There are so many amazing things to do in North London. Take a walk among old oaks on Hampstead Heath, and it will feel like you’re far out in the country. Or go to Little Venice in Maida Vale to look at the narrowboats floating slowly down Regents Canal past London Zoo.
North London has something for everyone, from buzzing nightlife and alternative fashion in Camden to posh Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds. Let’s dive in and look at some of the highlights:
4 Favourite Areas in North London
1. Things to do around Hampstead Heath
Hampstead is one of our favourite areas in London, with a great local village, picturesque streets and good pubs. Beautiful Hampstead Heath offers outdoor experiences like swimming in natural ponds, kiting on the hills, beautiful walks, and cycle routes.
Hampstead Heath Ponds and Lido
Fancy an outdoor swim? Depending on how good a swimmer you are, and if you can bear cold water, Hampstead Heath offers several options for a dip. The natural bathing ponds in the park are best for good swimmers since the waters tend to be both cold and deep.
Kids under eight are not allowed, and children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult and conduct a swimming test the first time they use the pond. There’s no swimming test for kids swimming in the Lido, but keep in mind the water is not heated there either. Check our summary of water play areas in London for kids friendly places to splash around in London.
The Mixed Bathing Pond
Just a short walk from the Hampstead Heath Overground station, you’ll find a lovely place to swim, surrounded by nature. Not the warmest water, but you’ll be acclimated quickly enough. There’s not a huge amount of space inside to relax next to the water – it’s more about getting in, swimming, and leaving. There are changing areas and cold showers for rinsing off afterwards.
Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond
Located in beautiful surroundings, you can hardly believe you’re in London. This is an outdoor swimming area only allowed for men with lifeguards on duty and a relaxed atmosphere. You’ll find this lovely bathing basin on the eastern side of Hampstead Heath Park, a 10-minute walk from Gospel Oak Overground Station.
Kenwood Ladies’ Pond
Kenwood Ladies’ Pond is located further north in the park and, like the others, a completely natural basin. Lifeguards are on duty, and there is one shower to rinse off, but changing facilities are limited.
Parliament Hill Lido
The Grade II listed Art Deco building is a great backdrop for an outdoor swim at this Lido located close to Parliament Hill in Hampstead. This is a 60-metre-long open-air swimming pool that is open 365 days a year. You’ll find basic changing facilities, warm showers and quite a large space to relax next to the pool.
Kite-flying on Parliament Hill
On Hampstead Heath‘s Parliament Hill, you can enjoy one of the best views of London’s skyline. This windy place has become so popular with kite-flyers that it is known among locals as Kite Hill, so don’t forget to bring a kite on your next visit. And if you walk right down the hill, you have one of London’s best play areas at Parliament Hill Playground, where the kids can enjoy traditional slides, swings and a big sand area.
Kenwood House is a hidden gem in North London, beautifully located in Hampstead Heath. Free of charge to visit, the very helpful volunteers from English Heritage will guide you from room to room and reveal a wealth of information about the incredible pieces of art that can be found in the manor house. Next to the house, you’ll find an idyllic cafe with delicious lunch dishes and the green lawn in front of the building is a great setting for family picnics.
Hampstead Heath Walks
The Heath is a real piece of greenery in the middle of London, giving you a feeling of being far out in nature surrounded by century-old oaks and idyllic lakes (or ponds as they’re called). The 10km Heat Circuit Route is a really good option if you want to experience the different parts of the park, including the beautiful Kenwood House.
Parliament Hill Playground
After kite-flying, walk down the hill across the football field, and you’ll find the great local Parliament Hill Playground. With reliable and safe play equipment suitable for kids of different ages, this is one of our favourites after rating more than 20 playgrounds in London.
2. Days out around Camden in North London
Famous for its buzzing nightlife and colourful markets, Camden in North London is full of hidden gems waiting to be explored. Here are some of our favourite places around Camden.
Follow the old towpath on Regent’s Canal westwards from Little Venice, and you’ll pass London Zoo before arriving at Camden Lock. This traffic-free route on the canal is around 5 km long and ideal for quiet and peaceful walks on hot summer days. You can also cycle on the canal towpaths but take it slow if busy and remember that pedestrians take priority.
Kentish Town City Farm
The UK’s first city farm was established in 1972 and is still going strong thanks to local supporters and volunteers. Kentish Town City Farm is not a big farm, but what it lacks in size it makes up in charm and lovely farm animals. So don’t forget to drop a few coins in their donation box on your way out!
The Camden Markets
Follow your nose and might end up enjoying some great street food in Camden’s Sunday markets. You’ll find an enormous range of items for sale across markets like The Stables and Camden Lock from vintage clothes and alternative fashion to antiques and vinyl stalls.
Perfect for family days out, the old and graceful London Zoo has been a favourite for generations of kids visiting London. Located in Regent’s Park, this is not just an outstanding zoo but an institution with a strong focus on protecting endangered species with several ongoing projects conserving animals in their natural habitat worldwide.
Once famous for the most likely place to meet celebrities in London, Primrose Hill still feels exclusive and posh. However, walking through the high street makes you feel like you’re in a village with small independent shops and a great local vibe. Its namesake hilltop park has one of the best views of London and is a great place to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
3. Activities around Alexandra Palace
Alexandra Palace (“Ally Pally”) is an institution when it comes to weekend activities in North London. With several highlights for kids, including an all-year ice-rink and exciting Go-Ape treetop challenge, the area gets busy during weekends and school holidays.
Despite a decent slide, we were not that impressed with the playground next to Alexandra Park, but overall it’s a really fun place for kids if you plan and book tickets for the ice rink or Go-Ape.
Ally Pally Farmers’ Market
If you’re in the area on Sundays, make sure to stop by the local farmer’s market where you can buy fresh and organic produce directly from farmers coming into London. And don’t forget to try the sausage rolls from Giggly Pig before leaving!
4.Take a green day out in Epping Forest
If you’re fed up with manicured parks and gardens, we recommend a visit to Epping Forest, where you can enjoy a nature reserve full of woodlands, grassland and lakes. This is not just a park but a range of interconnected green spaces great for both rambling and cycling. And best of all: it’s very accessible using public transportation easily within reach by taking the Central Line.
Other great things to do in North London
Little Venice might sound a bit more exotic than it really is, but it’s still a lot of fun to visit this unique place in London with its waterways and narrowboats. The best time to visit is during the annual narrowboat festival in May, where you can see a colourful array of decorated boats in all its glory, North London is also great when it comes to visiting farms with children, and we recommend checking out our reviews of Belmont Children’s Farm, Forty Hall Farm and Lee Valley Farms