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King's Cross Tours

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Granary Square, King's Cross, London

Granary Square

© Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.
The King's Cross area has been ripe for regeneration and redevelopment for a long time. The area had attracted the seedier side of a capital city for years but the transformation is underway and things are looking up.

Transport Hub
King's Cross St Pancras is the most connected transport hub in Europe, from the Eurostar (which moved here in 2007) linking the UK to continental Europe, the national rail network, the multiple tube lines and local buses too.

The plan is to remove the old reputation now the area has so much potential, and not only because of the transport links. The Kings Cross Development has been underway for many years already and there are another ten years to go on this project so no-one is thinking short-term.

Old and New
The development area is to be a mix of heritage buildings, to remind us of the area's industrial past, alongside new buildings including plenty of housing. The site is also very open with 40% of the site reserved as public spaces for events and socialising. There was a conscious decision to improve the area for all and not to create some sort of 'gated community' only for the wealthy. These public spaces are already being used for free events.

Inside the Granary Building, King's Cross

Inside the Granary Building

© Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Granary Square
One of the most popular already is Granary Square with its 1080 fountains that are lit up in the evening. This is the second largest public square after Trafalgar Square. You can see the line of the 1860s diverted canal basin in the paving and the square opens onto the canal via some wide steps so you easily take a walk by the canal which gives a uniquely peaceful and alternative view of London.

During the London 2012 Olympic Games there was a New Zealand House in Granary Square. Their barbecue caused a fire but thankfully no-one was hurt.

Granary Square is in front of the Granary Building which is one of the heritage buildings being kept in the area. It takes its name from the fact it was used as a grain store in the past but now it is home to Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the students have injected creativity and vibrancy into the area.

Visitor Centre
The Granary Building is also home to the King's Cross Visitor Centre where you can find out more about the area and pick some free postcards, themed maps of the area and lots more information.

Metropolitan Line ventilation shaft

Metropolitan Line ventilation shaft

© Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Free Guided Tours
I took one of the free guided tours of the development site and discovered Lewis Cubitt was a major architect in the area as he built Kings Cross Station in 1851-52, the Granary Building in 1852 and the Great Northern Hotel in 1854.

The Great Northern Hotel should be reopening in 2013 as a boutique hotel and the St Pancras Renaissance hotel reopened in 2011.

The King's Cross area is named after a statue of George IV. He was unpopular so the statue was removed but the name stayed. There is a really informative interactive light and map table in the Granary Building where you can find out these kinds of great facts and see plenty of historical images too.

Public art is important to the development and the large Birdcage at the top of King's Boulevard is a great example. At times there's a swing inside that's big enough for adults to play on.

A geek moment, but my personal highlight of the tour was finding a ventilation shaft for the Metropolitan Line just off York Way. And discovering the Skip Gardens which I'd read about in the London Garden Book A-Z.

King's Cross is definitely changing for the better. There's a new postcode for the area – N1C – and a new lease of life. At last King's Cross will be somewhere to visit and not just pass through.

Find out more about the free tours: tours.kingscross.co.uk

Find out more about King's Cross: www.kingscross.co.uk

You may also like to read Where to eat in King's Cross for further recommended cafes and restaurants.

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