Hampstead: An exclusive hilltop ‘village’ with a rich bohemian history
- Credit: Archant
High on its hill, the rarified atmosphere of Hampstead nowadays has more to do with the number of millionaires who call it home – reportedly the most in the UK – than with unpolluted air. Yet the huge open expanse of the Heath remains one of the city’s major lungs and one of the chief draws to the area for residents and visitors alike.
Hampstead is in the London Borough of Camden and has the NW3 postcode. It is in the Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary constituency.
Council Tax bands
The total Council Tax bill that the smallest properties in Band A would expect to pay is £880.32. Properties in the average Band D should receive a bill of £1320.48. The priciest homes in Band H pay £2,640.96.
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The average price of a two bedroom flat in Hampstead is £979,386, for a semi-detached home it’s £3,342,279, and for a detached house it’s £4,955,171. Housing stock is predominantly made up of large Victorian and Edwardian properties but there are a few notable examples of twentieth-century Modernism scattered through the area.
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Primary education is dominated by the independent sector, with a number of very highly regarded schools. Competitive selective secondary schools include South Hampstead High School for girls, with UCS up the road teaching boys.
State primary Christ Church Primary School, received an outstanding Ofsted rating in its most recent inspection, while LaSwap sixth-form consortium offers a middle ground between a college and a school for post-16 education.
Central School of Speech & Drama is a prestigious drama school boasting Dame Judi Dench and Laurence Olivier among its alumni.
Driving through the residential streets of Hampstead is a notoriously labyrinthine ordeal, with limited street parking and highly-coveted residents-only spaces. Cars are largely redundant, however, in an area with such excellent transport links.
Hampstead is situated in Zone 2 on the London Underground and Hampstead Underground station is served by the Northern line. Also in the area is Finchley Road Underground, on the Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines.
There are a number of bus routes connecting Hampstead with areas in central and north London and the London Overground network stops at Hampstead Heath and Finchley Road & Frognal.
Landmarks and history
Hampstead is renowned for its literary and artistic heritage and the area reportedly has the highest number of blue plaques of any London suburb.
A visit to the houses of ex-residents including author D.H. Lawrence, painter John Constable, composer Edward Elgar, and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud will prove inspiring.
Architecture buffs will be impressed by architect Ernö Goldfinger’s Modernist family home, 2 Willow Road, now a National Trust property, and the Isokon building, a striking 1930s experiment in urban living that was once home to Agatha Christie and several Soviet spies.
Eating and drinking
Hampstead’s range of restaurants and cafés provide for a particular clientele with good food and efficient service. A daytime coffee shop culture caters for well-heeled Hampstead mums and freelancers with mid-range chains such as Gail’s, Paul and Carluccio’s bookended by independent eateries like the legendary Coffee Cup, Louis Patisserie and Mani’s sandwich bar. Trendy Antipodean-style coffee is served in Ginger and White.
Al fresco snacks are provided by La Crêperie de Hampstead, while the area abounds in good pubs: try The Hollybush, The Flask or The Duke of Hamilton for a cosy drinking steeped in history. The King William IV on the High Street is one of the oldest gay bars in London.
Hampstead dining is surprisingly lacklustre with the High Street dominated by chains and some consider it best to stick with pub grub that is a cut above the average. The Wells Tavern has won awards for its cooking; The Horseshoe’s field-to-fork ethos sees queues forming on Sundays and it is in the basement that the Camden Town Brewery was founded; and The Hollybush upstairs dining room is no gastropub.
For a taste of the Hampstead of legend, try La Gaffe, an Italian restaurant with rooms that has been operating since 1962. Jin Kichi offers authentic Japanese cooking and sushi.
Shopping and culture
Hampstead High Street is a convenient destination for upmarket chain shopping, while some of the smaller cobbled high streets offer a glimpse of the bohemian Hampstead of yore. Flask Walk and Heath Street are home to attractive independent shops, including Keith Fawkes, a charming secondhand book shop, and Judy Green’s Garden Store. Hampstead Bazaar has been dressing women with hippyish leanings for more than four decades, while those of a more high-end high street bent can choose between Whistles, Jigsaw and Hobbs.
Comptoir des Cotonniers, Tara Jarmon and Zadig & Voltaire cater for French wannabes while Question Air boutique stocks many favourite brands.
Food shopping is focused around high-end delicatessens such as Melrose and Morgan, The Hampstead Butcher & Providore, Artichoke and Jeroboam’s for fine wine.
Sports and leisure
The 320 hectares of Hampstead Heath provide plenty of space for running or long walks, with spectacular views over London. Swimmers can choose between wild swimming in the ponds, which offer single sex or mixed bathing; or the Parliament Hill Lido.
Indoor entertainment can be found in the Hampstead Theatre, Pentameters Theatre or at the luxurious Everyman Cinema.
There are also several heritage attractions in the area: Historic Burgh House is home to the Hampstead Museum with a permanent collection as well as a programme of events. Two National Trust properties show the contrast available in the area: Fenton House is a seventeenth century merchant’s house with historical displays while 2 Willow Road is an icon of Modernism which has been preserved much as he enjoyed it.
Good for kids
The Everyman’s Baby Club is a welcome opportunity for parents to catch up on the latest releases without having to pay a babysitter with two films on offer each week.
UCS Active offers after school ballet and street jazz dance classes to local children between the ages of three and 12.
The Hampstead area guide is brought to you in association with Benham & Reeves