Hampstead, sitting on the edge of 800 acres of semi-wild countryside, still has an arty, literary and bohemian atmosphere.
Famous former residents have included the poet John Keats and the painters John Constable and George Romney, and today it is popular with actors and comedians including Tom Conti, Pauline Collins and Ricky Gervais. Today though, the days of living the life of an impoverished artist are over and incomers need a substantial budget to live in this charmed spot.
What there is to buy in Hampstead
As well as cottages, there are Victorian and Edwardian houses, large detached 1920s houses and mansion flats.
The area attracts: Simon Edwards, of local agent Savills, says families love Hampstead for the schools and the wide open spaces of Hampstead Heath; Americans love it for the village atmosphere and the proximity to the American School in St John’s Wood.
Staying power: People aspire to live in Hampstead and put down roots.
Renting: Young professionals love to rent in Hampstead, but overseas families who are here for a year or two also prefer to rent. There has been an influx of French families since the new French school opened in Kentish Town.
Postcode: The distinctive black ceramic street signs proudly announce that this is NW3, the extremely desirable Hampstead postcode.
Best roads: Church Row has fine early Georgian houses, and the last house on the market sold for £3 million back in 2006. Redington Road, Templewood Avenue and Greenaway Gardens to the west side of the High Street have large red-brick detached 1920s houses which have changed hands recently for between £4.75 million and £7.6 million.
Downshire Hill and Keats Grove are on the east side of the High Street. The houses here are more of an eclectic mix of period cottages and houses. The houses have sold for between £2.15 million and £3 million in the recent past.
Up and coming: There are no undervalued pockets in Hampstead.
Schools: Hampstead, along with nearby Belsize Park, has more private schools than state schools. This large concentration of schools leads to traffic chaos in and around Hampstead in the morning and afternoon, so much so that according to Simon Edwards of Savills, houses within walking distance of the most popular schools are at a premium.
There is a wide choice of private pre-prep and prep-schools, both traditional and experimental. Devonshire House (co-ed ages three to 13 with a nursery which takes children from two and a half months) is in Arkwright Road. St Anthony’s Preparatory (boys ages four to 13) is a Catholic school in Fitzjohn’s Avenue. The Academy School (co-ed ages six to 13) is in Pilgrims Place. Heathside Prep (co-ed ages three to 11) is in New End. Lyndhurst House (boys ages four to 13) is in Lyndhurst Gardens, as is the Marie Montessori School (co-ed ages three to 11).
St Mary’s School (co-ed ages two to 11) is in Fitzjohn’s Avenue. Southbank International (co-ed ages three to 11) is in Netherhall Gardens and there is a senior school in the West End.
Hampstead Hill School (co-ed ages two to seven with a nursery which takes children from three months) is in St Stephen’s Hall, Pond Street. St Christopher’s School (girls ages four to 11) is in Belsize Lane. The North Bridge School nursery (co-ed ages three to five) is in Fitzjohn’s Avenue, the junior school (co-ed five to eight) is in Netherhall Gardens. From September, North Bridge Senior school moves from Camden to The Royal, a former girls’ school in Netherhall Gardens.
Hampstead’s state primary schools are either judged “outstanding” or “good” by Ofsted. Christ Church in Christ Church Hill is “outstanding”. Hampstead Parochial in Holly Bush Vale, New End Primary in Streatley Place, Fitzjohn’s in Fitzjohn’s Avenue, Rosary RC in Haverstock Hill and Fleet in Fleet Road are all “good”. St Luke’s CofE is a new free primary in Kidderpore Avenue.
University College School (boys ages seven to 18, with a co-ed, the Phoenix School, ages three to seven) in College Crescent, Holly Hill and Frognal is a respected local private all-through school, as is South Hampstead High (girls ages four to 18) in Maresfield Gardens. St Margaret’s (girls ages four to 16) is in Kidderpore Gardens.
Shops and restaurants: Long-standing locals moan about the disappearance of local shops and the arrival of so many upmarket clothing and restaurant chains, but it does mean Hampstead has managed to maintain a busy high street.
Independent shops to look out for are: CoChineChine, which stocks well-known fashion brands such as Acne and McQ; One Hundred Acres for toys; Gilden’s Arts for 20th century art; the Hampstead Butcher and Providore, which has replaced the much-loved Rosslyn Deli; Oak Studio in Perrin’s Court, a gallery and shop which runs workshops on the fashion for everything home-made; and deli Melrose and Morgan in Oriel Place.
Dach & Sons is a new cocktail bar and restaurant getting rave reviews. The best gastro pubs are the White Horse and the Old White Bear in Well Road; the Holly Bush in Holly Mount offers Hampstead tradition at its best.
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Open space: Hampstead Heath with its 800 acres of semi-wild countryside is one of the main reasons why families are attracted to the area. Kenwood House on the northern edge of the heath has a café, the Brewhouse.
Arts and leisure: Hampstead has lots of historic houses to visit. The National Trust owns Fenton House, a 17th century merchant’s house with a walled garden and, in contrast, 2 Willow Road, the modernist home of architect Erno Goldfinger.
Burgh House doubles as the Hampstead Museum and a wedding venue; Keats House, now a museum, was where the poet spent two creative years and where he fell in love with his “bright star” Fanny Brawne.
The Hampstead Everyman is the long-standing arts cinema. The Hampstead Golf Club has a nine-hole golf course off Winnington Road. The nearest theatre (the Hampstead Theatre) and council-owned swimming pool are in close-by Swiss Cottage.
Travel: Hampstead is on the Northern line with trains to the City and the West End. Hampstead Heath station is on the Overground North London line. Both stations are Zone 2 and an annual travel card to Zone 1 costs £1,168.
Council: Camden (Labour-controlled); Band D council tax for the 2012/2013 year is £1,328.25.
Average prices: buying in Hampstead
One-bedroom flat: £451,000
Two-bedroom flat: £727,000
Two-bedroom house: £865,000
Three-bedroom house: £1.6m
Four-bedroom house: £2.2m
Average prices: renting in Hampstead
One-bedroom flat: £350 to £650 a week
Two-bedroom flat: £700 to £900 a week
Two-bedroom house: £800 to £1,200 a week
Three-bedroom house: £1,500 to £2,500 a week
Four-bedroom house: £2,000 to £3,000 a week
Photographs: Graham Hussey Reuse content