Swiss Cottage: Municipal sport and new culture abound in a Modernist haven
- Credit: Archant
Boasting Hampstead Theatre, a refurbished leisure centre, large library and regular farmers’ market, there’s plenty to do in Swiss Cottage.
Swiss Cottage is a district in the London borough of Camden. The local authority is Camden Council. Properties in Band A will pay £891.32 council tax; those in the average Band D will receive a bill for £1,336.81; and the most expensive homes in Band H will pay £2,673.62.
The average price of a two-bedroom flat in the area is £872,986; for a semi-detached home it’s £2,576,685, and for a detached house it’s £4,792,791.
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The grand tree-lined roads in the area such as Eton Avenue and Fellowes Road boast large detached red brick mansions, which have mostly been divided into roomy flats, big enough for a family home. The Chalcots Estate was developed between the mid-1960s and the 1970s and is made up of four 23-storey tower blocks and several rows of deceptively spacious modern terraces and low-rise flats, which have benefitted from recent refurbishment.
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Swiss Cottage School provides specialist education for children aged two to 19 with complex learning difficulties, emotional, behavioural and communication difficulties; its pioneering work has also been supported by the Ham&High through the Pigs For Kids campaign. Private education predominates in this well-heeled area, with The Phoenix School, Trevor Roberts, Sarum Hall, Hereward House and the Hall School offering feeder education to many of the well-regarded independent secondaries nearby. These include South Hampstead High School for girls and UCS. The UCL Academy is the first school in the country to be wholly sponsored by a university and is a non-selective academy which received an Ofsted rating of ‘Requires Improvement’ at the last inspection.
Swiss Cottage is in zone 2 on the Jubilee line, between Finchley Road and St John’s Wood. A journey to London Bridge takes 10-15 minutes and to Canary Wharf it’s 22 minutes. The nearest overground station is South Hampstead on the line between Euston, Queen’s Park and Watford Junction. The recently saved number 13 bus is an alternative route to central London or up to Golders Green in the opposite direction, while the 46 travels to St Bart’s Hospital via Kentish Town and King’s Cross and the 82 heads to Victoria.
Landmarks and history
The area’s name derives from its distinctive landmark, The Swiss Cottage, which was originally built in the 1840s as a coaching inn on the outskirts of London, where it was surrounded by fields and served traditional English bitters to working men coming in and out of London, as well as housing a dairy selling milk and cheese.
Today, following a major road widening in the 1960s, the surviving Ye Olde Swiss Cottage pub is a Samuel Smiths establishment surrounded by lanes of traffic.
While the options may not leap out to the casual passer by, in fact the stretch of Finchley Road near Swiss Cottage station has a range of useful independent shops. There are two sports shops competing to provide cheap quality sportwear to adults and school children alike, while Swiss Cottage Grocers has an array of fruit and veg (ranging from the local to the Ottolenghi-exotic), temptingly displayed alongside dried fruit, nuts and a selection of wholefoods. The shop is run by a husband and wife team who have a second store in West Hampstead.
Twice a week the Swiss Cottage Farmers’ Market attracts food stalls serving everything from Thai to Portugese, French and Moroccan fare, with an excellent array of fresh bread, olives and cheeses available from the artisan stalls also huddled around the square outside Hampstead Theatre, itself a favourite destination for afternoon coffee sippers.
Eating and drinking
You can’t talk about eating out in Swiss Cottage without highlighting Bradleys on Winchester Road, one of the best restaurants in north London, with its reputation for fine dining under head chef Simon Bradley extending far beyond these parts.
Del Aziz café in Swiss Cottage Sports Centre isn’t your normal sports centre café. Beloved of yummy mummies, it serves great smoothies and shakes as well as healthy eating options (go for the meze platter) though it’s all too easy to undo all the good work by yielding to temptation and visiting the cake stand, where the giant merinques are legendary.
The family-owned China Cottage on Finchley Road has been around for decades (famed for its Bird’s Nest soup) has built up a loyal following and is flanked by several decent restaurants specialising in pan-Asian dishes.
As you walk down Finchley Road it seems there is a coffee shop every few yards, with The Garden Cafe and Remon among those helping to set a high standard not just for coffee but for delicious light bites to accompany the caffeine.
Sports and leisure
The Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is a fantastic local amenity with a fully equipped gym, 25-metre, eight lane swimming pool and more than 100 classes on offer through the week, as well as a climbing wall, squash courts, outdoor football pitches and sauna and steam rooms. There is also a spa, offering reasonably priced treatments and day packages.
In the same complex, Swiss Cottage Central Library is housed in a 1960s architectural landmark designed by Sir Basil Spence. It runs art exhibitions alongside its book lending service.
The Hampstead Theatre is a well-regarded fringe theatre located opposite the Central School of Speech and Drama. The theatre prides itself on developing new writers and playwrights who have had early work produced there include Harold Pinter, Michael Frayn and Hanif Kureishi.
For on-screen entertainment, the Odeon cinema is housed in a 78-year-old Art Deco building and boasts an IMAX 3D screen.
Good for kids
Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre has a climbing wall and soft play area and the child-friendly Del Aziz overlooking the swimming pool for. Kids also love the huge fountain just outside designed by Kathryn Gustafson where they can splash about on hot days.
The Swiss Cottage area guide is brought to you in association with Vita Properties