Hampstead area guide

Discover Hampstead's great shops, restaurants, bars and pubs

© Britta Jaschinski

First fashionable for its spa waters in the eighteenth century, Hampstead has long been London's most gorgeous hilltop hideaway. Between Hampstead Village and Highgate, its heath is a stunning, 791-acre patchwork of woodland, playing fields, swimming ponds and meadows. With its mix of picturesque countryside, historical buildings and cosmopolitan shops and restaurants, Hampstead is a breath of fresh air for even the most jaded Londoner.

What are your favourite Hampstead haunts? Let us know in the comments.

Bars and pubs in Hampstead

Bars and pubs

Roebuck

This escape hatch for staff from the Royal Free was given a facelift by Young’s when they took over a couple of years ago: purple floral wallpaper, mirrors and ’70s swivel chairs are paired with a grandly tiled fireplace and an old piano, though don’t expect anyone to hammer out ‘Knees Up, Mother Brown’ around closing time. The high arched windows offer a surprisingly leafy view of the hospital; alternatively, head out to the spacious paved garden, where there are barbecues in summer. Emphasis has been taken off the cocktails and placed firmly on the four handpumps, with Waggle Dance, Bombardier, and Young’s Special and Bitter now typical; there’s also draught Peroni, Kirin Ichinar and Addlestone’s cider. The Tuesday quiz nights are popular, as are the Sunday lunches.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs

Horseshoe

‘Home of the Camden Town Brewery’ reads the menu. But yes, this is the heart of Hampstead – presumably Jasper Cuppaidge, the thirtysomething Australian who runs both this cheery pub and the brewery (which has moved from the pub’s basement to close-but-no-cigar Kentish Town), thought naming a beer label after one of London’s poshest neighbourhoods might alienate more drinkers than it would attract. You’ll find the full range of Camden keg beers here (Ink, a moreish stout, is comfortably the best), alongside cask ales, bottled offerings and an above-average wine list, but the food’s no afterthought. On weeknights, a pretty standard gastropub menu takes hold. But the place really hums at weekends, when you’ll need to dodge buggies, children and the occasional dog if you want to enjoy comfort cooking that sits on the fence separating brunch from lunch: on Saturdays, creamy macaroni cheese, eggs benedict, gigantic burgers best ordered medium rare; on Sundays, roasts galore. You won’t find many surprises, but everything’s done very well. We’ve heard grumblings about slow service in the past, but we had no complaints.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs

Flask

Blending perfectly with the second-hand bookstores and other arcana along this lovely, narrow pedestrianised passage, this imposing but welcoming Young’s pub has benefited from a 2007 refit that spruced it up without draining its character. Decorative accents are provided by scenes from fairytales, black-and-white photos of days out and century-old posters for London Underground, but the best seats are around the tall table facing the picture window. Wines figure prominently here, perhaps more so than is common at other branches in the Young’s family, but the regular beers are all present and correct. Many come here to eat, either in the pub or in the large rear dining area. You can get food to share (vegetarian or mini pie platter), as well as the traditional pub grub.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 1 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs Book online

Holly Bush

Negotiate the steep steps from Heath Street up to isolated, cobbled Holly Mount to this house built in the 1790s by portrait painter George Romney. It was later taken over by Benskins, a Watford brewery, in 1928, and much more recently by Fuller’s. Three low-ceilinged bar areas carry a lived-in feel, the one bar counter purveying pints of Fuller’s ESB, Seafarers and London Pride, as well as Harveys Sussex Best, Leffe, Beck’s and Blue Moon. Pimm’s and lemonade is a summer treat, as is a spot out front; consult the chalked-up weather forecast should you be pondering another steep climb the next day, perhaps to work off the smartened-up gastropub cooking.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Hampstead highlights

Attractions

Kenwood House

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 the past 18 months have witnessed a transformation, made possible by a £3.9m Heritage Lottery fund and private donations. 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 o

