Hampstead is one of the loveliest parts of London, boasting a fascinating history, great bars, shopping and restaurants, as well as walks and swimming on glorious Hampstead Heath - the lungs of London. Take a tour with a local guide or wander the streets and look out for the blue signs on buildings to spot the famous person who lived there. Here are some of our top recommendations for things to do in Hampstead, aside from eating, drinking and staying at La Gaffe, of course!
Hampstead Heath (or ‘the Heath’ as locals refer to it) is one of London’s largest and most popular green spaces. With over 800 acres of meadows, woodland and ponds, and only 15 minutes by tube from the city centre, it has a reputation for being one of the ‘lungs of the metropolis.’ Because it is so large and rambling, it’s an ideal place to escape urban life and ‘lose yourself’ in its wild greenery. Whether you want to take a stroll, a ramble, admire spectacular views from atop Parliament Hill, visit Kenwood House, fly a kite or mushroom forage (a favourite pastime of our co-founder) we guarantee you’ll have an outing to remember.
A favourite activity of North Londoners on a hot day is to cool off in the swimming ponds on the Heath. Three freshwater bodies of water are fed by the headwater springs of the River Fleet, and located on the west side of the Heath, where bathers have been taking dips since the 1920’s. Two are single-sex and the third is mixed, and all are very popular. There are lifeguards and basic changing rooms but no lockers (leave your valuables at home), and a nominal charge of £2. Perfect for wild swimming enthusiasts in London. For anyone interested in the history of the Ponds, take a look at La Gaffe’s blog post on the subject…
Set on the edge of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House (an English Heritage property) is a beautiful stately home with wonderful interiors, beautiful furniture and an impressive art collection (including a self-portrait by Rembrandt). Built in the 17th century by Scottish architect Robert Adam, this neo-classical villa gives visitors a glimpse of lavish bedrooms glamorous drawing rooms, grand staircases and an astonishing library. Entrance is free and the extensive grounds outside (which lead up to Parliament Hill and the Ponds) are perfect for enjoying a long walk.
Situated on New End Square, Burgh House is a beautiful Queen Anne building and is home to the Hampstead Museum. Constructed in 1704, it was used as a private residence for much of its history, before becoming a charitable trust. After an extensive refurbishment, Burgh House re-opened in 2006 and now contains many paintings, designer objects and crafts. The entire first floor is devoted to the Hampstead Museum, with fascinating permanent exhibits on local culture and history. Burgh House also hosts contemporary exhibitions and concerts in their beautiful period music room. It is also a popular wedding venue. Entry is free.
This fine Hampstead house was the home of the poet John Keats from 1818 until 1820. Today, this Grade 1 listed building has been converted into a museum, showcasing his life and work. Keats House hosts both a public library and a room displaying artefacts, including the engagement ring Keats gave to Fanny Brawne, as well as a death mask he once owned. It was here that Keats composed his magical lyric ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, finished The Eve of St Agnes, and wrote his great odes of 1819 including ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. The museum also runs regular literary events. The house is located in Keats Grove, very close to the Heath.
After the Nazis invaded Austria, the world-famous psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, fled his beloved Vienna for London, and his new home in Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, became his final address. The spacious home is today a wonderful museum, filled with paintings, Greek and Roman antiquities and Biedermeir furniture that he had collected over the years and managed to ship (Freud was an obsessive hoarder) and also hosts regular lectures, Visitors can walk around much of the house and see for themselves the great man’s library and study. (Fun tip: you can purchase a mug entitled ‘Freudian Sips’ in the gift shop).
Set high above the centre, Hampstead is a delightful London village, home to a wealth of independent shops. From delis and bakeries, to antique and book shops, there are many charming independent retailers, many down little cobbled streets and walkways off the main high street. If you want designer fashion, Hampstead also boasts many leading boutiques, along with lovely children's clothes shops. If you're heading for the Heath, pick up breads from Gail's and a deli selection from the Hampstead Butcher & Providore for a delicious picnic!
This fantastic Breton creperie has been serving up delicious creations in the heart of Hampstead Village since 1980. The fact that the queues stretch around the block gives you an idea of what a legend it is…! Whether you order a savoury (ham and cheese/mushroom and cheese) or a sweet (butterscotch/lemon and sugar) treat from their varied menu, you’ll receive something oozing with butter and taste, which will leave a happy feeling in your tummy for hours afterwards. A real Hampstead experience!
Originally a merchant’s home, and dating back to the 17th century, Fenton House belongs to the National Trust. It was bequeathed to them in 1962 by its last resident and owner, Lady Bining, and holds an interesting collection of her paintings, china, Georgian furniture and needlework. It also boasts a collection of early keyboard instruments and offers musical tours each Wednesday. Its walled garden, which is large by London standards, features an orchard which grows 32 varieties of apples and pears!