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England > London > North London

Originally, North London was a collection of separate little villages, each distinct in character and appearance. In Georgian times, winter snows sometimes made Highgate impossible to reach from London. Travelling from London to Hampstead involved galloping across miles of open countryside, sometimes with highwaymen in pursuit.

Time, London's massive 19th century expansion and the arrival of Northern Line has linked these leafy villages - yet each retains its own atmosphere and charm.

The Northern Line is the best way to reach and explore north London. Londoners like to denigrate it, sometimes jocularly dubbing it "the misery line". It's not too bad really - provided you don't mind waiting a bit longer for trains than on other Tube lines, particularly late at night.

The Northern Line forks into two spurs as you head north (one heading to Edgware, the other to High Barnet and Mill Hill East) so be sure to check which spur your station is on. All northbound Northern Lines trains pass through Camden Town, which is a good place to start.

Click on the headings to find out more: Camden Town is the one of London's liveliest market districts. It's a 15-minute stroll from the northeast corner of Regents Park. The walk (along Parkway) is quite fun if you happen to be up that way - otherwise best take the Tube.

Camden Market is actually a collection of separate markets grouped along Camden High Street. The original market is the one in Inverness Street. It has sold fruit and vegetables for over a century (every day except Sundays). Market stalls have expanded massively since the 1970s and the weekends now see about 100,000 shoppers turn up for bargains in just about everything - clothes and bric-a-brac predominate - all the way along both sides of Camden High Street to Chalk Farm Road.

Boots, sweatshirts, children's clothes, Victorian jewellery, leather jackets - you can find them all here in the markets. When you tire, why not rest in a pub, like the Buck's Head, the Oxford Arms or the Fusilier and Firkin. If you pop into the Fusilier and Firkin (which brews its own beer) on May 26 you are in luck - the pub celebrates National Naturist Day then with an afternoon of naked drinking. On reflection, perhaps you're not in luck after all.

Not far away, Camden Lock offers canal trips, cafes and a convenient cluster of markets, most selling arty/crafty goods. The Victorian Market Hall houses three storeys of art studios and shops most open every day. The Stables and Camden Canal Market sell everything from Georgian cameo brooches to handmade postcards and reconditioned belt-buckles.

Visitors sometimes confuse Camden Market with the similarly named Camden Passage Market. They are entirely different. Camden Passage Market is located just off Upper Street Islington (also in North London). The Angel Islington Tube station (Northern Line) is the one closest to Camden Passage Market, which specialises in fine antiques. It's open Tuesdays and Saturdays. While you're there, maybe drop into Chapel Street Market (much more working class) a couple of streets away for a touch of old London. It's open Tuesdays to Sundays.

The journey from Camden Lock to Little Venice can take the form of a pleasant stroll, slow cycle or jog along the Regent's Canal towpath - or you can relax and take a narrowboat. Little Venice is a triangular basin on the loveliest stretch of Regent's Canal, used as a mooring point by colourful barges. Local houses are pretty in spring, with window boxes trailing geraniums. The name Little Venice was thought up by poet Robert Browning, a former resident. Between October and May the Puppet Theatre Barge is moored near the Blomfield Road side of Little Venice. Punch and Judy entertain.

Little Venice borders patrician and pricey St John's Wood, where residents include Sir Paul McCartney and Virgin supremo Richard Branson. Snooty Lord's Cricket Ground is owned by the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) and is considered the most hallowed turf in the sport of cricket, a game played by teams throughout Britain and (to a higher standard) by the countries of the former British Empire. The MCC Museum houses all sorts of odd cricketing memorabilia, even the body of a sparrow struck by a cricket ball in 1936.

The Beatles used to hang out at Abbey Road, linked by Grove End Road to Lord's Cricket Ground. The Fab Four recorded their famous album at EMI Studios (No. 3). The zebra crossing outside has become the world's most famous. You can spot tourists wandering about in awe snapping photos. Paul McCartney bought the house at 7 Cavendish Avenue (two blocks east of the crossing) in 1966. He still owns it.

North up Abbey Road you'll reach Boundary Road, where at No. 98A in a former Paint Factory The Saatchi Collection amazes visitors with confrontational modern art. The summer show is the most shocking - artworks tend to consist of items such as dead sharks preserved in tanks of formaldehyde - to mention one of the more tasteful recent exhibits.

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