London Stories and Tips

Crowning glory of North London: Hampstead

Kenwood House (by Laura Nolte) Photo, London, England

Nothing in London says clearer that one has arrived in life that a Hampstead address. Traditionally associated with successful professionals, artists, writers and Thespians with liberal leanings, Hampstead is an archetypal haunt of the champagne socialist, a home ground of chattering classes and – apparently – the area of the UK with the highest number of resident millionaires.

Hampstead, aka Hampstead Village has been a fashionable area for quite a while, with much luxury housing constructed in the second half of the 19th century and this character has continued pretty much ever since.

For the tourist, Hampstead has many attractions and is certainly worth including in any visit longer than 3-4 days (or even a shorter one, especially in the summer when the heat makes the higher elevation and green spaces of the area particularly attractive).

In addition to the largely preserved residential architecture of the area and the character of the "posh London village", Hampstead has a number of draws, the biggest and best of which is undoubtedly the glorious Hampstead Heath, an area of ancient parkland with walking trails, open-air bathing ponds (girls, boys and mixed), Kenwood House (an Adam-rebuilt stately home with a rather wonderful art collection and open-air music) and a magnificent view of the city from the Parliament Hill: possibly the best view of London (and certainly the best natural view-point), with the Old Smoke spreading below your feet and the kites high above your head.

Apart from Kenwood House, Hampstead has the Keats House museum, Freud Museum (with a carpet couch!), Fenton House museum (a 17th century merchant house), Burgh House & Hampstead Museum and some fascinating architecture including Grade I listed, 1934 modernist Isokon building.

Add to that several cinemas, a number of traditional pubs, a variety of restaurants and cafes and you have a great location for a London day out. If you are in a hurry, you can "do" Hampstead and Highgate (on the other side of the Heath) in one day – but prepare for a lot of walking.

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