North London has, like West London, many rural areas and green spaces that are excellent for cycling and country walks. It also has some wonderful old stately homes that are part of the city’s history and some fascinating museums. Its boundary begins around Kings Cross and Islington on the northern boundary of Central London, and reaches about fifteen miles north to the M25 highway that completely encircles the city.
Just about in the middle of this stretch is Alexandra Palace, which was never really a Royal residence, but rather was purpose built in 1873 as a public center for recreation, and entertainment. It was built as the North London answer to the Crystal Palace, built in Hyde Park for the 1851 Exhibition. Today, this extensive Victorian structure is still an exhibition hall and conference center. The park surrounding the palace is one of the venues for firework displays on the November Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night.
Other North London neighborhoods include Camden Town and Hampstead and its 790-acre expanse of high heath known as Hampstead Heath. This beautiful area of woodlands, meadowland, and clear ponds provide popular places for outdoor activities, including fishing, swimming, boating, and picnics. Many special events, concerts, festivals, and fairs are also held here. The London tube reached Hampstead Village in 1907, and it became a popular retreat for artists, musicians, writers, and scientists. Things to do in North London around Hampstead include visiting the museums that once were the homes Sigmund Freud and the great poet John Keats. Other famous residents included Robert Louis Stevenson, Kinglsey Amis, Percy Bysshe Shelley, D.H. Lawrence, and John Le Carre.
One of the UK stately homes managed by the English Heritage Society is also in Hampstead. The Kenwood House was built as a gentleman’s country home in 1764 and donated to the nation by Edward Guinness, First Earl of Iveagh, whose family was known for (among other things) the brewing of Britain’s famous Guinness—one of the most successful beers in the world. This area has a number of public houses, known as pubs, and other things to do in North London include quaffing a pint of this dark, thick brew and dining on fish and chips or steak and kidney pie.
Not far from Hampstead Heath is the North London Highgate Cemetery, which is listed on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. This beautiful place is surrounded by lovely sixteenth- and seventeenth-century mansions and charming cottages. The graves are laid out around a 300-year-old cedar tree and the grounds are criss-crossed by peaceful paths and trails. Interred here are Karl Marx, the parents of Charles Dickens, novelist George Eliot, physicist Michael Faraday, actor Sir Ralph Richardson, and author Douglas Adams who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Camden Town is so close to the city, that it is sometimes considered part of Central London. The famous Camden Market, actually a group of markets, is the largest open-air street market in the UK, attracting more than 500,000 visitors per week. This as an extremely popular place for shopping, with hundreds of galleries and artists’ workshops, trendy fashion boutiques, jewelry shops, and antiques stores. There are also numerous dining spots, pubs, and bars. The prices in the markets are excellent, and there are even cheap hotels and hostels here.
Other fascinating things to do in North London include visiting the London Canal Museum. It is housed in a former Victorian ice house, where ice brought by barge from Norway was once stored. The London canals are part of the city’s unique maritime history, and they still stretch across London and its surrounding countryside. Boats were once pulled along by horse and mule teams along tow paths that provide wonderful walks. The canals remain popular for barges and boats that offer canal and river cruises.