Filled with narrow streets, cobbled alleys and secret squares Clerkenwell is also charmingly green, littered with tiny parks and gardens
A brief introduction
Just outside the ancient origins of the city of London (the remains of which are now covered by the City of London) lies Clerkenwell – an area filled with narrow streets, cobbled alleys and secret squares. It’s also charmingly green, littered with tiny parks and gardens. Clerkenwell is home to many of London’s creative and design industries, including London’s diamond trading street – Hatton Garden. This heritage-rich neighbourhood is packed with workshops, studios, boutiques and pop-up shops and events spaces. Smithfield Meat Market is also on the edge of Clerkenwell, and the area is also recognised for its outstanding restaurants and food markets, including the popular lunchtime food-stalls along Exmouth Market.
Food and drink
Clerkenwell is renowned as a design hub but is fast becoming home to many of London’s best restaurants
There are several reasons why Clerkenwell is a renowned neighbourhood: it’s a design hub, hosting the Design Week and Britannia Festival every year (among others activities). Then there’s the fact that many of London’s best restaurants have decided to open here around Farringdon station. Finally there are the food markets: Smithfield – a wholesale meat market, Leather Lane – a bric-a-brac weekday market and Exmouth market – a charming street with street food stalls and amazing restaurants. Whichever your interests are, you will find plenty of reasons to visit Clerkenwell.
Formerly known as St Ali, Workshop Coffee in Clerkenwell Road is one of London’s highest-rated coffee shops and roasteries. Their focus on sourcing, roasting and serving the best coffee has paid off and in recent years the brand has expanded to four shops across the city. Many other cafes in London and abroad have also chosen Workshop Coffee beans as their house blends. At the flagship store in Clerkenwell Workshop Coffee serve breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a very popular weekend brunch.
St. John Restaurant
Fergus Henderson’s acclaimed restaurant, St John Restaurant, is considered one of London’s best restaurants to sample contemporary British cuisine. It’s a great spot for breakfast when you can try the famous Old Spot Bacon Sandwich. It’s an extra-ordinary sandwich in every little detail: the bacon from Gloucester Old Spot pigs, the bread (a soft sandwich loaf which is baked on site and toasted over an open char grill) and the ketchup (also homemade using tomatoes, vinegar, spices, apples.
This is a traditional Japanese sushi bar tucked away in a cobbled alleyway in Clerkenwell. When it opened in 2012 it caused a stir among food bloggers and food critics, all racing to get a table. Sushi Tetsu can accommodate only 7 people at the bar (there are no tables) so the turn-over is of only 11-12 customers every night. The fish is sourced daily from Billingsgate Market (or sometimes even shipped directly from Japan) and prepared skillfully in front of your eyes by Chef Toru Takahashi. If you are lucky enough to book a table (call two months ahead) you will be rewarded with an unforgettable dining experience.
Russell Norman, owner of Polpo, is the man who introduced cicchetti to London in late 2009 (with the opening of the first Polpo restaurant in Soho). Polpo Smithfield opened on Cowcross Street in 2012 replicating the atmosphere and food of a Venetian bàcaro: a small neighbourhood restaurant serving good local wines and simple food to go with them. Start with Pizzetta Bianca, move on to the Fritto Misto and meatballs “alla Vedova”, then finish with an Affogato al caffè.
Foxlow opened in 2014 with the intent to create a “neighbourhood restaurant” with a more affordable approach than big brother Hawksmoor. The focus is on incredible meat, plenty of salads and dishes inspired by International cuisines, such as the Farro Fattoush, the Crispy Five Pepper Squid or the signature dish Foxlow Fried Chicken with Habanero Vinegar. Foxlow also serve great cocktails and wines mostly sourced from small producers.
Health and wellbeing
Clerkenwell can feel a little deserted at weekends but that’s the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a little down time which you can spend in the local baths, at yoga or in the gym.
If it’s a party vibe and a good looking crowd you’re looking for, Gymbox is the gym for you. They truly make sweating enjoyable and it’s all located just 30 seconds from Farringdon mainline and tube station. Resident DJ’s spin the tunes while you workout / dance* (optional) on the gym floor. With a studio timetable packed full of unique classes (try Tour de Farringdon – a unique take on indoor cycling), a boxing ring and functional fitness there is something to tickle anyones fancy.
Fitness on Fire
Fitness on Fire offer Hot Yoga classes which is universally recognised as a great way to sweat out toxins from your body while performing the mandatory stretches and poses associated with yoga. Classes are suited for all levels so you’re guaranteed a great work even if it’s just your first session.
Rosebery Rooms, Kumari Club
This urban day spa for everyday face, mind and body maintenance and lasting results. Consisting of four treatment rooms located on the edge of Clerkenwell in an intimate, underground escape space. Book yourself in for a body polish, a manicure or a back, neck and shoulder massage. Or be adventurous and try their Ultimate Detox – 30 min massage followed by Colonic Hydrotherapy.
Ironmonger Row Baths
Ironmonger Row Baths offers well equipped modern gym facilities, cardio zone & pools. They were originally built as a public wash house and later upgraded to a Turkish Bath. The baths include a steam room, a series of three hot rooms of varying temperature, marble slabs for massage and body scrubbing and an icy plunge pool. There are also two relaxation areas. The swimming pool is just over 30 metres long with a small sauna next to it.
