Hampstead Heath

Hampstead HeathWe lived in London for nearly two years before we discovered the Hampstead Heath, which is a huge shame as it is one of London’s finest gems, and is, in my opinion, the most liberating outdoor activity in London. The fact that you can feel so far removed from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of London and yet be smack in the middle of it is a treat which is unusual for such a big city.

Hampstead Heath is London’s largest historic parkland, and arguably the most beautiful. Unlike the more manicured and planned Royal Parks of London, the Heath is wild in nature, offering 3.2 sq km of roaming meadows, fishing and swimming ponds, dark and lush woodlands, hiking and biking trails, and some of London’s best playgrounds.

It is here where you can fly a kite from the top of ‘kite hill’ and enjoy incredible views of central London. You can also make a visit to Kenwood House and see the famous paintings and library, or have a bite to eat at the café. And lastly, a trip to Hampstead Heath would not be complete without letting your kids enjoy the famous and newly-renovated Parliament Hill Playground.

As a local here in London, I couldn’t imagine life without regular trips to the Heath. It’s really no wonder the Wallpaper* City Guide for London lists Hampstead Heath as an activity you should definitely experience if you only had 24 hours in London!

-Courtney

14 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Amanda | October 22, 2008 | Reply

I could not agree more Courtney-it is by far my favorite place in London! The village is adorable and the heath is gorgeous and invigorating. In addition to all Courtney mentions, a great activity is a London Walk which concentrates on the Village and all its history and luminous occupants, both past and present. And it’s fun to meet friends for a walk followed by cakes and tea-wink wink Courtney!

2. Esther | October 22, 2008 | Reply

I miss the Heath! It’s so pretty, and yes, the village is lovely too! Super romantic!

3. Emilie | October 22, 2008 | Reply

I miss the heath, one of the things that make London so unique!

4. Lindsey | October 23, 2008 | Reply

It truly is one of the best places in London! From the village to the park. I love Hampstead.

5. Ashley | October 23, 2008 | Reply

Hello. I am from the USA and my husband is Dutch. We moved to London with our baby who is now 1 year old. We have been in Kensington, but considering moving further out to get more space. We considered Hampstead or Richmond. I was initially concerned that I would feel cut off, as I am a stay at home mom. Since you all know the city so well, I wanted to see if you recommended Hampstead for living with kids or do you even have recommendations on areas to live on your blog? Thanks.

6. Courtney | October 23, 2008 | Reply

Hi Ashley! I’m so glad you’ve asked…
We too lived down in Kensington (Notting Hill, actually), when we first arrived to London, and we loved it.
When we decided to buy a home, we looked for a really long time in the surrounding area, but never found anything we loved. So we extended our search to Belsize Park/Hampstead. (At the time, this seemed like a HUGE deal- like moving to a different city way far out).
What we discovered is that we LOVED Hampstead. North London has a very ‘village-like’ feel to it. It’s also, in my opinion, a bit more mellow than Central London or Chelsea and Kensington, etc. There are some lovely neighborhoods, great playgrounds, loads of classes for babies and kids, and tons of great schools. AND… it’s actually not at all very far away.
I’m not sure where your husband works, but going north to Hampstead is actually no further from the center than going southwest to Kensington.
I actually still go to Notting Hill or South Ken at least once a week, and don’t at all feel far removed. We love it here! I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. (And, honestly the Heath is London’s biggest treasure!)

This being said, I would really suggest that you spend a lot of time in whatever area you’re thinking of moving. Really get to know if it’s somewhere you feel comfortable, etc.

I hope this helps… and I’m happy to answer any other questions!

7. Jayne | October 23, 2008 | Reply

Hi Courtney

Do you have any suggestions for toddler groups/classes in the NW3 area? We’ve just moved back to Belsize Park after almost a year away and most of the mum friends I made when my son was a baby have since gone back to work or moved out of the area. We’ve so far been spending our days at one of our lovely local playgrounds, but I think it would do us both good to get out and meet some other mums and little ones. Any suggestions very gratefully received!

8. Courtney | October 24, 2008 | Reply

Hi Jayne,
I’ve had a think about toddler groups/classes in this area. My favorite music class is Monkey Music, which I really like because I think it’s less commercial and cheesy than some of the other options. I’ve always gone to Primrose Hill for the classes, but I know they have classes in Hampstead.

There are also ‘Toddler’s World’ classes at the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, which are nice because you just pay as you go, so you don’t lock yourself into a 10-week course. Those are usually fun, and I’ve met some lovely mums there. The Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is great because there is so much to do. Toddlers from the age of 2 up can play in the soft-play area located right next to the reception. The cafe there is also very kid-friendly, and the adjacent library has a children’s seciton which is also nice, and good for a rainy day.

I have also done French classes from Club Petit Pierrot, which are lovely because they’re usually quite small, and on top of teaching French, they also do a cute little craft project in each lesson.

Also, if you’re still looking for more things to do, you can always check the website: http://www.nw3kids.co.uk. It was set up by a local mum, and she lists activities for kids in this area.

I hope this helps. If you have more questions, you can e-mail me at: courtney@babyccinoblog.com.

9. Jayne | October 25, 2008 | Reply

Thanks so much for these great suggestions, Courtney. As an Australian living in London with my German husband, one of the things I miss so much about “home” is having a trusted of network of people to turn to for advice about this kind of thing. This is why I love your blog so much – it really helps to fill this gap. Thanks again.
xx

10. kate | March 9, 2009 | Reply

Hi
I have a 6 moth old little boy and live in Hampstead, can anyone reccomend a good baby class or a place to meet other mums. Ive tried monkey music but Im not a huge fan.
Thanks

11. Courtney | March 13, 2009 | Reply

Hi Kate,
Have you tried the Swiss Cottage Leisure centre? They have Toddlers world classes that you can sign up for on a weekly basis. The cafe there is also always filled with other mums and babies.

Or, you could try Caroline’s sing-along classes in Hampstead (behind the Royal Free Hospital). Those are great, and you can also attend on a weekly basis (don’t have to sign up for a 10 week term).

Or, perhaps a swimming class?

(It’s hard to find things to do with a 6-month old! There’s more and more to do as they get older!)

Hope this helps!
xx, Courtney

12. Babyccino » Like-a-bike Trailer | June 18, 2009 | Reply

[...] should have seen the looks he received this past weekend while we were out riding in the Heath — you would have thought he drove a fancy Porche into the [...]

13. Babyccino » Rock animals | August 4, 2009 | Reply

[...] past weekend on our usual trek in the Heath we collected some stones for a little craft project. We searched for rocks that resembled little [...]

14. Estela | September 3, 2009 | Reply

Hi,
I have a 5 month old daughter and just moved to hampstead, I would love to know about baby classes such as yoga or massage and also if there are any groups of mums that meet for coffe..etc.?
Thank you.

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