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Discover why visiting Hampstead is a must

25 January 2022

Hampstead, in north west London, is known for its stunning architecture, pretty streets, alleys, Hampstead Heath, and many other hidden delights.

The main hub is Hampstead Village easily accessible via Hampstead Underground Station on the Northern Line.

Here there are lots of shops to attract your attention but don’t forget the side streets where you’ll discover more individual boutiques and pubs.

If retro shops are your thing, you’ll find them in Flask Walk selling furniture and vintage clothes.

You should also lookout for the numerous blue plaques which indicate that noteworthy people have lived there.

Spot where artist John Constable lived as well as the playwright novelist John Galsworthy, and cellist Jacqueline du Pré.

Places to explore

Wander up the hill via the Grade II listed Holly Bush public house with the original gas lamps now converted to electricity and discover the imposing 17th-century Fenton House.

Now a National Trust property, the building is filled with Georgian furniture, porcelain, and needlework as well as a vast keyboard collection.

You’ll also see the walled garden has orchards, terraces, and a rose garden.

If visiting at harvest time, be sure to check out their Apple Weekend to stock up on a variety of their home-grown produce.

Nearby Whitestone Pond is 440 ft above sea level, and a pole has a flag flying to mark London’s highest point.

Wander onto the Heath but take note of where you are going as it’s easy to get lost.

Golders Hill Park

Descend North End Way, and arrive at Golders Hill Park, opposite the Bull & Bush gastro pub.

Queues, when you enter the park, are likely to be for the ice-cream seller, particularly if the sun’s shining.

But the hidden secret is its mini zoo which is there at the bottom of the hill and is open for everyone to visit without having to pay anything, and where children can come and see lots of different animals and exotic birds.

If, however, you take Hampstead Lane at Whitestone Pond, you’ll eventually find yourself at Kenwood House, an English Heritage property, with parkland landscaped by Humphry Repton.

Kenwood House

Free to visit, the House was remodelled in the 18th-century by Robert Adam, and the lavish rooms have been redecorated as to how they were over two centuries ago.

Volunteers are around to give you the lowdown on the house’s history and artwork.

Aside from the stunning architecture, its collection of paintings includes works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner, Reynolds, Gainsborough, and Constable.

In the Orangery, family activities are arranged for children. Look out for the outdoor concerts arranged on their grounds during the summer weekends when it’s great to come with friends and bring a picnic.

If you’re visiting the grounds with your pet, the adjoining Brew House café is regularly visited by locals and has an outside area for dog owners.

The well-kept grounds of Kenwood run into Hampstead Heath, 790 acres of uncultivated parkland.

Return this way, passing people walking their dogs, with wild areas interspersed with ponds that are home to a variety of wildlife.

The Heath also has three natural, outdoor swimming ponds. Lifeguards are on duty, although children from 8–15 years must be accompanied as the water is deep, and usually very cold.

The cost is minimal, and regardless of the weather, you’re likely to see swimmers.

Views from up high

Climb Parliament Hill where a plaque helps you work out which building is which on the Skyline. Come here to fly a kite or watch other people with theirs.

The Heath, which belongs to the City of London, has organised events throughout the year including fungi forays and birdwatching walks.

Hidden away in the heart of Hampstead Village, Burgh House, in New End Square is a Grade I, Queen Anne mansion, museum, art gallery, and Hampstead’s Community Centre.

Brimming with items relating to the area’s history, it’s a centre for arts and culture with a diverse programme of events including exhibitions, talks, and concerts.

A visit to their café which has outside seating is recommended and you’ll get the opportunity to enjoy their beautiful garden.

In the late 1930s, architect Ernõ Goldfinger designed a row of three terraced houses on Willow Road in a modernist style, demolishing several cottages, which made him unpopular with residents.

It’s thought Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books, is said to have named his villain Goldfinger after him.

Goldfinger decorated his house in modernist style with furniture he designed himself to which he added a collection of modern art.

Visitors are shown a short film before taking a guided tour of 2 Willow Road which is now a National Trust property.

Another National Trust property and not to be missed is Keats House, a Regency villa once home to the romantic poet John Keats.

Originally known as Wentworth Place, the building was at that time divided into two houses.

Keats lived there as a lodger with Charles Brown and Fanny Brawne, the love of his life, and the inspiration for some of his finest works lived in the adjacent building.

An interactive display tells the story of his short life which ended at the age of 25.

Trails are available at the welcome desk to inspire families, and various events associated with poetry are organised throughout the year.

Descending Fitzjohn’s Avenue but still in Hampstead, the Freud Museum is the final home of Sigmund Freud, the founder of Psychoanalysis, and his daughter Anna Freud, a pioneering child psychoanalyst.

Kept as it was when they lived there, Freud’s study includes his original couch. Related exhibitions are put on throughout the year.

Not surprisingly, Hampstead has its own fringe theatre, where you can often see outstanding productions with well-known artists.

Housed in a purpose-built building, Hampstead Theatre is located just behind Swiss Cottage tube station on the Jubilee Line.

Opening days and times vary, so it’s worth checking the venues before you visit.