17 Top Things To Do in Hampstead London | Heath, High Street & More
This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
With vast green spaces and streets lined with boutique shops, quaint cafes, and excellent restaurants, there are plenty of things to do in Hampstead London. The idyllic neighbourhood is filled with charm, history, and a bohemian flair and is one of the most sought-after areas in London.
Forming part of the borough of Camden in North-West London, Hampstead has been home to some of London’s biggest celebrities. These include Harry Styles, Helena Bonham Carter, Kate Moss, and Jamie Oliver.
Although filled with allure, Hampstead is nearly devoid of large tourist crowds, allowing you to explore its hidden gems in peace. And, being only a short tube ride from the city, the charming Hampstead Village is the perfect spot for a day trip from London.
History of Hampstead
While Hampstead is one of the most affluent areas in London today, it started off as a humble Saxon village. It was initially named “Hamstede,” meaning homestead, and remained a quiet village area until the late 1600s.
During the plague of 1665 and the 1666 London fire, however, many wealthy Londoners fled the crowded city to make a home in this quiet region. Its popularity only really kicked off in the 1700s when a certain Dr Gibbons found that the Hampstead wells possessed healing properties.
Advertised as a spa town, the region attracted many people hoping to heal their ailments in the chalybeate waters. The success was relatively short-lived as other London-based spas popped up.
By the time the North London Railway was opened in the 1860s, Hampstead had become a neighbourhood beaming with musicians, artists, writers, and politicians. Some of the most notable Hampstead inhabitants were Katherine Mansfield, D.H. Lawrence, Sigmund Freud, and the landscape painter John Constable.
How To Get to Hampstead
This beautiful neighbourhood is easily accessible via the Northern Line from Central London. The nearest tube stations are Hampstead, Tufnell Park, and Belsize Park. You can also get off at one of the rail stations; Finchley Road & Frognal, Hampstead Heath, and Gospel Oak.
If you’d like to take a bus, you can reach this idyllic neighbourhood with a 24, 46, or 168 bus.
Top Things To Do in Hampstead London
Wondering what to do in Hampstead? Below are the top attractions and activities you won’t want to miss.
Explore Hampstead Heath
This 800-acre expanse of land is one of the best parks in London. The park is only a short drive from Central London. And with its panoramic views and lush greenery, it’s the perfect escape from the bustling city life.
One of the best things to do in Hampstead Heath is to stroll among the greenery or settle down with a picnic. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife — with over 180 bird species to spot. If you’re lucky, you might see a fox, hedgehog, or a few rabbits hopping by.
Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds
Another one of the top Hampstead Heath things to do is to swim in one of its many ponds. While the park has over 25 ponds, only a select few are swimmable. The heath has a mixed pond on the side nearest to Hampstead Heath Rail Station. This pond is perfect if you’re happy to swim among men and women.
If you’d prefer to swim in a women’s- or men’s-only pond, you can find these more towards the Highgate and Kenwood side of the heath. These ponds all have changing rooms and lifeguards on duty, and swimming sessions cost between £2-£4.
Keep in mind that the ponds are cold and might be a bit muddy. This makes it more ideal for the warmer months — although a few brave locals actually dip in these waters every day.
Parliament Hill Lido
On the southern end of the heath, you’ll come across Parliament Hill. The hill offers breathtaking views of London and has cricket grounds, an athletics track, and a large lido.
If you’re not too keen on swimming with the ducks in the ponds, the lido is an excellent alternative. A day pass costs around £7 and gives you access to a clean pool, sauna, showers, and limited lockers.
You’ll also find a wooden children’s playground and expansive splash pool nearby, offering knee-deep fun in clear waters.
Hampstead Pergola and Hill Garden
Also situated within the vast Hampstead Heath, you’ll find the Hill Garden and Pergola, which belonged to Lord Leverhulme. The gardens are the product of his and Thomas Mawson’s love of landscape architecture and were started in 1904.
After Leverhulme’s death and World War II, however, the gardens were left to ruin until the City of London bought them in 1989. This restored hidden treasure features a walkway surrounded by all sorts of greenery and has become a popular photoshoot and wedding location.
