Discover the best things to do in North London with this guide. North London rules – here’s why.
North London has got it going on, and has been the cool part of town for many years in its long history.
What began life as a series of hamlets and villages on the outside of London proper had, by the industrial revolution, begun to become swallowed up by the ever-expanding city. But North London still maintains its village feel.
Each community has something unique about it and special to offer. From the massive marketplaces of Camden where Amy Winehouse used to spend her time, to the rolling greens of Hampstead, north London optimises that London feeling of having the world at your fingertips.
But what in North London should you not miss? Where should you stay? And where should you eat? All very important questions, dear reader. Read on for your answers.
Things to do in North London
Take a Stroll on Hampstead Heath
Living in London can feel a little like you’re stuck in a concrete jungle, but it doesn’t have to be all the time. There are plenty of places where you can go and stretch your legs and breathe some fresh air.
Hampstead Heath is the perfect place for it. The miles of untamed wood and grasslands make for ideal strolling, and prime picnic spots too. The pools on the heath also fill out in the warmer months with people swimming.
There are even some beautiful hidden gardens to explore. And, with all that on offer and a few pretty excellent views of London, it’s no wonder Hampstead Heath is one of the most-loved green spaces in the city.
Check Out Abbey Road Studios
St John’s Wood
You must have heard of Abbey Road Studios. They’re pretty much the most famous recording studios in the world.
Remember that iconic photo of The Beatles crossing the road? That was taken right here. The Beatles even named the whole album after it.
And The Beatles aren’t the only major musicians to record at Abbey Road. Oasis, Kanye West, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Ed Sheeran, Frank Ocean, Amy Winehouse and so many more have turned to this place to get their sound just right.
You can walk in the footsteps of these giants and pay the studios a visit. We’ll be honest, there’s not heaps to do – they have a shop and you can poke your head around a little bit but it’s still a working studio so you can’t go everywhere.
But, if you’re a big music-head, you’ll probably be excited just to be there.
Take in the Views from Primrose Hill
No trip to London would be complete, and no Londoner legit, until they’ve stood at the top of Primrose Hill and taken in one of the most iconic views the city has to offer.
It’s free to go up and they have a little platform at the top of the hill where you can perch. On big events like bonfire night, huge crowds will congregate and the place turns into a bit of a party spot.
Come to mention it, taking a bottle of beer up on a warm evening is really quite a pleasant experience…
Check Out the Freud Museum
If you’re looking for interesting things to do in North London, the Freud Museum should be top of your list. The museum is in the old home of Sigmund Freud. Yes, that Sigmund Freud. The one who basically founded psychoanalysis.
You can visit the place where he did much of his work and even see the iconic couch where his patients would have laid.
The Freud Museum also holds regular talks and discussions with some very interesting people. They usually centre around the study of psychology (obviously) but can take interesting variations thereof.
Anyone want to know the links between Freud’s psychoanalysis and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks? Yes, please. Sign us up.
Explore Highgate Cemetery
Don’t call us weird for recommending you visit a cemetery. Hear us out first. Highgate Cemetery is one of the most famous of London’s burial grounds, and for good reason.
Not only is it a very peaceful, beautiful place to walk around, but it’s also the final resting place of many notable writers, musicians and philosophers.
Not to name drop, but what’s left of Karl Marx (and that’s not a communism joke) is there. As is George Michael, a very different strain of fame, but hey. Who’s counting?
There’s plenty to explore amongst the gothic gravestones and mausoleums. And, providing you visit on a nice day, it’s totally not creepy at all. Some rain, a bit of low-hanging mist or a beaming full moon though, that’s a different story.
Visit London Zoo
Okay, so zoos may not be the most popular tourist attraction these days, we know. But London Zoo is actually not the kind of animal prison that people imagine zoos to be.
It’s actually a conservation zoo, meaning that the animals you’ll see there are part of the work to keep wildlife stocks up, not down.
But, politics aside, there are some really cool things to see there. Did you know they have over 16,000 different animals? That’s over 750 species and includes lions, tigers, camels and even some very sweet penguins.
Best Bars & Restaurants in North London
North London has some of London’s largest Turkish and Middle Eastern diasporas and those diasporas brought their food with them.
One fine example of this is E Mono, a laid-back, no frills Turkish kebab joint in Kentish Town. They do a selection of shawarma and things over the coals, as well as some very nice starter dishes like grilled halloumi that should be tried if you’re going.
Make no mistake about it, this is not your trashy, end-of-the-night kebab. This is the food done as it was intended – as delicious, healthy cooking that makes a staple of the Middle Eastern diet.
Hong Kong Restaurant
It’s not true that you have to go to Chinatown to find the best Chinese food in the city. Some of it can be hiding in the least likely of places. Take the effortlessly named Hong Kong Restaurant for example.
You could quite easily walk past its plain exterior and think little more about it than that the ducks and pork bellies hanging in the window look delicious. If you didn’t go in though, you’d be missing out.
The dim sum, should you arrive before it all sells out, is among the best in London. So do the mains (these run all day so you won’t have trouble ordering them).
It’s not good practice to throw the word ‘authentic’ around in the food world these days, but it’s difficult to eat here without getting a sting of nostalgia for a very similar meal you might have eaten at the da pai dongs of Hong Kong.
Max’s Sandwich Shop
Max’s Sandwich Shop is an institution not just of North London, but the whole city. Max knocks out a small-but-incredibly-mighty selection of sandwiches that we can’t sing enough praise about.
His speciality is a ham, egg ‘n’ chips number that uses a delicious slow-cooked ham hock and his signature shoestring fries. It’s a must-try if you go, but then again you literally can’t make a bad choice when eating from Max’s. The rest of the sandwiches are that good, too.
Farang is the outpost of Sebby Holmes, a much-loved London chef that was born and raised in the UK, but at some point in his career fell in love with Thai food and decided to learn all about it.
This restaurant is pretty much the child of that love, and it shows. The food is treated here with a level of care you might normally reserve for a small child.
Presentation comes into play too. Not in any serious fancy way, but small details like the choices of plates and the decor of the restaurant itself come together to curate a meal you should not miss if you’re looking for dinner in North London.
Chin Chin makes this guide for one reason: It’s hot chocolate.
Apparently, they do pretty good ice cream too. We wouldn’t know. It’s impossible to walk into this place and leave with anything other than their signature drink, and when you hear what’s in it you’ll know why having an ice cream too would cause a genuine sugar overload.
This magical drink is a cup of incredibly thick, super silky hot chocolate with a giant crown of toasted marshmallow sitting on top.
Its cup comes in a tray because things can get messy, but mess and teeth-rotting levels of sugar are just a small price to pay for something this delicious.
Top Shopping Spots
One of the hottest shopping spots in London is the outdoor sprawl of Camden Market. An afternoon going through the shops and stalls here can turn up some excellent goodies.
Most of the clothing and stuff you’ll find here leans towards the vintage side of things. There’s not so much of the high street fashion/designer label stuff about Camden Market – and that’s part of its charm.
The area is known for some of London’s most famous musicians, the Libertines and Amy Winehouse among them. You can bet those guys were shopping here too back in the day.
Camden Passage Market
If you’re looking for something less trendy, and more, well, antique, make sure to check out Camden Passage Market. Now it’s worth saying that this place has nothing to do with the above spot.
They may both have Camden in their name, but Camden is a big place, and these two markets are miles apart.
Camden Passage market is a small, very charming set of shops and stands that flog old wares and trinkets. There are stalls every day, though the amount may vary. To get the best you want to come on Wednesday or Saturday and they are the main market days.
You’ll want to get there early to ensure the nicest antiques are yours for the taking.