Beyond Regent’s Park and the railway termini of Euston, King’s Cross and St Pancras, North London drifts up into areas that were once distant villages where the rich built their country mansions to escape the city. Many of these houses remain and several are open for the public to wander around and imagine a bygone age. Parts of their extensive grounds now make up the wild and lofty expanse of Hampstead Heath. Some of the “villages”, such as Hampstead and Highgate, are still distinct from the urban sprawl that surrounds them. Home to the wealthy, cultured and famous, their attractive streets are full of well-preserved architecture as well as dozens of inviting pubs and restaurants. Other parts of North London have different flavours, however – from bustling Camden, with its canal-side market, lively pubs and clubs, to fashionable Islington, with its clothes and antique shops, good restaurants, smart cafés and bars.

Hampstead Wells

Hampstead’s heyday began in the early 18th century, when a spring in Well Walk was recognized as having medicinal properties. This brought Londoners flocking to take the waters in the Pump Room within the Great Room in Well Walk, which also housed an Assembly Room for dances and concerts. The spa gradually fell into disrepute, but Hampstead retained its fashionable status.

Site of the well on Well Walk, Hampstead

  1. Camden Markets

    The most exciting North London markets are open every weekend, and linked by the busy and colourful Camden High Street. Camden Market, near the tube station, is packed with stalls selling clothes, shoes and jewellery. Further up the road, by the canal, Camden Lock Market focuses on crafts and ethnic goods. Stalls in the warehouses of Stables Market have great food on sale. Open weekends only between 8am and 6pm .

    • Camden High Street & Chalk Farm Road NW1

    • Tube Camden Town

    Camden Lock Market

    Regent’s Canal, Camden Lock
  2. Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill

    A welcome retreat from the city, this large, open area is one of the best places in London for walking. Covering 800 acres of countryside, it contains ancient woodlands and ponds for swimming and fishing. The high point of Parliament Hill has great city views and is a popular place for kite-flying.

    • Heath Information Centre, Staff Yard, Highgate Road NW5

    • Tube Hampstead

    • 020 7482 7073

    View over London from Hampstead Heath
  3. Keats House

    Keats Grove, off Downshire Hill, is one of the loveliest areas of Hampstead. The house where the poet John Keats wrote much of his work is a pretty white villa, containing facsimiles of his fragile manuscripts and letters, as well as some personal possessions. Poetry readings and talks take place regularly .

  4. Freud Museum

    Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, and his daughter Anna, came to live here when he fled Nazi-occupied Vienna. The house contains Freud’s collection of antiques and his library, including first editions of his own works. Also on display is the famous couch on which his patients related their dreams.

    • 20 Maresfield Gardens NW3

    • Tube Finchley Road

    • Open noon–5pm Wed–Sun

    • Admission charge

  5. Kenwood House

    This magnificent mansion, filled with Old Masters, is set in an idyllic lakeside estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Vermeer’s The Guitar Player and a self-portrait by Rembrandt are among the star attractions. Concerts are held by the lake in summer – audiences sit in the grassy bowl, with picnics to sustain them (see Kenwood House).

    • Hampstead Lane NW3

    • Tube Highgate

    • Open 11:30am–4pm daily

    • Pre-booked tours available

    • Free

  6. Burgh House

    Built in 1703, Burgh House houses Hampstead Museum, which has a good selection of local books and a map of the famous people who have lived in the area. The panelled music room is used for art exhibitions, concerts and meetings, and there is a pleasant café with garden tables.

    • New End Square NW3

    • Tube Hampstead

    • Open noon–5pm Wed–Fri, Sun

    • Free

    Burgh House
  7. Fenton House

    This splendid 1686 mansion is the oldest in Hampstead. Its exceptionally fine collection of Oriental and European porcelain, furniture and needlework was bequeathed to the National Trust with the house in 1952. A formal walled garden contains an orchard.

    • Windmill Hill NW3

    • Tube Hampstead

    • Open Mar–Nov: 2–5pm Wed–Fri, 11am–5pm Sat & Sun

    • Admission charge

    Fenton House
  8. 2 Willow Road

    Designed in 1939 by the architect Ernö Goldfinger for himself and his wife, the artist Ursula Blackwell, this is one of the most important examples of modern architecture in the UK. A film helps put the life and times of the couple in context. Goldfinger designed all the furniture and collected some fine works by Henry Moore, Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp.

    • 2 Willow Road NW3

    • Train to Hampstead Heath

    • Open Apr–Oct: noon–5pm Thu–Sat (tours only)

    • Admission charge

  9. Lauderdale House

    Dating from the late 16th century, Lauderdale House was once associated with Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwynne. It now houses a popular arts and cultural centre, with regular concerts, exhibitions and Sunday craft and antique fairs.

    • Highgate Hill N6

    • Tube Highgate

    • Open 11am–4pm Tue–Fri, varies Sat (call 020 834 88716 to check), noon–5pm Sun

  10. Highgate Cemetery

    On the opposite side of the Heath to Hampstead, Highgate grew up as a healthy, countrified place for nobility who built large mansions here. Many of the famous people who lived in the area are buried in Highgate Cemetery. Soon after it had been consecrated in 1839, its Victorian architecture and fine views made it a popular outing for Londoners. Karl Marx and the novelist George Eliot are buried in the less glamorous East Cemetery

    • Swain’s Lane N6

    • Tube Archway

    • 020 8340 1834

    East Cemetery

    • open Apr–Oct: 10am–5pm Mon–Fri, 11am–4pm Sat–Sun; Nov–Mar: 10am–4pm daily.

    • Closed for funerals (phone to check).

    • Admission charge

    West Cemetery

    • tours only

    • Admission charge

    Highgate Cemetery
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