But you don’t have to tie the knot or strike a pose to visit this beautiful spot. The gardens open around 08:30, depending on the seasons, and you’re free to take a scenic stroll through the charming grounds overlooking West Heath.
Visit 2 Willow Road
If you’ve ever wanted a “back to the future” experience, the house that occupies 2 Willow Road offers you that chance. This terraced house near Hampstead heath is considered one of the most exquisite examples of modernist architecture in the UK.
Designed by renowned and somewhat controversial Hungarian architect Ernö Goldfinger, this house was far ahead of its time and still has a modern edge today. Goldfinger not only designed the three-story house but most of the furniture inside too.
His plans for the house were not without opposition, though, as his futuristic designs contrasted the local Georgian houses. One of his biggest oppositions, in fact, was the famous novelist Ian Fleming.
But once his ever-scaled-down plans were approved, Goldfinger put his heart and soul into creating a bright, open, and functional space for his family. The house features collapsible walls, a spiral staircase, and art from famous friends like Roland Penrose, Jean Arp, Henry Moore, and Max Ernst.
The best part of 2 Willow Road is that it still feels lived-in, with papers strewn across the desk and food items stacked on the kitchen shelves. So whether you’re an architecture fan, a history buff, or a lover of aesthetics, this whimsical house is sure to pique your interest.
The National Trust acquired the house in 1995, which is now open for guided tours on Thursdays and Saturdays. Be sure to pre-book your tour on the National Trust’s website.
Go Plaque Spotting
Hampstead has been home to quite a few influential figures, including artists, musicians, writers, and social reformers. And, luckily for you, the walls of these homes do, in fact, speak. Scattered across the charming Hampstead village, you’ll find oval plaques revealing the who-what-when’s of notable Hampstead personalities.
Grab a coffee at one of Camden’s quirky cafes before heading out for a leisurely plaque-spotting stroll. You’ll find plaques commemorating the likes of Marie Stopes, Joanna Baille, George Orwell, and Sir Henry Cole.
If you’d like a bit more information on your walk, why not try a self-guided discovery game, which will “guide” you to even more of Hampstead’s hidden history and gems.
Visit the Hampstead Museums
With all the notable figures that have called Hampstead home, it’s no surprise that this neighbourhood has quite the selection of museums. Below are some of the must-visit museums that’ll give you a glimpse into Hampstead’s past.
This charming red-brick house with its light-blue door was the final home of Sigmund Freud and his family after fleeing the Nazi occupation in Vienna in 1938. It is one of the rare houses in London sporting two blue plaques, one dedicated to him and the other to his daughter, Anna.
While many recognise Sigmund Freud as the founder of psychoanalysis, few know that his daughter was a leading child psychoanalyst. She also worked and lived in this house until her passing in 1982.
This museum houses the iconic couch, covered in a vivid Iranian rug and cushions, on which his patients would rest. You’ll also spot hundreds of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Oriental antiques which formed part of Freud’s collection. Some, like an Eros figurine from Myrina, are said to be more valuable than those on display at the Louvre.
Above that, you’ll spot a drawing of Freud, made by the famous artist Salvador Dali in 1938. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 10:30 to 17:00, and an entry ticket will cost you around £14.
Built in 1686, this elegant house is a historical London landmark that shouldn’t go unmissed. It is named after the wealthy Fenton family of merchants, who owned the place between the 1790s and 1830s. It was later purchased by Lady Binning, who left the house, and her incredible collection of antiques, furniture, and art, to the National Trust in 1952.
The National Trust decided to make this house the home of another precious donation, the Fletcher Collection. This collection features historical keyboards of all kinds and is sure to be any key instrumentalist’s dream sight.
The key instruments include pianos, spinets, clavichords, and harpsichords, to name a few — many in working condition.
The Fenton House hosts many musical shows here. But, if you’re not musically inclined, the fine porcelain, impressive art, and Georgian furniture are sure to leave an impression. The quaint, walled garden, apple orchard, and splendid roses also make this museum a lovely Instagrammable spot in London.
The Fenton House is open on Fridays, Sundays, and Bank Holiday Mondays. You’ll have to pre-book your visit online to enter the house, while you can request free access to the garden at the door.
