Top Things to See and Do in Muswell Hill and Highgate, London

Muswell Hill is full of quiet streets lined with cosy pubs and independent stores
Muswell Hill is full of quiet streets lined with cosy pubs and independent stores | © APS (UK) / Alamy Stock Photo
Eve Wersocki Morris

From the lofty Alexandra Palace to Highgate Woods, this upscale London neighbourhood combines urban novelties – such as quirky pub theatre the Gatehouse – with leafy walks. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for resident celebrities.

Muswell Hill and Highgate are two of the loveliest parts of North London, but are often overlooked for more central spots in the capital city. Expect quiet, verdant streets lined with cosy pubs, bookshops and independent boutiques; there are also great spots for a cocktail and flavourful food. Both neighbouring areas are easily accessible on the Northern Line. It’s no wonder the Kinks and Madness retreated here to hang out between touring.

1. Visit the birthplace of television

Park, Sports Center

Alexandra Palace
© Chris Madden / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re into history, why not stroll through the greenery of Alexandra Park and visit Alexandra Palace? Known locally as Ally Pally, this grand entertainment venue, built in 1873 under Queen Victoria, was home to the first public television transmissions from the BBC in 1935. The spiky transmission tower on the eastern part of the building is a relic of its former broadcasting days. Any Whovians out there may recognise Ally Pally as the setting of the David Tennant episode in which the Doctor climbs a TV aerial to prevent the broadcast of the Queen’s coronation turning the population of North London into faceless zombies.

2. Take a spot of tea with a Crocodile

Shop, Store

Crocodile Antiques shop in Muswell Hill, London, UK.
© Roberto Herrett / Alamy Stock Photo
Crocodile Antiques is a lovely boutique and cafe on Muswell Hill Broadway. It’s instantly recognisable by the large crocodile’s head looming out from atop the archway leading to the outside seating area. This is the perfect place for coffee and cake, or brunch and browsing. Although the cakes are a little on the pricey side, they are definitely worth it. Inside, the cafe has a relaxed, English morning room feel to it, with beautiful artwork on the walls and soft easy-listening music in the background. The shop itself is perfect for cute and curious presents, and has a good selection of vinyl records.

3. Pop in to secret vintage shop Can't Buy Me Love

Shop, Store

Step away from the busy Broadway, down a quiet street between Princes Avenue and Queens Avenue to find Avenue Mews, home to the alternative, arty side of Muswell Hill. Here you’ll discover Can’t Buy Me Love, a vintage shop selling clothes, homeware, books, music records and unusual trinkets. This boutique specialises in garments from the ’50s and ’60s. It’s the kind of curious shop where you can spend hours rustling through hangers and boxes of forgotten gems.

4. Stroll along Parkland Walk

Natural Feature

View of parkland walk - disused railway line in north line now a nature trail popular with walkers and joggers alike.. Image shot 03/2009. Exact date unknown.
© Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo

The old railway line walk, known as Parkland Walk, runs between wooded canopies and open bridges, which offer top views of North London and the city beyond. Don’t worry, there are no rails or trains to ruin your pleasant saunter. The walk is sheltered enough from houses and busy roads to give the impression that you are walking in rural countryside rather than the urban jungle. The full walk is about 7km (4.5mi) long and goes from Alexandra Palace all the way to Finsbury Park, but you can take the shorter route and pop off the track when you reach Highgate Wood.

5. Take a walk through Highgate Wood

Park

Highgate Wood offers leafy surroundings perfect for strolling on warm day. In the summer, the children’s playground is bustling with toddlers, while the open meadow is an ideal spot for a football match or game of frisbee. Head to Queens Wood Cafe, just opposite, for a hot chocolate and slice of carrot cake (or ice cream, depending on the weather). The wood’s wardens also offer night walks on which you can look out for owls, bats and other night-time creatures.

6. Eat at the Flask in Highgate Village

Pub, Pub Grub

People drinking outside the Flask public house on a sunny day in Highgate, North London.
© UrbanImages / Alamy Stock Photo

Highgate Village is an old-worldly gem with grand romantic houses and a host of potential celebrity sightings (Sting and Kate Moss both have houses here). What better place to enjoy the atmosphere of the Village than sitting down to a Sunday roast at the Flask pub? With old, cosy interiors and home-made ice-cream, this is a perfect stop-off after your Sunday walk. The pub itself is easier to walk to from a steep side road by Hampstead Heath, and is well worth the journey.

7. Drool over the Highgate Pantry

Bakery, Pub, European

This quaint little tea shop has the most mouth-watering window display in North London: plates of sponge fancies and creamy chocolate eclairs are piled high next to baskets of fat currant scones and golden ginger loaves. Gaze at these delicacies from the pavement or sneak in for a cup of tea and a slab of chocolate cake – the decision is yours. Either way, this shop is definitely worth a visit.

8. Catch a show at the Gatehouse

Music Venue, Theatre

The Gatehouse pub, Highgate, London, United Kingdom
© Gregory Wrona / Alamy Stock Photo
Upstairs at the Gatehouse is one of the finest pub theatres in London. The auditorium has just over 100 seats (depending on stage configuration) and produces a variety of productions, from one-person Fringe shows to full-blown musicals. You can grab a beer, watch some high-quality acting and relax after your long day of exploring Muswell Hill and Highgate.

9. Go for cocktails and tapas at La Lluna

Bar, Restaurant, Tapas

La Lluna restaurant in Muswell Hill, London, UK.
© Roberto Herrett / Alamy Stock Photo

The first and only Spanish restaurant in Muswell Hill, La Lluna serves the best of traditional and modern tapas. The charcuterie and tasty nibbles are perfect paired with a delicious cocktail. For a fruity hit, try the El Dorado – saffron-infused gin and Lillet, mixed with elderflower liqueur, apricot brandy and a drop of peach bitters. Enjoy under the soaring ceilings and twinkly lights to a soundtrack of live Spanish music and dance performances.

10. Browse the Children's Bookshop

Bookstore

This independent family-owned children’s bookshop first opened in 1974. It stocks a wide range of fiction and non-fiction, and its passionate staff are always on hand to offer specialist advice on the books they sell here. Look out for in-house author readings. In the not-too-distant past, they have hosted writers including Judith Kerr, Julia Donaldson, Shirley Hughes and Michael Rosen, among many others. It’s a magical nook well worth seeking out.

Judy Cogan contributed additional reporting to this article.

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