London: The German Gymnasium at King’s Cross


For the conscientiously-thinking German of the past centuries, keeping physically fit was equal to a national duty to be fulfilled – like going to church on Holy Sundays. Not a chance of ever playing truant. The constant surveillance by a rigorously watchful society saw to these rules not being neglected. Meanwhile in Germany, like in any place else in the world, people who work out regularly on a voluntary basis have become rarer and those zigzagging between sporadic exertion and hard-core couch-potatoing a sad majority.

German discipline was worthwhile being exported to ensure that far-away expats would not forget to stay in shape. And this is how the German Gymnasium at King’s Cross came to be. The money for „the first purpose-built gymnasium in the United Kingdom“, opened in 1865, was raised entirely by the German Gymnastics Society and the German community in London. 6,000 pounds well invested. Even women were allowed to use the facility: a freedom otherwise alien to ladies of that era.

Ladies in a gym were a rare sight back in the 19th century!

Ladies in a gym were a rare sight back in the 19th century!

The main exercise hall spread out into a grand and elegant space with a floor to ceiling height of 57ft. Sports long lying dormant were practised here, such as Indian club swinging or expert wielding of the broadsword. The venue played host to the first Olympic Games’ indoor events in 1866 held by the National Olympian Association. In the early 20th-century, the building lost its former designated status and housed offices, storage areas and offered arts and exhibition space since.

The 'German Gymnasium is being converted into a restaurant complex.

The German Gymnasium at King’s Cross has been converted into a stunning restaurant complex.

Restaurant-turned gym opened in autumn of 2015

Today, the German Gymnasium is a grade II listed building. Its vast timber roof trusses, with their original cast iron hooks from which Olympians precariously swung from sturdy ropes, are still in place. During the building’s renovation it was restored to its previous glory – albeit to cater to the opposite end of physical activity: eating and drinking! The site accommodates a contemporary, stylish dining complex featuring bars, private rooms and spacious outdoor terraces. D&D, a British chain of restaurants in London and other parts of the world (plus the hotel South Place) runs the 10,000 sq ft development located opposite St Pancras Station. Approximate capacities: 150 seats indoors, 70 outdoors.

King’s Cross: An extraordinary piece of London – and an industrial heritage site

The busy London hub sports a rich and colourful past. Its location at the meeting point of road, river and rail has shaped its changeful history. The old edifices, the way the streets are mapped out, and the stories of the communities on the premises, lend the fabric of King’s Cross a unique pattern.
More than 20 buildings from the industrial era are now being refurbished and reused. Finding creative solutions for structures originally designed for completely different purposes, is a challenge readily taken on by the responsible stakeholders. A fine example for a successful conversion poses the noble Granary, a building where wheat was stored for London bakers of by-gone times. Today the Granary warehouse is home to the famous art college Central Saint Martins.

With new eateries and bars opening all the time, King’s Cross is fast establishing itself as a popular food destination.

Recent openings:
The Greek Larder enriches the mediterranean fraction at King’s Cross – relying on light cooking with freshly prepared seasonal ingredients. There’s a range of Greek wines and beer from a Santorinian micro brewery. Seating 80-100, open 7 days a week. 

The Greek Larder

The Greek Larder

Dishoom Godown located in the Victorian brick arches, offers an „authentic taste of India“ and continues the tradition of the old Irani cafés of Bombay, where diners are welcome from morning to night. Godown is the Indian term for warehouse or storage shed.

And: The Jamie Oliver Group is coming to King’s Cross, too! The western end of the Fish & Coal building will be converted into a pub, with a new roof conservatory and an outdoor roof terrace overlooking the canal.

The Fish and Coal Building will be the venue for Jamie Oliver's new restaurant on the premises of King's Cross.

The Fish and Coal Building will be the venue for Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant on the King’s Cross premises.

All images courtesy of ©King’s Cross, London