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Historic Highgate in North London is something quite special and feels a world away from the usual hustle and bustle of the city
From heavenly hillside views to ancient inns that were frequented by the likes of Dickens and Byron – there are many things to do in Highgate.
A green and gorgeous gem, Highgate still manages to retain its distinctly village feel.
From amazing architecture to woodland walks and one of London’s ‘great cemeteries’, here are our top things to do in Highgate, London:
Things to do in Highgate
Table of Contents
1. Waterlow Park
Our first foray into Highgate is Waterlow Park, gateway to Highgate Cemetery. Waterlow Park is also one of London’s underrated parks and green spaces, offering incredible views of the capital and colourful flora and fauna. It is also the perfect picnic spot with sloping lawns and ponds to pursue.
One of the best free things to do in Highgate, Waterlow Park’s rolling lawns unfold over 26 acres and it has lots of park benches to enjoy the views.
Address: Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, London N6 5HG
2. Lauderdale House
Waterlow Park’s Lauderdale House was originally built in 1582 (updated several times over the years) and is now an arts and education centre that often hosts musical performances or weddings.
The Lauderdale House Gallery is free to visit and they is often special events like temporary exhibitions, school holiday activities or adult evening. Lauderdale House also have a volunteering scheme for those that want to help out with events or the upkeep
One of the most original and opulent country houses in Highgate, the ground floor of Lauderdale House now has a cafe (open seven days a week) and is incredibly popular in the summer with picnic tables laid out on the front lawn – also check out the sundial at the foot of the lawn
Address: Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, London N6 5HG
3. Highgate Village
Highgate Village is a veritable feast of fabulous Georgian architecture with beautiful homes, incredible ancient pubs and inns (more on this later) plus shops and cute cafes with history all around.As such, it is hard to believe Highgate Village is just a few minutes walk away from the Tube.
As with Waterlow Park, looking across Highgate Village provides vistas down the hill provides some majestic views of London.
Make an afternoon of exploring Highgate Village as it is fun to just amble around without a map, as you never know what you might discover. Look out too for the Whittington Stone and cat statue, at the foot of Highgate Hill, Archway – this is where Dick Whittington apparently first heard the Bow bells chiming with his faithful feline.
4. Hampstead Heath
One of London’s largest open spaces to explore, in a word, Hampstead Heath is huge – over 320 acres of recreational space, woodland and wild parks to explore (including the incredible Hampstead Hill Garden Pergola). Highgate itself it nestled on the northeast corner of Hampstead Heath meaning you can easily combine a village visit with a Hampstead Heath hike
As well as being one of London’s most popular and largest outdoor spaces (790 acres), you can go swimming in the Hampstead Heath bathing ponds. Male, female and mixed all cost £70 for a Hampstead Heath swimming pond six month pass or £132.80 for 12 months, as at February 2023.
Whilst most popular in the summer, some plucky souls also brave the water in the winter, particularly as a Christmas Day tradition – Brrrrrrave!
5. Kenwood House
Also located on Hampstead Heath, historic Kenwood House is managed by English Heritage and is a free thing to do in Highgate.
We’ve been several times (free admission although online reservations are preferred) and have always been amazed by the opulent interiors, the incredible art collection amassed over the decades and also the knowledge and dedication of the Kenwood House volunteers. We learn or see something new each time we visit.
Kenwood House was originally constructed in the 17th century and later served as a residence for the Earls of Mansfield. It has been open to the public since the late 1920s and has had several major restorations.
In the summer months, Kenwood House also puts on regular concerts with Tom Jones, Robbie Williams and Soft Cell all performing later this year in 2023.
Address: Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, London NW3 7JR
6. Highgate High Street
Highgate High Street is suitably located along a fairly steep hill (no wonder it has ‘high’ twice in its name! Highgate’s shopping street and retail area has a nice mix of independent stores and restaurants, plus the usual chain fare like Gail’s Bakery and Pizza Express.
Weirdly, until it recently closed, Cafe Rouge in Highgate was said to be the place where all the local celebs once hung out, like Kate Moss, Liam Gallagher and film director Christopher Nolan.
Some of the independent stores along Highgate High Street are really cute with incredibly friendly staff including Village Flowers and The Highgate Pantry.
7. Highgate Bookshop
One of the most famous shops (and most photographed) here is Highgate Books, a bright green book shop with beautiful interiors, reams of novels and very knowledgeable staff.
