Welcome to Hampstead, North London’s most upscale and charismatic neighborhood that feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of Central London. Spending a day in Hampstead can often feel like stepping back in time, with a kind of old English village charm to the place. It’s one of the few areas of London that still manages to retain its rich past, from 300-year-old manor houses tucked away in green and leafy residential streets, to narrow alleyway’s revealing 16th Century pubs or antique shops. And this area of London is especially known for Hampstead Heath, an island of beautiful countryside located right in the centre of the capital.
Hampstead is a popular spot for local North London residents, with Saturday and Sunday tending to be especially busy days for visitors. Expect Hampstead’s two main shopping streets to be packed full of locals taking advantage of all that Hampstead has to offer, be it the charming independent stores or the many excellent cafes, pubs and restaurants.
In short, this neighbourhood of London is never short of a few surprises!
Hampstead High Street
Hampstead Underground is on the Northern line and you can easily reach it from anywhere in London, travelling on your oyster card or by using contactless payment. Just make sure you get on the right train. The Northern Line splits into two different directions at Camden Town Station, so make sure you are on the train going towards Edgware!
You have arrived at Hampstead Underground Station… welcome! You’ve landed right into the heart of the ‘village’, the ideal place to start a day spent in Hampstead. On exiting the station, cross over the road and stroll down Heath Street.
Take the first right along the magnificent Church Row. Built in the 1720’s, it is one of the finest Georgian streets in London and at the far end you’ll find Hampstead Parish Church which dates from the 14th Century.
Across the road is the graveyard of the parish church which you’ll see on your right just before you approach the church. Many famous people are buried here, including the tomb of the English painter John Constable
By the side of the graveyard, you’ll see a very narrow street called Holly Walk, with a sign underneath saying “Not Suitable for wide vehicles”. As you walk up this road it becomes really narrow, and as you take a right onto Mount Vernon it is barely wide enough for a horse and cart!
Hampstead has always attracted actors, artists, writers and musicians who have made this little village their home, from John Constable and Sigmund Freud to Sting and Liam Gallagher. During your day in Hampstead, keep an eye out for some of the 60 blue plaques that mark where these famous people once lived.
The Holly Bush, Hampstead
Go down the little steps at the side of No.1 Mount Vernon and cross over the road onto Holly Bush Mount. This street shares the same name as the 18th Century pub on the left hand side called “The Holly Bush”
Holly Bush is full of character with traditional wood beam paneling and a cheerful, cosy atmosphere. This is the perfect place to grab a coffee or a beer, or to have a delicious lunch. If you fancy eating Sunday lunch, make sure to book a few days ahead as this place tends to get busy.
Head back to the corner of Holly Bush Mount, take a right onto Holly Bush Hill, and keep right onto Hampstead Grove. A little way up Hampstead Grove you’ll find Fenton House and Garden.
This 17th Century Hampstead House is definitely worth a visit. Built by a wealthy merchant family, it has a beautiful collection of early musical instrument collection and porcelain, a 300 year-old walled garden, orchard and amazing views of London from the balcony. Bear in mind that Fenton is only open on selected days throughout the year so make sure you check the timetable in advance.
Continue along Hampstead Grove, and just as the road makes a sharp turn to the right, you’ll see a large opening between the trees. Walk through the opening and you’ll reach Whitestone Pond.
Whitestone Pond is located at the highest point in London. It was once an important watering point for horses pulling heavy loads up and down the steep Hampstead hills.
From here there are two ways to continue your day in Hampstead. If you’re pressed for time, then the shorter route is to return to Hampstead Village. Otherwise, continue your day with a visit Kenwood House (and return to the Village later.)
To return to the Village:
Walk down the hill along Heath Street and eventually you’ll see Hampstead underground station which is where you started the day. We cover where to continue your day trip a little further down this page, so feel free to skip the next two sections on Spaniards Inn and Kenwood House….
Spaniards Inn: To continue onto Kenwood:
If you plan to continue your day in Hampstead by heading to Kenwood, walk to the far end of the Whitestone Pond and take the road on your right, Hampstead Lane. It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk to Kenwood and along the way you’ll pass by the famous Spaniards Inn.
This 15th Century Pub was once an overnight stop for coaches in the days of highwaymen. (In fact, the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was a frequent visitor!) Why not stop for a bite to eat or drink to help you on your way?
If you don’t fancy walking, then you can also catch a bus from the Whitestone Pond to Kenwood, which is two stops on bus 210 or 603. The bus stop is a little way down Hampstead Lane on your left. Ask the driver to let you know where to get off.
Kenwood House & Gardens
Kenwood House is a former Stately Home located just on the edge of Hampstead. The House is open to the public free of charge and has some incredible artwork on display, including works by Rembrandt, Turner, Gainsborough, Vermeer. There’s also a great cafe on site, perfect for an English afternoon tea with cakes and scones. Kenwood House is part of the Kenwood Estate, and was once the home of an English aristocrat. Have a brief stroll in the typical English landscaped garden where you’ll find beautiful sculptures, including a piece by Henry Moore.
To return to Hampstead Village catch the 210 bus. An alternative if you’re visiting on a sunny day is to walk through Hampstead Heath back to the Village. However, bear in mind that the paths are not particularly well marked so it is easy to get lost. Navigating through the Heath for the first time is safest during the daytime when there are lots of people around to ask for directions.
Continuing the tour from Hampstead Station:
Continue the tour of Hampstead Village: This time take a left at Hampstead underground station onto Hampstead High Street. Just a few steps down on your left is Flask Walk and on the other side of the road is La Creperie.
For over 35 years, from this classic ‘Renaud’ van are served the best crepes in London. Expect a long queue outside but its worth the wait! The menu includes staple items like the ratoutille ham and cheese or the spinach, garlic, cheese and ham. And why not try their signature dessert – the Banana Maple Cream Dream – delicious!
Next, walk back up the hill to Flask Walk, a historic alleyway lined with wonderful small shops including a secondhand bookstore, a pen shop, an antique store and more fashion boutiques. You’ll find yet another excellent pub on the corner called The Flask which is quite new by Hampstead standards, having only been in business since…. 1874!
Continuing along Flask Walk, take a left onto New End Square and you’ll find yourself in front of Burgh House. Have a stroll around this 300 years old mansion (free entrance!) where Rudyard Kiplings daughter once lived. There are always a few exhibitions on exploring different aspects of the history of Hampstead and is a great way to get a feel for the neighborhood.
Walk back to Flask Walk, and continue along the street, which now turns into Well Walk. Look out for a blue plaque outside number 40. This is the former home of John Constable, England’s most famous landscape painter.
Hampstead Heath: “An island of beautiful countryside”
At the end of Well Walk you will arrive at Hampstead Heath. This vast expanse of grassland, 320 hectares (790 acres), sprawls across North London to the magnificent Kenwood House in the North and Parliament Hill Fields in the South-East. You’ll find locals walking their dogs, jogging or just chilling out if the weather is good.
The perfect way to end a day in Hampstead.