If you’re a Romance literature fan, you’ll love this museum. This Grade I listed house near Hampstead Heath and 2 Willow Road was once the home of the English Romance poet John Keats.
Although he only lived at this house for 17 months, he is said to have created some of his most impressive works, like Ode to a Nightingale, here.
With motivation from a friend, Keats left his career as an apothecary surgeon to pursue his poetry career, drawing inspiration from William Shakespeare and John Milton. This came with many challenges as literary critics opposed his writing and branded him a “cockney writer”.
This Regency house, built around 1815, was also where Keats would fall in love with his neighbour, Fanny Brawne. Due to his unsuccessful writing career, Fanny’s mother would not give her blessing for their marriage until Keats was financially secure.
You can find his “bright star”, Fanny’s engagement ring, as well as paintings and relics in the house. You’ll also find the odd but intriguing death mask of John Keats. He sadly died shortly after travelling to Italy while suffering from tuberculosis.
Built in 1704, this Grade I listed building has seen many notable faces over the centuries. One of the first homeowners was the local spa physician Dr William Gibbons, who lived here from 1720.
Once he moved out, the house was occupied by an upholsterer named Israel Lewis, after whom the place was named for quite a few years. The house was also occupied by the Royal East Middlesex Militia, Rudyard Kipling’s daughter, and stained glass designer Thomas Grylls over the years.
With so many exciting figures having lived in and near this house — John Constable’s house being only a few steps away — it’s no surprise that this spot houses the Hampstead Museum.
The house was bought by the Hampstead Borough Council and contains over 3000 items relating to Hamsptead’s history, including works by the artist Helen Allingham.
While it is a history museum, this spot has a lively energy to it. With its many temporary exhibitions and events, there’s always something new to see and do. The best part is the cafe, where they’ll happily pack you a picnic to enjoy in nearby Hampstead Heath.
See a Show at Pentameters Theatre
Opened in 1968, this pub fringe theatre is the oldest and one of the most highly regarded in London. The multi-award-winning owner, Léonie Scott-Matthews, has run this theatre for over 50 years.
A bohemian flair pervades the cosy and history-rich auditorium, which has 60 seats. Located above the Horseshoe Pub, it hosts everything from classical and modern plays to music, comedy, and poetry shows. There’s also a regular Sunday session called “Moon at Night”, where you can enjoy theatre, music, poetry and open mic performances.
This theatre has seen some of London’s top actors and performers, including Russell Brand, Ted Hughes, Ben Elton, and Edna O’Brien.
Enjoy a meal prepared with seasonal produce at the Horseshoe pub downstairs before grabbing one of their signature brews to enjoy during your show upstairs.
Watch a Movie at Everyman
If you’re looking for a date night idea, a movie at the original Everyman Cinema in Hampstead is an excellent option. Established in the 1930s, this intimate spot takes the cinema experience to the next level, with waiters bringing top-tier food and drinks to your comfy red seat.
The cinema hosts everything from mainstream releases to indie, classical and foreign language films — as well as live satellite broadcasts and events.
So, whether you’re looking for a romantic spot to watch La vita è bella or want to watch Topgun with some friends, the cinema has something for everyone.
Unwind at World Peace Garden
What was once a deserted wasteground near Hampstead Heath Station has been transformed into a serene woodland glade. The World Peace Garden Camden is a community effort focused on encouraging visitors to contemplate “what would contribute to world peace?”
The garden features winding walkways, seating areas, three small ponds, and a wishing well. It’s the perfect place to stop for a breather, and pick me up, with inspiring messages on glass and ceramic tiles decorating a dedicated wall.
The garden is open every Saturday and Sunday, from 10:00 to 17:00, and you’re welcome to bring your picnic basket along to enjoy a quiet moment with family or friends.
The garden often hosts jazz concerts, tea parties, puppet shows, and chess tournaments, so be sure to check their website to see what’s on.
Shops in Hampstead
Hampstead offers a wide range of exciting shopping options. From high-end clothing in Hampstead High Street to quaint antique and charity shops, Hampstead has it all.
