Looking for things to do in Hampstead? Here’s how to spend the day in the leafy oasis, like a local.
Whenever you think of London images of Central usually come to mind. Grand architecture, royals parks and red buses whizzing through busy high streets — you know, the whole lot.
Did someone say Hampstead?
Starting with a biased disclosure that I’ve lived in Hampstead, loved Hampstead, and well…love Hampstead. But if village atmospheres, wandering charming roads and tucked alleyways, historical buildings and green space are your thing, you’ll instantly fall in love with it too.
In this post, I’ll be sharing how to get to Hampstead, the best things to do in Hampstead, unique places to visit in Hampstead, where to eat in Hampstead, the best cafes and pubs in Hampstead and celebrities who live in Hampstead.
I’ve also got a handy Hampstead Map for you at the end so you can instantly start exploring the area yourself…after you finish reading of course. Let’s get into it!
A Quick History of Hampstead
Knowing the history of neighbourhood really brings it to life, so here’s a look into Hampstead’s past.
Originally a Saxon village Hampstead was where Londoners went to grow crops and raise animals. But after the Great Fire of London in 1666 many wealthy Londoners decided they wanted to flee the hustle of the city in search of a quieter oasis, while still being close enough to Central London.
By the 18th century Hampstead had become the crème de la crème estate of rich Londoners and continued to develop after the railway station was built in the 19th century.
Many famous writers called Hampstead home such as George Orwell, (author of 1984) as well as celebrities, poets and artists. Present day Hampstead remains as one of the most affluent areas of London, filled with a village allure hard to find anywhere else in the city.
How to Get to Hampstead
If you can believe it Hampstead is only 3 stops away from the buzzing Camden (in fact, consider visiting both in the same day to see the contrast!).
From Central London, you just need to hop on the Northern Line and it’ll be less than a dozen stops away.
Things to do in Hampstead, London (in no particular order)
1. Mosey Down Flask Walk
The quaint alleyway is a favourite amongst Hampstead locals and visitors alike for its unwavering dedication to all things independent and quirky. From artwork to furniture, books and flowers, there’s nothing you can’t find here.
An icecream at Oddono’s will take you to heaven and back, but if you’re in the mood for second-hand goods Keith Fawkes Antique Shop is practically spilling with bric-a-bracs, along with Antiques and Craft Emporium.
Practicals & Tips: Most of the shops on Flask are open from late morning til evening. Avoid visiting on a Saturday and Sunday mid-day if you can — it gets super busy!
2. Wander the Hill Garden & Pergola
One of Hampstead Heath’s best-kept secrets is the Hill Garden & Pergola. Originally home to a wealthy gardener and philanthropist named Lord Leverhulme, the Pergola was built as an Edwardian pleasure garden for his family and friends. But after his death the Pergola became faded grandeur.
Despite that, it’s still ridiculously beautiful (imagine how it looked before!) with an eerie charm hard to find anywhere else in London.
Filled with overgrown flowers and vines, curling wisteria, old archways and splashes of greenery all within view it’s one of the most unique things to do in Hampstead, let alone London!
Practicals & Tips: The Hill Garden & Pergola is open everyday 8:30pm-7:30pm. Also, this place becoming more well-known with the photographers and ‘Instagrammers’ of London, just a heads up!
3. See the View at Parliament Hill
When Guy Fawkes thought the Houses of Parliament were going to burst into flames—this is where he went to watch the action.
Luckily, that scenario didn’t play out quite as he thought, but the name stayed, and so did the view!
Tucked in Hampstead’s Heath green oasis you can enjoy the London skyline views at Parliament Hill before exploring the rest of the Heath.
P.S – The hill is open 24 hours!
Practicals & Tips: The hill is open 24 hours and is the perfect place to see the fireworks on Guy Fawkes night (November 5th)
4. Take a Swim at the Hampstead Bathing Ponds
Another very ‘Hampstead Heath thing to do’ is take a swim at the Hampstead Bathing Ponds.
Coined as one of London’s best spots for open-air swimming you can take a dip here most times of the year (except winter).
I’ll admit, the ponds are very deep and not exactly warm — so it’s only suggested for strong swimmers. There’s also a male, female and mixed bathing pond depending on your preference.
If this all sounds too hardcore, no worries. There’s also a Lido as well! Speaking of…
Practicals & Tips: The best time to visit the ponds is in summer, but you’ll want to buy your tickets in advance to beat the crowds. A single session swim is £4.05.
5. Parliament Hill Lido
Opened in 1938 the Parliament Hill Lido was built by the community for the community.
It’s open 365 days a year (although the winter months are brutal!) and is the perfect thing to do in Hampstead Heath if you’re a swimmer.
Practicals & Tips: Be extra mindful if you’re not used to swimming in the cold as there have been recent hypothermia cases at the Lido — stay safe!
6. Visit Hampstead’s Museums and National Trust Sites
If you love art, history and literature you’ll love the Hampstead Museum scene. Lazy into Hampstead life with a visit into:
• Kenwood House: A former stately home of the 17th century Kenwood House is where you go to step back in time. Roam the gorgeous gardens and woodlands, dazzle at the architecture, have a bite at the Brew House Cafe and be sure to pay a visit to the secondhand bookshop on your way out.
