Kenwood House

Attractions , Historic buildings and sites Highgate Free
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 (Kenwood House - restored, repaired and revived. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA)
Kenwood House - restored, repaired and revived. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA
 (The Great Room)
The Great Room
 (The newly refurbished Breakfast Room at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA)
The newly refurbished Breakfast Room at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA
 (The newly restored Libary at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA)
The newly restored Libary at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA
 (The newly restored ceiling in the Library at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA)
The newly restored ceiling in the Library at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA
 (The newly restored entance hall at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA)
The newly restored entance hall at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA
 ('Mary, Countess of Howe' by Thomas Gainsborough, c1764. © ENGLISH HERITAGE)
'Mary, Countess of Howe' by Thomas Gainsborough, c1764. © ENGLISH HERITAGE
 (ulius Caeser Ibbetson, 'Three Long-Horned Cattle at Kenwood', 1797. © English Heritage)
ulius Caeser Ibbetson, 'Three Long-Horned Cattle at Kenwood', 1797. © English Heritage


 ('Portrait of the Artist' by Rembrandt Van Rijn, c1665. © ENGLISH HERITAGE)
'Portrait of the Artist' by Rembrandt Van Rijn, c1665. © ENGLISH HERITAGE
 (The eighteenth-century dairy at Kenwood House © ENLISH HERITAGE / PATRICIA PAYNE)
The eighteenth-century dairy at Kenwood House © ENLISH HERITAGE / PATRICIA PAYNE
 (The newly refurbished Lord Mansfield's Dressing Room at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / PATRICIA PAYNE)
The newly refurbished Lord Mansfield's Dressing Room at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / PATRICIA PAYNE
 (The newly repaired south facade at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA)
The newly repaired south facade at Kenwood House. © ENGLISH HERITAGE / CHARLES HOSEA

Two years ago Kenwood House was looking distinctly down at heel. The long, creamy south facade was flaking and the roof was in poor repair. The wonderfully situated house (the estate adjoins Hampstead Heath) – which was transformed by celebrated architect Robert Adam between 1764 and 1779 to become a neoclassical villa suitable for William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield – had become shabby.

Which was alarming – because the place is ours. Shortly after World War I, the 6th Earl came extremely close to flogging off Kenwood to developers. The plots were already pegged out when the brewing magnate Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, bought the estate. He never lived there, but left the estate to the nation, along with a superb collection of 63 Old Master paintings, acquired during a remarkably astute four-year spending spree between 1897 and 1891.

Fortunately, English Heritage, the twenty-first-century custodians of Kenwood, had things in hand and after an 18-month transformation period, made possible by a £3.9m Heritage Lottery fund and private donations, Kenwood House reopened earlier this year.

The impetus for the project was the need to preserve the fabric of the building and protect its internationally important collections, which include masterpieces by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Turner and Rembrandt.

But with the house closed and most of the major works despatched to the US for a touring exhibition, there was a rare opportunity to revamp the ground-floor rooms in sympathy with the first Earl of Iveagh’s vision, when he stipulated that the house should be presented to create ‘a fine example of the artistic home of an eighteenth-century gentleman’.

The dairy in the estate grounds, which once provided a bucolic setting for eighteenth-century aristocratic ladies in the mood for a genteelly slummy tea, has also been restored. Two rooms housing the paintings of the Iveagh Bequest were revamped in 2000 to show the works to their best advantage, and they remain unchanged.

Potentially more controversial is one element of the restoration of Kenwood’s showstopper, the library or ‘Great Room’. In what is considered by many (Robert Adams included) to be a masterpiece, some of the lavish gilding has been painted over. The decision came after extensive research and consultation and hundreds of forensic paint samples. The result is delicate and beautiful. And the protective barrier applied between old gilding and new paint means that the next generation of renovators will be able to find the evidence they need when they come to rehash the arguments about who exactly was responsible for the gilded layer, and when.

