Hampstead Heath is the lungs of London. This huge, green space is one of London’s top tourist attractions which carries equal appeal to its residents. Whether it’s for a brisk winter walk, or a languid summer picnic, the heath never fails to delight its visitors.
Guests of the Park Grand Paddington Court Hotel are in prime position for getting to the heath. Before you go, make sure you know what to expect, to get the most of your visit.
1) Explore the heath on foot
This sprawl of ancient woodland, gentle hills and natural ponds sits atop a ridge which forms one of the highest points in London. It’s a playground of hiking trails, picnic spots, scenic photo opportunities and some of the best views of London. Hampstead Heath must be discovered on foot and it’s easy to spend an entire day exploring. It’s the realm of adventurous; the paths are easy to follow but are charmingly untamed and rugged. Wear comfortable footwear so you can leap over the branches and carve your way through the bushy thickets!
2) Take a dip in the ponds…
Hampstead Heath features three bathing ponds. These are the perfect place to cool down on a balmy summer day in the capital – or get your heart pumping during winter if you are courageous enough to take the plunge. There is a mixed pond and two single-sex ponds. The water is 100% natural which means there are no chemicals. Besides fellow swimmers you’ll be in the company of friendly ducks!
The ladies’ and mens’ ponds are open year-round, but to access the mixed pool during winter you must join the Hampstead Winter Swimming Club. Admittance fee to the ponds is £2 per adult (take coins). Changing rooms are attached to the ponds, lifeguards are on duty, but note that there are no lockers. Choose hotels near Paddington Station UK and leave your valuables there.
3) …or, the lido
If you’re not keen on the look of the ponds, there is also an outdoor swimming pool at Hampstead Heath. This is a great place to visit with children during the summer, and there is playground nearby. The Parliament Hill Lido is located in the southeastern corner, close to Gospel Oak overground station. The lido is unheated but a sauna and hot showers are available, plus a limited number of lockers. The lido is huge, but do arrive early during summer to secure a spot. A single day ticket costs £7 per adult.
4) Soak up the views
The hills of Hampstead Heath provide spectacular views of the city framed by the green foliage. The greatest view of all can be appreciated from Parliament Hill. A short walk to the east of the mixed bathing pond delivers you at the grassy knoll. It’s a beautiful spot to enjoy a summer picnic, or share a bottle of wine for a romantic sunset away from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you’re an early riser, come here to experience one of the most tranquil sunrises in the whole of London. Ask your Paddington accommodation to give you a wake-up call!
5) Cosy up in a traditional English pub
The area around Hampstead Heath is peppered with inviting pubs with hearty menus and well-stocked bars to help you replenish your energy after your exploration of the heath. The Spaniards Inn, on Spaniards Road, is a firm favourite with Hampstead dwellers. Indoors they have a huge fireplace for winter wanderers, and come summer their beer garden is the best place to enjoy al fresco dining. If you fancy trying a Sunday roast in London, it’s advised to make a reservation here as it can get busy.
6) Find the secret pergola
The Hill Garden and Pergola is a fairly well-kept secret, and is worth tracking down to see some very unique and beautiful architecture. It’s located on the northwest section of the heath, and you need to cross Spaniards Road and N End Way to reach it. The Georgian-era terraces and gardens are so romantic that the pergola is used as a wedding venue, and it is a haven for photographers. You are also rewarded with an incredible view across the heath.
7) Marvel at the art of Kenwood House
In the northern part of Hampstead Heath, the gleaming white manor Kenwood House sits on the crest of a small hill. It has an expansive art collection that is free to the public to browse, and house masterpieces such as Rembrandt’s ‘Portrait with Two Circles’ alongside works by Turner and Vermeer. Kenwood House also has two delightful tearooms, The Brew House Café and The Steward’s Room, where you can pick up a slice of cake and a cup of English tea to put you on until dinner time at your accommodation in Paddington. They have a bookshop too!
8) Visit Keats House
This elegant Regency home is the former residence of the great British poet John Keats. The small but fascinating museum tells the story of the Romantic poet who found love and inspiration during his short life in this Hampstead abode. Keats House sits at the southern tip of the heath, over the road from the Hampstead Heath overground station. Step inside and explore letters, poems and original manuscripts penned by Keats. Sometimes the museum houses hosts special events.
9) Explore Hampstead Village
After you’ve got your fill of the heath, you can have a wander around the affluent Hampstead Village which comprises of gastropubs, boutiques and delicatessens. Hampstead is very residential, and it is a pleasure to wander around the streets and appreciate the beautiful mansions, which are the homes of artists and writers. The Burgh House & Hampstead Museum is a mansion which hosts regular art exhibitions and concerts, so it might be worth paying a visit. You can also visit the National Trust property, Fenton House. Visitors can take a turn around the gardens and explore their collection of old keyboards.