Muswell Hill and Highgate are two of the loveliest parts of North London, both easily accessible on the Northern line. The former hangout of both The Kinks and Madness, these areas are perfect if you want to get away from the hubbub and noise of central London and have a pleasant weekend either by yourself or with friends.
If you’re a bit of history nut, why not stroll through the greenery of Alexandra Park and visit the beautiful yellow and blue Alexandra Palace, known locally as Ally Pally” This grand palace, built originally in 1873 under Queen Victoria, was home to the BBC’s first public television transmissions in 1935. The spiky transmission tower on the eastern part of the building is a relic to its former broadcasting days. For those Whovians out there, you 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. Very historical.
Crocodile Antiques is a lovely boutique/café is located on Muswell Hill Broadway and is instantly recognisable due to 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 café has a relaxed, English morning room feel to it, with beautiful art work 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.
Muswell is home to two wonderful independent bookshops, Muswell Hill Bookshop and the Children’s Bookshop, which are both worth a visit. The Children’s Bookshop is an award-winning shop which has been in Muzz since 1974, it is very popular with authors and has hosted events featuring Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo and Malorie Blackman. The adult bookshop is well stocked with classics and contemporary favourites. Fun fact: Muswell Hill Bookshop was used in the 2010 film Tamara Drewe, starring Dominic Cooper and Gemma Arterton.
Step away from the busy Broadway, down a quiet street between Princes Avenue and Queen’s 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 is the kind of curious shop where you can spend hours rustling through hangers and boxes of forgotten gems.
Railway Line Walk, Muswell Hill | Courtesy of Sam Reinders
BenjawanThai restaurant is a local favourite in Muswell Hill – either for takeaways or sit-in meals. With spicy prawn crackers, tasty curries and beautiful sticky rice, this family-run restaurant is reasonably priced and never disappoints those with serious Thai-food craving. If you’re eating in, remember to bring your own bottle of wine.
The old railway line walk (or parkland walk) runs between wooded canopies and open bridges, which offer stunning 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 a rural countryside, rather than the urban jungle. The full walk is about 4.5 miles 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.
The Flask, pub and restaurant | Courtesy of Sam Reinders
Highgate Wood offers wilderness perfect for strolling, a children’s playground and an open field excellent for football or Frisbee. You can sit in the café overlooking the field and buy hot chocolate or ice cream (depending on the weather and your sense of adventure). The wood’s warden also offers night walks to look out for owls, bats and other nighttime creatures.
Highgate Village is an old-worldly gem with grand romantic houses and a host of potential celebrity sightings (George Michael and Kate Moss have houses located near Pond Square). And what better place to enjoy the atmosphere of the Village than sitting down to a scrumptious Sunday roast at The Flask pub. With old, cosy interiors and homemade ice-cream, this is a perfect post-Sunday-walk stop off. The pub itself is easier to walk to from a steep side road from Hampstead Heath, and is well worth the journey.
The Gatehouse, pub and theatre | Courtesy of Sam Reinders
This quaint little tea-shop has the most mouth-watering window display in North London: plates of petite sponge fancies and creamy chocolate éclairs 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.
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-man 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.