Discover more great places to visit in Hampstead

Venue name: Kenwood House
Address: Hampstead Lane
Opening hours: Daily 10am-5pm
Transport: Tube: Golders Green/Archway then bus 210
Price: Free
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Summer - the perfect time to visit Kenwood house. A stunning Country Manor - but in a city

After learning about the first Earl of Mansfield who was the first occupant of this grand house, exploring some of the amazing artifacts and taking in the wonderful furnishings and paintings, (including a Rembrandt), you can saunter out into Kenwood Gardens itself, part of Hampstead Heath. 

You can either take a picnic and transform yourself back into the 17th century, sipping wine and overlooking the wonderful lake view or enjoy the delights of the cafe attached to the house and sit in the lovely garden at the back.

There's also a great selection of coffees and ice-creams, beautiful flowers, wooded areas and you can even walk for many miles into the Heath and still not see a single road......ah bliss.

NakedPRGirl Claire

Heaven is a place on earth! Well to be specific about it, the gardens are! Actually to be even more technical, the gardens are absolutely beautiful in the month of May. The walls of colourful rhododendrons are stunning in Spring and make one of the most dramatic gardens I've ever seen. We're talking delicate white and blush pinks to hot fuchsia and onto pretty corals, bright orange and lemon shades, highlighted by purple making the most fabulous rainbow of colours. And that's just the garden because Kenwood House rises in the background, all white, elegant and composed with the grounds stretching out around it. You can go in the house if you want, but I prefer to head to the cafes, have a scone or cup of tea, or let's face it a cider and hang around in the gardens. It's situated in the delightful Hampstead Heath so lovely to wander around in the leafy surroundings. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll!

Kritt N

Prepare to be transported back in time inside this grand 400 years old country house in peaceful Hampstead Heath.

One of the finest country houses in London, Kenwood House offers a fascinating glimpse into 18th century life from its vast collection of renaissance painting, antique furniture, roman inspired interior design which was one of a kind in the late 18th century. Did you know the life of one resident at Kenwood House was made into a movie?

It’s an absolutely incredible house and it's staggering to think that this was once the private home. It’s big and grand inside which means it’s easy to lose yourself inside. The absolute highlight for me was the library. It would puts most library in today to shame. Many of the books have been taken away but to think the walls were once lined with endless rows of books is incredible . A haven for bookworms.

There are two floors to explore but admittedly there isn’t much of of the second floor to explore. Downstairs on the ground floor is where the awesome bit are.

Once you’re done taking it all in, the Orangery and onsite cafe and restaurant provides refreshment and grub to continue on your day. Sit outside on a sunny day for a perfect lunch.

Set in beautiful Hampstead Heath, it’s the perfect place to visit in summer months especially with families.Not only does it provide a great view of the City of London, but the endless ground of green space makes it a great place for a spot of picnic and ample space for kids to run around in.

Not many people visit as it’s outside of zone 1 so it’s a real hidden gem and a venture well worth making to see this free attraction. For visitors visiting the UK, this is another perfect opportunity to explore a genuine English treasure.

Chlo Fo

What better way to while away a Sunday than pretending you're in a Jane Austen novel at Kenwood House. Amble your way through the beautiful Hampstead Heath and watch as it opens out to the stunning grounds of this English treasure. The house is so beautiful and home to some of the country's best artworks from Rembrandt and Gainsborough to Vermeer and a wonderful collection of miniatures. What's more, it's all free! After you've maxed out your inner culture vulture, grab a coffee or a bite to eat in the lovely on site cafe. A great date venue or place to take family or friends - highly recommended.


What is this white beauty that sparkles in the sunshine at the top of Hampstead Heath? It’s eighteenth century Kenwood House and you should all go in – one, because it’s free and two, because it’s awesome.

You can wander freely from room to room. The interiors are breath-taking and display an impressive range of paintings. The visit doesn’t last very long but you’ll be very pleased. It’s simply gorgeous.

AnnaSophia V

Incredible 18th century luxury villa. Free entry and a wonderful estate surrounding it, easy accesible by bus and car. Travel for people less able to walk is available from car park to the house, as well as a lift that can bring anyone to the upper hall where you can see the paintings in the Suffolk collection.

