Things To Do In Hampstead, A Local’s Guide

Date post added: 13th December 2023

As hidden gems go, Hampstead is a beauty. One of the wealthiest districts in London, Hampstead is the place for Saturday brunches filled with delicious delicacies, for star spotting and indulging your designer tastes on Hampstead High Street. But Hampstead is also a place to settle in a coffee shop on a charming side street with the words of romantic poet John Keats by your side, for artisan markets and secret skittle alleys. It’s all possible in Hampstead.

And in this ultimate Hampstead guide, we asked long time (45 years and counting!) Hampstead resident and London Walks expert David Tucker to reveal his favourite things to do in Hampstead. From arts and culture to stately homes, food and drink to shopping, we’ve got something for everyone in our local sightseeing guide sharing over 50 things to do in Hampstead.

Things To Do In Hampstead hide

What is Hampstead famous for?

The North London suburb’s standout focal point is its glorious green spaces – Hampstead Heath being the best known. This greenery transforms this fine suburb from ok to extraordinary.

It stands on the Northern Heights so you get amazing views over the City of London. Parliament Hill is a wonderful vantage point for panoramic views of the City skyline and beyond.

Then, of course, there’s the star factor. Famous faces, both past and present, have been drawn to Hampstead for good reason. There’s an extensive list including Boy George, H.G Wells, Kingsley Amis, John Constable, Ricky Gervais, Gerald DuMaurier and his daughter Daphne DuMaurier, Kenneth Clark, John Le Carre, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and Dame Judi Dench.

What is the best way to get to Hampstead?

Hampstead is very well serviced by public transport.

By train

Overground train stations are West Hampstead (Thameslink), Hampstead Heath and Gospel Oak.

By underground

There are several tube stations on the Northern Line that service this area – Hampstead, Golders Green, Belsize Park, and also Tufnell Park. Finchley Road is on the Jubilee and Metropolitan lines.

By bus

There are several bus routes that service the Hampstead area including the 268, 46, 168, 210, N5, 603, 13, 113, N113 and C11.

Discover the best ways to access Hampstead Heath

Food and drink

Sample a crepe

Hampstead is London’s Montmartre, so La Crêperie de Hampstead is parfait to purchase a crepe to nibble as you stroll around Hampstead Heath.

Sample a pavement cafe

With its cobbled streets and eclectic eateries, Hampstead’s a perfect place for people watching from a pavement cafe. Head to Flask Walk and Perrin’s Court to take your pick of the plentiful cafés ready to serve you a leisurely lunch.

Have a pint at the local

Is there anything more British than a pint at the local? The Holly Bush in Hampstead is a quintessential British pub, and haunt of the rich and famous. If you don’t fancy a pint, try the Sunday roast instead. For other iconic London pubs try the Spaniards Inn or The Flask.

Try the best juice in London

We think the best juice in London can be found in the depths of Artichoke, a family run greengrocer in Hampstead. Their ethos is “happiness is a full bowl of fruit,” but they’re equally happy to squeeze, pulp or blitz fruits into wonderful juices.

Electric violin and Italian fare at Mimmo La Bufala

Have a dinner you’ll never forget at Mimmo La Bufala. Electric violinist Georgio Elia often performs on weekend nights in this classic old Italian restaurant in South Hampstead.

Cannoli at Da Cheffone’s

For pure indulgence, visit Da Cheffone’s deli, and ask Gennaro from Napoli to prepare you the house speciality. Fresh ricotta in fresh cannoli, with a sprinkling of pistachio at one end and chocolate at the other end. Texture-wise, taste-wise, it’s sensational, unsurpassable and unforgettable. You’ll be giddy at the memory of it, let alone when it hits your tastebuds.

Pick up a posh picnic

The Hampstead Butcher and Providore on Rosslyn Street isn’t any old meat retailer. Everything is exquisite quality, and the staff are always willing to advise. Grab a joint of meat for your Sunday roast, or cold cuts from the deli. They also put together posh picnics, complete with disposable tableware, which go beyond sausage rolls and Scotch eggs. Plus, you’ll find random American sodas and food stuffs like Grandma’s molasses and pancake syrup that are hard to come by in the UK.