Independently run and loved by locals, Highgate Bookshop is a must visit when browsing Highgate High Street.
Address: Highgate Bookshop, 9 Highgate High Street, London N6 5JR
8. Parliament Hill Viewpoint
One of London’s best lookouts and viewpoints and high up in Highgate / Hampstead, Parliament Hill is home to one of the capital’s most iconic views (plus most importantly, free)!
On sunny days and cloud-free days, you can make out all of London’s main attractions including the Gherkin and the Shard. Parliament Hill is also popular with kite-flyers and dog walkers.
9. Pond Square
The old very centre of Highgate (and also the highest point in the whole Borough of Camden) that once had several ponds providing drinking water to the local inhabitants.
Now used mainly as a meeting point for locals, the sort of place you can imagine boules being played or picnics being laid out – toilets also are available here.
Address: Pond Square, Highgate, London N6 6BA
10. Highgate Cemetery
The resting place of such luminaries as Michael Faraday, George Eliot and most famously Karl Marz, Highgate Cemetery is of London’s ‘great’ cemeteries (yes, that is really a thing) and a Victorian place of remembrance.
Highgate Cemetery initially started with the sole West Cemetery in 1839, opened up as a partial solution to London’s then lack of suitable burial space.
However, due to its serene setting and lush London views, Highgate Cemetery became very desirable amongst London’s Victorian elite as an exclusive burial space so an additional East Cemetery had to be opened a couple of decades later
Today, you can explore the graveyards, which are covered in green moss and ivy either by yourself or as part of a guided tour – admission fees apply.
Address: Highgate Cemetery, Swain’s Lane, London N6 6PJ
11. Highgate Wood
70 acres of ancient woodland, Highgate woods are a hotspot for joggers, dog walkers, afternoon strolls and cycle rides (link to cycle blog).
Activities include a cafe, children’s playground as well as lots of flora and fauna to spot (there are lots of bluebells in late spring).
Address: Muswell Hill Road, London N10 3JN
There are heaps of picturesque pubs serving pints in and around Highgate. The best pubs in Highgate include:
12. The Woodman
A nice family friendly gastropub with a huge beer garden, with lots of colourful hanging baskets in the summer. The last time we visited, they had a BBQ and jazz band in the garden – nice!
Address: The Woodman, 414 Archway Road, London N6 5UA
13. The Gatehouse
High on Highgate Hill and just across from Pond Square, The Gatehouse has a good food menu and also boasts a theatre upstairs (if you like some cider with your Shakespeare).
Address: The Gatehouse, 1 North Road, London N6 4BD
14. Spaniards Inn
Next to Hampstead Heath and as frequented by Charles Dickens and Bryon, this was originally built as a tollgate in the 1580s and rumoured to be the birthplace of legendary highwayman Dick Turpin.
Grade II listed and as featured in Dicken’s The Pickwick Papers, this is a perfect place to eat and drink after a stroll on the Heath.
Address: Spaniards Inn, Spaniards Road, London NW3 7JJ
15. The Flask Highgate
Another haunt of Duck Turpins, this is now a cute and cosy pub run by the Fullers Brewery, favoured by locals, with the current building dating from the 18th century (although an inn has been on this site since the 1660s).
Address: The Flask, 77 Highgate W Hill, London N6 6BU
16. Highgate Holly Village
Gorgeous Gothic architecture and like something out of Harry Potter, Holly Village in Highgate is an exclusive enclave created by Baroness Angela Burdett Coutts with input from none other than close friend Charles Dickens.
The 12 cottages making up this estate were completed in 1865 and remain some of the most striking architectural aesthetics in the whole of Highgate.
The entrance gate to Holly Village (below) consists of a gorgeous gabled archway with a duo of female stone statues, one holding a dove and the other a lamb.
Our final thing to do in Highgate…
17. Holly Lodge Estate
A world away from the style of Holly Village (but only just up the road), slightly surreal is the only way we can describe Holly Lodge estate, full of faux black and white timbered houses, and very reminiscent of our time in Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.
It is a private estate with gated surrounds but you are allowed to walk through. We are only mentioning it as a) it is a bit out of place and b) don’t confuse it with the similarly titled Holly Village above otherwise you might be a tad disappointed.
Address: Holly Lodge Estate Yard, 8 Holly Lodge Gardens, London N6 6AA
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