Finding the north

Brasil Observer - Apr 12 2016
Hampstead Heath Park (Photo: Adrian Scottow/Flickr)

(Leia em Português)


Monica O’May explains why North London is one of the most beautiful areas of the city


Much of London’s charm is a result of its cultural diversity. The coolest thing to do here is to embrace this apparent confusion of the most international city on the world and feel its energy. Walk the streets and absorb the aromas, listen to its music, observe the customs, the way of being of Londoners and migrants who live here. Everything is the result of a fascinating mixture of peoples, creeds, cuisine, fashion, architecture. It’s amazing how many different languages ​​we hear daily on the streets, restaurants, buses, shops and underground. Although English is the official language, more than 300 languages are spoken ​​in London!

Without being parochial, since I live in the region, North London is to me one of the most beautiful areas of the city. Here we have a perfect mix of what is best in London with a countryside touch. For those who have time, I recommend touring around Highgate, Muswell Hill, Belsize Park, Hampstead, Camden, Primrose Hill, and St John’s Wood.

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One of the most delightful walks to do when the weather permits is along the Regent’s Canal. I often go from Camden to Little Venice by the edge of the canal, through Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park and Abbey Road. Along the way there are several unexpected attractions. For those who find the walk very demanding, there are alternatives: cycling, kayaking, boats and punting, the ones like gondolas, with a rower at one end and a musician in another – romantic, isn’t it? I’ve seen a lot of white brides and grooms in tails doing this tour. There are tastes for everything! And what can we not see in London anyway?

If you already know London and want to escape the obvious tours, I suggest starting by Hampstead. Despite being one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the city, with homes valued at 20 million pounds, you pay nothing to walk around its streets and alleys full of shops, cafes and pubs. Among them, I highlight three: Holly Bush, Spaniard’s Inn and Flask Tavern, the latter being the one with the best food. There is also a trailer that sells the best crepe in London – always with giant queues. Do you know who lived here? George Orwell, Charles Dickens, Byron, Keats, Coleridge, Agatha Christie, among others. The house where lived the Romantic poet John Keats, by the way, is now a museum and literary centre.

Another place worth visiting is the Burgh House, with museum and café, in a simply beautiful place. From Hampstead Tube Station, you can walk to Hampstead Heath Park, the largest and most beautiful of London with over 170 species of birds, Henry Moore sculptures, panoramic city views and several lakes very well used during the summer.

It is also worth visiting Kenwood House, a neoclassical mansion with many stories to tell which is just north of the park. Admission is free. And there are works by Rembrandt (one of his self-portraits, inclusive), Vermeer, Turner and Van Dyck. Movies like Notting Hill and Belle, for example, had several scenes recorded at Kenwood House.

If you get hungry, you can have lunch in the park’s café, which provides hot meals and sandwiches and the famous English cakes, not forgetting the delicious tea. Right next door is a small shop that sells various items for those who enjoy gardening, biking and picnicking. But that’s just a taste of what Hampstead and other districts in North London have to offer.


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