If you’re staying in London for more than a few days, and you’ve had your fill of the ‘must-see’ attractions - Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Oxford Street and Soho, the Tower of London, the Tate Modern and National Gallery, then don’t fear, you’re just a tube ride away from a part of the city that will transport you back in time.
We say it often (and of course we would, since we work here) but we think Hampstead is - undeniably - one of the loveliest parts of London. You can date its history back more than 1000 years (Roman pottery has even been found in the area) and figures like the painter John Constable, the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, Ringo Starr (who needs no introduction) and the actress Helena Bonham Carter, have all lived here and it really does have an ‘arty’ and somewhat intellectual vibe to it, even today.
Full of narrow streets, winding paths, small independent stores and a huge green area that’s often called ‘the green lung of London’, it’s the perfect place to spend a day. Even better, it’s just fifteen minutes on the tube from Leicester Square, in the heart of the West End, which means it’s a hop, skip and a jump between the two.
So what should you see on a stroll around our neighbourhood? Here are ten places we think you’ll visit and fall in love with pretty quickly. So put on your comfy shoes and head to this picture-perfect area which never fails to charm…
1 Hampstead Heath
Arguably the area’s best attraction, this is an enormous wild park area where you can walk, hike, stroll. Truly, the Heath is a nature lover’s paradise, full of woodlands, meadows, small paths and ponds, not to mention fabulous views of the capital’s skyline. For sure, it is the greenest and most beautiful space in north London.
The Heath is also home to all kinds of wildlife habitats - hedgerows, woodlands, enormous trees, and flowers galore, not to mention deer, hedgehogs, moles and all kinds of birds. It’s perfect for a walk any time of the year - in the winter you can crunch through the snow, in the spring admire the daffodils, in the summer bask in the sun and in the autumn gaze at the red, orange and yellow coloured leaves.
Whether you want to sit on a bench and take in the views from Parliament Hill, have a dip in one of the three bathing ponds (men, women and mixed), or just get lost in what feels like the English countryside, it’s on our doorstep.
2 The Freud Museum
The father of psychoanalysis, Freud was born and raised in Vienna but ,after the Nazis came to power, fled to England and settled at 23 Maresfield Gardens. It would be his last address on the planet (he died of cancer, just before the outbreak of World War II). Amazingly, he was able to bring with him many of his possessions and, today, you can see them all for yourself.
The Freud Museum, located inside this house, is crammed with all kinds of fascinating objects (Sigmund was a compulsive hoarder) - including Greek and Roman antiquities, an enormous loom (owned by his daughter Anna) and, of course, the famous couch on which his patients would lie, as they engaged in ‘the talking cure.’ A must-see for anyone interested in history!
3 The Hill Garden and Pergola
A real hidden gem, many people visit Hampstead with no idea that there’s a ‘secret garden’ with a pergola, that lies between the Heath and Golders Hill Park. And this is a great pity, because this is an incredibly beautiful spot (so much so that if you visit, you’ll more likely than not see brides and grooms being photographed there, before their wedding celebrations!)
The Hill Garden has a lovely pond, lined with trees and shrubberies, and views of the rather splendid Inverforth House. The pergola is made of stone and built in a classical style, and adjoins the garden. It snakes around and as you walk along the paths high up, you’ll be granted magnificent views.
This spot is great to visit in spring and summer, when the flowers are out and there’s wisteria everywhere. Of course, if you go in the winter, it’s less ‘glamorous’ but it still has a faded grandeur (a bit moody, a tad sad) and plenty of charm.
4 Kenwood House
Set on the edge of the Heath, Kenwood House was built some time in the 17th century but transformed by Robert Adams into a beautiful classical villa between 1754-1769. Today it is run by English Heritage and is home to a world-renowned painting collection by artists that include Rembrandt, Gainsboroughmm Turner, Vermeer and Constable.
And if all these Old Masters weren’t enough, the actual interior of the house is breathtaking (particularly since its renovation in 2012). From the library ceiling (with paintings by Antonio Zucchi) to stunning staircases, Georgian furniture and even a chamber organ, you’ll gasp at the beauty of it all. Outside are beautiful gardens and next door a lovely cafe where you can grab a cuppa and slice of English cake. Oh, and Kenwood House is free to enter, if you’re not yet sold!
5 Burgh House
This beautiful Grade II listed building is close to the tube, on Hampstead’s New End Square and was actually built during the reign of Queen Anne, circa 1704. Over the years, occupants included the physician William Gibbons (who oversaw the Hampstead Spa at the time), the Royal East Middlesex Militia, Dr George Williamson (an international expert in art) and Elsie Bambridge, daughter of the famous poet Rudyward Kipling, until it fell into disrepair just after World War II.
After a local campaign to save it and some loving refurbishment, it reopened in its present form in 2006. On its first floor you can see permanent exhibitions on local Hampstaead culture and art; Burgh House also hosts temporary exhibitions, concerts and lectures. Even better, there’s a great little cafe in the basement, with garden seating (which is perfect for relaxing in, on lazy summer afternoons). And, once again, entry is free!
6 Fenton House
Boasting fantastic views across London, this 17th century house belongs to the National Trust (by whom it was bequeathed by its last owner. Lady Binning, in 1952). Renovated in the 19th century by a Riga merchant, it has original staircases and panelling and decoratively carved marble fireplaces.
It also holds a fascinating collection of needlework, English, Chinese and Meissen porcelain, paintings by Peter Barkworth and Sir William Nicholson and some early keyboard instruments (the ‘Benton Fletcher’ collection).
Outside, there is a walled garden, a sunken garden and an apple orchard! If you want the best views, walk up to the attic and stare out over the rooftops…
7 La Gaffe
Yes, you have to visit us when you’re in the neighbourhood - our family-owned and family-run business has been on Heath Street (just three minutes walk up from Hampstead tube) since the 1960’s and we’re still going strong, the day-to-day running of the place having passed from father to son.
We offer comfortable and reasonably priced rooms in our Hampstead hotel (we have eighteen rooms) that come with all the amenities you need, and each morning we serve a delicious breakfast in our dining room, complete with cheese, eggs, croissants and our famous Italian cappuccino (which is worth visiting La Gaffe for in and of itself).
At the moment, we’re taking a break from running our restaurant but we’re hoping to be putting on some supper club events in the coming months, so look out on our Facebook and Instagram pages for updates.
Feel free to contact us on 020 7435-8965 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like further information or to book a room directly just take a look at our reservations page. In the meantime, have a great day out in Hampstead!