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Small but perfectly formed, the area of West Hampstead in North London has managed to remain relatively under the radar for years.
Neighbouring Hampstead has been left to hog the spotlight for tourists and Londoners looking for French cafés, pretty heath-side houses and celebrity-spotting. As far as we’re concerned, this has been a deliberate move by the media professionals, families and North London intellectuals that occupy West Hampstead to keep mainstream attention off the area.
This close-knit residential area offers an alternative to Hampstead village, with the charming West End Lane occupying the position of high street with shops, restaurants and cafés. Neighbours are friendly with each other, and there's a huge sense of community spirit and respect amongst fellow residents. It’s not uncommon for a family to move in and find themselves there for decades, while esteemed former residents include author Evelyn Waugh and national treasure Stephen Fry.
Students and young professionals are more likely to stick to nearby Camden and Kentish Town, where there are plenty of bars, clubs and late-night offerings, so West Hampstead is largely populated with mature professionals and families with children who come to enjoy a quieter lifestyle, brilliant transport links into central London and access to the green spaces of Hampstead Heath to the north and Regents Park to the south.
So if you want a charming, community-focused area in North London, West Hampstead is pretty much perfect - just don’t tell anyone...
On a Map
West Hampstead is located in the Borough of Camden, to the South West of Hampstead and between Swiss Cottage and Belsize Park. It’s in Zone 2, and covers the postcodes NW3 and NW6.
History of West Hampstead
West Hampstead was originally a village known as West End during the 1500s, which was part of a larger estate. It was essentially a small hamlet with around 40 houses until the arrival of the railway stations in the late 1800s, which led many property developers and land owners to move to the area. It was also renamed West Hampstead during this time, to avoid confusion with the West End of London. Growth was gradual, with West End Lane remaining a hedge-lined country road up until the turn of the twentieth century, and while the area now has many more amenities it still retains the original village ambience.
Interestingly, West Hampstead has also been host to some key moments in modern musical history. Dusty Springfield was born here in 1939, and in June 1964 the Rolling Stones were allegedly locked in the kitchen of their West Hampstead flat by their manager Andrew Loog Oldham, with the instructions to write their own song following the cover songs they’d been releasing until then. Their contemporaries The Beatles also had some trouble in West Hampstead, as their audition at Decca Studios in 1962 led to the infamous rejection that they had ‘no future in show business’!
Transport from West Hampstead
West Hampstead may appear as tree-lined residential streets and red-brick period homes, but it has the excellent transport links of an inner-city area. West Hampstead tube station is on the Jubilee Line, which takes 9 minutes to Bond Street, 18 minutes to London Bridge and 25 minutes to Canary Wharf.
The West Hampstead Overground station is on the Richmond to Stratford line, so the riverside idyll of Richmond is just 33 minutes away, while the buzzing nightlife of Hackney and Dalston are a 20 minute ride in the other direction.
West Hampstead also offers a Thameslink train which goes directly through London and towards Brighton and Gatwick Airport, and is served by various buses too.
Cost of Living in West Hampstead
Despite all its charms, West Hampstead is slightly cheaper to rent in than neighbouring areas of Belsize Park and Hampstead. It’s still North London prices however, and there aren’t a huge number of properties available.
Most of the properties in West Hampstead are Victorian and Edwardian houses, which have either been kept whole for a family or divided into apartments. There are also a number of historic mansion blocks offering apartments, as well as a few cottages near West End Lane which come onto the market very occasionally. Meanwhile, new developments are beginning to spring up such as West Hampstead Square, with an estimated 1,000 new properties planned for the area in the next few years.
As of August 2017, the average rental price for a two-bedroom property in West Hampstead is £2,000 per month, although properties can found starting from around £1,300 per month.
Shops in West Hampstead London
Every self-respecting North London town needs its own independent bookshop, and West Hampstead's West End Lane Books is one of the finest in the capital. This lovely shop is packed full of titles, from new bestsellers to obscure history books, and often sees literary heavyweights such as Ian Rankin come in for readings and signings of their latest novels.
