An ode to Hampstead

From its humble beginnings to a chic north London village, Nataha Higgins finds out why Hampstead has grown to become one of London’s most desirable places to live. 

When 19th century romantic poet, John Keats, put pen to paper and wrote ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, he is believed to have sat under a plum tree in his garden at Wentworth House, in Hampstead.

In 2009, Wentworth House, now a museum in honour of Keats, underwent significant restoration and a new plum tree was planted in the front garden of the grade I listed property.  Today, visitors can sit under the tree and paint, write, read or simply soak up the atmosphere of this stunning Regency garden. 

Keats’s house is one of the many properties in Hampstead where history unfolded. Famously, Sigmund Freud lived at 20 Maresfield Gardens with his family from the late 1930s. Today his house has become a museum and his study has been left untouched. The original couch that his patients reclined on during their therapy sessions, is still there. 


Other Hampstead residents have included George Orwell who lived at 77 Parliament Hill, Richard Burton at 6 Lyndhurst Road, D.H. Lawrence at 1 Byron Villas and actor and theatrical manager Sir Gerald du Maurier who lived at 14 Cannon Place and opened Hampstead’s Everyman Cinema in 1934.

From its humble beginnings as fields and farmland to a chic north London village, Hampstead has grown to become one of London’s most desirable residential spots. With its cobbled streets, dainty coffee shops, excellent restaurants, historic homes and museums and its famous villagey feel, people tend to stay for good. 

As well as attracting the former intelligentsia and today’s artistic and literary circles, it is also highly cosmopolitan and is home to many City workers, overseas buyers and affluent business people with young families. 

Associate Director of Goldschmidt & Howland, Neir Gigi, gives an insight into Hampstead’s architecture and prices: “Hampstead’s architecture ranges from ambassadorial homes on Redington Road and Templewood Avenue to historic Georgian terrace houses in Church Row and a multitude of fine conversions together with luxurious purpose built developments and substantial detached houses near Hampstead Heath. 

“Prices for the fine detached residences are broadly in the region of £1,500 to £2,000 per sq ft with luxury apartments trading a little less, in the region of £1,300 to £1,600 per sq ft.”

In as far as the best roads in Hampstead go, most are highly desirable although some have the extra-factor. Director of TK International, Daniel Zimmerman, says that if money were no option, he would choose Gainsborough Gardens:

 “Located in the heart of the old village, just off Well Walk and less than a stone’s throw from Hampstead Heath lie Gainsborough Gardens. Both idyllic and peaceful, this is one of the lesser known locations in Hampstead. Houses tend to be passed down the generations and it is very rare to see a house enter the market. In certain instances you could “name your price” and that could range from £7,000,000 to £15,000,000. 

Alternatively, for something more modern, the new gated domain of four magnificent detached houses Hampstead’s ‘Telegraph Hill’, opposite The Heath, is equally stunning”.

Difficult as it is to find relatively good value per square foot for the most part in Hampstead, owner of Marcus Parfitt Sales and Acquisitions, Marcus Parfitt, tells us where to look: 

“Golders Hill Park off North End Road still offers good value. There’s an enclave of about five roads just by The King Alfred School. It’s very family orientated and there’s even a petting zoo in the park. You’re not quite in the suburbs of Hampstead nor are you in the hub, yet it’s an easy walk over the Heath into Hampstead village and the transport links from Golders Green station are very good”. 

With properties in the millions and everyone wanting a piece of this north London residential hotspot, here are a few of the gems that make it so appealing…

Coffee and cake shops

The Coffee Cup on Hampstead High Street, has become an institution. It first opened in 1951 and has seen a world of celebrities, politicians, actors, comedians and musicians come in and out of its doors. If your idea of a cosy Sunday is an afternoon spent sipping a macchiato, then you’re in luck – this is just the place for you! 

A little off Heath Street, in cobbled Perrin’s Court, lies Ginger & White. This rustic looking coffee shop is exactly the sort you’d want on your doorstep to help kick start your day!

For something entirely different and a taste of traditional Hungarian patisseries, pop into Louis on Heath Street. The array of delicately hand-made cakes using no preservatives and made by the owner himself are exquisite: “‘Dobos’ a traditional Hungarian cake, made of sponge, butter cream and caramel is always very popular,” says Hungarian born owner, Louis Dermayer. 

Pubs and Restaurants

At 73 Heath Street, is top Japanese restaurant: Jin Kitchi, conveniently located within a few metres of Hampstead station. Although famed for their grilled chicken skewers, they also serve a selection of fresh sashimi and sushi. It’s a small place – book ahead!

Goldfish restaurant on Hampstead High Street serves delicious modern Chinese cuisine. The likes of Wasabi Prawn – prawns tossed in an avocado and wasabi dressing hit the spot perfectly.  

Alternatively, there’s Villa Bianca in Perrin’s Court. This Italian restaurant prides itself on traditional cuisine and has been going strong since opening 30 years ago. Live music is played every evening and in the summer you can dine alfresco. 

Hampstead also had a fantastic array of cosy gastro pubs. The Spaniards Inn on Spaniards Road does a legendary roast on a Sunday. It also has a huge outdoor area, and the pub is dog friendly. There’s The Flask on quaint Flask Walk – just off Hampstead High Street. This Victorian gem caters for almost any occasion be it a night out with friends, a relaxed Saturday afternoon or a mid-week meal.

Finally, there’s The Freemasons Arms. For an afternoon of alfresco dining this has to be the gastropub of choice. After a walk on Hampstead Heath why not unwind with a zesty cocktail and some tasty options from the very reasonable menu. 

Hampstead Heath and the ponds

For those brave enough to jump into the cool waters of Hampstead Heath, there are some stunning ponds within the grounds: the Ladies’ Pond, the Men’s Pond – these being the only life-guarded open-water swimming facilities open to the public every day of the year – the Mixed Pond and the Lido on Parliament Hill.  

Hampstead’s Summer Festival

Hampstead will be hosting its annual Summer Festival from 18 – 24 June this year. For The Big Fair Day (24 June), all sorts of fun has been organised: children’s fairground rides, circus acts, chess tournaments, an open air art exhibition, bands on the big stage and donkey, unicorn rides along Heath Street and plenty more. There will also be stalls with food and goodies.  

All funds raised will be donated to the Henderson Court Age UK resource centre, and the Children’s Society. 

Shops and antiques

Worth knowing about, is the Hampstead Antique and Craft Emporium, one of London’s last remaining indoor antique markets. Stunning pieces of vintage jewellery from designers such as Georg Jensen stocked at The Modernist or designer homewares from Maud and Mabel are tempting. Next door is the largest selection of antique handmade quilts for sale in the UK from The Antique Textile Company

Besides vintage, more mainstream brands and classic designers such as Jane & Dada can be found all along Hampstead High Street.

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