Sushi and gelato

For lunch on the go, ask Hana in Flask Walk to set you up with an order of take away sushi and, over the way, a gelato from Oddono’s.

Discover other eateries and unmissable food in Hampstead

Arts and culture

Go to a show in The Pentameters Theatre

A tiny yet beloved fringe theatre in Hampstead Village, The Pentameters Theatre sits above the Horseshoe Pub and hosts a range of music, poetry, comedy and open mic.

See a movie in the historic Everyman

Reputed to be the world’s oldest (and most comfortable) arts cinema, the Everyman dates back to 1933.

Go art-gallery-ing!

Hampstead is a haven of art galleries, with Aeon, Catto, Clarenson, Gilden’s, Lahd, Maud & Mabe and Zebra One to name but 7. For art photography, try Korner.

Try an art workshop at Cass Art

If you like your art more immersive, try an art workshop at Cass Art Hampstead, an art materials supplier hosting regular workshops.

Visit the Camden Arts Centre

Originally named the Hampstead Arts Centre, the Camden Arts Centre is on the corner of Arkwright Avenue and Finchley Road and is the place for art and artists.

Attend a cultural event at JW3

Directly across the Finchley Road from the Camden Arts Centre, JW3 is the only Jewish Community Centre of its kind in the UK, and a vibrant hub for Jewish arts, culture, learning and life where everyone is welcome. The Hampstead on either side of Finchley Road is very different from the historic heart of Hampstead. Had the campaign to save Hampstead Heath failed, what you see in this Finchley Road neighbourhood is what Hampstead Heath would look like today.

Visit the Keats Community Library

There’s often good stuff going on at the Keats Community Library, located next door to Keats House. Look out for fun events like the chess club, seasonal quizzes, or visiting authors like Michael Palin and Julia Donaldson.


Go antiquing

There are few places in London better for antique shops than Hampstead. Head for Hampstead Antique & Craft Emporium or to quirky Flask Walk and indulge in a spot of antiquing.

Visit the Sunday Artisan Market

Also known as the Arts, Crafts and Artisan Fair, the Sunday Artisan Market is your destination for all kinds of handcrafted items, including jewellery, clothing and artwork.

Pick up some second hand books

If you’ve never been on a treasure hunt for preloved books, this London village is the place to indulge as Hampsteadites are discerning readers. Try rare bookshop Keith Fawkes in Flask Walk, or the Oxfam shop for quality second hand books, yes an entire Oxfam shop just for books!

Check out our 12 best second hand book stores in London

Hunt for designer bargains

When the great and the good of Hampstead need to free up space in their wardrobe, Hampstead’s charity shops and used designer wear venues are the lucky recipients. Try Exclusivo Designer Second Hand Store in Flask Walk, Mary’s Living & Giving- Save the Children Shop in Oriel Place or the Shelter Boutique in South End Green (South Hampstead).

Explore our 10 best vintage shops in London

Browse the boutiques

If new is more your thing, Hampstead has a plethora of independent boutiques. Start off on Hampstead High Street, and see where the day takes you!


Take a dip in a bathing pond

One of the most famous things to do in Hampstead is surely taking a dip in one of Hampstead’s three swimming ponds, the men’s pond, the women’s pond or the mixed pond. Brace yourself, it’ll be chilly! For something slightly less wild but still outdoors, brave the Parliament Hill Lido.

Visit The Hill Garden and Pergola

Walk amongst the marble arches, pillars and exotic flowers at Hampstead Hill Gardens, built by Lord Leverhulme as a place for extravagant parties. We can’t promise you a party but we can promise wonderful views over the Heath.

See the animals at Golders Hill Park Zoo

Located in the landscaped surrounds of Golders Hill Park is a free zoo, home to rare birds and small mammals.

Picnic on Hampstead Heath

For the best views of London, it has to be Hampstead Heath. Make it even better by packing a picnic and enjoy the best seat in the house. David’s Hampstead picnic recommendations include bread from Gail’s, a piece of Caciocavallo cheese from Da Cheffone, and a punnet of strawberries and Hampstead honey from Artichoke.

