Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace…the list goes on and on of things to do while visiting London. Fortunately, I’ve been there and done that several times over between all of my Euro trip stopovers, studying for a semester at the University of Westminster, and working through the BUNAC scheme.
One of the things I love most about Londres is that there are so many unique areas and neighborhoods to stay in and explore. Every time I go I seem to get a completely different experience! On my latest visit I stayed with a friend who lives in a part of London that I had yet to get acquainted with: the northwest. From her flat in West Hampstead, I was able to venture outside my comfort zone (Zone 1 on the Underground, to be exact), up the Jubilee, Northern and Bakerloo Lines and found these lesser known, but equally great London sights.
St. John’s Wood & Abbey Road
Aside from an abundance of posh homes and celebrity residents, St. John’s Wood is also where you will find the famous Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles recorded their aptly named Abbey Road album. While I was there, a debate was brewing over whether or not the infamous zebra crossing featured on the album’s cover should be removed due to the safety threat it poses to oncoming traffic and tourists. I say let it be…
Maida Vale & Little Venice
If you take the Bakerloo line north to Maida Vale, you will find yourself in another one of London’s more exclusive neighborhoods. I recommend a drink at The Warrington which is a pub owned by Gordon Ramsay. From there you can wander down Warrington Crescent towards Warwick Avenue. Once you hit Blomfield Road, you will have reached Little Venice. This is a picturesque and “Venice-esque” part of London that the hop-on-hop-off buses miss (luckily!). A few walking tours around the area are offered, but we chose to take Jason’s Trip instead. The 45 minute cruise takes you down Regent’s Canal and drops you off in Camden Town.
I’ve always found Camden to be dirty and dodgy, but entertaining to stroll through nevertheless. One of my favorite places in London is Primrose Hill and to get there I always started my walk from the Camden Town tube station (head north on Camden High Street which turns into Chalk Farm Road, then left on Regent’s Park Road), but never spent much time hanging out. I could hardly believe the Camden I saw this time. It seemed cleaner and even…family friendly? Jason’s Trip down Regent’s Canal dropped us off right in the middle of Camden Lock Market. This was the perfect place to grab a snack with its large selection of international food stalls serving quick and cheap eats. I recommend the stuffed Turkish wraps!
This is the one place I am familiar with. As I mentioned before, Primrose Hill is one of my favorite spots in all of London. I fell in love with it years ago and make it a point to visit every time I am there. Usually I make the trip during the day, but this time I finally got a chance to visit it at night and fell in love even more. Check out this view!
Hampstead Village & “The Heath”
Hampstead is a charming and quaint little village filled with narrow, hilly streets, cozy cottages, and elegant homes. Oh, and it is another favorite neighborhood of the rich and famous. Hampstead Village is at the edge of “the Heath”, or Hampstead Heath, which is the largest park in North London at 800 acres (twice the size of Hyde Park). This is the place where fairy tales were thought up, I’m sure of it. Walk towards the middle and you will find yourself in either a rolling meadow or straight up woodland. There are also three different ponds you can take a dip in for a nominal fee. The Heath is beautiful and definitely a place to escape it you get tired of the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan London.
It was a lot of fun discovering what Northwest London has to offer and I know I’m going to be visiting some of those spots again the next time in town. I may have to book a room in a completely different part of the city though – just to keep it interesting!
What is your favorite neighborhood in London? Any lessen-known spots you can recommend?