Mother Shipton prophesied that when Primrose Hill became the centre of London’s sprawling metropolis, the streets would run red with blood.
Considering the rate of the capital’s expansion, we advise visiting now before it’s too late.
Not just because of the whole armageddon thing, of course, but because Primrose Hill is an exceptionally nice neighbourhood to spend a day exploring. It’s perched up in North London, just above the London zoo and Regent’s Park, and a ten minute walk away from Camden Market – although the vibe here couldn’t be more different.
Primrose Hill was known in the ’00s as the celeb neighbourhood (with Jude Law and Kate Moss numbering among its residents) and still retains that rarefied atmosphere: there are pastel terraces of Regency-era houses, one of the most manicured parks in London, and a high street where even the corner shops sell imported gourmet products you’ve never heard of. And aside from that famous viewpoint, Primrose Hill is home to a host of restaurants, bars, cafés and shops worth your attention.
Here’s what to check out while you’re in Primrose Hill…
THINGS TO DO IN PRIMROSE HILL
➊ PRIMROSE HILL PARK
The star attraction; one of the eight royal parks of London and one of six protected viewpoints in London. Like its regal neighbour, Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill was once a hunting ground for Henry VIII. Purchased from Eton College in 1841 to provide North London’s poor with access to outdoor recreational space, it has, in recent years, become the preserve of the wealthy again, with the area surrounding the park considered some of the most sought-after property in the capital.
The summit of Primrose Hill stands at 63m, affording impressive panoramic views across the London skyline. At the south side of the hill is a children’s play area, the trim trail (for callisthenics connoisseurs who prefer not to pay gym membership), and a small running track with a pétanque pitch next door. The gentle incline to the hill makes for a superb summer sunbed, and on the rare occasion that winter affords us snow, impromptu sledding competitions have been known to take place there.
Details: Primrose Hill is open from 5am-dusk. You can see more on the official site here.
Where Primrose Hill meets Regent’s Park you’ll find Cecil Sharp House, a huge, grade II listed building that’s been the home of the English Folk Dance & Song Society since 1930. All kinds of quirky events take place inside the vast, light-filled main hall with its wood panelling and sprawling modernist mural, from foot-stomping ceilidhs every Friday night to folk gigs, music workshops and the occasional opportunity to witness some traditional Lancashire clog dancing. It’s also where Sunday Papers Live takes place a few treasured times a year, filling the hall with Chesterfield sofas, blankets, and a host of esteemed speakers bringing politics, culture and philosophy to life.
Details: See what’s on here
The sheds of Primrose Hill once held horses awaiting passengers from Regent’s Park. Nowadays they’re full of far more relaxing pursuits; one being the popular boutique spa Cowshed. They offer manicures and pedicures in their restored farmhouse kitchen, and for full relaxation you can descend into one of their six tranquil treatment rooms below. Hands and feet can be touched up from £55 and a full body massage starts at £65.
Details: 115-117 Regent’s Park Rd, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8XP | Book here
➍ SHOPPING ON PRIMROSE HILL
You’ll find a number of small boutiques along Regent’s Park Road – the de facto high street of Primrose Hill – and tucked away on the neighbourhood’s colourful side streets. For foodies there’s the French/Japanese fusion fishmonger La Petite Poissonnerie; Reenie’s Ice Cream Bar and specialist wine shop Bottle Apostle; stop in at It’s Bagels and guess what they sell (hint: it’s bagels). Don’t miss Primrose Hill Books (it would be hard to, with its bright blue frontage), a charming, independent new & second-hand bookshop. For fashionistas there’s Pamela Shiffer, Anna, and a few choice charity shops selling garments the gentry don’t want – on a good day it’s not unlikely to find an unwanted Vivienne Westwood for your wardrobe. No quaint high street is complete without a produce market, and Primrose Hill’s takes place every Saturday, 9.30am-3pm on Elsworthy Road (on the north side of the park).
GREAT RESTAURANTS IN PRIMROSE HILL
A longstanding feature of the area – 40 years in fact – Odette’s is an intimate eatery owned and run by Welsh chef Bryn Williams, whose tutelage at Le Gavroche and The Criterion set him in good stead to take over in Primrose Hill. The menu serves up understated modern British and European fare, with a rotating lunch menu to reflect the seasons and the quality of the produce Mr Williams can get his hands on. It does have a Michelin plate (which has to be the fanciest best effort prize going) but is a good suggestion that the food served will almost certainly be cleaned off it.
Details: 130 Regent’s Park Road, NW1 8XL | Book here
Housed within a Grade II listed horse tunnel, this modern eatery puts the neigh in neighbourhood restaurant. There’s an open fire, a conservatory, and a dedicated martini bar, giving it full marks on the fancypants-o-meter. The original is in Chiswick, which should give you a fairly quick picture of the vibe. But with soft shell crab, guinea fowl lasagne and fillet of Welsh lamb, there’s something for most on this smart contemporary European menu.
Details: 42 Gloucester Avenue, Primrose Hill, NW1 8JD | Book here
Another landmark of the Primrose Hill high street, Lemonia’s green frontage and Greek lettering have greeted visitors and locals for 40 years now. Step inside and it’s like a mini-break to Naxos. Vines adorn the walls, climbing over ceramic paintings of potted lemon trees. The atmosphere is rowdy (and that’s just the waiters) and the food is plentiful – the only thing missing is smashed crockery. Its reputation may have fluctuated over the years, but the fun and energetic feel of this north London taverna has endured.
Details: 89 Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8UY | Book here
The perfect spot for brunch after a hike up the hill, Greenberry is a café-cum-restaurant that does brunch, lunch, and larger plates with aplomb. Brunch is served daily 9-3pm, where you’ll find eggs done all ways and a number of loaded sourdough toast options. The lunch menu is light and breezy, leaving you in the right state should you want to continue your day with a stroll in the park or have dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.
Details: 101 Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8UR | Book here
PUBS IN PRIMROSE HILL
Parked on the edge of Primrose Hill, this elegant Young’s boozer serves up bangers & mash, fish & chips and scotch eggs, and comes replete with a solid selection of ales and beers. The balcony terrace has got outdoor heaters if you’re desperate to get that park-life view whilst taking in a tipple.
Details: 49 Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8XD | Book here
It’s the definition of a gastropub: lots of dark wood, slightly quirky rococo chairs with faux velvet upholstery, and a bin full of new world wines giving it an international feel. The food is solid, erring towards very good but not mind-blowing, and it’s a thoroughly pleasant place to stay and sink a few jars. There’s three floors and a courtyard with its own Banksy, which separates this pub from the crowd.
Details: 22 Chalcot Road, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8LL | Book here
Rustic and pared-back, the Lansdowne has a timeless feel and a British/Mediterranean menu that changes most days. Pizza ovens are a must these days for any chic modern pub and the Lansdowne duly obliges. It also serves day-long roasts on a Sunday, and has a decent array of picnic benches scattered around the pavements of its corner plot in summer.
Details: 90 Gloucester Ave, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8HX | Book here
With a decently sized beer garden to the side, the castle is a welcoming stronghold. It’s on the borders of the Primrose Hill neighbourhood and makes a perfect stop off if you’re heading up from nearby Chalk Farm station. Spacious and relaxed in the day, they host – well, a host of events in the evenings which see the pub fill up.
Details: 150 Gloucester Ave, Primrose Hill, NW1 8JA | Book here
Like exploring new areas? Check out The Nudge’s Itineraries: curated guides to help you discover the best bits of every neighbourhood.