Arguably one of the most charming boroughs in North London, the village feel of Hampstead is the perfect backdrop to a Richard Curtis romantic comedy. Think quaint streets and no less than 18 grade II listed buildings, enveloped by some of London’s finest greenery and only a short distance from the hectic city center. Get to know the area, a historic district of great literary tradition, with these top picks of things to do, eat, and see.
One of London’s most popular green spaces, famous for its spectacular views of the capital’s skyline, Hampstead Heath is an expanse of beautiful countryside just a short drive from the city center. The Heath’s mosaic of habitats makes it a haven for all kinds of wildlife, acting as home to a number of priority species identified in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The area provides excellent sporting opportunities, from its athletics track to its swimming ponds, but nothing can beat a weekend stroll through the peaceful landscape.
The Freud Museum was the home of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, and his family when they escaped Austria following the Nazi annexation in 1938. It remained the family home until the death of Freud’s youngest daughter Anna in 1982, and now operates as a museum to explore the remarkable collection of antiquities and research resources in the field of psychoanalysis, including Freud’s entire personal library. Without a doubt, the most impressive feature of the house is Freud’s study, preserved as it was during his lifetime, its centerpiece the infamous psychoanalytic couch used by his patients.
20 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SX, + 44 020 7435 2002
La Crêperie de Hampstead
Enjoy a taste of Parisian street food at this world famous crêperie, a takeaway stall that has become a landmark in North London. Since its permanent move to the area in 1980, it’s become famous with celebrities, locals, and international guidebooks. Expect long queues on summer days and weekends for the delicious crepes and galettes served in their specially designed cone wrappers. Use the queueing time to sift through the plethora of choices they offer, and trust us, they are well worth the wait.
La Crêperie de Hampstead, 77a Hampstead High Street, Hampstead, London, NW3 1RE, + 44 020 7445 6767
One of England’s poetic genii, John Keats, is part of the canon of Romantic poetry, alongside Lord Byron and Percy Shelley of the late 19th century. At Keats House, guests have the privilege of exploring his life and work through new exhibits, including original manuscripts and artifacts that document the young poet’s career and sources of poetic inspiration. Channel your inner poet with special events that take place throughout the year, such as poetry performances and workshops in the tranquil setting of his stunning Regency villa.
10 Keats Grove, London NW3 2RR, + 44 020 7332 3868
Hampstead swimming ponds
London may be without a sandy beach and crystal blue sea to cool off in, but Hampstead’s open-air swimming ponds are the perfect substitute to escape the stuffy city heat. The UK’s only lifeguarded open-water swimming facilities that are open to the public all year long, the separated Ladies’ and Men’s Ponds, are fed by the headwater springs of the River Fleet and are located within the picturesque enclave of Hampstead Heath. If you’re going with a mixed group, make sure to head to the Mixed Pond or Lido at Parliament Hill.
Sitting prettily on the edge of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House is one of North London’s hidden gems. First built around the 17th century, Kenwood was transformed into a neoclassical villa by the late 1700s, and is now open to the public for free. For art enthusiasts, the world-class art collection featuring works from Rembrandt to Vermeer and intricate interiors of the villa are well worth the visit. The surrounding grounds always exude an inviting buzz, with children’s activities to offer, acres of greenery to explore, and a cafe to relax in.
Hampstead Lane, Hampstead, Greater London NW3 7JR, + 44 0370 333 1181
Discreetly hidden off the Hampstead High Street is Flask Walk, a pedestrian alleyway full of quirky character. Along this small strip of shops, you can find a second-hand bookshop and designer store, a magical shop devoted to Mystical Fairies to impress the children, and a charming Victorian pub for the adults. Follow the alley all the way down to head in the direction of Hampstead Heath, and enjoy a stroll past the village’s prettiest houses, home to some of the rich and famous, including national treasure Jonathan Ross.
A popular haunt among London’s trendiest, alongside celebrities, the Gaucho grill offers a taste of sunny Argentina despite the dreary British weather. Using the typical outdoor asado cooking, a traditional South American barbecue, the beef from the Pampas of Argentina is of the finest quality and is cooked with complete authenticity. The higher price tag means this is a restaurant for special occasions, yet the mouth-watering steak and attentive service will leave you looking forward to your next visit.
Gaucho Grill, 64 Heath Street, Hampstead, London NW3 1DN, + 44 020 7431 8222
The Hampstead Butcher & Providore
With barbecue season well under way, The Hampstead Butcher is the go-to destination for all things meaty. The traditional British butcher offers premier meat cuts from a wide variety of free-range and ethically reared beef, pork, lamb, chickens, and game when in season, while their delicatessen and charcuterie display a delicious selection of exotic cheeses, wines and groceries to complete the meal. Meat lovers should sign up for the newsletter to take part in one of the butcher’s regular tastings and butchery classes.
The Hampstead Butcher & Providore, 56 Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, London NW3 1ND, + 44 020 7794 9210
The Spaniards Inn
Dating back to the 16th century, The Spaniards Inn is one of London’s oldest and most historic pubs, immortalised in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, and known as the alleged writing space for Hampstead-born Keats’s ‘Ode to a Nightingale.’ The country pub, sitting on the outskirts of the Heath, prides itself on the ability to match each dish on the menu to a beer, chosen with care by their cellarman and chef. The surrounding summer garden and cozy winter fires make the pub an inviting space to wind down at any time of year.
The Spaniards Inn, Spaniards Rd, Hampstead, London NW3 7JJ, +44 020 8731 8406