wood-fired Italian pizza. It’s one of the most popular pizzerias in London with an extremely friendly staff.
Pizzeria Pappagone, 131 Stroud Green Rd, London N4 3PX
Dotori – for those who love top quality Asian food. It’s a tiny Korean and Japanese Sushi restaurant, so you’re lucky if you get a table, but you won’t regret the experience if you do. Its fresh sushi and sashimi are the best I’ve ever tried outside Japan.
Dotori, 3 Stroud Green Road, N4 2DQ
La Fabrica – for those who love Spanish food, tasty wine and a nicely designed rustic interior. Their churros with chocolate are something to die for.
La Fabrica, 45 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3EF
I hope you find this guide through Finsbury Park helpful in your own discovery of this unique neighbourhood. If you’ve already visited Finsbury Park, please let me know about your experience in the comments section below.