Village London: Hampstead and Highgate
Hampstead, in northwest London, has long been a desirable address and attracts a literary set. Open spaces predominate. The 3-sq-mile (8-sq-km) Heath leads down to Parliament Hill which gives splendid views across London, as does the 112-acre (45-hectare) Primrose Hill overlooking Regent’s Park. These are all welcome acres over which locals stride, walk dogs, fly kites, skate and swim in the bathing ponds. History-laden pubs are your reward for a long afternoon of strolling and taking in the local culture.
Tube stops: Hampstead (Northern line), Highgate (Northern line), Hampstead Heath (Overground)
Between the exclusive villages of Hampstead and Highgate is the marvellous verdant sprawl of Hampstead Heath – 320 hectares of woodlands, hills and ponds. The top of Parliament Hill has benches conveniently placed to sit and gaze out over the panorama of London or the kite flyers and dog walkers all around. Sporty types should head for one of the three bathing ponds – men’s, women’s or mixed – for a dip. And arty types should go to Kenwood House (tube Archway/Golder’s Green, then 210 bus), a neoclassical mansion that has Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth statues in its grounds, and a summer programme of open-air concerts.
Over the years, Hampstead was known as an area for intellectuals, and there are house museums to pay tribute to its most illustrious former residents. At the Freud Museum (20 Maresfield Gardens; www.freud.org.uk; tube: Finchley Road) you can see the great analyst’s couch, though not sit on it. Keat’s House (Keats Grove; www.keatshouse.cityoflondon.gov.uk; tube: Hampstead Heath) is the elegant Regency villa where Keats wrote odes and fell in love with his neighbour, Fanny Brawne. And Karl Marx is laid to rest in Highgate Cemetery – 20 wild and atmospheric hectares full of dramatic and ornate Victorian graves and sombre tombs.
Both Highgate and Hampstead villages are dotted with lovely old pubs, including the allegedly haunted Spaniards Inn (Spaniards Road), and The Flask (Highgate West Hill), which has a big front garden and good Sunday lunches.
Read more about what's on in Hampstead here.