• Keats House Museum: There’s a certain charm to Keats House Museum, but probably because it was home to one of England’s most romantic poets — John Keats. The home was a private residence up until 1922, now dedicated to his life and most memorable poetry.
• Fenton House: Fenton House is slathered in charm. A wealthy Hampsteader by the name of Lady Binning purchased Fenton House in 1936, filling it to the brim with paintings, drawings and hidden treasures. Present-day it’s a lovely place to take in the Hampstead ambience and admire true art.
• Admiral’s House: Despite the name Admiral’s House is far from a war relic. But it is a Grade II listed building and the inspiration behind Mary Poppin’s Admiral Boom.
• Freud Museum: For all my psychology majors a visit to the Freud Museum is a must. Home to Sigmund Freud (founder of psychoanalysis) you can witness the story of Freud and the birth of the psychoanalytic couch along with thousands of antiques and collections.
• Burgh House: The Queen Anne Grade-1 listed House is the perfect history escape in Hampstead. With over 300 years of history behind it, you can spend the afternoon digging through the Burgh House with the largest archive of Helen Allingham’s work and enjoy all the arts, heritage and community this local charity brings to the area.
• 2 Willow Road: 2 Willow Road has long held a reputation as one of the most influential modernist homes of the 20th century. The innovative design from Hungarian architect Ernö Goldfinger oozes creativity and you’ll instantly feel like you’ve entered 1930s Hampstead.
Practicals & Tips: Be sure to click the link for each of the museums to get the latest opening times and prep for your visit.
7. Get Tranquil at the World Peace Garden
A garden with a mission World Peace Gardens is where you go for quiet contemplation and reflection.
Artist Melissa Fairbanks brought the garden to life over eight years with vibrant wisteria and glass tiles — encouraging children to leave messages entailing the world they want to see when they grow up.
There’s also a lovely cherry tree on the grounds planted here by Anne Frank’s sister, Eva Schloss.
Practicals & Tips: As you can imagine a visit here should be a quiet one 🙂 It’s also right near the road leading up to Parliament Hill.
8. Go Charity Shopping
Charity shopping is one of my favourite things to do in any part of London really, but especially so in Hampstead, where luxury donations are far from uncommon (hello hidden treasures!). Here’s a few to pop into:
• Mary’s Living and Giving: Sitting pretty on the high street Mary’s Living and Giving is as boutique as it gets. Rummage through to find the latest fashion gems (hey Burberry!) and enjoy Hampstead High Street life along the way. 64 Hampstead High St, Oriel Pl, London NW3 1QN.
• Oxfam: There’s always a bargain to be found at Oxfam. The clothes here are of particular top notch, so bring a big bag with you. You can also find their sister Oxfam Bookshop on 45 Heath Street. 61 Gayton Rd, London NW3 1TU.
• Octavia: Okay so I may be a bit biased considering I only lived a stone’s throw from here, but this particular spot is a sanctuary for seasonal clothes. Stock up on everything from winter coats to picnic gear at Octavia Hampstead, just in time for the season. 33 S End Rd, London NW3 2PY.
• Boutique by Shelter: Vintage and designer clothes at great prices? I’m in! Boutique by Shelter on Finchley Road doesn’t disappoint when it comes to fabulous finds. Dip in for your next show-stopping outfit. 173 Finchley Rd, South Hampstead, London NW3 6LB.
• All Aboard: Boutiquey shops are all the standard in Hampstead. But none are quite as iconic as All Aboard. There’s over 20 splattered across London, with a mission to raise funds for charities across the UK. From bric-a-bracs to good old fashioned junk, there’s nothing like their North London location. 224 West End Lane, NW6 1UU.
Practicals & Tips: Make sure to check the opening times before your visit and bring your own bags if you can!
9. Take up the Coffee Scene — Hampstead Style
If you’re taking up a day of exploring the Heath you’ll need your coffee fix. Here are my favourite coffee shops in the area:
• The Nook: I LOVE London coffee shops which is the exact reason The Nook’s ridiculously amazing hot chocolate swept under my nose for so long. The quaint (and I do mean quaint) hot chocolate haven was recommended to me by a friend, and so I decided to mosey in one day for a caramel hot chocolate with a spot of whipped cream. My life was changed.
• Ginger and White: This Hampstead coffee cult spot is not one to be missed. A *slightly* hipster cafe with friendly staff and independently brewed roasts Ginger and White is the perfect spot for a caffeine pick me up before you explore Hampstead Heath.
• Kape Barako: The most charming Hampstead coffee shop will always go to Kape Barako. Unfortunately, London telephone boxes are slowly going extinct, so the family-run business decided to take matters into their own hands, making it one of London’s best telephone box coffee shops.
Practicals & Tips: Don’t forget to make it to-go so you can explore the Heath after!
Read More: 25+ Best Cafes to Work From as a Londoner
10. Try a Hampstead-Fied Brunch
To make the most out of your Hampstead visit I highly suggest coming in the morning. And this may or may not be to convince you to try my favourite Hampstead’s brunch spots.
