Itineraries

How to Spend a Few Hours in North London

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North London is a huge area, encompassing not just St. John’s Wood but also Kings Cross, Islington, Highgate, Finchley, and lesser-known areas such as Whetstone, Totteridge, and Tufnell Park. The size is such that you can even spend a few days, let alone a few hours in North London! 

When I was a child, my Aunt had a house in North London, so I spent quite a lot of time there before eventually moving to St. John’s Wood when I was an MBA student in London. To say I know the area well – and that I’ve spent a lot of time there – is an understatement. 

Few Hours in North London Hero

However, if you’re in town on a short trip, you might not have an extended amount of time to spend in any given part of London. You need to make the most of your time, and I’m here to help, based on my experience in the area; here is an itinerary for a morning or afternoon in North London which includes some of my favorite places in the U.K.

To avoid wasting time on commuting, I’ve designed this North London itinerary such that the places are all within walking distance of each other – but as you’ll see, it makes more sense to use a few other transportation methods if you’re particularly short on time. Ready to explore some of the most scenic areas in North London – and indeed all of London? Let’s go!

Tips if You Only Have a Few Hours in London

To start, I wanted to share some general advice for making the most of a few hours in London – in any part of the city. Here’s what I suggest before planning your time or setting out:

  • Choose one part of London – this post focuses on West London, but I’ll have guides for Central, East, South, and West London soon and will add the links here.
  • Pick a start and end point – they could be the same spot, or different ones, depending on where you want to go.
  • Skip public transit and explore a smaller area on foot; London’s transit system is great but can be time-consuming if you only have a short time to visit the city.
  • If you need to store your luggage, there are handy luggage storage services all over London.

Based on that, let’s dive into the specifics of what I recommend for exploring North London specifically.

Route for a Few Hours in North London

To start, I thought it would be helpful to start with a map of the places I recommend, and a route I suggest – you can replicate this map for yourself or use your own mapping app to work it out for yourself before setting out.

Few Hours in North London Map
Click to interact with the map

If you walked this entire route, it would total about 8 miles and take three hours – but as you’ll see when you read the details of each stop and how to get between them, I have other recommendations for travel between each part of the itinerary so as to only take a few days and not wear your feet down to little nubs!

Broadly speaking, this is just my suggestion for how to spend a few hours in North London; there are other parts of North London you might want to explore more, or other attractions you might want to see. I hope this at least gives you a starting framework to make the most of your time… no matter how long you have, London is a great place to spend time!

Start at Regent’s Park

We’re going to start our journey at Regent’s Park. Once a hunting ground for King Henry VIII, this is now one of London’s most popular Royal Parks. A 410-acre green space, it was transformed by John Nash into a pleasure garden and then opened to the public in 1835.

For those who love roses, Queen Mary’s Gardens is a must-visit in the summer as you’ll find more than 40,000 roses blooming there. There’s also Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, one of London’s largest theatres with over 1300 seats, which is open for 18 weeks every year. (It’s also very affordable at £25 for the lowest-priced ticket- a price it has been maintained for 10 years!)

Bird watchers will find much to entertain themselves, with over 120 types of birds here. Alternatively, hire a boat for a day out on the lake. Or, if you’re traveling with children, you might want to visit ZSL London Zoo, which houses over 750 species of animals.

Note: There are five tube stations nearby – Baker Street or Regent’s Park underground are the closest to the rose gardens and lakes.

Explore Little Venice

From Regent’s Park, you can walk about 30 minutes to Rembrandt Gardens, a small park in Little Venice (or use the Bakerloo line and stop at Warwick Gardens, which will take you about 20 minutes.)

This is a leafy and posh residential part of London with many Regency houses, man-made canals, and canal-side venues. The poet Robert Browning once lived at 19 Warwick Crescent – there is even a small islet named after him (Browning’s Island) where you’ll find willows and wildfowl.

Spend some time walking the tow-paths, or catch a show at the Puppet Theatre Barge located at Blomfield Road. (Basically, a marionette theatre on a floating boat that performs anything from Shakespeare’s to kids’ stories.) 