Address: 277 West End Ln, London NW6 1QS
Phone: 020 7431 3770
Whether it's for a gift, a consolation, an apology or just to brighten up the kitchen, Flowerstalk has all the floral arrangements you could possibly need. They're renowned for having the best quality of flowers in the area, as well as a very reliable delivery service.
Address: 230 West End Ln, London NW6 1UR
Phone: 020 7431 9745
A local favourite since 1989, Roni's Bagel Bakery offers authentic bagels and Jewish baked goods, and has an in-store café if you've got time to sit and relax. From a morning pastry to shakshuka with pitta for lunch they've got all tastes covered, and they also provide catering and cake services to the nearby area.
Address: 250 West End Ln, London NW6 1LG
Phone: 020 7794 6663
Like most of West End Lane, David's is a friendly, family run business, specialising in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. The menu is packed full of mezze, shawarmas and delicious dips, and there's a smoking terrace outside if you fancy an authentic shisha too.
Address: 341 West End Ln, London NW6 1RS
Phone: 020 7433 8383
Restaurants in West Hampstead London
Situated just next door to West Hampstead Station, The Gallery is a lively neighbourhood bar and restaurant which is always packed out with locals catching up over good food and wine. There's an extensive drinks list full of cocktails, wines, craft beers and unusual spirits, while the European food menu is made up of large and small sharing plates which are ideal as a full meal or just nibbles with drinks.
Address: 190 Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead, London NW6 3AY
Phone: 020 7625 9184
Despite the rather unappetising name, Wet Fish Café is probably most West Hampstead residents' favourite local restaurant. Named after a shop which formerly resided here, it's now a 1930s-style brasserie serving simple, warming, classics such as boeuf bourguignon, risotto and cheese platters. They also host regular art exhibitions and 'Music Dinners', where you can enjoy live jazz while tucking into your meal.
Address: 242 West End Ln, London NW6 1LG
Phone: 020 7443 9222
Afghan cuisine is something that few people are very familiar with, which is all the more reason to try out this excellent, homely Afghan restaurant in West Hampstead. For a truly traditional taste try the Kabuli Palow, lamb kofta kebabs and Aushak dumpling, followed by an unusual cardamom-spiced coffee. There's a BYOB policy so bring your own wine, and there's no corkage charge!
Address: 241 Kilburn High Rd, London NW6 7JN
Phone: 020 3490 6709
Run by local couple Simon and Jolanta Bradley, this chic restaurant a little further afield offers Modern British food with a French accent in a bright, contemporary setting. They've got plenty of great menu deals including Prix Fixe and Pre-Theatre if you're on your way to a show at the Tricycle, and speciality dishes include venison haunch with buckwheat, Irish Rossmore oysters and Dorset crab with silver mullet ceviche. It's the perfect spot for a special dinner.
Address: 25 Winchester Rd, London NW3 3NR
Phone: 020 7722 3457
Things to do in West Hampstead London
Famed psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud spend the last years of his life at this Queen Anne-style detached house in nearby Belsize Park, and following the death of his daughter Anna it was transformed into a museum to showcase his contributions to neurology and psychology. Not only are his impressive collection of books, his patient couch and his study still there exactly as he left them, the house is also filled with interesting antiques from all over the world.
Address: 20 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SX
Phone: 020 7435 2002
Despite West Hampstead finding popularity among families, the attractions on West End Land attract their fair share of young professionals, and you can tell an area's quality by its ability to cater to everyone. Enter the Salt Lounge, Chicago-style underground club which plays RnB, Funky House and Dance music, offering the younger crowd in NW6 somewhere to enjoy late-night drinks, contemporary music and chilled vibes.
Address: 269 West End Ln, London NW6 1QS
Phone: 020 7431 2211
A local creative hub since the 1980s, Tricycle Theatre is highly respected for producing culturally diverse and vibrant plays such as the 'tribunal plays' in the 1990s, which were based on high-profile public enquiries and received much critical acclaim. As well as a 235-seat auditorium, the building houses a cinema showing current and classic films and a creative space for workshops and educational programs.
Address: 269 Kilburn High Rd, London NW6 7JR
Phone: 020 7328 1000
Main image credit: Andrew Crump