The station was opened in 1852 by the Great Northern Railway in the Kings Cross area to accommodate the East Coast Main Line. It quickly grew to cater for suburban lines and was expanded several times in the 19th century. It came under ownership of the London and North Eastern Railway as part of the Big Four grouping in 1923, who introduced famous services such as the Flying Scotsman and locomotives such as Mallard. The station complex was redeveloped in the 1970s, simplifying the layout and providing electric suburban services, and it became a major terminus for the high-speed InterCity 125. As of 2017, long-distance trains from King's Cross are run by Virgin Trains East Coast to Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central via York and Newcastle; other long-distance operators include Hull Trains and Grand Central. In addition, Great Northern runs suburban commuter trains in and around north London.
In the late 20th century, the area around the station became known for its seedy and downmarket character, and was used as a backdrop for several films as a result. There was major redevelopment in the 21st century, including restoration of the original roof, and the station became well known for its association with the Harry Potter books and films, particularly the fictional Platform 9¾.
Adjacent to King's Cross station is St Pancras International, the London terminus for Eurostar services to continental Europe. Beneath both main line stations is King's Cross St. Pancras tube station on the London Underground; combined they form one of the country's largest transport hubs.
The station is located on the London Inner Ring Road at the eastern end of Euston Road, next to the junction with Pentonville Road, Gray's Inn Road and York Way. To the west, at the other side of Pancras Road, is St Pancras railway station. Several London bus routes, including 10, 30, 59, 73, 91, 205, 390, 476 pass in front of or to the side of the station.
King's Cross is spelled both with and without an apostrophe. King's Cross is used in signage at the Network Rail and London Underground stations, on the Tube map and on the official Network Rail webpage. It rarely featured on early Underground maps, but has been consistently used on them since 1951. Kings X, Kings + and London KX are abbreviations used in space-limited contexts. The National Rail station code is KGX.