Quite frankly, for beguilement, practically nowhere in the UK capital beats the borough of Hampstead. That’s because it retains a highly appealing and undoubtedly charming ‘olde world’ feel, having resisted the temptation to ‘modernise’ and become an homogenous part of the London urban sprawl like so many other parts of the city. Indeed, to walk about Hampstead is to feel far more like you’re visiting an English village than being in London, so unique and individual is it. And, even better, there’s far more to do in the place than merely that…
Always picturesque and, at turns, utterly stunning, the huge expanse of glorious green that’s Hampstead Heath represents natural beauty in London at its absolute finest. Not only does it offer fantastic views of the skyline of the one of the most dynamic cities in the world, but it’s truly an example of the English countryside at its most beautiful. Plus, it contains all manner of native wildlife and provides superb sporting opportunities; do your research before you visit if you want more than just a stroll on the Heath – but, undoubtedly, that alone comes highly recommended.
Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds
Another of the Heath’s undisputed highlights – especially in the summer – is its awesome open-air swimming ponds; the only open-water swimming facilities that are lifeguarded and open for public use all the year round. There’s a Mixed Pond, which is unisex, and a Ladies’ and Men’s Pond each, the latter of which you may prefer on chilly days because they’re fed by the headwater springs of the River Fleet. That said, any of the three ponds are perfect for a dip on a hot day before you head back to wherever you’re staying – perhaps one of the hotels near Moorgate, like The Montcalm at The Brewery London City?
(Hampstead Lane NW3 7JR)
A small, exquisite stately home that’s situated on the edge of the Heath, the white-washed Kenwood House was originally built in 17th Century and then transformed into the neoclassical villa it remains today over a hundred years later. However, its appeal extends far beyond its fine exterior, housing as it does a fantastic fine art collection, including works by the likes of Rembrandt and Vermeer. The house’s grounds are also well worth exploring, with acres of blissful greenery to while away an hour or two in and a clutch of children’s activities on offer too.
(10 Keats Grove NW3 2RR)
Often spoken of in the same breath of the 19th Century Romantic poetry greats that were Byron and Shelley, John Keats was undoubtedly one of – not just of Britain’s, but – the world’s all-time greats in this literary field. This, his Regency-era house, contains many a treasure for those interested in learning of his life and career via its excellent exhibits, such as original manuscripts and other artefacts. Indeed, should you time your visit right, you might be lucky enough to chance upon a day or evening when a poetry performance or workshop’s taking place.
The Freud Museum
(20 Maresfield Gardens NW3 5SX)
Finally, this venue, the home originally owned and lived in by the founder of psychoanalysis, the legendary Sigmund Freud, has in recent years been converted into a highly acclaimed museum dedicated to the man’s memory. It’s collection of Freud-related artefacts includes his entire personal library and, best of all, his personal study, lovingly preserved for posterity to appear as it would have done during his lifetime – thus including, yes, the couch (the first of its kind anywhere in the world) on which his patients would have laid as he psychoanalysed them.