Itinerary Location: Hampstead | Duration: 8 Hours
Nothing beats a crisp, autumnal walk.
Except, maybe, a crisp, autumnal walk through one of London’s most impressively expansive stretches of nature, that also features – at various points – life-changing milkshakes, ring-tailed lemurs, live jazz and robata-grilled skewers.
So we’ve put together a little Itinerary that promises all that, in the legendary surrounds of Hampstead Heath.
Meet at Hampstead Heath overground station, dodge the crowds flocking around the fresh fruit & veg stall, and cross the road to join the line outside…
➊ THE NOOK | 2:30pm
From this point on, your life up till now will be referred to as the Pre-Nook Era. During the pandemic, South End Green’s kebab shop was split in half, and this tiny coffee & hot chocolate shop appeared on the corner side. It is impossible to overstate how delicious their wares are. The coffee’s good (with beans from Origin), and the hot chocolate’s excellent (with various special editions available throughout the colder months). But really, you have to come here for the milkshakes. Even if it’s snowing outside. Made by combining ice cream and melted chocolate (with your choice of cocoa percentage), they are the literal nectar of the gods. Just bring gloves.
➋ HAMPSTEAD HEATH | 2:45pm
Nectar in hand, take a slow stroll back across the road and head up onto Hampstead Heath. This is one of London’s biggest green spaces, and it’s generally agreed that the best way to explore it is just to amble along and take whichever path looks most inviting. Today, however, you’re following a STRICT schedule of organised fun, so take a look at this map to follow a route past the mixed bathing ponds; off-road it along the East Heath; and turn left at the mansion blocks to come onto Spaniards Road. Cross over to Jack Straw’s Castle (an old pub where Dickens and Wilkie Collins used to prop up the bar), and take the path to the right to get back onto the Heath. From here it’s a short stroll up to…
➌ THE HAMPSTEAD HEATH PERGOLA | 3:30pm
A glorious collaboration between architecture and nature, the Hampstead Heath Pergola is a beautiful raised walkway garlanded with wisteria, roses and climbing greenery. It was built in 1906, using rubble that was excavated to dig the underground line at Hampstead station. What was once part of a lord’s private garden is now totally open and free to visit, and there’s a melancholy atmosphere of faded grandeur about the place that’s irresistibly enchanting.
From here, walk for another ten minutes in the direction of north-east, and – provided your D of E skills aren’t too rusty – you’ll arrive at…
➍ GOLDERS HILL PARK ZOO | 4pm
The early 1900s were apparently a boom period for adding weird divertissements to the Heath. This micro zoo at the top end of the Heath started out with a couple of donations from local landed gentry, and has since expanded to quite an eclectic collection of animals – here you can see wallabies, ring-tailed lemurs and even a wild herd of deer roaming about. Best of all, it’s entirely free to visit.
From here, cut down the edge of the Heath and head down West Heath Road until it becomes Branch Hill, and follow it down to Hampstead station. Take a left after the big crossroads onto the cobbled Flask Walk, packed with little independent shops, antique stores to browse, and, of course:
➎ THE FLASK / BURGH HOUSE | 5pm
One of the cosiest pubs in Hampstead, with a 150-year old bar and plenty of good choices behind it. Not drinking? Carry on down the alleyway and down the hill until you see the grand mansion on your left with the wrought iron gates (well, this is Hampstead – we mean the really grand one). This is Burgh House, and there’s a lovely hidden café in the courtyard at the back, festooned with twinkling lights.
Not ready to end the day just yet? Then stroll back up Hampstead’s backstreets towards the station, in search of:
➏ JIN KICHI | 6:30pm
This Hampstead stalwart has kept the fires burning under the robata grill for a good few decades now. Jin Kichi feels like an authentic Japanese neighbourhood restaurant, where the best seats in the house surround the sizzling grill where chefs are scorching chicken meatball skewers; sesame-slathered aubergine and salted mackerel. Order a couple of plates from the expansive menu, get a highball cocktail to go with it, and enjoy the show.
➐ THE DUKE OF HAMILTON | 8pm
Speaking of shows… cap off your evening by turning left out of the restaurant, heading up Heath Street and taking a right on New End. That glowing courtyard overflowing with punters clutching pints belongs to the Duke of Hamilton, a recently revamped pub with a decent line-up behind the bar and a fancy food menu, too…Which is all very nice, but you’ll be taking your drinks downstairs to the Hampstead Jazz Club. Eminent jazz musicians pitch up every weekend in the pub’s old cellars, from award-winning chanteuses and Rat Pack singers to foot-stomping blues bands and intimate quartets paying tribute to the greats.
And fittingly for a cellar, there’s a pretty generous wine list to explore, too…
➊ The Nook | 43 South End Road, London NW3 2PY
➋ Hampstead Heath
➌ The Hampstead Heath Pergola | Inverforth Close, London NW3 7EX
➍ Golders Hill Park Zoo | North End Way, London NW3 7HE
➎ The Flask | 14 Flask Walk, NW3 1HE / Burgh House | New End Square, London NW3 1LT
➏ Jin Kichi | 73 Heath Street, London NW3 6UG
➐ The Duke Of Hamilton | 23-25 New End, London NW3 1JD
Love a good ramble? Peruse our guide to great London walks
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