See London from Primrose Hill

How to Spend a Few Hours in North London - Primrose Hill View of the City

Your next stop is Primrose Hill, one of the best vantage points to see London. It’s around 40 minutes from Rembrandt Gardens to the Primrose Hill viewpoint. If that’s a bit too far for you, I suggest taking an Uber as it’ll take around 30 minutes by public transport (and 20 minutes is walking to the bus stations!).

Primrose Hill can refer to both the village and the actual hill, both of which are equally worth visiting and located side-by-side. I would suggest first taking in the view from the Hill, which was once owned by Eton College and the site of many duels (and even a murder!), as it’s the second-highest viewpoint in the Borough of Camden and you can see all the way to St. Paul’s.

Light snacks and drinks are available at The Primrose Hill Cafe but I recommend heading over to Little Bread Pedlar for some of the best bread in London. You can also refuel at one of the many cafes in Primrose Hill village, where you can admire the beautiful Georgian and Victorian houses and maybe even spot a celebrity or two.

Note: Primrose Hill is sometimes closed when the winds are too high so do check the Royal Parks website before visiting.

Stroll Down Hampstead Heath

From Primrose Hill (the viewpoint), it’s about 30 minutes on foot or 18 minutes via bus C11 to Hampstead Heath. Locally known as the Heath, this is one of London’s biggest green spaces, full of beautiful (and easy) walking paths. If you’ve not gotten enough of London views, you can walk up Parliament Hill, another of the highest spots in London which offers views of everything from St. Paul’s Cathedral to even Crystal Palace Park (on a clear day.) 

For fans of natural swimming, check out the Hampstead Head bathing ponds. Originally built as reservoirs for the London population, they are now places where you can swim with ducks! Definitely an unforgettable way to spend a few hours in London.

You have a choice of three pools: one for men, one for women, and one for both sexes. There is a tiny fee to swim in the ponds (which goes towards their maintenance.) If it’s too cold to swim, you could try fishing at some of the other ponds.

If you’re tired of nature, head over to Kenwood House, which was built in the 18th century and houses gorgeous gardens. There, you can spend a few hours in North London viewing artworks such as Rembrandt and Turner. (There’s a cafe, but I recommend saving your stomach for some food over at Hampstead Village instead.)

Note: If you’re visiting the UK in summer, there might be even a concert, theater, or outdoor movie showing at Kenwood House.

Go Shopping at Hampstead Village

Photo courtesy of Hampstead Village via Facebook

For those who enjoy shopping, Hampstead High Street will be a welcome break from all the nature. (Depending on which part of the Heath you’re at, the walk can take anywhere between 18 to over 30 minutes.) You’ll find a mix of famous brands and independent boutiques to while away a few hours in North London. There are even some cool vintage shops!

If you love quaint cottages, stop by the Holly Bush, one of the most beautiful pubs in the UK, for a typical British meal.

Tip: The gelato at Oddono’s over at Flask Walk is one of the best in London!

End at Highgate

Slightly more off-the-beaten-track is the posh London neighborhood of Highgate. Since this is at the end of the itinerary, the 42-minute walk is probably a bit too much, so I suggest taking bus 210 or an Uber.

Highgate is a peaceful part of town where you won’t be overwhelmed by the tourist hordes, and still get to see historic buildings and browse independent boutiques.

You can take the Northern line from Highgate Underground or a bus back to your hotel. 

Optional: Visit Abbey Road

For fans of the Beatles, you may want to visit Abbey Road in St Johns Wood. Britain’s most popular musical act (debate me!) created an eponymous album at this studio, and you can even recreate their photo at the famous crossing. If you want to incorporate Abbey Road into your day, I suggest doing so on the way from Regents Park to Little Venice as it’s (more or less) in between the two areas.

Have any other questions about how to spend a few hours in North London? Let me know in the comments!

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Zhen fell in love with London when she first visited at the age of 4. After that, she was lucky to have the opportunity to live in UK for 11 years, 7 of which were spent in London. (She particularly adores the areas around Kensington, Southwark and Baker Street!) As someone who loves both food and travel – don’t we all? – you can find her sharing her Asian food recipes over at greedygirlgourmet.com.

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