Berrying on the Heath- or sledging

The late summer is the ideal time for a spot of blackberry picking on the Heath. And as this one is season dependent, we’ll give you another – sledging! It doesn’t happen every winter of course, but when it does, the Heath is the place for all manner of snowy pursuits.

Visit South Hampstead

Keats Grove, Downshire Hill and South End Road are a delight in the Wisteria season. Take a stroll on the Heath, ending perhaps at Hampstead No. 1 pond to commune with the swans. Hampstead loves its swans. The death of ‘Hampstead love swan Mrs. Newbie’ was front page news for the local paper. In tribute to her, flowers were laid. Her widower, Wallace, is looking after the cygnets.

Read in a bower

In one of the greenest, leafiest areas of London, you’ll surely be able to find a bower to relax with a book, such as David’s chapter on Hampstead in the London Walks book: London Walks, London Stories. He recommends a couple of good reading retreats at the beginning of the chapter. Otherwise, how about under the spreading branches of the wise old ‘mother tree’ behind the Horseshoe pub, right in the heart of the village.

Go fishing

On one of the Hampstead ponds. I mean, is there a better way to chill than sitting at the water’s edge, pole in hand, feeling the breeze, listening to the birds, looking out over the water?

Take some snaps

Photograph Hampstead Heath, Hampstead Village, or both. You’d be mad not to. The celestial village – the pride of London- Hampstead is a visual feast from first to last. It’s no accident that Hampstead attracts people with highly developed visual sensibilities: artists, photographers, cinema directors.

Stately homes and museums

Take a turn around Kenwood House

Probably the best known of Hampstead’s former stately homes, Kenwood has an enviable art collection that includes works from Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner and Constable. At Kenwood House, built in the Georgian and neoclassical style, you can wander the tranquil gardens and explore this neoclassical villa, first built in the 17th century.

Visit Keats House

Poet John Keats lived in Hampstead between December 1818 and August 1820, and it was at the beautiful Regency Keats House that he wrote ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. You can even view the original manuscript for the poem here.

See Freud’s famous chair at the Freud Museum

Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis. At the Freud Museum, his final home, you can visit Freud’s preserved study, complete with his psychoanalytic chair.

Visit the oldest grand house in Hampstead

A National Trust property, Fenton House is a 17th century house with walled garden, complete with Georgian furniture. We’re reliably informed by David that this is the oldest grand house in Hampstead.

Check out Admiral’s House

The subject of John Constable paintings when he lived nearby. Admiral’s House was named after a navy lieutenant who never achieved the status of Admiral at all. But that’s just the kind of weirdness you expect from British history.

Step back in time at Burgh House

Burgh House is home to the Hampstead Museum but it’s also where you can step back in time to when Hampstead was known for being a fashionable spa, known as Hampstead Wells. Over 5,000 objects are on display, charting Hampstead’s development over the years. Burgh House is also a community centre, with an active cultural programme, and has a great café too.

Experience a modernist treasure at 2 Willow Road

Visit the home of architect Ernö Goldfinger, said to be the inspiration for the James Bond villain and the creative mind behind 2 Willow Road, one of the first modernist buildings acquired by the National Trust.

Churches and places of interest

Visit the oldest churchyard in Greater London

Explore and enjoy the surroundings (or sit if you prefer, there are benches) in the old parish churchyard, the setting for St. John’s Parish Church. It’s the oldest churchyard to survive unspoiled in the centre of Greater London.

And pop into St. John’s too

While you’re there, be sure to pop into St. John’s. It’s very beautiful, very interesting and, yes, soothing. Get your timing right, and you could attend a service or one of their functions- there’s a lot going on at St John’s.

Go stargazing at the observatory

The old observatory is lovingly cared for by the Hampstead Scientific Society, and home to a 6” Cooke refracting telescope offering enticing views of London’s skies.

