Alleged to home more millionaires than anywhere else in Britain, Hampstead is often regarded as a rather exclusive corner of north London. And like a lot of things here, Hampstead taxi fares can cost a lot. But follow our handy guide – and maybe even book one of our great minicabs – and we can help you swerve those extra costs with our insider’s look into the very best Hampstead has to offer. London – north London in particular – is often derided as being a place bereft of green spaces. A city so crowded it can never compete with the bucolic calm of the great British countryside. Outsiders assume that it’s nothing more than a noisy, grey, toxic nightmare of concrete and steel. A place they’d rather not be. But in a city of 8.5m people that covers some 1,572 km², it’s dangerous to make assumptions. Feeling a little like you’ve stepped out of the madness and into a sublime Georgian fantasy, Hampstead sits at the northern tip of the great London borough of Camden. In fact, one of its greatest attributes is – contrary to popular belief – accessibility. The Northern line can take you from Kings Cross or Camden Town to Hampstead station in just under ten minutes. And in return for this short journey, the rewards are ample. You’ll find an area alive with charm and brimming with rural charisma. Centring around the enormous Hampstead Heath, this is an area which has long thrived on its own innate beauty. Poets, writers and artists have mused over it and drawn considerable inspiration from it. How many places can count such artistic ingenues as Keats, Constable, Hendrix and the Rolling Stones among its former residents? Once famous as a spa town and for the cleansing qualities of its water, today Hampstead offers a different kind of healing. The kind that’ll make you never want to leave. For all the best clues on how to make the most of this stunning area, follow our Hampstead taxi driver’s guide to the best pubs, restaurants and attractions in NW3. Trust us, you’re going to thank us for it later.
Where to eat
There’s an expression going around at the moment – ‘dude food’. It generally refers to any restaurant or pop-up that serves artery-clogging, meat heavy menus with an emphasis on quantity over quality. Not so in the case of One Sixty. This American inspired restaurant and beer house is headed up by a Michelin starred chef and a craft beer specialist. They’ve taken the principals behind seasoned and smoked meats and moved it up to the next level. The result a menu that’s still calorie heavy and quinoa light, but it doesn’t rely on its own gluttony to make it good. It just is, really good.
291 West End Lane, NW6 1RD
There are a lot of gastropubs in Hampstead and we’ve taken care not to dwell on them too much here. But The Roebuck is such a favourite of ours, we’ve decided to give it a special mention. Inside its large dining rooms and tall windows it feels like any other classically north London pub. But it’s outside that it really sparkles. Its large garden that’s been tastefully decorated comes alive with bright colours and comfy seating. The food is gastropub fare at its best. Bringing some old classics and new ideas together with casual flair. We are particularly fond of their rather excellent Sunday roast.
15 Pond St, NW3 2PN
A famous restaurateur once told us that a proper Greek restaurant should always be busy. And that part of what makes Greek food so good is the atmosphere you eat it in. Bearing that in mind, Retsina is nailing it. Lively, intoxicating and completely alluring, this award winning restaurant (and favoured eatery of Gordon Ramsay) is still completely family run. And when it comes to the food, it really shows. Alive with all the flavours and aromas of the Mediterranean, Retsina rarely has a table empty and one look at the food being gobbled down around you will tell you why. Bookings are recommended but not always necessary.
48-50 Belsize Ln, NW3 5AR
What to do
Hampstead Heath Swimming Pools
Dominating the landscape of north London, Hampstead Heath is such an enormous and inviting green space (it covers nearly 800 acres) that it seems pointless to tell you to go and visit it. Frankly, you should already be there. But in one particular corner of the Heath, you’ll find its famous swimming pools. Essentially just a lake which has been divided up by some buoys and ropes, there’s a ladies pond, a men’s pond and a mixed pond. You’ll hardly find a more idyllic place to take a dip in all of London. For those who’d rather an actual pool, there’s also Parliament Hill Lido.
Imagine what it would be like to live on Hampstead Heath. It’s a privilege usually reserved for the super rich, but step inside historic Kenwood House and you can get an insight into one the area’s most beautifully preserved stately homes. Refurbished thanks to a recent lottery grant, the building is now as stunning as it was when it was built and occupied in the late 1700s. Inside you’ll find an art gallery, exhibitions, incredible gardens and you can even take guided tours of the estate. Open throughout the year, this a is a real glimpse into the area’s incredible past.
Hampstead Ln, NW3 7JR
We mentioned before that Hampstead had been home to many of Britain’s most revered artists, poets and musicians. Well, there are few more revered than Romantic poet John Keats. Today his house stands still in time, a constant reminder and homage to the great man himself. Step inside for an insight into the life of one of the greatest writers the world has ever known. Aside from being a stunning building in its own right, Keats House also holds old manuscripts and belongings of the man himself. If you time your visit right, there are often poetry readings and sometimes even events put on by the house’s custodians. A truly fascinating insight into an incredible man.
10 Keats Grove, NW3 2RR