Freud, Keats and theatre: what to see and do in Swiss Cottage

Elegant and with an air of out-of-town refinement, the neighbourhood of Swiss Cottage is actually just over three miles northwest of Charing Cross (the point that’s generally considered the very centre of London), yet it doesn’t feel like it is. Lying exactly where the areas of Hampstead (NW3), Kilburn (NW6) and St. John’s Wood (NW8) meet, it owes its eclectic, unforgettable name to an inn that once stood very near Swiss Cottage Tube station; The Swiss Cottage opened in 1804, built in the style of an Alpine-like Swiss chalet – and you can visit a popular pub that echoes its look and stands very close by. But, aside from this watering hole, should you be staying at one of the hotels near Paddington Station London, what must you make a beeline for in this neighbourhood…?

Freud Museum

(20 Maresfield Gardens NW3 5SX)

It’s fair to say that the 20th Century wouldn’t have been the 20th Century (and, indeed, so far, the 21st the 21st) were it not for the insight and innovations of the father of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud. What’s perhaps less acknowledged is that the Austrian-born founder of psychoanalysis made leafy Hampstead his home – and, specifically, the address that was his home lies about halfway between Swiss Cottage Tube station and Hampstead Heath. Today, this beautiful old house is a museum dedicated to his life, work and legacy and, inside, you’ll discover the likes of his original, iconic couch (complete with luxurious chenille cushions), as well as an extraordinary collection of more than 2,000 Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Oriental antiquities and, as you may have expected, a cornucopia of papers, books, photos and home movies.

Keats House

(10 Keats Grove NW3 2RR)

Lying on the southwestern tip of the glorious Hampstead Heath is the home-turned-museum of the equally glorious literary giant that was John Keats. Although he only lived here for two years of his life (1818-20), it’s today filled full of letters, manuscripts and relics all relating to the life and career of this most celebrated Romantic poet. A gorgeous Grade-I Regency villa, it’s admittedly far grander a building that that in which Keats lived – and yet, it was here that he wrote much of his greatest work, including the world-renowned poem ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, which he composed white sitting under a plum tree in the garden.

Hampstead Theatre

(Eton Avenue NW3 3EU)

Finally, located just a few steps down the road from Swiss Cottage Tube station (and so within very easy reach of the Park Grand Paddington Court hotel), this small and modernist yet stylish and excellent venue seats 405 patrons and regularly regales them with some of the very freshest and most innovative theatre to be seen anywhere in the capital. Curiously, the Hampstead Theatre began its existence as a loaned performance space in a scout hall about 60 years ago, before transferring to a portacabin a few years later very near where today’s venue stands; it remained in that state for four decades, in fact, before the new-writing-inviting, workshop-enlivened theatre opened its doors for the very first time in 2003.

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