Visit Downshire Hill

Back in the 1950s a national newspaper described Downshire Hill as the most beautiful street in England. It also boasts famous residents (past and present), a recent infamous murder, a very classy old pub and has Hampstead Heath on its doorstep, Downshire Hill’s got it all.

The dog friendly chapel

The Heath Street Baptist Chapel is a dog friendly community hub with a ton going on. Ewan the pastor has the place thrumming with talks, masterclasses, an Italian Sounds in London concert series, Morris dancing and more.

Listen to the bells ringing at Christ Church Hampstead

Every Sunday morning, funnily enough.

Rosslyn Hill Chapel

A quiet centre in the heart of Hampstead, Rosslyn Chapel often has events such as mindfulness and meditation. David recently attended author and broadcaster Simon Jenkins’ Glass in Hand Lecture here, talking about traumas in London’s history.

Sports and activities

Watch a cricket match

One for the summer months, and one which ties in nicely with a trip to the Camden Arts Centre or JW3, as Hampstead Cricket Club is just along Lymington Road from JW3. The Hampstead Cricket Club is part of the same complex as the Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club, where the Wimbledon superstars practise in the week before the big event.

Attend a North London beekeeping course

For something a little different, how about a beekeeping course at the North London Beekeepers Apiary near Kenwood House. Just the ticket for finding out if it’s the hobby for you.

Something a little different

A recce

In an area as vibrant as Hampstead, often a simple walk can unearth the most delicious possibilities. David, for example, happened upon a pop up gallery featuring the work of the Camden Black Creatives during his weekly Hampstead recce. Caroline Chinakwe of the CBC did a podcast for London Walks, and they even opened their gallery early for our tour guests.

See Emma Thompson’s bathtub

Close to Camden Arts Centre, JW3 and Hampstead Cricket Club, you can see the best and biggest flower pot, in a front garden on Crediton Hill, the Beverly Hills of that side of Finchley Road.

The secret skittle alley

Rejoice in the traditional tavern game of London Skittles, also known as Old English Skittles, at the Freemasons Arms pub in Hampstead. The skittle alley is tucked away in the pub cellar. London Skittles is played with nine pins. Unlike other forms of alley skittles it is played not with a ball but a cheese, which is thrown (not rolled) at the pins. The well-appointed Freemasons Arms is at the Hampstead End of Downshire Hill.

Read the local paper

The Ham & High is a class act, the best local newspaper in the country. Get a copy on a Thursday and head off to a café like Mani’s or the New York Cafe complete with garden space or Dandie, a cafe for dogs and humans. There’s no better way to get a feel for a place- and indeed get ideas/see what’s going on- – than perusing the local paper. The moniker Ham & High is of course short for Hampstead & Highgate.

See in the New Year

And watch the fireworks from the summit at the top of Parliament Hill. There’s no crowd (in comparison with the mob down in central London), and it will be the best New Year’s Eve you’ll ever have. Word to the wise, when the London Walks New Year’s Eve Hampstead Walk comes back, go on it, because David and Mary (who guide it) know exactly where the sweet spot is to get the best view of the fireworks.

Take the bus

Double decker, ride up top, what’s not to like? You could take a bus to Belsize Park, known as Hampstead’s little sister. The 24 from Hampstead will take you to Camden High Street, Tottenham Court Road Station, Leicester Square Station, Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards Parade, Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, Victoria Station and points beyond. The 46 gets you to St. John’s Wood, Little Venice and Paddington Station. Or, go the other way, Bart’s Hospital, just a stone’s throw away from St. Paul’s Cathedral. Also read our article on How To Get to Hampstead Heath.

The London Walks Hampstead Walk

Last but definitely not least in your Hampstead journey is a tour with London Walks. Sunday mornings at 10.30 am and Wednesday afternoons at 2pm. As the New York Times put it, it’s the best possible introduction to Hampstead.

David Tucker

David Tucker

David – the Seigneur of this favoured realm – broods over words, breeds enthusiasms and is “unmanageable.”* He’s a balterer, literary historian, university lecturer, journalist, logophile and lifelong thanatophobe. For good measure, he’s the doyen of London guides.

Read all articles by David Tucker