Currently has a Christmas Shop in the Orangery and the café is situated in the old servants quarters which is nice to see during your visit.

Adrian N

Wonderful Robert Adam 18th century house with a world-class permanent exhibition of Old Masters [Iveagh Bequest]. Set in superb parkland. Free entry. Excellent restaurant.

Elizabeth G

A fine house with interesting art collection, cared for by English Heritage and staffed by volunteers. Thanks to the Iveagh Bequest, there is no charge and it is lovely to see young and old alike enjoying the art, the house and the grounds.

maria a

Great place for family day out, good for expanding you cultural knowledge, fantastic picture gallery, great park, good places to eat

Bianca P

World famous paintings, 112 acres of beautiful woodlands and free entry! There is nothing like Kenwood! :)

Grace I

It's free, it's gorgeous and it's easy to get to, so why aren't you going to Kenwood House? Its recent refurbishment provided an even lovelier place to stroll around and to pretend that you're living in 18th-century London (albeit as a rich person). The grounds are the extra bonus, providing endless opportunities to walk around (and the best places to get lost). If you have the energy, follow the path to Parliament Hill and gaze on one of the best views in London.

Lisa R

We live locally, but do not come often enough to this beautiful house and its surrounding countryside. We met two friends for our yearly walk. Unfortunately it was absolutely pouring with rain so we took shelter in the fantastic cafe, The Brew House, that is situated next to Kenwood House. It has a inside area, but lots of tables set up outside in the gardens and courtyard. The gardens of the cafe are stunning at any time of year and very well kept. I have only had sandwiches, cake, tea and coffee at the Brew House, but all excellent. Very good selection of home-made cakes, tarts, biscuits and sandwiches. They also provide a comprehensive lunchtime menu of hot food. Kenwood House has recently had a refurbishment and is stunning as a result. The walk around the grounds, lake and wood are just divine and you can extend your walk further into Hampstead Heath if you like.

Martin C
Staff Writer

The joggers/strollers/families on the Heath don’t seem to make it as far as Kenwood House. So, even on a busy day (during the week at least) you can feel as if you’ve got the place to yourself. English Heritage has done a great job of the renovation – the impeccable baby pink and blue Great Room is the standout interior. But the real draw is the paintings. Back from its tour is Rembrandt’s ‘Self-Portrait with Two Circles’, his greatest masterpiece on display in the capital. Gainsborough’s ‘Mary, Countess of Howe’ is radiant. Vermeer’s ‘The Guitar Player’ is joyful. Also look out for smaller gems, such as heavenly little landscape by Constable, and even smaller gems in the form of portrait miniatures. Make a day of it and combine the best art and nature London has to offer.

Emma P
Staff Writer

The house and gallery are just part of the enjoyment of a day out at Kenwood House. The grounds are a landscaped sweep of loveliness set in 112 acres with a Henry Moore sculpture and picturesque lake creating key focal points. The west lawn is surrounded by mature rhododendron and camelia bushes that are breathtaking in spring. Walks around the grounds lead directly onto Hampstead Heath in several directions, taking you from classical English garden to unmanicured stretches of heathland in a few steps. The Brewhouse cafe terrace is one of the most peaceful places in London to sit and have a bite to eat. Families flock here across all seasons to enjoy the open space, birdlife around the lake and hide-and-seek and tree-climbing opportunities. The ice-cream kiosks are a big draw too. Kenwood House itself is a pleasure and kids absolutely love the huge doll's house, play room and historical trail/quiz card (with stamps in each room to mark their progress) that were introduced after the refurb. They're a good incentive to get little ones in to enjoy one of Rembrandt's most moving self-portraits as an elderly man. The story of Dido Belle, one of the first black women to be part of aristocratic British society (who lived at Kenwood), is fascinating too. 

Juut Bernard

A place of extreme elegance, style and quiet where you van feed your soul when you want à day out of the city. Highlights of european painting and à really very moving selfportrait of Rembrandt as a somewhat older person that stays with you for the rest of your life.