• Karma Bread: Oh, Karma Bread. I’m officially convinced that you haven’t had good bread until you’ve tried Karma Bread. With no additives, chemicals or artificial anything — everything baked here is handcrafted with nothing but love. Not to mention all the baking here is heavily influenced by Jewish recipes from the Big Apple. Bring on the Challah bread.
• La Crêperie de Hampstead: Coined as the best crêpes in London I naturally had to see what all the fuss was about when I heard of La Crêperie de Hampstead. Beware you’ll almost always meet a queue here (although it does go quite fast) but the devishly fluffy crêpes will well make up for it.
• The Wet Fish Cafe: Despite its less than appealing name The Wet Fish Cafe is a Hampstead favourite, renown for their comfort food and equally cosy atmosphere. Expect to find the best of local fish and quality meat alongside a hearty brunch menu.
Practicals & Tips: Karma Bread and La Creperie de Hampstead don’t require walk-ins but it’s best to get one for The Wet Fish Cafe!
11. Have a Sunday Roast at The Holly Bush
Walk along the narrow road and charming Hampstead houses of Holly Hill before looking right to find the very Instagrammable (with equally good food, don’t worry) Holly Bush.
The warm and welcoming 18th-century pub is fit with a fireplace, cask ales, and everything that comes to mind when you think of Old English Charm.
Enjoy the view or pop in for a warm cider and a meal (one word for the beer-battered haddock and chips — delicious).
Practicals & Tips: It gets super busy here (especially for Sunday Roasts) so book in advance!
12. And a Pint at The Spaniards Inn
Although it’s a bit far from Hampstead’s town centre The Spaniards Inn is worth the visit. The beautiful hidden pub will instantly make you feel like a Hampstead local.
Grab a pint or enjoy their excellent Sunday Roast (if you come on a Sunday, of course).
Practicals & Tips: Again best to book in advance here!
13. Go Plaque Spotting
For the quirky and curious you may want to take up some plaque spotting for your Hampstead visit.
From authors like George Orwell to artists like Mark Gertler, Hampstead is sprawling in blue and navy blue plaques.
P.S – There’s over 75 plaques to explore so this is sure to keep you busy!
Practicals & Tips: Visit the Heath & Hampstead Society Website to find all the plaques and their locations!
14. Visit a Hampstead Fair
Since the 1800’s Hampstead has been home to dozens of fairs and events throughout the year.
Practicals & Tips: Every year the fair dates differ slighty, so always keep updated on the event pages!
15. Take a Photo Walk Around Hampstead’s Side Streets
My favourite thing about Hampstead is that you could honestly spend a day doing nothing but walking around and feel completely content.
Whether you’re a fellow Instagrammer, photographer or just enjoy the pretty things in life, I highly suggest taking in the neighbourhood by foot to awe at all the beautiful houses and charismatic side streets.
Practicals & Tips: Just remember to be mindful if you’re taking pictures of people’s homes!
16. Do Some Cheeky Celebrity Spotting
With wealthy London areas comes a hoard of celebrities. And when it comes to Hampstead, there’s plenty.
Be sure to keep an eye out while you’re exploring for the likes of Jude Law, Harry Styles, Ricky Gervais, Liam Gallagher, Jonathan Ross, Helena Bonham Carter, Jamie Oliver and Kate Moss, to name a few.
17. Take up a Fitness Class
If you truly want to immerse yourself in Hampstead culture, a fitness class is one of the best things to do in Hampstead.
From April you can join Charli’s amazing yoga classes on the Heath (followed by a dip in the mixed bathing ponds after!).
Practicals & Tips: Don’t forget to bring water and shoes with a grip if you’re on the Heath.
18. And Parliament Hill Saturday (and Sunday) Farmer’s Market
The prime of all Hampstead culture can be found on Parliament Hill, especially on Saturdays.
Visit Parliament Hill’s Saturday Farmer’s Market for a lovely excuse to escape to North London for a day of drool-worthy organic goods and a plethora of dog spotting.
Practicals & Tips: Bring your own bag!
19. Wander Hampstead Heath
Out of all the spectacular things there are to do in Hampstead there’s truly nothing better than simply wandering Hampstead Heath and sipping on the views.
Whether it’s getting completely lost in the foresty (don’t worry, Citymapper still works) to taking in all the Hampstead dogs on their daily walks (seriously, SO many dogs) it’s easily the best thing to do in the area.
Practicals & Tips: Comfortable walking shoes are a MUST for wandering the heath.
Tips for Visiting Hampstead
• If you want to experience Hampstead to the fullest I highly suggest visiting Hampstead on a early weekend morning. It’ll give you a chance to catch the weekend markets and have a Sunday Roast! 🙂
• Consider pairing a visit to Hampstead with Camden (they’re only a few stops from each other on the Northern Line!)
• You’ll be doing A LOT of walking while you’re exploring Hampstead, so make sure you have comfortable walking shoes!
Things to do in Hampstead Map
To take out all the guesswork for you here’s a handy map of all the things to do in Hampstead from the post. Download to your phone to use on your visit!