This quaint, slightly hidden alleyway just off Hampstead High Street is brimming with treasures and charm. The short walkway is home to shops selling everything from flowers and books to clothes and antiques.
Stop by Keith Fawkes’ secondhand bookshop or the JM Pennifeather pen shop to buy a lovely memento. Or, make your way to Exclusivo to score some second-hand designer clothes. Round off your shopping spree with a beer and a meal at the aptly named Victorian gastropub, The Flask.
Antiques and Craft Emporium
Whether you’re on the hunt for antique gems or looking for a gift for someone dear, the Antique and Craft Emporium has you covered. With over 25 independent shops selling both vintage and modern jewellery, clothes, furniture, homewares, and more, you’re sure to find something special.
It’s easy to end up spending hours at this spot, so be sure to grab a coffee at Tania’s Café before making your way through the unique stalls. You’ll come across vendors specialising in everything from doll house furniture and quilting to ceramics, glassware, and quirky jewellery.
Parliament Hill Farmers’ Market
It’s always a great feeling to support local vendors, and with the vast amount of food markets in London, it couldn’t be easier.
The Parliament Hill Farmers’ Market offers you the opportunity to support local farmers, butchers, and fishmongers while enjoying the beauty of Hampstead Heath.
The stalls sell quality products like dairy from Essex, unique root vegetables, giant wheels of cheese, and free-range poultry. You’ll also find cooked meals like sausage butties and juicy burgers, as well as freshly baked pastries and artisan ciders.
The market is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 10:00 to 14:00, making it the perfect place to grab a few picnic goodies or fresh groceries.
Note: If you happen to bring your doggo along, you’ll have to leave them to socialise with the other pups at the doggie crèche while you shop.
Where To Eat in Hampstead
With all the sightseeing and shopping you’re bound to do, you’re sure to work up an appetite. And Hampstead has no shortage of excellent cafes, pubs, and restaurants. Below are some of the top places to eat in Hampstead.
The Spaniards Inn
This Grade II-listed pub is brimming with history and has served the likes of Byron, Keats, and Dickens. The Spaniards Inn even makes an appearance in Charles Dickens’ novel The Pickwick Papers and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
This historic pub, built in 1585, was also said to be where infamous road robber Dick Turpin would plan many of his robberies. To add a twist to the story, his father was the owner of the pub. Some employees claim that the infamous Dick Turpin still haunts the pub today.
Literary legends and ghosts aside, this bar serves up some equally legendary meals for any time of the day. And their list of select wines, artisan spirits, craft beers, and ales pair perfectly with their elegant yet comforting menu.
Sunday Roast at The Holly Bush
The Holly Bush is another Grade II-listed pub with a true vintage charm to it. Built in the 1790s, this spot was initially a house before being transformed into a pub in 1928.
As with many other spots in Hampstead, The Holly Bush has also seen its fair share of London celebs, including Dr Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and Jude Law.
They serve pub classics like pies, sumptuous steaks, and excellent ales and beers, all with an elevated touch. But their Sunday Roast is the true attraction. Complete with all the trimmings of a classic Sunday Roast, you’re sure to leave stuffed like a turkey and ready for a Sunday nap.
La Crêperie de Hampstead
This crepe shop, situated next to King William IV pub, is one of the best dessert places in London. The stand has been serving up crepes since 1985 and has become somewhat of an institution in Hampstead — adored by locals and visitors alike.
This humble stand often attracts long queues and has even served Hampstead celebrities like Kate Moss and Harry Styles. The stall has undergone a recent upgrade. And, with the owner, Edward, looking to experiment with his menu, a visit to this still will be all the more exciting.
Final Thoughts on What To Do in Hampstead
This list of Hampstead things to do is only the tip of the iceberg. Hampstead is buzzing with boutique and chain stores and beaming with a delicate balance between the old and new.
So whether you’re looking to escape the city smog or visit the homes of some of London’s most famous creatives, Hampstead won’t disappoint.
If you’re looking for more fun things to do in the area, be sure to have a look at this guide to nearby Camden Town’s attractions and activities.
If you liked this guide and want real-time London/UK travel information, make sure you follow me on Instagram @huesofdelahaye and subscribe to my Youtube channel for weekly travel videos.