Laying toward the eastern edge of zone 2 North London you can find Finsbury Park, a simultaneously busy and sleepy part of London where you can be in the city is less than 10 minutes but avoid city prices.
Renting in Finsbury Park can be, if not exactly cheap, exceedingly good value for where you are. On average, a 4 room flatshare would rent at just shy of £2,500 a month, which equates to £625 per room per month. While that may seem a bit steep, Finsbury Park is, by and large, one of those areas in London that just feels nice (ie your parents probably won’t despair).
The Park and Its Many Wonders
First and foremost there is, of course, the park. The park is enormous. Just ridiculously big for a non-royal, zone 2 park. And with this enormity comes an eclectic collection of features: landscaped historical flowerbeds; an outdoor Gym with 14 pieces of equipment providing 20 exercise stations which are free to use from the moment the park gates open in the morning until they close at night; a giant lake with waterfowl galore; a café with public toilets; Victorian style seating shelters, lest you find yourself stained by the grass or caught by the rain; the Furtherfield Gallery; a skate park; and track, gym and tennis courts. There are more things to do in the actual Finsbury Park park than there were in the zone 5 suburb I grew up in.
Opposite Finsbury Park station is a large parade of shops, beginning at the park itself with a good sized Lidl and continuing down toward Holloway Road with a Tesco Metro, several pound shops, a fish monger, a standout bakery- The Happening Bagel, a council furniture shop- Bright Sparks and right at the end - a Morrison’s. About 20 minutes away in the opposite direction is Haringey Green lanes, where you can find the best Turkish food in London and a little further down is Wood Green with its massive shopping centre and good value indoor market, including several world food stalls.
Highbury Islington is a 30 minute walk away in near enough a straight line from the park. If you wish to sample some of the finer things in life, travel that way. Halfway between Finsbury Park and Highbury Islington you will find a lovely Italian Deli, a French deli, and an award winning butchers called Godffrey’s. All these will set you back a pretty penny, but if you’re after something special or to treat yourself then I couldn’t recommend better.
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Behind the station are two very different roads that intersect at Tollington Park Road: the fancy Stroud Green Road and the bustling Fonthill Road. Stroud Green Road is full from top to bottom: Starting from the station there is a Sainsbury’s local, followed by an exemplary Crisis charity shop. Further down you will find an assortment of hair salons, hair shops,green grocers and butchers. At the top of the road is a full sized Tesco’s and a parade of restaurants. Fonthill Road is a mixture of clothing shops, some of which sell day-to-day wear and others which offer bejewelled garments for every occasion.
There is even a small shopping centre which, again, is dominated by clothing shops. This road had a more market type feel, with many shops displaying their wares on mannequins outside. There is also a bespoke tailor and a handful of cafes. On Tollington Park Road itself, you can find a florist, a bakery, and a good-sized cash and carry. There is, quite literally, everything you could ever need within a 10 minute walk of the station.
The Varied Dining Experiences
The area immediately around Finsbury Park station is absolutely teaming with restaurants. From the station going up Stroud Green Road there is Dotaki a tiny, excellent and affordable Japanese eatery. Walking towards Tollington Park you will find a Kat’s Café des Artistes, a wonderfully strange, bizarrely decorated Thai restaurant. You can spot it from halfway down the road due to its laser light display. The food is delightful and cheap, the décor and general sense of the place is a small step into the surreal.
Further down Stroud Green Road, passed Tollington Park Road, is a long parade of restaurants including a Mexican restaurant which does a tasty and good value lunch time set menu, Pappagonia, a busy bustling Italian restaurant which serves up excellent (and enormous) pizzas and many, many more. There is also the absolute GEM that is ‘Granny’s’ a Caribbean takeaway serving the best jerk chicken, goat curry and salt fish outside of Notting Hill Carnival, all seemingly cooked up by a singular, actual granny.
You will never be hard-pressed to find a place to eat in Finsbury Park, and often it’ll be well within budget.
The Faltering Fallback and Other Joys
I must admit here, I am one of those ‘find your local’ type people when it comes to pubs and as such I have a fairly limited knowledge of watering holes around Finsbury Park. That being said, I cannot rate The Faltering Fallback highly enough. This was the first pub I sat in when house hunting in Finsbury Park and I was immediately sold. While they may only have three ales on draught, the music is always on point (usually some nostalgic 70’s rock classics), and both staff and locals friendly.
Initially the Faltering Fallback can seem rather small- with its single cramped bar but walk towards the back of the back of the pub and you will see that it expands into a massive community centre type hall filled with picnic benches, a pool table, some massive tellies for sports fans and a tiny stage with a piano. On either further inspection, you will discover that, much like Kat’s Café, every corner of every part of the pub is full of fun, bizarre and frankly adorable knickknacks.
But wait, there’s more! The beer garden. This is a sprawling four three-levelled wooden patio-style labyrinthine structure that is constantly covered in flowers and plants, decorated with (you guessed it) more weird little knickknacks. Half the floor space, if not more, of the Faltering Fallback, is this beer garden. And finally, in the evening you can treat yourself to some decent, reasonably priced Thai-food.
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Now that I’m done gushing, there is also the Twelve Pins by the station. This is an Arsenal pub, always full but convivial on a match day which makes for great atmosphere. Not so great if you’re into your ales, quite good if you’re an Arsenal supporter or if all your friends are.
Just next door to the Twelves Pins is Rowan’s Bowling Alley (which came first?). Prices range from £3.90 to £5.80 per person per game. There are also pool tables and a bar open until 3:00am, it’s great for a different sort of night out if you want to give clubbing a miss.
Last and certainly not least, is the ease of access. Finsbury Park station is served by the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines, both now also on the Night Tube. I must confess, the Victoria line is my favourite of the tube lines (when you move to London you also will love one tube line more than your parents and hate another more than your GCSE Math’s exam board; you will be able to rank them and wax lyrical as to why. It just happens). The Victoria Line propels you at warp speed from one side of London to another: Kings Cross is literally 5 minutes away and Brixton is only about 20.
BUT WAIT, there’s more. 6 Platforms of the National Rail worth of more. These trains can take you to Moorgate and King’s Cross (helpful when the tubes are striking!) or they can take you away from London toward Stevenage, Cambridge, Peterborough and Welwyn Garden City.
THERE’S STILL MORE! Finsbury Park station is also home to two bus stations which service 16 bus routes, including 4 night buses. Finsbury Park is so ludicrously well connected that no part of the city ever really feels that far away. So, whether you want to explore the city or just hang around the local area you’ll always be spoilt for choice.