Welcome to the Theatre-land of North London: Upper Street  

  • By The Alchemist About Town
  • 24 Aug, 2017

Summer in the City Guide: Islington & Upper Street

Pic from bbc.co.uk

Ok, it is week 4 of my Summer in the City, Summer Edit intimate travel blog covering the charms of Islington. Well welcome to Upper Street, Islington's buzzing high street and the Theatre-land of North London. There is a HUGE amount of restaurants and bars,  fashionable shops, pubs, and many theatres here but still feeling villagey rather than commercial.

Bit of history ( indulge me):

  • The hilltop village of Islington originally consisted of two streets in addition to the High Street: Upper Street and Lower Street, which diverged from the High Street at Islington Green and both date back to at least the 12th century.Henry VIII hunted duck in the ponds off Upper Street, while Walter Raleigh lived in Upper Street and owned a pub in Lower Street, since renamed Essex Road.
  • In the 18th century Upper Street started to be redeveloped from an agricultural to a residential area and it became later notorious (late ninetheen century) for its night-time entertainments. In 1870, Charles Dickens described the area as "amongst the noisiest and most disagreeable thoroughfares in London."

How things have changed; if I say so myself, Upper Street is now a vibrant cafe culture/art scene/entertainment island to rival the West End (did I say I love Islington?).

St. Mary's Church, Islington, rebuilt in 1754, dominates the Islington skyline and is still in full use today.

There is a children's puppet theatre in a former Temperance hall, called Little Angel Theatre  , behind the church.

Directly opposite St. Mary's Church is the King's Head Theatre, founded in 1970, the first pub theatre in the UK, located in the back room behind the bar at the King's Head pub

Recommended this week:

Food and drinks

Practically every other door in Upper Street is either a pub, a restaurant or some kind of eatery, a mix of well know chain-brands and smaller independents, too many to mention; there is certainly something for all tastes and price brackets.

A couple of gems worth mentioning for me:

Casa Manolo  , a tiny bit of Spain in the heart of Islington, offering eating-in as well authentic products for sale (  jam on iberico, Yum :-p ).

Islington is the biggest Ottolenghi and a proper restaurant. A Mediterranean influence with ever changing and experimenting menu as well as take-away food, it seats about 50 in the cool, sophisticated-yet-laid-back environment, mostly around communal tables. The restaurant is just opposite the Almeida theatre ( see below) and serves hot breakfast, lunch from the counter and hot food from the kitchen at dinner time, served to share in mezzo size portions. If you want to have brunch on the weekend try to arrive early, to avoid the long queues.

Udderliscious Ice Cream , an independent ice-cream parlour toward the Highbury end of Upper Street, making utterly deliciously scrumptious ice cream; they often experiment and they even do flavour requests ( yes, that's right). You have to try it.


Screen on the Green , love love love this "experience" cinema, offering a mix of independent, foreign language, culture, classics and the latest blockbusters movies (and you can drink a nice glass of red whilst enjoying the movie too, priceless). Showing now.

The Almeida Theatre  ,  is a 325-seat studio theatre off Upper Street opened in 1980.. The theatre produces a diverse range of drama and exists with the  purpose is to launch the next generation of British talent into the world stage. Now showing Against (12/08-30/09), Christopher Shinn's new play, directed by Ian Rickson, with Ben Whishaw.

The Kings Head
 , the first theatre pub since Shakespearean times, Victorian pub with famous theatre and live music. The Kings Head Theatre is  currently showing Coming Clean (25/7 to 26/8)  Kevin Elyot’s landmark drama questions the nature of fidelity and the limits of love, headlining the Kings Head Theatre's 2017 Queer Season. Hurry up if you want to see it. And from 29/08 until 23/09 you  will be able to enjoy OutLaws to In-laws 7 new short plays by 7 leading gay writers spanning the decades from the 1950s to the present day exploring gay lives against a rapidly changing social history from intolerance, violence and hate through to the legalisation of homosexuality and gay marriage.


Twentytwentyone  , new and vintage meet in this design store beloved by architects, designers and other trendies (or people who want to be trendy). Quality, beautifully-designed homeware is carefully sourced and advice on investing in classic retro furniture available.

Little Paris , for the lovers of French home deco, Little Paris offers a time trip through an eclectic range of vintage and unique furniture, curiosities, contemporary fashion and home accessories directly sourced from France. The shop is constantly restocked, so it is worth popping in regularly.

You must come and visit, what are you waiting for?

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Laura xxx
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