Hidden away at the top of a hill in North London, Highgate is one of those special London areas that truly is a village, despite the London postcode. A restful retreat for the wealthy and influential for hundreds of years, it's winding lanes, cobbled streets and charming Georgian houses recall parts of the Cotswolds rather than the madness of North London - yet Piccadilly Circus is still just a speedy tube ride away.
The majority of residents here are affluent professionals, families looking for more space (after all, this is where London's second-largest private residence can be found, eclipsed only by Buckingham Palace), and young couples looking for a quieter community after a few years spent in the madness of Camden. It's also known for having plenty of well-known residents, ranging from influential types such as Karl Marx, T.S Eliot and John Betjeman to modern-day celebrities including Kate Moss and Rod Stewart.
The stock of beautiful historic houses here is largely due to the fact that Highgate has always been affluent, unlike other areas which have experienced cycles of prosperity and poverty over the years, with aristocratic mansions replaced by workhouses and railway tracks, only to be regentrified decades later. New buildings are beginning to arrive in the area, but due to the influential conservation society only interesting modern properties are allowed - so there's little chance of your view being ruined by a brand-new tower block anytime soon.
The sense of community is strong, with lots of local businesses, a busy golf club, and a library with a packed schedule of events for locals. Meanwhile on the weekends, walks in Waterlow Park and Highgate Cemetery are popular, before tucking into a hearty meal at one of the excellent restaurants in the area, which range from gastropubs to modern sushi spots. Add surprisingly affordable rents and an underground station on the Northern Line, and it's a wonder the whole of London hasn't already moved here.
On a map
Highgate is located within Zone 3 and unusually covers three boroughs despite being a small area: Haringey, Camden and Islington. The postcode is N6.
History of Highgate London
Once part of a grand hunting estate, Highgate has been a village since at least the 1500s, when it was a known spot for travellers and livestock drivers stopping on their way in and out of London. As a result many pubs sprung up, some of which still exist, and for a time the route from London to Highgate was notorious for highway robbery. The infamous villain Dick Turpin was known to to be a regular in some of the local pubs, and even hid out in the stables as the legend goes.
As the village grew and grand Georgian houses were built, it became seen as a retreat for the gentry from the crowds and pollution of London, particularly due to the open green spaces and it’s position on a hill above the smokey city. Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously came to Highgate to overcome his opium addiction in the 1800s, and since then it’s been a retreat for all sorts of writers, philosophers and modern celebrities looking to escape the paparazzi and live a more low-key life.
Transport to Highgate London
Despite being nearly 5 miles from Central London, Highgate Underground Station means that travelling to the centre or the city is fast and easy - a journey to Leicester Square takes just 17 minutes, while Bank is a 21 minute ride away.
For Overground trains into the depths of East and South London there’s an Overground station not too far away in Upper Holloway, while Highgate is also served by numerous buses (both day and night) which travel direct to destinations including Moorgate, Camden, King’s Cross and Finsbury Park.
Cost of living in Highgate London
There are a range of properties available in Highgate, but most come here looking for one of the many historic buildings found in the village, including grand Georgian houses and Victorian terraces. There are also a number of 1930s properties, and some tasteful modern new-builds.
Meanwhile, despite it’s reputation as a pricey celebrity enclave, Highgate is surprisingly affordable for renting - although be warned that there are not a huge amount of properties available due to the compact size of the area. Prices are similar to that of Kentish Town, and significantly cheaper than neighbouring areas Hampstead, Belsize Park and Tufnell Park. As of 2016 the average price of a two bedroom rental property is £1800 per month, but places can be found starting at around £1400 per month.
Restaurants in Highgate London
Treat yourself to a proper British afternoon tea at this charming retro tea room on the High Street, where you’ll find handmade cakes, soft scones topped with cream and jam, loose-leaf teas and a daily selection of savoury snacks. The range of mugs and accessories also make great birthday gifts for any tea-lovers in your life.
Address: 50 Highgate High St, Highgate Village, London N6 5HX
Phone: 020 8348 3162
It may not look like much on the outside, but this simple sushi restaurant on Highgate Hill consistently receives rave reviews from residents, who come for the top-quality sushi and good service. All sorts of Japanese delicacies are on the menu, including udon dishes and donburi, so even those who aren’t keen on raw fish will be happy.
Address: 28-30 Highgate Hill, London N19 5NL
Phone: 020 7281 5222
Specialising in Greek cuisine, Carob Tree is the place to go in N6 for some delicious mixed Mediterranean cuisine, including homemade humous with pitta bread, spanakopitta pastries and crispy calamari. On a warm day, try to get a table on the terrace for some people-watching with your dinner - you never know who you might see in this pocket of London, after all!
Address: 15 Highgate Rd, London NW15 1QX
Phone: 020 7267 9880
One of the village’s oldest pubs dating back to 1547, this is a true local haunt complete with roaring fires in the winter and a sunny beer garden in summer. Come for a Sunday roast on the weekend, or just a casual post-work pint.
Address: 98 North Rd, London N6 4AA
Phone:020 8340 4297
Shops in Highgate London
Mary Portas made the headlines a few years ago when she established this chain of ‘premium charity shops’, stocked with donated designed goods for the discerning customer. Their Highgate branch is no exception, with a covetable range of high-end clothing for bargain prices and even better, 100% of the profits go to the Save The Children charity.
Address: 43 Highgate High St, London N6 5JX
Phone: 020 8340 9374
Cosy and relaxed, the Highgate Bookshop is the ideal place to spend an afternoon browsing through the latest paperbacks, or getting stuck into that page-turning murder mystery everyone’s been talking about. The selection is consistently good, and staff are always on hand if you need a recommendation.
Address: 9 Highgate High St, London N6 5JR
Phone: 020 8348 8202
Pick up something chic for the little ones at Not So Big, Highgate’s independent children’s clothing boutique. Stocking established designers and new talents both in-store and online, they’ve won various awards since they opened in 2000. Reluctant to invest in clothes the kids will grow out of? Keep your eyes peeled for one of their regular sales!
Address: 31A Highgate High St, London N6 5JT
Phone: 020 8340 4455
Things to do in Highgate London
Housed in a former Methodist church, this arts venue in Highgate is popular among N6 locals looking for an evening of culture. Dedicated to supporting small production companies and rising stars, they regularly show theatre performances and contemporary circus evenings.
Address: 269A Archway Rd, London N6 5AA
Phone: 020 8340 5226
One of London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries built in the 1800s, the beautiful Highgate Cemetery is a Grade 1 listed burial ground with more than it’s fair share of famous residents - the likes of Karl Marx and Douglas Adams are buried here. It’s also a nature reserve, but beware of getting lost on your stroll once the sun comes down - the mystery of the 1970s ‘Highgate Vampire’ has never fully been solved…
Address: Swain's Ln, London N6 6PJ
Phone: 020 8340 1834
Also known as Highgate Ponds, these unique freshwater pools are fed by the springs of the River Fleet, and have been used as mixed bathing ponds for over 100 years. Open all year round, they’re the perfect place for a spot of swimming and sunbathing in the summer.
Address: Hampstead Heath, London, NW3
Phone: 020 7332 3322
Main image credit: David Holt