Hampstead. Home to the Heath, many a fine pub, and lots of posh houses. Oh, and a delightful creperie.
(And plenty more besides…of course!)
There’s no denying, however, that one of the main delights in visiting Hampstead is its very fine Heath. Completely forest-like in places, it really is a wonderful place for all sorts of park-like delights – a bracing walk, a heart-beat-pumping run, sledding in winter (on Parliament Hill), picnic-ing in summer (everywhere! And by everyone!), dog-walking…you can even go swimming in the park’s ponds. (Read more about that in a previous post: Swimming in Hampstead Heath Ponds.)
Ideally, if you’re planning on visiting Hampstead, start your day at Hampstead Heath. You can partake in one of the above-mentioned activities (or all, if you’re feeling brave and depending on the season) and then move on to one of the area’s incredibly fine pubs as a treat. Or if you’re not a pub-goer, get yourself a crepe at the famous La Creperie de Hampstead. A treat for burning off all those calories on your Heath exercise.
The easiest way of reaching Hampstead Heath is to get the Overground to the station with the same name – it’s right next door to the park. If you’re after a longer walk, head to Gospal Oak station (also on the Overground); the nearest Underground stations to Hampstead Heath are Hampstead and Belsize Park, both on the Northern Line.
Once at Hampstead Heath, it’s actually surprisingly easy to get lost in the park – but that’s just part of the fun. Go. Explore. See where you end up. See if you can figure out how to get back out of the park.
Wherever you end up, hopefully, you’ll still be within walking distance of Hampstead proper, as that’s the whole point of this post. If you end up closer to Kentish Town or Highgate then…close this post and wait for the ones on those areas. Whenever they might make an appearance.
If you’ve managed to stay close to the west side of Hampstead Heath, make your way towards Well Road. Head down here and marvel at the rather fine properties of Hampstead, and the country-village nature of these Hampstead roads. You barely think you’re still in London! Continue right down Well Road until you come across a little crossroads – here is the first of many of Hampstead’s fine pubs, The Old White Bear. It’s country pub-esque on the outside, but smart London bar-slash-restaurant on the inside. Stop for a pint!
Post-pint (or grub), head down the oddly-named New End around the corner from The Old White Bear – the short version of this road that seems to be a dead end. But it’s not! For there’s a pedestrianised path – Boades Mews – towards Flask Walk. You’ll pass the New End Primary School which, to me, looks like a rather menacing sort of place. (As a primary school, I’m sure it’s anything but.)
Head up Flask Walk – another pretty little Hampstead Street – and you’ll soon come to another pedestrianised bit leading to Hampstead High Street. Here there’s a number of Hampstead treasures – The Flask pub on the corner which is a gorgeous pub, if a little on the pricey side, and a number of other quirky little boutiques as well as antiques and second hand shops. If by this stage in the walk you’re after some Italian ice cream, you’re in luck! For Oddono‘s – and its queues – is right here.
Take a right on Hampstead High Street and approach Hampstead Underground station…and marvel at the thought that the station’s platforms are the deepest on the whole London Underground, at 192 feet below ground level. Up to the right on Heath Street are some restaurant options, including cheap and cheerful chains such as Pizza Express and Wagamama. Just above this junction is The Holly Bush, one of Hampstead’s most acclaimed pubs. Go left down Heath Street you’ll come to The Horsehoe, a trendily revamped pub that serves Camden Town Brewery’s fine selection of beers. But a few doors before then is Louis, a Hungarian patisserie – and just how often will you come across one of those in London? Even if you don’t indulge in their cakes and pastries, at least take a look at their amazing window display.
If you swing down Heath Street towards to the car-free street Perrins Court, you’ll come across Hampstead Antique and Craft Emporium. It’s well worth taking a look inside this little treasure trove that sells many an usual item, from jewellery to knick knacks to vintage homewares. It’s a little on the quirky side and does feel like you might have time-travelled back a few decades, it has to be said, but it’s definitely worth taking a peek as you never know what you might find.
Back onto Perrins Court, there’s a few little cafe and eateries that are also worth considering for a pitstop. Ginger & White is a cafe that places a strong focus on providing good food and an even better cup of coffee. Mani’s is a another ever-so-slightly more casual cafe a few doors down.
At the other end of Perrins Court you’ll once again find yourself back on Hampstead High Street. Take a right to the King William IV pub; parked up outside (although definitely not part of the pub – you soon understand why with all the signs there) is one of Hampstead’s most famous sites – La Creperie de Hampstead – that’s been going since 1980. After all this walking, you absolutely must treat yourself to a crepe – and you’ll have plenty of choice from the many sweet and savoury options, with crepes around the £5 mark. My tip is to go for one of their most classic options, the Hazelnut Cream Crunch for which you can choose your own chocolate preference (go dark!). Just be prepared to wait about half an hour (yes, seriously) if you’re there on the weekend.
Finish off your Hampstead visit by walking down Hampstead High Street which offers up a typical British High Street experience – but with nicer shop fronts.
Visiting Hampstead round-up
Eating and Drinking in Hampstead
- The Old White Bear for a rather fine country pub in London experience
- The Flask for excellent Sunday roasts
- Oddono for fine Italian ice cream…and queues for ice cream!
- The Holly Bush for one of Hampstead’s most famous pubs
- The Horsehoe for something a little more funky
- La Creperie de Hampstead for absolutely delicious, must-do crepes
Shopping in Hampstead
- Hampstead Antique and Craft Emporium for unusual items
- Louis (32 Heath Street, NW3) for amazing cakes
Exercising in Hampstead
- Hampstead Heath for…well, you name it