Short read: This is a great walk. They don’t come any better than this.
Long read: London’s penthouse. The Skybox in NW3. Our setting is London’s most picturesque neighbourhood – a perfectly preserved Georgian village crowning the top of a handsome hill and garnished with the capital’s most elegant old world promenade, a medley of cobble-stone lanes, pretty cottages, surprising turnings, and unsurpassed views. As for our cast of characters… well, it’s every bit as beguiling as our setting, ranging from the highwayman Dick Turpin to the painter Constable to the poet Keats; from Freud and D.H. Lawrence to Sting and Boy George; from Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Dench and Emma Thompson to Rex Harrison, Peter O’Toole, Alan Bates, Dudley Moore, Rowan Atkinson, Liam Gallagher and Jeremy Irons. And for good measure, there’s London’s most villagey atmosphere, white swans on a lake, and magnificent Hampstead Heath.
HAMPSTEAD WALK – THE PRACTICALS
The Old Hampstead Village & Heath walk takes place at 10 am every Sunday morning, year-round. The Sunday morning walk is guided by David*
The Old Hampstead Village & Heath walk will take place at 2.30 pm on Wednesday, January 1 as a New Year’s Day Special Walk.
The Old Hampstead Village & Heath walk also takes place at 2 pm every Wednesday afternoon (except in Dec., Jan. and Feb.). The 2 pm Wednesday afternoon Hampstead walk is guided by Richard III or Peter.
The meeting point is just outside the exit of Hampstead Tube Stop.
N.B. we end in Church Row, Hampstead’s grandest street, just a stone’s throw from HampsteadTube Stop.
*Personal note. This is my (David’s) favourite of the 58 different London Walks in my repertory. Surely some sort of recommendation.
LONDON WALKS VIDEOS
Want another preview of the walk? Here’s a little hand-held video number I, David, whipped up. It’s called The Footpaths of Leafy Hampstead. I shot it to bring to the fore and underline a point that’s often overlooked – namely that one of the things you’re paying for on a walk is the route. A lot of these places and byways you wouldn’t be able to find off your own bat. Let alone piece them together into the coherent narrative of a two-hour walk. It’s not a word that very often comes to mind in connection with a delightful stroll through, say, leafy Hampstead, but a quality walking tour is a wonderfully efficient creation. You’d have to get stuck into Hampstead many times over a period of years to discover and then piece together this route. Who – apart from a London Walks Hampstead Village guide – has the time, inclination and determination to do that?
And a 2017 update: here’s another hand-held “tracking shot” – all of 72 seconds long – of a different “secret Hampstead passageway.” Counting the “path through the woods” we thread our way along a half dozen or so of these secret passages. There’s no other London Walk like this in that regard alone.
And – embarrassment of riches – we’ve got a second Hampstead film. This was about the 15th one we made. The ones that had preceded it had all pretty much followed the same formula: shoot a few bits of the walk, show the guide in action, show the walkers, soundtrack it, put up some credits, say “that’s a wrap.” We plumped for something entirely different with this one. We commissioned Keiko, a Japanese stills photographer. Took her over the route. And then turned her loose with that very special camera – and technique – of her. It was edited by Jon. Some musician chums of his composed and performed a piece especially for it. And here it is – unique, beautiful and mysterious. Which is just so right for Hampstead.
Final point. David‘s thing is Literary London. The Mail has just singled out his Dickens Walk as one of the ten best guided tours in the country.” The “fit” of course is that London doesn’t come much more literary than Hampstead.
Refrain: this is my (David’s) favourite of the 58 different London Walks I’m able to guide. That’s got to be some sort of recommendation.
LONDON WALKS REVIEWS
“London Walks is the best, hands down.” Frommer’s London
“The original and best – there are several companies offering walking tours of London but London Walks (London’s oldest) is easily the pick of the bunch” London, Cadogan Guide
“London Walks offers guided walks throughout London, but the two-hour saunter through Hampstead’s centuries of architectural and cultural history is the jewel in their crown.” The New York Times
“We chose the Hampstead Walk among many options offered by London Walks. It was great, informative, funny, knowledgeable and varied in what we saw. Our guide David was an endless fountain of historical and contemporary information about the neighborhood. He chose a combination of unique vantage points, nature (the Hampstead Heath) and urban settings. Highly recommend this group for any of the walks they offer.” Encoredesigner, TripAdvisor, Dec. 2019
“A huge ‘thank you’ to David for our Hampstead walk this morning [19 February 2017]. I’ve lived in Hampstead for the past 25 years and you still managed to teach me things about my ‘hood! I thoroughly enjoyed, seeing Hampstead through your eyes, your aesthetic, as well as your formidable knowledge from geology to history. Your love of the place shone through. We had a totally wonderful morning. It was a pleasure meeting you and I’ll be back for more walks with visitors… so until the next time, it’s bye for now. Best wishes and thanks again Sarena” Sarena
“Last Sunday morning I had an enchanting walk around Hampstead in the company of a group of strangers and an erudite guide. I’ve enjoyed a number of these London walks over the years and so it was that one cold January afternoon in Little Venice I learned about the history of the Regent’s Canal and enjoyed peering nosily through houseboat windows. On another walk I explored the quirks of upmarket Notting Hill, and a walk around Chelsea revealed intricate treasures from the Arts and Crafts movement. But Hampstead is definitely my favourite walk so far, with its panoramic views over London and streets so steep they have handrails.” Lynn Farley-Rose, author of 31 Treats and a Marriage
“We did the Hampstead tour and wish we could have trailed after David all day! He was so interesting and it made for an enjoyable morning. He shared other tips and recommendations that we used for the rest of our trip. We have joined London Walks on a previous trip. Each guide has been top-notch! Because of these tours, we have tried similar walking tours in other cities in the U.S. and Europe, but London Walks is my favorite.” Julia N. [September 2017]
“Our walk through Hampstead was no exception. Besides being a personable and inveterate storyteller, David has an encyclopedic knowledge of the area and stopped regularly to introduce us to local pubs, viewpoints, historic homes, the famous Hampstead Heath and architectural/historic features that we would never have found or understood on our own. Even our seven-year-old son enjoyed the walk and was easily able to discuss what he learned by listening to David and asking questions, which David never failed to answer in his warm and friendly manner.”
“We really enjoyed David’s lively and interesting Sunday morning Walking tour of Hampstead. We saw everything we wanted to see and really appreciated his warm, knowledgeable and enthusiastic approach. We learnt plenty and got to know a part of London and its history that we didn’t know before. Nicely balanced content. Very glad we did this – we’ll definitely do more of these walks in the future. Highly recommended!” juliegV2946AJ Hemel Hempstead, TripAdvisor, November 2019