Cool Places - The best places to stay in the UK

The Best Places to Stay in the UK

Hampstead

Hampstead is literally cool: in midsummer its height above the city and the green expanses of the Heath keep temperatures a degree or two below London’s more urban quarters, and in winter the snow lingers longer here than anywhere in London. It is Hampstead Heath that gives the area its character and much of its appeal. The Heath is huge: wild enough to lose yourself, and, with its bathing ponds and views, and impromptu summer parties, more fun than any of the city’s parks. But the whole neighbourhood has a special feel, a sense of countryside preserved in the heart of London, with its characterful pubs and streets of Regency villas and Victorian cottages, interspersed by the odd modernist landmark. You don’t need any particular purpose to enjoy a day in Hampstead – the Heath, a walk to Kenwood House, a picnic, maybe a swim, or a bit of shopping on the High Street – is enough, with a good pub to round off the day. But there are some interesting sights, if you’re inclined: Kenwood itself, with its Adams architecture (though the interior is currently closed); the modernist Goldfinger house at 2 Willow Road; Keats’s House, where he penned his Ode to a Nightingale; the Freud Museum, which preserves Sigmund’s couch; and, not least, Parliament Hill, with its amazing views over London. Hampstead also has some seasonal reasons for a visit. There are Saturday night picnic concerts at Kenwood in summer and at bank holidays the Heath (off South End Rd) hosts a funfair or circus.

Hampstead was a rural village, quite distinct from London, until the early eighteenth century, when a small spa developed around the area’s medicinal springs (around today’s Well Walk). It was at this time that Keats and Shelley lived in Hampstead, forging the area’s literary reputation, alongside the painters John Constable and George Romney. The big change was the arrival, in 1860, of a train line linking Hampstead Heath with East London. This put Hampstead properly on the map, as the Heath became a hugely popular weekend escape for East Enders. The village itself slowly became a suburb of Victorian London. In the first half of the twentieth century it had an intellectual and socialist reputation, enhanced by the arrival of many European Jewish emigrants, notably Freud. However, in recent years, the area has gone steadily upmarket, largely pricing out the artists and poets.

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Hampstead

Hampstead is literally cool: high above the rest of London and with a cut-off feel locals love.
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