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Things to do

Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds

Originally dammed-off clay pits, the ponds are run by the City of London Corporation. It is consulting with local residents about essential works to protect against flooding, which – though unlikely – could be catastrophic if a large quantity of rain fell over an extended period. In the meantime, the three pools remain open to ladies, men and mixed groups (including accompanied children aged eight-15, at the lifeguards’ discretion) respectively. The Men’s and Ladies’ Ponds are open all year round but to use the Mixed Pond in the winter season you must join the Hampstead Heath Winter Swimming Club. Even in the summer the water is chilly. Take a dip at more of London's lidos and public swimming pools

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Attractions

Keats House

Keats House was the home of the Romantic poet from 1818 to 1820, when he left for Rome in the hope of alleviating his tuberculosis (he died of the disease the next year, aged 25). The interior of Keats was sensitively restoredand reopened in 2009; the refurbishment reflects the original decoration of the property, creating a living space that Keats would have recognised and providing an authentic example of Regency style. As well as mooching through the rooms, you can attend events and talks in the poetry reading room and see a display on Keats's sweetheart, Fanny Brawne, who lived next door. The love affair was recently the subject of well-received movie 'Bright Star' (2009), directed by Jane Campion, and a selection of costumes from the film can be seen in the house, alongside the engagement ring given by Keats to Brawne. The garden, where the poet composed 'Ode to a Nightingale', is a particularly pretty spot.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Things to do

Freud Museum

The Freud Museum is in the house that was Sigmund Freud's London home after he fled the Nazis in 1938. It is a time capsule, a small chunk of Hapsburg Vienna transported to Hampstead. It contains the couch on which psychoanalysis was born, Freud's study and library and his collection of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities. Upstairs, a room is devoted to his psychoanalyst daughter Anna who lived and worked at the house until her death in 1982. The Freud Museum is one of the few in London to have two blue plaques, one for Sigmund and the other for Anna. Films taken in the 1930s show Freud and his family at home and in the garden or walking the dogs.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Comments

8 comments
Amy O
Amy O

please keep me updated with emails from TimeOut Guides!

renco66
renco66

The hospital was a women's only hospital on Pond Street and has now been converted into luxury flats. The Royal Free didn't exist at that time.

durdica
durdica

Well ,it was a long time ago and I used to live in Bishops Avenue in Hampstead .Still remember those beautiful white family houses with lots of various spring flowers especilally scenty daffodiles. O tempora, o mores!

Chloe P
Chloe P

I believe the hospital you are thinking of is The Royal Free Hospital.

jatinder sethi
jatinder sethi

I lived in Belsize park in 1958 to 1964. The house,which belonged to the Lady,Mrs Elkind,opened into the heath.My son was born there in the hospital on top of the Heath(I don't remember the name),And when he was about two year old, we used to spend. lot of time on the Pond which was also right on the top, next to a pub,where we used to have our drinks. We spent almost 5 years roaming in the Heath. I wonder if some one can tell me the name of that hospital and the Pub(Bull& Bush?) if it is still there.Drinks used to in the outside in the open.Baby Champ had just been launched, and became quite popular with ladies..

Gabrielle
Gabrielle

Just love the atmosphere in Hampstead anything goes!

HTH
HTH

HAMPSTEAD CHRISTMAS FAIR 2011 Our great Victorian hall will be transformed into a unique shopping extravaganza taking place on SATURDAY 17th December 2011, featuring the best selected stall holders selling the best for Christmas shoppers. Your Christmas shopping experience all in one place and set inside one of Hampstead's historical venues; Hampstead Town Hall, 213 Haverstock Hill, Hampstead NW3 4QP. **** **Refreshments at our Christmas Food Hall, Entertainment, affordable Christmas gifts** SATURDAY 17th DECEMBER 2011. Doors open from 10am – 5pm. FREE Entry, but a donation would be appreciated with all proceeds going towards helping disadvantaged young people and communities. *** For all enquiries contact the Events Team: 0207 692 5809/899