Urban Golf Smithfield
It might be tough to find green spaces in London but you can find a different kind of golf course. Urban Golf is a central London indoor venue with state of the art golf simulators, fully stocked bars plus friendly and knowledgable staff. Urban Golf also offer lessons from golf pros, custom club fittings and membership packages. If you’re after a chilled out opportunity to polish your golf skills, this is the perfect venue.
London Dance Academy
The London Dance Academy describe themselves as an urban oasis, where you can explore the art of dance & yoga. Their classes are al about having fun while working hard to achieve your own personal goals. With three studios and an extensive list of classes including yoga rave, primal flow, splitz mission and aerial yoga there’s something for everyone from beginners to professional dancers.
Flying Fantastic is London’s first and only dedicated aerial fitness centre offering classes in Aerial Silks, Hoop, Slings and Static Trapeze. They operate in Central London out of GymBox Farringdon which is situated right next to Farringdon tube station. Currently the timetable consists of one midweek evening class and one lunchtime weekend class. Whether you’re a Flying Fledgling or Flying Fanatic there’s nothing quite like it for an all over body workout.
Clerkenwellbeing a restorative haven in Central London where all your health care needs can be considered. Offering classes in yoga, pilates, somatic movement and meditation as well as a full compliment of therapies including chiropody, Chinese herbal medicine, homeopathy and hypnotherapy you really can find everything you need to look after your health and wellbeing.
Clerkenwell might not be the most obvious shopping location, but a closer look reveals some hidden gems.
Clerkenwell might not be the most obvious shopping location, but a closer look reveals some hidden gems. Exmouth Market houses a plentiful array of shops focusing on handmade and crafted items, with many products made onsite in the store owners’ workshops. It’s generally a quiet area with a food market held during the week.
Antoni & Alison
Antoni & Alison, on Roseberry Avenue, is a gorgeous little store that sells womenswear, menswear and accessories, as well as a selection of the famous Antoni & Alison tearoom crockery and souvenirs, including notebooks, tea towels and postcards.
Content & Co
Content & Co is an independent menswear store, which stocks clothing, accessories and lifestyle pieces from well-known brands such as Adidas Originals, Gant Rugger, Canada Goose and Barbour. The store started in 2013 and has since branched out into Exmouth Market after the success of the first store in Holborn.
Family Tree Shop
Jo and Takako are the owners and designers behind the hand crafted products for sale in the Family Tree shop. They have a strong focus on printmaking and surface design, but also sell numerous items from independent designers, such as crafted interiors, accessories and gifts.
In with the Old
In with the Old is a shop and workshop based in Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell’s popular design district. Founded in 2012, the shop was inspired by a passion for making quality handcrafted lifestyle products. Own brand products, such as jewellery and stationary, are made downstairs in the workshop space, which can also be booked out for private parties and hen dos. Look out for the cacti on the outside bench!
The Quality Chop Shop started out as a restaurant and wine bar. Due to its success in 2013, they opened up a food shop and butchers next door. In the food shop you can pick up day-to-day essentials like milk, eggs, fresh fruit and veg. They also make sandwiches every day and a hot sandwich selection every Friday lunchtime. The pastries and cakes are not to be missed and with advance notice the pastry chef can take requests.
Clerkenwell has a wide range of must-see places waiting to be discovered, many of which often house a treasure trove of unique stories and experiences. Explore some of our top recommendations below and get the insiders’ take on Clerkenwell’s hidden gems.
As the painted sign over the door proudly proclaims, the Jerusalem Tavern has stood on Britton Street since 1720. While the interior evokes its eighteenth century heritage, the range of drinks on offer is far more modern, supplied by St Peter’s Brewery in Suffolk. The Jerusalem Tavern is always a popular place for a pint, with merry drinkers spilling out onto the pavements in warmer months.
Museum of the Order of St John
Tucked beneath a fine stone archway at the end of a cobbled courtyard, is one of the city’s most unique museums – The Museum of the Order of St John. The Order of St John began as a hospital in the eleventh century, and today is probably best known for its St John Ambulance service. The museum explores the Order’s humanitarian history and activities around the world, inside a gated building dating from the sixteenth century.
Creative Clerkenwell pop-up shops
A unique organisation and workspace that exists to support small creative organisations and individuals, Creative Clerkenwell has two shops in the area that feature an ever-changing array of clothes, homewares, art and design pieces and accessories produced by local creatives. Most brands are hosted as ‘pop-ups’, in residence for a few days only, so you can be guaranteed a new designer to discover each time you visit the shops.
St James churchyard and ‘On The Green’ coffee shop
Opposite Clerkenwell Green stands a huge church, the tower of which is visible above the rooftops from much of the surrounding area. This is St James Clerkenwell, and the peaceful green space in which it sits is a true hidden gem. There is space to sit, eat your lunch or even practice tai chi. There’s also great little shop – On The Green – serving excellent coffee to dog-walkers and passersby
Leather Lane Market
Originally a general market selling everything from clothes to cut-price cosmetics, Leather Lane Market is now renowned for its tightly-packed food stalls. Particularly popular with hungry office workers, Leather Lane market is at its busiest on Thursdays and Fridays, when producers such as Crosstown Doughnuts, Turkish food-sellers Victus & Bibo and Grill My Cheese, ply their tasty wares.