Hampstead is a charming slice of the English countryside conveniently nestled in-between zones 2 and 3. Sometimes referred to as “Hampstead Village”, it is a great place to visit if you don’t have time to take a train across the UK and want to see something a little less hectic than Central London. Boasting one of the largest green spaces in the city, it’s also a great place to get some fresh air, a picnic or an outdoor swim in the summer.
How to get there:
There are two ends to Hampstead – the village area and the heath area. For the village, take the Northern Line to “Hampstead” tube station (easily accessible from most of the major train stations – Charing Cross, King’s Cross, Euston and London Bridge). To get to the heath, you’ll need to use the overground to “Hampstead Heath” overground station, which is accessible from either West Hampstead or Highbury and Islington.
What to do:
Hampstead Heath is one of the few places in London you can take a swim outside in natural bathing ponds – if you can brave the unreliable English summer! There are several options including men’s, women’s, and mixed ponds, along with a Lido (fancy word for a swimming-pool). It’s super affordable with adult tickets ranging from £2- £4, so try it out for a unique London experience.
Parliament Hill on the heath is one of the best viewpoints to see all of London’s impressive skyline. From the high-rises of the city, to London’s tallest building – The Shard, to the BT tower in Fitzrovia, you can take in the whole panorama. It’s also totally free to visit, so take a picnic and enjoy the view!
If the weather isn’t going to let you be outside for long (and let’s be honest, it’s England, so that’s to be expected), Hampstead has one of my favourite cinema chains right outside the tube station – The Everyman. A small independent location, this is not your average cinema experience. The seats are sofas and they even offer table service delivering alcoholic drinks and burgers from the restaurant next door (fantastically named Spielburger). Although the Everyman does offer some of the main blockbusters, it’s more famous for housing a healthy selection of arthouse films at any given time. Adult tickets range from £13 – £16 depending on the seat.
Steer clear of the tacky tourist souvenirs and grab yourself a real London antique from Hampstead Antique and Craft Emporium to remember your trip! Located a couple of minutes walk away from the tube station (12 Heath Street to be precise), enter and you’ll find yourself in a rabbit warren of quirky shops where you are bound to find something special. I absolutely love browsing through these little independent shops on a drizzly Sunday afternoon.
What day is not instantly improved by cake? If you’re feeling peckish, be sure to stop at the traditional Hungarian Louis Patisserie just outside the tube station. It’s by far the best place to fulfil your sweet tooth in Hampstead. They have a fresh new selection of cakes every single day, so prepare to be surprised by the delicious treats they have in store!
Set amongst beautiful grounds, Kenwood House is a hidden gem in North London. With breathtaking interiors and a stunning art collection to boot, it can rival any stately home in England. Founded between 1616 and 1690, the house went through numerous refurbishments and remodelling before becoming the incredible site we see today. Free entry for all and easy access from the Hampstead tube station makes this a perfect afternoon visit for the whole family.
Where to eat:
A traditional French eatery in one of the most scenic streets in Hampstead, La Cage imaginaire is perfect for a lazy lunch or a romantic dinner. It’s very cosy (read: small), so make sure to book in advance if you want to eat here! Its prices are mid-range to expensive, but the intimate décor and excellent service make it worthwhile.
Villa Bianca is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Hampstead, along yet another cute cobbled road near the tube station. It has a contemporary Italian menu paired with an extensive wine list. In the summer you can dine alfresco among the many flowers on the small balconies overlooking the street. It’s also a little pricy, but perfect for a treat or date-night! This restaurant does get busy, so make sure you book ahead to avoid any disappointment.
If you want to eat dinner like a true Brit, forget fish and chips and get yourself a curry from Paradise! With Chicken Tikka Masala as one of our nation’s favourite dishes, it’s safe to say that a curry and a pint on a Saturday night is something of a British institution. Paradise is one of the best curry houses in London (in my humble opinion), so give it a try – you won’t be disappointed!
Have you been to Hampstead? What did you think? Did I miss off any of your favourite activities here? Let me know in the comments! 🙂